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Outstanding challenge for Ofsted

Ofsted-bashing has been on the rise for several months. Cries of exasperation over the way the children's services inspectorate goes about its business have come in fits and starts from all quarters.

It's time to respect children's rights

You wait ages for one 20th anniversary, then three come along at once. We've just marked the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 Children Act. And this week it is 20 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into existence.

Cuts could enhance joint working

The party conference season is over and national politics is destined for a surreal few months in the run-up to the general election. Expect plenty more short-term children's policy announcements - some even eye- catching - as the main parties try to outmanoeuvre each other to strike a popular chord. Politics in Westminster will become increasingly sensationalised and polarised.

Focus of spending must be balanced

It's official: the UK spends more money on child welfare and education than the average market economy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report out last week, we spend just over 90,000 per child from birth to 18 compared to an OECD average among 30 member countries of just under 80,000.

The next commissioner needs bite

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has fired the starting gun to recruit a children's commissioner for England to succeed Sir Al Aynsley-Green early next year.

The key to Ofsted's rehabilitation

Ofsted has attracted its share of flak in recent months, much of it justified. The verdict of its Annual Performance Assessment of Haringey Council in late 2007 as "good" is now notorious.

Tory policy still needs some improvements

There is a very real prospect that the next government will be a Conservative one. So it's encouraging that apart from the small matter of a global economic crisis, issues affecting children, young people and families took centre stage at the party's annual conference this week.

Traveller families require mobile solutions

Traveller children in the UK are among the most disadvantaged of all groups. In terms of education, Ofsted estimates up to 12,000 teenagers from Traveller families are not enrolled in school. For those who do attend, the picture is far from perfect.

Commissioner for Wales is up to the challenge

It was an "exceedingly drawn-out" appointments process, according to one Welsh politician. But Keith Towler came through the interviews, both with young people and politicians, to secure the position of children's commissioner for Wales, just under a year after the untimely death of his predecessor Peter Clarke.

Editorial: Inherent dangers lurk in staying safe plan

With the publication of the Staying Safe Action Plan last week, the government has been at pains not to be seen to wrap children up in cotton wool. In presentation terms, the document's front cover depicts children happily participating in watersports, climbing and running. Meanwhile, the Department for Children, Schools and Families' press notice on the safety plan leads heavily on the proposal to encourage teachers to take pupils on outdoor school trips by providing advice and diminishing bureaucracy.

Editorial: Children's services remain colour-blind

Findings of a study about engaging black and minority ethnic (BME) parents in children's services have been published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (see p4). Given government policy's emphasis on positive parenting and on connecting with hard-to-reach communities, it contains important messages for professionals who work with the young and their families.

The best education begins in the home

A number of issues have converged for me in recent months. There was the Rowntree report on family relationships, and the Sutton Trust report on social mobility - or rather, the shocking lack of it. The German EU presidency culminated this summer in a congress on young people and strategies for social cohesion. And, just the other weekend, Lewis Hamilton came within a point of being crowned Formula One champion in his first season. This could almost be a quiz question: what is the connection?

Prevention is far better than any cure

A preventive approach to support for children and young people has emerged as a clear priority within the reconfigured Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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