ASCL comment on government’s proposals for levelling up opportunities for children

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the government’s proposal to ‘level up’ opportunities for every child, including a register of children not in school, new proposed guidance on behaviour, and the School Rebuilding Programme.
On a register of children not in school
“The government’s proposal to introduce a register of children not in school is long overdue and something that the education sector will welcome.
“We recognise that many parents successfully and safely educate their children at home, but this is a huge undertaking, and the number of home-educated children has increased during the pandemic in families where there are health concerns
“It does not seem unreasonable then to at least have a national register of children who are out of school so that children do not simply disappear from the system.
“We hope that this will give greater assurance that support can be targeted effectively when it is needed and we look forward to hearing more detail in due course.

On proposed new guidance on behaviour
“School and college leaders will be astonished that the government thinks it knows best how to create calm, orderly, safe and supportive environments for children and young people to thrive in, as this is what they and their staff work incredibly hard every single day to achieve.
“Leaders and teachers know their pupils and students better than anyone else and are best placed to handle the behavioural challenges that inevitably come their way.
“What school and college leaders need is much greater support over the factors which can lead to challenging behaviour, such as better provision for families in need, more and better targeted funding for children with special educational needs, and increased investment in tackling a spiralling mental health crisis.
“We now need to see more detail in order to understand what the government is trying to achieve and whether the support it is promising will be of practical use to school and college leaders.

On the School Rebuilding Programme
“We welcome this investment in school rebuilding projects and the invitation for applications from a greater number of schools. However, we remain concerned that the government lacks a coherent strategy for dealing with the £11.4 billion backlog of remedial work that has been identified in the school estate according to its own figures.
“Its methods of delivering capital funding to address these problems are a long way short of what is needed and rely on a very complex series of funding streams which include schools having to bid for pots of money. The system needs to be better resourced and simplified in order to ensure that every school building is a suitable learning environment for children and young people.”