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Changes, challenges and opportunities

In recent weeks we have seen a whole host of changes in central government, including the appointment of a new Secretary of State for Education. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Justine Greening MP on her new role and to reiterate the Association’s commitment to working with her and her team at the DfE, and colleagues across government, to improve the life chances of all children and young people.

A number of organisations from the early years and education sector have already called for the Prime Minister to prioritise delivery of the government’s early year’s pledges. So I too want to use this blog to briefly touch on some of the sector’s key priorities we’re keen to see progressed in the coming weeks and months.

Social work reform

ADCS has been working closely with the DfE and the Chief Social Worker on the development of the accreditation models linked to the three new statuses for social work practitioners and the establishment of a new regulatory body for social work. Last week the Education Select Committee published a report which raised some very important questions about the current direction of travel and whether the desired outcomes were likely to be achieved. As employers we are absolutely committed to raising the profile of the social work profession and ensuring that social workers are well supported in their role, but we must be careful that we don’t unintentionally destabilise an already challenged profession.

School improvement

Rapid changes in national policy have resulted in an education system that lacks a coherent accountability framework by accident rather than design. As a DCS this is worrying because I have a very clear duty to secure the best outcomes for all children and young people. Local authorities are routinely inspected on the arrangements we have put in place to support improvement in schools but a similarly robust framework for trusts and Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) does not yet exist. Given the a growing number of learners are, or will be taught, in academies in the future, isn’t it right that trusts and the RSCs are also held accountable for their part in raising standards in academy schools and for their use of public funds?

Early years

We look forward to the publication of the government’s ‘Life Chances Strategy,’ hopefully in the very near future. In my previous blog, I touched on the importance of early help happening earlier on in a child’s life. Much of the government’s focus has been on childcare and getting more parents back in to work, of course this plays a key role in breaking the cycle of adult disadvantage but we must not miss this crucial window of opportunity to get alongside families who are struggling and support them so that their children are healthy, happy and ready to learn.

Youth Justice

Youth justice policy and practice has really come to the foreground due to Charlie Taylor’s ongoing review, the recent publication of Lord Laming’s review on behalf of the Prison Reform Trust and the BBC’s exposure of poor practice at Medway STC earlier this year. ADCS, alongside many others, eagerly awaits the publication of Charlie’s review and we hope this will happen sooner rather than later. We’ve made excellent progress in this area over the last decade but many of the children and young people now in the system have a range of increasingly complex and overlapping social care needs. We need to be able to work differently to address these issues in a holistic way in order to break the cycle of reoffending.

Changing the narrative around the care system

As you know this is a personal priority for me during my presidential year and something I feel very strongly about. The care system isn’t perfect but it is important and hugely undervalued. There’s more we can all be doing to challenge the lazy perception that care is a bad place to end up. If we do not speak up then we are doing a disservice to the tens of thousands of children and young people who are in care, their social workers, foster carers, residential care workers, personal advisors and many others who work so hard to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. I believe central government also has a really important role to play in setting the tone of this new narrative.

So, with change comes challenges but also opportunities. I believe there is a chance for the government to take stock over the summer and ensure that the welfare and wellbeing of children and young people is placed firmly at the heart of its plans for the next four years.

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