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New ADCS education policy paper – ‘A future vision for the...

New ADCS education policy paper – ‘A future vision for the education system’

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) today, Wednesday 29 November, publishes a new policy paper setting a future vision for the education system.

Myriad reforms have resulted in an increasingly fragmented education system, one that lacks clarity around the roles and responsibilities of key actors, is less rooted in place and doesn’t reward inclusivity. Schools now operate in a more autonomous environment which has discouraged inclusive practices, as has an accountability system and league tables focused on academic attainment above all else. The early years and further education (FE) sectors have not had the long-term strategies and adequate funding they desperately need, despite each sector being critical to improving social mobility.

Local authorities have a unique role in education but this has been partly eroded and funding for local authorities and vital education related budgets have been reduced or removed altogether. All the while statutory duties remain, for example, the sufficiency duty for school places sits with the local authority, yet they do not have the power to compel schools to admit a child to avoid learners having to wait weeks for a school place to become available. It is vital that local authorities are given the necessary powers and funding to allow them to fulfil their statutory responsibilities and meet children’s needs.

The paper highlights the need for a coherent, appropriately funded long term vision and strategy for a 21st century education system, one which recognises the importance of place, the role of each organisation, prioritises inclusivity, equality of access and the best interests of all learners. This strategy should align with other reforms underway in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children’s social care, so that all children receive holistic, joined up support. There must be a greater focus on tackling and minimising exclusions, improving attendance and engaging children with education in a way that brings a sense of belonging in schools. ADCS calls for the recommendations of government reviews such as the Timpson review and the Schools White Paper to be revisited and implemented.

John Pearce, ADCS President, said: Children and young people are facing multiple pressures including rising poverty, a cost of living crisis and a mental health crisis with long waiting lists for help. They have also sacrificed months of their learning during the pandemic yet the government’s plan and funding for the education system and education recovery remains insufficient. Is it any surprise we are seeing more children who are less engaged with education highlighted by a rising number of school exclusions, persistent absenteeism and a year on year increase in the number of children being educated at home.

John Pearce went on to say: The Schools White Paper outlined a vehicle to create a schools system that would better meet the needs of learners, but the future of its proposals remains unclear. There is currently no national strategy for the education system or for childhood. This paper makes recommendations which will benefit children and young people and help ensure everyone who is involved in the education system is working towards improving children’s outcomes and their life chances above all else. We must make sure that no child is left behind, we are ready to work with government and all actors in the system to achieve this.

John Pearce concluded: We urgently need government to set out its national vision for the schools system and how it plans to support all learners, whatever their needs, to achieve their full potential. This must be backed by sufficient long-term funding from government and there must be a strong role for the local authority at its heart, as leader of place. If we continue as we are, with an incoherent and fragmented schools system, a high stakes accountability system, a narrow academic curriculum and insufficient funding across the schools, early years and FE sectors we do children a grave disservice, damaging their life chances and this country’s future economy.

The full policy paper can be found at


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