Each school is responsible for being up to date with all the current policies which are introduced to protect children, young people and their families. Each Local Education Authority would take the national policies and apply them appropriately to their constituency. Therefore, schools are expected to have their own policies in place regarding child protection, safeguarding and educational standards. These policies must meet the expected national requirements set by Ofsted inspections, and also have to follow the LEA guidelines.
Take the Every Child Matters’ framework for example; all schools should include the five main aims in their policies and philosophy – be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution to society and achieve economic well-being. They would address this with activities such as, encouraging healthy eating, reinforcing good behaviour and positive communication, anti-bullying awareness, breakfast and after-school clubs and relevant PSHE lessons. It was the abuse and ultimate death of Victoria Climbie in 2000 which prompted changes in children’s services. The Every Child Matters paper set out a national agenda and plan with the aim of providing more services that were accessible for the needs of all children, young people and families which stated that schools and other childcare providers must demonstrate ways that they could work towards each of the outcomes. More specifically, the 5 key aims and intentions were:
Be healthy: schools needed to play a leading part in health education towards children and young people which included questioning the significance of snacks and the nutritional contents of school meals, as well as enabling children to enjoy a good physical and mental health by being part of a healthy lifestyle.
Stay safe: a survey among 11- to 16-year-old in mainstream schools claimed that almost 46% of pupils had been the victim of some form of bullying. In order to break these statistics, it is vital that children and young people need to feel that they are being protected in school, and in order for schools to do this they must continue to consider behaviour management and anti-bullying awareness significant issues.
Enjoy and achieve: for children and young people to get the most out of their lives and develop the necessary skills for adulthood, they should enjoy their everyday activities at school, turning them into learning and achieve their potential. For schools to assist with this, they must make improvements in failings across different ethnic groups and unauthorised absences that are unacceptable.
Make a positive contribution: children and young people need to be involved in their community rather than involve themselves in anti-social behaviour. Schools can teach children the ethics of social responsibility and can instil a feeling of “belonging”. Belonging is very important for children’s mental health and wellbeing. Children who feel that they belong at school are happier, more relaxed and have fewer behavioural problems than other students. They are also more motivated to learn and be more successful with their school work.
Achieve a good standard of living: children and young people with parents who are unemployed or existing on low incomes must be encouraged to aspire to a better career and lifestyle for themselves. Schools can develop strategies to enable all students to reach their full potential.
To accomplish these purposes, schools work with health and social workers, educational and clinical psychologists and create services such as childcare, parenting support and schemes using local facilities. Schools in a borough with a high number of out of work or low-income families would need greater long-term resources put into staying healthy and providing housing and economic well-being. In December 2007 the Government published a document titled: The children’s plan: building brighter futures. This document outlines the department’s plans for the next 10 years under each of the strategic objectives, with a chapter looking at how the reforms can be made. The 6 strategic objectives to improve children and young people’s lives are:
1. secure the health and wellbeing of children and young people;
2. safeguard the young and vulnerable;
3. achieve world-class standards;
4. close the gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged backgrounds;
5. ensure young people are participating and achieving their potential to 18 and beyond;
6. keep children and young people on the path to success.
The Government Children’s Plan aims to make England the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. Over the last two decades, the Government has made much progress to tackle under investment and low aspirations in early years, schools, colleges and other services for children and young people. Also, as part of the National Government’s incentive to help provide encouragement to practitioners in schools, two funding programmes were introduced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families as part of the Government Children Plan. These programmes are Every Child a Talker (ECAT) and Social and Emotional Aspects of Development (SEAD). They were launched to increase the skills of early year’s specialists and were a part of the government’s wider pledge to the education workforce development. Every Child a Talker aims to: raise children’s achievement in early language, improve practitioners’ skills and knowledge, and increase parental understanding and involvement in children’s language development. This programme is designed to help practitioners and parents create a developmentally appropriate, supportive and stimulating environment in which children can enjoy experimenting with and learning language. Through day-to-day activities and interesting experiences which reflect children’s interests, ECAT encourages early language development right from the outset, extending children’s vocabulary so that before they start school, children are confident and skilled positive communicators.
Social and Emotional Aspects of Development is one of the main funding streams and has been allocated to all Local Authorities. This element of funding is to help improve the skills and expertise of early years practitioners to support children’s personal, social and emotional development in empathy, self-awareness, managing feeling and motivation). These skills are the building blocks to learning, behaviour, well-being and attendance. SEAD is split into seven themes, each with a different focus. Each theme features support for teachers’ planning and ongoing assessment with connections to the learning framework for Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED). Through SEAD, staff in schools would gain the knowledge and understanding to help engage parents more effectively in order for them to be better prepared to support their children’s social and emotional needs.
These two programmes were designed to address the need for children in schools to experience a language rich setting through staff in ensuring that they work successfully with both parents and families. Schools should have policies and procedures in place that are in line with national policies to help Looked-After Children, such as providing a strong pastoral support system, encouraging after school activities, minimising exclusion and providing a safe and secure learning environment. Looked-after children are amongst the most vulnerable in society. “Looked after children deserve the best experiences in life, from excellent parenting which promotes good health and educational attainment, to a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills in order to have an enjoyable childhood and successful adult life. Stable placements, good health and support during transition are all essential elements, but children will only achieve their potential through the ambition and high expectation of all those involved in their lives.” (The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations. Volume 2: care planning, placement and case review)
There are 2 two primary routes into the “looked after” system:
1. being accommodated under Section 20 of Children Act 1989;
2. being made the subject of a Care Order under Section 31 of Children Act 1989.
Under section 20, children and young people can be ‘accommodated’ with the consent of those with parental responsibility. If the young person is 16 or 17 years old, they do not need the consent of those with Parental responsibility in order to be accommodated by the Local Authority.
The functions of Local Authorities in relation to children who are looked after are set out in the 1989 Children Act and associated regulations and guidance. Section 22 of the 1989 Act sets out the general duty of the Local Authority looking after a child to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. This duty underpins all activity by the Local Authority in relation to looked-after children. This duty has become known as ‘corporate parenting’. In simple terms, corporate parenting means the collective responsibility of the council, elected members, employees, and partner agencies, for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for the children who are looked after by the council.
Care planning is about facilitating discussion between looked-after children, their families, the child’s carers, and professionals, in order to collectively plan and review the care being provided to the child whilst they are looked after. As with all aspects of children’s social care, it is paramount that children’s needs are assessed, and decisions are made regarding how best to meet those needs. The purposes of care planning are:
• to ensure that children and their families and the child’s carers are treated with openness and honesty and understand the decisions that are made;
• to provide clarity about the allocation of responsibilities and tasks, in the context of shared parenting between parents, the child’s carers and the corporate parents and ensure that actions lead to improved outcomes; and
• to demonstrate accountability in the way in which the functions of Local Authorities under the 1989 Children Act are exercised.
The SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years, statutory guidance 2015 refers to pupils who have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than most others of the same age, or have a “disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions”. This code of practice provides statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations and applies to England. It relates to children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabled children and young people. A young person in this context is a person over compulsory school age and under 25. The code is made for education and training settings on taking a graduated approach to identifying and supporting pupils and students with SEN (to replace School Action and School Action Plus) and is the statutory guidance for the Local Authorities (education, social care and relevant housing and employment and other services), the governing bodies of schools, including non-maintained special schools, the governing bodies of further education colleges and sixth form colleges, the proprietors of academies (including free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools), independent schools and independent specialist providers approved under Section 41 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and all early years providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors that are funded by the Local Authority.
The exponential rise in academy and free school numbers in recent years has resulted in a dramatic shift in the number of schools now no longer under direct Local Authority control. This raises questions about what functions for academies still remain with Local Educational Authorities. In fact, one of the most significant developments in the Government’s education policies has been the expansion of the academy programme and the introduction of ‘free schools’, which are centrally funded and largely autonomous. According to Rallings (2011), in May 2010 there were 203 academies in England, all of which were secondary schools. By 1 March 2011 this figure had more than doubled to 467, with several hundred more applications in progress, including primary schools. Although academies are independent of Local Authority control, LEAs functions continue to be responsible for:
• school place planning, including by expansion of existing academies;
• provision of school sites, generally by granting 125-year leases of former community school academy sites;
• creation of new schools, currently subject to the “academies presumption” of the Education Act 2011. In practice, this means a competition is held between rival academy proposers to gain Local Authority support before submissions to the DfE for ministerial approval. Only if no academy proposal comes forward can a maintained school be proposed;
• certain educational capital projects, notably including expansion projects to meet “basic need” demand for additional pupil places;
• coordination of the admissions system (although academies act as their own admission authority);
• oversight of safeguarding of children in schools, including in academies and other independent schools, a function shared with the DfE and Ofsted, where respective roles of each still lack full clarity;
• where the Local Authority has agreed to be an academy sponsor, fulfilling the support and mentoring roles offered by the authority.
The Local Authorities’ powers under the Children Act 1989 to protect a child and to promote the welfare of a child in need of additional support are not restricted to children attending maintained schools. The independent status of academies and fee-paying schools is immaterial here.