Scope of major children's services review set out

By Neil Puffett

| 11 July 2016

A major review of the role of local authorities in relation to children will look at councils' responsibilities for early years, special educational needs, and school improvement, it has been confirmed.

Alan Wood said a consultation on the future role of councils in relation to children will launch in September. Picture: Alex Deverill

The Department for Education-ordered review was announced in the education white paper, published in March, which set out government plans to make all schools academies, reducing the role of councils in education.

It will examine the responsibilities of local authorities in relation to children, including the implications for the roles of the director of children's services and the lead member for children.

Speaking at the ADCS conference in Manchester last week, former ADCS president Alan Wood, who has been appointed to chair an advisory group supporting the DfE's review team, said a consultation exercise is due to get under way in September.

"The purpose of the review is to determine a clear narrative and vision for the role of local authorities in relation to children, identify a coherent set of expectations and responsibilities for local authorities in relation to children, and identify the levers that would need to be in place to carry out the role effectively," Wood said.

He added that it will identify the action and policies the DfE will need to implement to help local authorities adjust to their new role, and will consider the implications of the new role for the director of children's services and the lead member.

"We will need to focus, because we have a short period of time [until the consultation]," Wood said.

"Our objective is to ensure that the consultation document, which comes out in September, focuses on the key issues and identifies the things that need improving. The sector can improve by fully participating in that consultation exercise.

Wood said that while a total of 16 themes have been identified by the DfE team, the advisory group will focus on four areas.

The key areas the advisory group will focus on are places for children - whether it be early years, schools or post-16 provision. It will also look at arrangements for special educational needs and alternative provision.

The third area involves considering the quality of provision made by schools - looking at the broad notion of school improvement and who plays what role.

Finally, it will assess the early years role of the local authority, something Wood said is "likely to be expanded in the coming period".

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