Friday, February 27, 2009

A very long post in which I try to find out whether ECM is a monster or not. It is.

I am very tempted to devote this entire blog post to discussing the viral attack on the NSPCC's Facebook page, which is amazing to behold (I've never seen one in action before) following our old protagonist Mr Vijay Patel's comments in the Independent yesterday about Victoria Climbié. Or to wondering, as Ali Preuss brilliantly did here about whether it took them so long to respond because they were "busy investigating the teacher bloke on the radio earlier who was claiming all the home ed 'council estate kids' as his own." !!

But sadly, I can't. Instead, I've set myself the odious task of trawling through ECM PSAs to find out which ones are statutory. By the end of this post, I want to be able to say roughly (or even exactly) what percentage of ECM is legal requirement and what percentage is still only rhetoric. I don't know quite why I feel the need to work it out this way, but I do.

I found a list of the relevant PSAs when I was last exploring them. I wonder if I can find it again now.

OK, this page links to them all, but I'm looking for a shortcut - a list or page that might tell me which ones are statutory. More Googling.

Here is a list of Statutory Instruments of the United Kingdom, 2007. Hmm. This is not going to be easy, and it's not even up to date. I'm just wondering whether I may as well check every one of the PSAs listed in the ECM framework [opens pdf] to see which are Statutory. And I don't even know if it says on them whether they are or not, although I assume it probably does. Or should.

(I was chatting to a friend at our home ed meeting on Wednesday, who was actually attending a course next door and had popped in to say hello. The course title wasn't particularly ECM-related, but she said the content was peppered with references to the framework. It seems to be insidiously weaving its way through swathes of public service, taking hold in every quarter as planned, no doubt.)

Here are the PSAs listed in the framework [These all open pdfs.]:

Be Healthy:

Stay Safe:

Enjoy and Achieve:

Make a Positive Contribution and Achieve Economic Wellbeing:

And no - a further quick random check through several of these documents tells me that their legal status is not as simple as the inclusion of a statement along the lines of: "This is a statutory requirement" or not. But I think a search for the word 'statutory' in each document is likely give an indication of the legal status, as it currently stands. I think this route to my answer will be more direct than starting to plough through outdated lists of Statutory Instruments in the hope of somehow being able to tell which ones pertained to ECM.

The DCSF's Departmental Strategic Objective numbers 1-6 also feature in the ECM framework [opens pdf], but I can't find those. The nearest I seem to be able to get to them is this 2008 Departmental Report [opens pdf], which may or may not be useful. If I don't find what I need to know from the PSAs, I will check there. In fact, I'll probably do both to be on the safe side.

So. Seventeen PSA documents. I'm just going to plough through each one, searching for the word 'statutory' and noting what I find. I may also search for words like 'act' and 'requirement':

PSA 12: Improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people [opens pdf]:

Later in 2008, DCSF will publish revised guidance on promoting the health of looked after children, which will be statutory for both local authorities and health bodies.

3.15 Moving to greater co-location of primary health care, children’s centres and other early years settings should give young children a healthy start in life and offer support and advice to mothers and fathers. This means: ...
• when providing childcare and early education, meeting the standards of the Early Years Foundation Stage (statutory from September 2007), helping babies and young children with development and mothers’ and fathers’ understanding of physical activity, play and healthy food;

• promoting healthy eating, including new statutory requirements on
nutritional standards for school food;

3.21 To provide additional focus on looked after children the PSA indicators on CAMHS and services for disabled children (indicators 4 and 5) will be complemented by a indicator on the mental, behavioural and emotional wellbeing of looked after children in the Local Government National Indicator Set. In 2008, the Government will publish statutory guidance for health bodies and local authorities on improving the health of looked after children and young people, including guidance on the provision of dedicated CAMHS. The Government will also support their wider health needs through improved access to positive activities.

3.28 At local level, primary care trusts and local authorities will work together through Children’s Trust arrangements to understand the full spectrum of health needs of local children and agree how they can be met. This involves:
• identifying local priorities through:
• joint strategic needs assessments to be made statutory from April

• set out expectations of what support should be provided to support the emotional and mental health of looked after children, including the provision of dedicated or targeted CAMHS, in revised statutory guidance;

3.60 At local level, the landscape for joint working between local authorities and PCTs has changed radically over the past 4 years. The Children Act 2004 set out to local authorities, PCTs and other partners a duty to co-operate to improve children’s wellbeing as defined by the 5 ECM outcomes, including being healthy. More recently, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act (2007) includes provisions for:
• a duty on local authorities and PCTs to undertake a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) of the health and wellbeing needs of the local community;
• a duty on the local authority and named statutory partners (including PCTs, NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts) to co-operate with each other in determining LAA targets, of which up to 35 will be national priority targets agreed with central government;
• a duty on those partners to have regard to those targets they have agreed; and
• the establishment of the new Local Involvement Networks (LINks) which will help ensure local communities have a stronger voice in the process of commissioning health and social care. LINks will also be a key mechanism for PCTs to discharge their duty to involve and consult.

3.8 Mothers and fathers need timely and meaningful information about their child’s development to help them to flourish. DCSF and DH are exploring the development of personal parent-held records that will run from birth to age 11, and potentially beyond. Additional support is also crucial for looked after children. Later in 2008, DCSF will publish revised guidance on promoting the health of looked after children, which will be statutory for both local authorities and health bodies.

Here's a useful thing to understand:

So it seems that ECM is sort of horisontally chopped into tiers, and that the Tier 1 stuff is statutory, whereas Tiers 2 and 3 are not, but that's probably too simplistic an explanation and anyway, I can't find anything that sets the three tiers apart across the whole ECM framework [opens pdf].

But there must be an easier way than this. I wonder how Local Authority managers work out which are their statutory requirements in this tangled web? I think I'll try some more Googling, to see if I can find any cover-all guidance for them on the subject.

Ah, I think I've just found it. It was as easy as typing 'statutory guidance' into the search box here. I can't believe it took me so long to work that out! If you've been wading through everything I've written up until now, I do apologise. Right. Here goes:

Oh no. There are fifty-six of these!

OK, they all open pdfs...

Statutory guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving education (I wonder how this differs to the Children Missing Education one? Surely it must..?)

Children’s Trusts: Statutory guidance on inter-agency cooperation to improve well-being of children, young people and their families

Securing Sufficient Childcare: Guidance for local authorities childcare act

Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage May 2008

Wait, I've refined my search now and put "statutory guidance" in quote marks. There are now only sixteen results. Phew! The monster isn't quite as gigantic as I first feared!

OK, the sixteen pieces of Statutory Guidance are as follows:

Statutory guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving education

Children's Trusts: Statutory guidance on inter-agency cooperation to improve well-being of children, young people and their families

Code of Practice on the provision of free nursery places for three and four year olds, 2004-2005

Every Child Matters: Change for Children - An Overview of Cross Government Guidance (This looks like it might be the document I've been looking for actually.)

Exemplars of LSCB effective local practice (This can't be statutory guidance, can it?

Statutory guidance on inter-agency co-operation to improve the wellbeing of children: children’s trusts

Every Child Matters: Change for Children - Statutory guidance on the role and responsibilities of the Director of Children’s Services and the Lead Member for Children’s Services

I'm missing one out here that's non-statutory also.

Securing Sufficient Childcare: Guidance for local authorities childcare act 2006

And I'm leaving out another three non-statutory items here.

Statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004

The last two in the list are not statutory either, though the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage May 2008 obviously is.

On the basis of that, it looks to me like the whole ECM framework [opens pdf] is underpinned, so far, by only eight items of statutory guidance so far, plus Acts of Parliament including the Children Act 2004 and the Childcare Act 2006.

I've just been visited by a friend who works in Local Government, though not in a department that's connected to ECM, but he explained that all Codes of Practice and Statutory Instruments are disseminated to LA Officers on a series of day courses, during which the three or four [invariable] tiers of action are explained to them. The tiers were labelled in one of his coursework folders as 'MUST; SHALL/SHOULD; and MAY'. Failure to act on the first tier ('MUST') is a disciplinary and possibly a criminal offence; failure to act on the second tier ('SHALL/SHOULD') could be actionable if there wasn't a very good reason, and failure to act on the third tier ('MAY') is probably OK, as long as the officer can show that he has borne in mind the statutory and advisory elements of the Code.

But how to tell what proportion of ECM is not mandatory? I'm going to go back to Every Child Matters: Change for Children - An Overview of Cross Government Guidance to see if I can find out.

Every Child Matters: Change for Children is the programme of local and national action through which the whole system transformation of children’s services described in Every Child Matters is being implemented. A range of guidance documents has been produced to assist local partners in delivering this programme, including statutory guidance under the Children Act 2004.

Hmm.. no mention of the Childcare Act there..

Colleagues in the school workforce will also wish to be aware of guidance on extended schools available on

I think this is also something to try and keep our eye on.

Wow, look at this:

Wellbeing has a legal definition based on the five Every Child Matters outcomes; the achievement of these outcomes is, in part, dependent upon the effective work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

So when they visit our houses asking to check on our children's wellbeing, they really do mean all of this legal stuff - not how well our children happen to be!

And all of this is overseen, of course, by Ofsted.

Every Child Matters: The Framework for the Inspection of Children’s Services sets out the principles to be applied by an inspectorate or commission assessing any children’s service, and defines the key judgements which, where appropriate and practical, inspections will seek to make. The framework ensures that all assessments consider the extent to which the service contributes to improving the wellbeing of children and young people.

I'm looking at The Children’s Plan One Year On: a progress report now. It's a big one: no wonder it jammed up my PCU.

Parents want the best for their children. They want them to be safe, happy, healthy, doing well in a good school with high standards, and able to get good
qualifications and eventually a good job.

There they go again, telling us what we want. My sons did not want to do qualifications: they wanted to go straight into self-employment and that's what they're doing. I suppose, to take the above quote absolutely literally, they were quite able to get qualifications: they just didn't want to.

Parents tell us that juggling work and family life can be hard.

Relax your planning laws then, so that the price of land drops and ordinary people can build houses on it, with wind turbines and solar power at affordable prices, then both parents won't have to go out to work, as is their actual preference. Oh dear, we seem to have reached rant mode again. I was doing so well, too.

Over recent years, since the publication of the Every Child Matters framework, a quiet revolution in children’s services has been unfolding in local communities around the country – with schools, health and social services, police and other services working together and with families and children to put children at the heart of local services.

You're not kidding.

We will only achieve this by working together – through close partnership between schools, children’s services, the voluntary sector and government, and the strengthening leadership role played by local authorities and their partners

But not families.

  • parents bring up children, not government – but families need help and support to do their job;

- whether they want it or not.

  • all children have the potential to succeed and should go as far as their talents can take them;

- whether they want to or not, and only in the direction they are told.

  • it is always better to prevent failure than tackle a crisis later.

- whether people want to do it that way or not.

Here we go:

Oh wait, there's more. That was just for 'Happy and healthy'.

Under 'Safe and sound' there's:

'Excellence and equity' [Like a virus itself, ECM is morphing to counter resistance. This bit used to be called 'Enjoy and Achieve', remember?] has:

Leadership and collaboration ['Make a positive contribution' if you're still using last week's terminology] has:

And finally 'Staying on' has:

Ohh wait, there's more:

On the right track:

Making it happen:

This thing goes on forever - I'll have to come back to it tomorrow. Two hundred and thirty-four pages of ECM plans for 2009. Layer upon layer upon layer, or tier, or whatever you want to call them. Forget what I said about it not being a monster after all: it quite definitely is one and I don't know what it would take to keep it at bay. When we complained to BRE last year about the welfare reforms on the grounds that the scope of the public consultation had been too narrow, the reply from them contained the following:

The crux of the matter however is that the Better Regulation Executive in BERR does not have the power to stop policy development in its tracks.

But what does? Whatever it is, we've got to find it.


Anonymous sam said...

yep, I think you're right.
Just forwarding you this link, it was in today's Times but is now inaccesable online. It is part of the speech that Phillip Pullman is to give tomorrow at The Convention For Modern Liberty. I'm n ot trying to hassle you, it's just that you seem to be able to absorb all of this information and make,if any, sense of it....

11:44 pm, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Sam, I'll check it out now :-) I got your other email too, but was very bogged down in this post all day yesterday. Might take a bit of a break to answer emails, PMs etc. today. Might even manage some gardening!

6:32 am, February 28, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

It's all just utter crap designed to foster a feeling of panic and stress in everyone - parents and government workers. They cannot possibly ever achieve all this, it's insane.

12:22 pm, February 28, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Tech, insane: yes. Can they achieve it? Well, they're going to try.

6:37 pm, February 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah I just knew CAMHS would be dragged into this. How on earth do they expected an already overstretched service to take this on-'stick the kids with real problems that you were trained to actually help-go after other families who neither want nor need help'. That's what it looks like.

I hope my dh can get out before all this is forced on him.
I've just been on Carlotta's blog and seen the birmingham response. I feel stabbed in the back.
...words fail me now...

7:32 pm, February 28, 2009  

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