Government plans to turn school into the new mum and dad with police and social workers in the classroom
By LAURA CLARK - More by this author » Last updated at 10:43am on 12th December 2007
A vision of schools where teachers work side by side with police, social workers and nurses was revealed yesterday.
Education Secretary Ed Balls unveiled an extraordinarily-detailed ten-year blueprint spelling out policies affecting virtually every single area of children's lives including sexual health and youth justice.
He vowed to widen the free nursery places scheme to thousands of two-year-olds, and pledged to "make this country the best place in the world for our young people to grow up".
But he was instantly accused of hijacking the traditional responsibilities of parents and intensifying Labour's "nanny knows best" approach.
It's also emerged schools face lightning inspections in which Ofsted would turn up without warning under radical plans announced today.
Inspectors will take more notice of "local" intelligence about the performance of a school, such as concerns raised by parents about the quality of teaching.
A pilot project will see the current 48 hours' notice before inspectors arrive cut to nothing to make the Ofsted system more effective and more efficient.
Chief Inspector of Education Christine Gilbert set out the plan in remarks to MPs: "We are considering representations from parents and pupils that inspections should take place without any prior notice.
"We will look at the practicalities of no-notice inspection as part of our planning for the new school inspection framework. At the heart of any new arrangements will be the observation of teaching and learning by skilled and knowledgeable inspectors."
Mr Balls's wide-ranging Children's Plan comes only months after he was put in charge of the freshly- created Department for Children, Schools and Families - which recognises that youngsters' lives are affected by far more than just their formal education.
His proposals see schools as community centres patrolled by police, and staffed by social workers giving housing advice and nurses dishing out morning-after pills from clinics based on site.
Among a dizzying raft of measures:
• All teachers will be expected to have a masters-degree, while poor ones will be barred for life.
• Young criminals could avoid imprisonment if they say sorry to their victims.
• Thousands of playgrounds will be revamped in an attempt to make children happier and healthier.
• National 'key stage' tests could disappear as early as 2009.
• Primary school children will be required to learn a language.
• Term start dates could be staggered at infant schools to help summer-born children.
• Twenty thousand two-year-olds will be given free nursery places.
• League tables will name and shame schools which fail their brightest children and allow persistent truancy.
Ministers also pledged to review sex education after admitting it is "atrocious" in too many schools.
Primary school girl writing
The traditional face of schooling faces a radical shake-up to 'make it the best in the world'
They controversially promised more teaching on contraception, and an expansion of school-based health clinics which can hand out morning-after pills and give advice on abortions.
However campaigners have warned that this approach simply fuels promiscuity and has already failed to dent soaring teenage pregnancy rates.
Police officers, child psychologists, social workers and parenting experts who can help control disruptive behaviour will also be based at many more schools in future. The plan said two "expert parenting advisers" will be parachuted into every local authority area at a cost of £34million over the next three years.
By summer 2008, ministers will publish a "play strategy" spelling out how 4,000 new play workers will be deployed around the country.
Meanwhile the report promised parents better access to in-school advice on housing and available benefits. When housing families, councils will be instructed to keep children as close to their schools as possible.
Ministers made measures to raise the calibre of the school workforce a centrepiece of yesterday's plan amid fears that schools find it too difficult to remove sub-standard staff.
Only last month, senior government adviser Sir Cyril Taylor suggested there were 17,000 bad teachers who should be removed.
The Tories condemned the plan as "an underwhelming collage with items stuck on any-old-how and no underlying vision".
Education spokesman Michael Gove accused ministers of "lecturing" parents and added: "Ultimately instead of a broad and deep vision, we have had a disappointingly hesitant and patchy programme which betrays an itch to intervene but no grasp of the real problems."
The Lib Dems dubbed it "a mouse of a plan to deal with a mountain of a problem".
Schools spokesman David Laws said: "Ed Balls's much trumpeted Children's Plan seems to amount to a hotchpotch of reviews, recycled policy announcements and Whitehall meddling.
"Under Gordon Brown, the vision seems to be of a Whitehall screwdriver which reaches into every classroom in England."
Mr Balls hopes his plan will help the school system bounce back from a series of damning international studies exposing falling standards of literacy and numeracy.
Parents will be given a bigger say their children's education through regular updates on results and behaviour.
Ministers could even legislate to force schools to maintain contacts with parents amid claims that too many feel cut off from secondary education.
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