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Six of the best

Ed Balls

In this excerpt from Secretary of State Ed Balls' speech to ASCL delegates, he acknowledges the frustrations of multi-agency working and puts forward his views on breaking down barriers between the services.

In his speech to delegates at the ASCL conference on 7 March, Secretary of State Ed Balls talked to delegates about the six aims that form the backbone of the Children's Plan, and how he proposes to achieve them. The following is an excerpt from his speech.

Underpinning our Children's Plan vision is what I believe are the characteristics of a successful 21st century school - the kind of schools and colleges that many of you lead or aspire to lead with:

  1. a world-class workforce with great teachers and a premium on great teaching that inspires every pupil every day

  2. a curriculum that engages and motivates every child

  3. the right balance between autonomy and strong leadership on the one hand, and the school playing its proper collaborative role in the wider school system and local community

  4. parents fully involved in their child's learning

  5. your schools and colleges part of excellent, integrated services for children and families that put their needs first

  6. strong leadership to see this vision through

While we might not always agree on all the details, I believe that is a vision of the 21st century school that we can all share.

(The minister went on to expand on each of the six areas. Here are his comments on the fifth and sixth aims.)

While some of you will have good relationships with your local health services, youth centres, police stations and sports facilities, others have also felt it's more difficult than it should be to maintain reliable relationships and get specialist help when you need it.

I am committed to ensuring that you get that support - and to ensuring that it doesn't just happen where leading professionals make it happen despite the barriers they face, but is the norm.

In some areas - such as safeguarding - we have made real progress. But a child is still at risk of underachieving at school because they need a prompt referral from CAMHS (Child and Adult Mental Health Services), or because they have trouble at home that's preventing them doing their homework. So we need to do better there as well.

I want to see more effective local arrangements that provide early identification and early intervention for those children and young people who need additional help.

Let me be clear, none of this is about turning teachers into social workers or housing officers. Nor is it about piling up additional responsibilities on schools without making it easier for them to get the help they need.

But it is about schools building stronger partnerships with other services - often co-located - and being confident they can call on them when needed. It's also about all our leading professionals in schools and colleges, in early years settings, in children's centres and in Children's Trusts being accountable for what they do.

And the directors of children's services, lead members for children and all the relevant local agencies that form the Children's Trusts must form stronger relationships with all schools - both in day-to-day working but also in discussions when priorities are being agreed and services are being commissioned.

John Dunford has impressed upon me many times the need for an intelligent system of accountability for schools.

I am committed to this - and more broadly to an intelligent system of accountability for all children's services - so that you as leaders of schools and colleges know you can call on the support you need to tackle all the barriers to learning and hold them to account if they fail to deliver.

In the end, of course, this is all about strong leadership - in schools and colleges and across local services too. I know you all have an absolute commitment to leading your schools and colleges to reach the ever higher standards of education that will achieve our ambitions for every child.

And I know you would agree that we should settle for nothing less.

But there are only so many hours in the day - although at times I know you too wish there were more. You are only human - although I know you feel at times that we ask you to be more than that.

And you carry a heavy burden on your shoulders - because your job is not just about opportunities for individual children but about preparing the next generation for success. The future of our country truly rests in your hands.

Only this week, I had dinner with a group of headteachers. And I heard their frustrations at:

  • how too often housing departments don't call back when a problem arises on a Friday afternoon

  • how social services persist in trying to contact teachers during lesson-time, and

  • how CAMHS services are sometimes just not responsive enough

Yet what still shone through was the leadership of these heads - their dedication to help other schools improve, their professionalism to make things work however difficult and their passion to help every child fulfil their potential.

That is why you are here. And we will do everything we can to support you.

Because with a more engaging curriculum, with a transformed school estate through Building Schools for the Future, and with every young person in education, training or an apprenticeship to 18 - what an opportunity we have.

Hosting the Olympics here in Britain in 2012 - we shall be inspiring a whole generation of young people to believe in themselves and our country.

What an opportunity. And what a great responsibility too. But I know you will take on these responsibilities with determination and seize these opportunities with passion.

And together, I believe we can achieve our ambition and make our country the best place in the world for children to grow up.

To read the secretary of state's full speech, go to www.dcsf.org.uk/speeches


Policy highlights

The secretary of state made several announcements in his speech to ASCL delegates. Among them were:

  • expansion of the Teach First programme and a new Transition to Teaching programme, to recruit extra teachers with science, technology and engineering backgrounds from industry

  • a new masters qualification for teachers, the Masters in Teaching and Learning, which every teacher would be expected to complete over the course of his/her career

  • a new extended diploma to recognise and reward a larger range of achievement by all students, available across all 17 diplomas lines from 2011

  • extension of the National Leaders in Education programme - offering support to school in difficulty - from 120 schools to 500 schools over the next five years, with about 200 of those in secondary schools

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