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Why schools cannot tackle poverty alone

Councils told to unite social services and schools to deal with deprivation. Karen Thornton reports

Councils that fail to get schools and communities working together to help the poorest children "don't deserve to exist", says the author of a new report.

Liz Allen highlights six projects where schools, community groups, education, health and social services have collaborated to improve services for children.

Ministers are focusing on collaborative working as a way to tackling the class divide in educational achievement: poorer children are a third less likely to get five or more good GCSEs.

Initiatives such as extended schools and plans to bring education and social services departments together to provide children's services aim to help close this divide.

The report Schools Beyond the Classroom, which is produced by the New Local Government Network, outlines how good strategic planning can add value to the work of schools.

But Liz Allen warned at its launch: "If they (authorities) can't make this one work, they don't deserve to exist.

"In tackling this long tail of pupil under-achievement and social justice issues, it's now judgment time for modern local government. It's only really in the past two years out of 10 to 15 years of reform that we have been able to talk about it as an issue of social justice without being accused of being soft on schools."Schools minister David Miliband, in his foreword to the report, says it is vital for schools to collaborate with each other and other agencies to support pupils, families and local neighbourhoods. But he acknowledged that not all schools will want, or be able, to be "engines of change for the wider community".

The National College for School Leadership is consulting on standards for effective heads which encourage collaboration and recognise that schools are "agents of social change and community regeneration".

Schools beyond the classroom by Liz Allen, price pound;20 plus pound;1.25 pamp;p, telephone 01904 431213 or email network@nlgn.org.uk

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