The five goals for every child

7th October 2005 at 01:00
Breakfast clubs, extended days, sharing information with social services and health professionals... Is your school ready for "Every Child Matters"? Helen Ward reports.

The smell of toast greets children arriving early at Grasmere primary, Stoke Newington, London, for the breakfast club. The 30 five to 11-year-olds who turn up have cereal and juice, play games, read or catch up on homework.

Making toast is a simple task. But for a seven-year-old it can mean the difference between having to learn with a rumbling tummy or a full one, it means teachers deal with a child who can concentrate, parents can leave for work. Making toast can make a difference.

In five years' time, all 23,000 schools in England are expected to run a breakfast club, part of the massive upheaval currently taking place in the way we provide services to children in the UK.

The changes result from moves to tighten up child protection following the Laming report into the death of Victoria Climbie.

Ministers want five outcomes for every child: to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being.

They want those who work with children, whether in schools or health centres, through social work or via the courts, to communicate better.

To do this new organisations, new jobs and new laws are being created.

The policy is called Every Child Matters. It includes some legal duties - set out in the Children Act 2004 - but spreads much wider. "There is almost universal support for the basic aims of Every Child Matters," said the House of Commons' education and skills select committee's report into the policy published in March.

The major changes have so far been felt at the top. David Bell, chief inspector, has led two years of work to design a new integrated inspection system. Estelle Morris, former education secretary, is chair of the council which will develop new qualifications for people working with children.

Professor Al Aynsley-Green, former national clinical director for children at the Department of Health, has been appointed as children's commissioner.

But for most children it will be people like Erica Dixon, Rahima Chaudhry and Margaret Cook, who run Grasmere primary's breakfast club, who have immediate impact.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said:

"It's a bit like the wind in the high trees; the top waves about but nothing is disturbed on the forest floor. The changes are massive but at the moment, teachers don't feel any change at all."

The timetable set out in Every Child Matters: Change for Children reveals two major changes for schools: extended schools and information sharing. By 2010, all schools in England must open for pupils from 8am to 6pm, all year round. Currently only 2 per cent of primaries and fewer than 1 per cent of secondaries do so. They must also refer children to specialists who may be based on the same site, support parents and allow community use of facilities. In Wales, a similar community-focused schools programme is being developed.

Terry Creissen, head of Colne community college in Colchester, said he wants more services on his school site. He said: "I'm not trying to make the children feel good and be happy in some kind of philanthropic exercise.

I do it because it helps their education.

"The policy is great, the principle is great. Everybody is working hard to do it but there are some gaps. Those gaps need to be plugged by the Government putting its money where its mouth is. Fund it properly and do it properly."

The House of Commons education and skills report said: "There is a strong case for identifying additional funds for implementation over and above those which have been put aside."

The Government disagreed saying it had properly assessed the cost and there were substantial resources set aside.

The need to share information with other services will also affect schools.

Three linked initiatives are being developed: a common assessment framework, an information-sharing index and lead professional for children seeing multiple agencies.

The framework consists of a checklist, a process for collecting information and a standard form to record findings from the assessment.

If an assessment suggests that a child needs help from more than one service, a lead professional will be appointed to act as a single point of contact for families.

There will also be a central index recording which children have been assessed and who to contact. More detailed information will be kept at authority level and shared between services where necessary.

The aim is to prevent multiple assessments, make it clear who has responsibility for a child and to speed up the process.

Government guidance states the lead professional role should not default to the first person who spots a problem. Trials have shown that this makes people unwilling to carry out assessments. Mr Creissen said that is exactly the spot teachers can find themselves in. "Two years ago I had a 13-year-old girl who refused to go home on a Friday night. It was to do with her mother, she was scared of going home," he said.

"I contacted social services. No-one there could help. We contacted the police, they wouldn't do it. We couldn't just put her out on the street. So she stayed at school until 8.30pm. In the end she went home with her father.

"What a ridiculous situation for a teacher to be in. That situation was common three years ago. Now we get a better response."

The Government has said it does not want either extended schools or information sharing to add to teachers' workload. But union leaders are keeping a close eye on the front line.

Mr Bangs said: "We do not believe you can isolate teachers from such seismic developments. If a teacher spots a child in trouble, the lead professional will be there to do something about it, but they will expect something from the teacher, some kind of report."

He also points out that having more staff coming in and out of a school will put pressure on the toilets and staffroom - minor points to ministers, but irritating to those teachers having to spend the literacy hour with their legs crossed.

Schools will also be affected by some of the changes at authority and national level. The Children Act includes the duty for local authorities to appoint a director of children's services, so far three-quarters of those appointed are directors of education.

There is also a duty to set up children's trusts, a partnership arrangement, either using formal agreements between existing bodies or creating real entities with budgets and staff. The trusts will be a way for schools to air their views on plans for services in their area.

The trusts must also work together with schools to find places for their hard-to-place pupils and the local authorities now have a duty to promote the educational achievement of looked-after children.

Lord Laming told the education and skills select committee inquiry: "If you think of Victoria Climbie, she was only alive in this country for 10 months, and during that time she was known to four social services departments, three housing departments, admitted to two different hospitals; she was referred to two different child protection teams in the Metropolitan Police, a specialist unit at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: resourcing was not the issue.

"The issue was that nobody stopped to say, 'What is a day like in the life of this child? Why is this eight-year-old never in school?' These are not difficult questions, and so I think we have to increasingly say, 'More resources will be allocated if you can demonstrate better outcomes for children'. Some authorities are doing that."

Show us the money

Extended schools

* pound;160 million from 2003-6 spent on helping schools extend services to pupils, parents and the community. A further pound;680m earmarked for 2006-8.

Information sharingl pound;15m from October 2004 to March 2006 to local authorities for children's trust arrangements, including common assessment and information sharing. pound;22.5m in 2006-7. pound;63m in 2007-8.

Capital money to schools

* More than pound;17bn between 2005 and 2008 can be used to support extended services.

Baseline increase

* pound;90m to local authorities in 2004-5 and 2005-6 towards safeguarding children.

* Spending on early years and childcare planned to increase by pound;918m between 2004-5 and 2007-8

More to language college than meets the eye

Shireland language college is more than just a school serving its 11 to 19-year-olds in Smethwick, West Midlands. It has a neighbourhood nursery on site, after-school lessons for primary-aged children and adult education, including community language lessons in Hindi, Punjabi, Gujurati, Urdu, Bengali and Arabic. Its own pupils benefit from breakfast and lunch clubs.

There are 20 charities and voluntary organisations providing mentoring services. A police officer is based on site and a school nurse regularly visits.

Mark Grundy, headteacher, said: "Our Sats results on entry predict 22 per cent of children should get five A* to C grades at GCSE. Last year 55 per cent got five A* to C grades. I am not saying that the extended school is the only reason we have achieved that. We have a brilliant staff and kids who want to learn. But an extended school does make a difference. It is all about raising children's achievement - there are lots of ways to do that and just focusing on subject delivery is not the only one."

The school is also part of the pound;27 million Test Bed ICT initiative to find ways that technology can help raise standards in schools.

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