Today's news review looks at the open letter from Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw on Birmingham Children's Services, and comments on sex education from Women and Equalities chair Maria Miller.
Birmingham children's services
Michael Wilshaw has today written to the Education Secretary voicing his concerns about failures within Birmingham children’s services. His letter comes following Ofsted’s monitoring report of the same services, published in June.
We have highlighted Birmingham Children’s Services as a concern, and have already brought in a range of measures to ensure the city’s young people have much better care. While we acknowledge some of the points raised by Sir Michael Wilshaw, he fails to mention improvements that Birmingham City Council has already made, and the work already in place.
We have already introduced plans to toughen up the requirement on schools to inform their local authority about children who are removed from their roll. This will ensure that councils can establish the identities of these children to ensure they are safe, receiving a good education, and protected from the risk of harm.
Andrew Christie acts as the Secretary of State’s Commissioner for children’s social care in Birmingham. We are extending his role to ensure that the Council continues to strengthen the link between safeguarding in schools and children’s social care. We have also appointed a new Regional Schools Commissioner, Christine Quinn. And in January we announced an escalation of investigations into illegal schools.
This week we published Putting Children First, a comprehensive package of reforms to radically improve children’s social care. We have also already announced that we are working with the Council on a voluntary Trust to ensure children and families receive the best possible care and support.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Although Birmingham City Council has made some improvements to the way it runs its children’s services, we know this progress has not gone far enough, fast enough, and Sir Michael Wilshaw’s letter reinforces that.
That’s why we have already announced we are working with the Council on the development of a voluntary Trust to make sure children and families in Birmingham receive the best possible care and support. On top of this, we are delivering a comprehensive package of reforms to radically improve child protection and the raise the status of social work.
In January we announced a significant escalation of Ofsted investigations into unregistered, illegal independent schools and it now has a team of inspectors dedicated to identifying, investigating and prosecuting such settings – and we are working with the Crown Prosecution Service to take tough action on this issue.
Sex and Relationship Education
Yesterday, 7 July, the Women and Equalities Committee chair Maria Miller called for sex education to be mandatory on the curriculum, to help tackle issues of hate crime, revenge porn and cyber bullying. She made these comments as part of a debate on the Digital Economy Bill.
She said that previously she believed it should be something that should be determined by schools – but that her views had changed in light of wider issues affecting young people.
We agree that schools have a responsibility to make sure children learn how to stay safe online, and the risks the internet and social media pose – and we know that good schools are already doing this.
Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is compulsory in maintained secondary schools and primary schools must decide whether they want to teach it, ensuring that it is age-appropriate and has regard for the appropriate guidance. We trust teachers’ to decide how to discuss a range of important issues within SRE, including the dangers of pornography, physical violence and abuse, or consent.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We want young people to be able to take advantage of the vast potential that the internet and social media offers to their lives and education. But we also want to make sure they are aware of the risks and dangers. That’s why schools have a responsibility to make sure children know how to stay safe online and when using technology and social media.
Good schools are already doing this well, and building on their work we’re asking all schools to put in place stronger measures protecting children from harm online - including cyber bullying, pornography and the risk of radicalisation. The law is also crystal clear that where teachers find indecent images of children they must report this to the police.
Alongside this, all schools should deliver high quality PSHE which is an important opportunity to teach young people about how to stay safe and avoid risks. To support schools to do that we have funded and produced a range of guidance and support on issues ranging from consent to internet safety.
The Government Equalities Office, in partnership with the Home Office, has invested £3.85 million into the second phase of the teenage relationship abuse campaign, “Disrespect Nobody”. Find out more at http://www.disrespectnobody.co.uk