Children, Schools and Families Committee

24 April 2008

MPs call on new Children's Department to show who's in charge

The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee today publishes its report on the remit of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Children's Plan ( Second Report of Session 2007-08, HC 213).

The report welcomes the opportunities presented by a new department with a specific focus on children but warns of the challenges posed by joint working between various parts of Government.

Apart from early years and 5 to 13 schooling, for which DCSF has sole responsibility, it appears the Department has joint responsibility and varying degrees of control for all other areas of children's policy. The Committee urges DCSF and the Secretary of State to demonstrate strong and decisive leadership to ensure effective and coherent policy making.

Responsibility for education is split between DCSF and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). Neither Department appears to have the lead role on 14-19 education. The Committee calls on DCSF to set out each Department's responsibility towards Diplomas and says that the success of this qualification is vital for the new education landscape.

If the Children's Plan is to be more than simply a list of stated ambitions, it must state its main priorities and timetable for action. The Department should use its progress report later in the year to set out in greater clarity when it hopes to achieve some of its main policy proposals.

The plethora of indicators used by the Department - five Every Child Matters outcomes, six strategic objectives and five PSA objectives - is unsatisfactory. The report says the Department must be clear about what its priorities are.

The Committee also states its intention to monitor closely the schools funding review and requests to see a detailed assessment of Gershon targets in order to examine how much more effectively the education and children's services systems are operating.

The Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"Joint working across Government departments presents both challenges and opportunities for all involved, including our Committee. While it is still clearly our main task to hold the Secretary of State to account for these new arrangements, we will also be scrutinising the work of other departments involved in children's issues and we look forward to taking evidence from ministers from different departments later this year on the issue of child poverty.

"The Children's Plan provides an opportunity to make a tangible and lasting difference not just to children's education but to children's services across the board. We urge the Government to be clear about what it hopes to achieve through this ambitious plan."