SCHOOLS struggling to cope with troubled children could be next in line for Treasury funding as the Government backs up its commitment on inclusion.
Ministers privately fear that teachers now spend too much time acting as social workers because of a lack of co-ordinated support services.
Extra money allocated to education through the Chancellor's spending review next month will almost certainly be earmarked for back-up services to schools.
It is likely to be channelled into 73 education action zones and the 47 local authorities involved in the multi-million pound Excellence in Cities initiative.
A new focus on five to 13-year-olds ties in with ministers' concern over the fall-off in performance when children transfer from primary to secondary, and during the first years in secondary school.
It would also underline the difference between Labour and the Conservatives, after Tory leader William Hague called for "thugs" to be kicked out of class.
The gap in support for schools with difficult five to 13-year-olds was exposed in a year 2000 review carried out by the Department for Education and Employment. Civil servants said evidence showed that a co-ordinated response involving social services and housing was not there wen needed.
"We recognise there has been pressure on teachers," said a DFEE spokesman. "There is a need to provide support and teachers do often take up that social work role."
Pre-school children are already being catered for with additional nursery places for three-year-olds and the pound;400 million Sure Start programme aimed at co-ordinating services for young families in deprived areas. The Government has also launched the Connexions service for those aged 14 and over, bringing together careers advice and youth services.
This week the Office for Standards in Education urged a new funding system for schools which tackles disadvantage.
The United Nations Children's Fund revealed that one in five UK children was living in poverty. The UNICEF league table of child poverty ranked Britain alongside Mexico, the United States and Italy as having the highest levels of child poverty. Sweden, Norway and Finland had the lowest.
UNICEF said children who grow up in poverty are more likely to have learning difficulties, to drop out of school, resort to drugs, crime, be out of work, or become pregnant at too early an age.
The Prime Minister has committed the Government to eradicating child poverty in 20 years.