Government's response to the Second Report from
the Children, Schools and Families Committee, Session 2007-08
The Select Committee's conclusions and recommendations
are in bold text.
The Government response is in plain text.
Some of the recommendations and responses have been
The new Department
1. While joint working across Government is
of course not new, the extent to which the DCSF is involved with
other departments is possibly unique. There are two areas where
it has sole responsibility for policy and fundingearly
years and 5 to 13 schoolingbut on everything else it has
joint responsibility and varying degrees of control. On 14-19
education it has joint responsibility with DIUS, but sole responsibility
for funding. On matters such as child poverty and health the funding
and policy levers are largely in other people's hands. (Paragraph
The Machinery of Government statement, which announced
the creation of the Department for Children, Schools and Families
(DCSF) gave DCSF the responsibility for the education of children
and young people up to age 19, including both policy and funding
of 14-19 education (Cabinet Office June 2007).
The Machinery of Government document stated that DCSF would lead
the strategy for reform of the 14-19 phases. In doing so, it will
work closely with the new Department for Innovation and Skills
to ensure successful delivery of the reforms through schools,
colleges and training providers.
In addition to those areas listed by the Committee,
DCSF also has responsibility for the policy and funding in a range
of other areas, such as information, advice and guidance for young
people and the provision of positive activities for young people.
It has policy responsibility for children's social care services,
covering services for children in need (i.e. at risk and disabled
children), child protection and children in care. In other areas
such as child poverty, child health, youth justice, substance
misuse and teenage pregnancy we share responsibility with other
It is certainly true that successful delivery in
DCSF's areas of policy demands effective joint working with partners
and other government departments, but this should not be confused
with a lack of clarity over responsibility. As noted below, cross-departmental
structures are in place to drive the action required to meet Government's
targets (its cross-departmental Public Service Agreements). For
example, the Child Poverty PSA Board monitors progress against
the Government's target for 2010, supported by the Child Poverty
Unit staffed by DCSF, the Department for Work and Pensions and
2. We welcome the new Department's focus on
children. The problem with joint responsibility is that it might
mean no effective responsibility, with each part of the system
doing its own work but with no-one ensuring that it does all add
up to coherent policy and actions. The DCSF has been given the
leading role, which appears to be an acknowledgement that ultimately
someone does have to take decisions. The challenge for the Department
and for the Secretary of State will be to ensure that they are
able to lead and to require decisions to be made. (Paragraph 9)
The creation of the Department for Children, Schools
and Families in June 2007 for the first time brought together
all key aspects of policy affecting children and young people
into one government department. This has allowed Government to
strengthen its support for children and their families, through
the development of coherent policy and joined-up delivery across
departments and each part of the system which delivers education,
wider children's services and support for parents.
In order to drive change in areas where effective
policy development and implementation relies on the input of other
departments, a clear governance structure and performance management
mechanisms have been put in place.
The Domestic Affairs Cabinet Sub-Committee for Families,
Children and Young People is chaired by the Secretary of State
for Children. Under the Secretary of State's leadership, DA(FCY)
considers policy affecting families, children and young people;
and reports as necessary to the Cabinet Committee on Domestic
Affairs. Cabinet Sub-Committees provide the forum for policy decisions
to be made across Government and a forum to manage the delivery
of Public Service Agreements (PSAs).
The Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 announced
a streamlined set of 30 new PSAs, articulating the highest priority
outcomes for the spending period, with a published Delivery Agreement
for each PSA. The PSAs put us on the path to achieve the 2020
goals for children and young people set out in the Children's
Accountability arrangements have been strengthened,
with a publicly identified Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for
each PSA, direction by Cabinet Committees, and plans for a stronger
linkage into the appraisal regime for civil servants. Each PSA
is underpinned by around five indicators, some of which (but not
all) have national targets attached, with the rationalised use
of targets leaves more space for local target setting.
The DCSF is responsible for five of the Government's
PSAs and the Department also contributes to the child poverty
PSA, jointly with HM Treasury and the Department for Work and
Pensions (DWP). Governance arrangements have been put in place
across government to ensure effective and consistent monitoring
of performance and delivery of PSAs. Performance and delivery
of the PSAs led solely or jointly by DCSF is overseen by four
PSA Boards, along with the Child Poverty Board, chaired by HM
3. This issue of how well education, health
and other services work together at the local level is one that
we will want to monitor, as it is crucial to the success or otherwise
of the Government's plans. The mechanism for achieving effective
joint working at the local level is the Children's Trust, and
we plan to undertake an inquiry into Children's Trusts later in
the year. (Paragraph 11)
As set out in the Government's Children's Plan, joined-up
local services are crucial to improving outcomes for children,
young people and their families. This is illustrated by the Government's
commitment to all schools providing extended services by 2010
(including swift and easy access to health services) and its commitment
to strengthen integrated working across all children's services.
We are currently consulting on draft supplementary
statutory guidance for Children's Trust partners (consultation
ends June 26th) that places greater emphasis on driving
improved outcomes and promoting cultural change, now the structural
changes are substantially in place.
As noted by the Committee, Children's Trusts will
be key to driving effective joint working at the local level.
The Children's Plan (Chapter 7) states clearly the Government's
intention to monitor the difference that Children's Trusts are
making and examine whether Children's Trusts arrangements need
to be strengthened to improve outcomes, including by further legislation.
The Government welcomes the Committee's interest
in this area and looks forward to the Committee's inquiry later
4. Given the importance of Diplomas, clarity
over who is responsible is vital. We ask the DCSF to set out each
department's specific responsibilities towards Diplomas. The success
of the Diplomas is vital to improve levels of attainment. We shall
be taking further evidence on progress in implementing Diplomas
later in the year. (Paragraph 13)
Since DCSF was created, Government has been clear
that the Department is in charge of all 14-19 curriculum and qualifications,
including the Diploma.
DCSF's lead role includes the design and development
of the new Diplomasworking with employers through Diploma
Development Partnerships, running the Gateway process to determine
which schools and colleges will be ready to offer Diplomas in
their first year and making sure teachers in schools and colleges
receive the workforce training they need.
DCSF works closely with other departments on the
Diplomas including the Department for Innovation, Universities
and Skills, with DIUS leading on the development of some vocational
qualifications that might be used within a Diploma.
Schools and colleges up and down the country are
gearing up to deliver Diplomas from September this year and Diplomas
have received widespread support from schools, colleges, universities
There are challenges ahead, but the Education and
Skills Select Committee, National Audit Office and other independent
bodies have confirmed that we are on track to successfully deliver
the first five Diplomas in 2008.
As the Committee notes, the successful implementation
of Diplomas is key to improving levels of attainment and for engaging
young people in learning to age 19. The Department welcomes the
Committee's interest in this area.
5. The key issue for the Department is to
make joint working a reality at both national and local level,
and the extent to which it is able to achieve effective joint
working will be the main determinant of whether the aims of these
policy initiatives will be achieved. (Paragraph 14)
As the Committee notes, the creation of DCSF reflects
the fact that all the services for which the Department is responsible
play a significant part in helping children and young people develop
and address difficulties that they may face. The Government agrees
with the Committee that these services need to be co-ordinated
rather than operate in isolation if they are to be as effective
As set out under conclusion 3, Children's Trusts
will be central to making a reality of joint working at a local
In April 2008, the Government published a document
setting out the actions it is taking to build on existing investment;
to improve further the skills and capacity of people who work
with children; and deliver the high quality, personalised and
integrated services set out in the Children's Plan.
The Department will publish a long-term strategy
in the autumn that will set the foundations for a staged programme
of workforce reform to support joint working across the children's
6. It will clearly be our main task to hold
the Secretary of State accountable for how well these new arrangements
work, given his key leadership and co-ordinating role. We have
decided to invite the Secretary of State, his opposite number
at the Department for Work and Pensions and a Treasury minister
to give evidence jointly later this year on the issue of child
poverty. We hope that this will both provide an opportunity to
see how well these different departments work together to achieve
one of the Government's most challenging policy objectives, the
halving of child poverty by 2010, and demonstrate our determination
to pursue scrutiny of children's issues across Government. (Paragraph
The Government welcomes the Committee's scrutiny
of the delivery of the 2010 child poverty target, and the opportunity
to update the Committee on the steps that the three DepartmentsDCSF,
HM Treasury, and DWPhave been taking in partnership to
intensify efforts to tackle child poverty across Government.
Partnership has been, and continues to be, critical
to effectively tackling all the causes of child poverty. As the
Departments explained to the Committee on the 9 June, joint working
has been cemented with the new Child Poverty Unit (CPU), where
officials from the three Departments work together to drive forward
delivery against the 2010 target and develop the longer-term strategy
for eradicating child poverty by 2020.
The three Departments also work together through
a Child Poverty PSA Board, which is responsible for monitoring
progress against the PSA and reports to a tripartite ministerial
group, also chaired by HMT. A wider child poverty board involving
other Government departments and Devolved Administrations is jointly
convened by HMT, DWP and DCSF to look at the policies needed for
the eradication of child poverty by 2020.
The Government's commitment to the 2010 and 2020
targets remains firm. We were pleased to be able to give the Committee
details about how the joint Child Poverty Unit is really driving
forward work towards these ambitious goals. Budget 2008 contained
£950m additional spending to tackle child poverty. Alongside
the Budget, we published Ending child poverty: everybody's
business, which outlined our intention to begin now, working
with stakeholders, to develop a strategy for the next decade.
It also announced £125 million over the next three years
to test new and innovative policy ideas to inform this strategy.
The Government is committed to understanding more
about what worksnot just in improving parents' and families'
incomes, but also in improving their outcomes, so we can be sure
that children are on the path to success and intergenerational
cycles of poverty are broken once and for all.
The Children's Plan
7. The lack of priority amongst objectives
and the absence of a timetable for implementation are weaknesses
which need to be rectified, otherwise the Children's Plan runs
the risk of being simply a wish list rather than the mission for
the Department of which the Secretary of State spoke. If it does
not do so before, it should use the progress report later in the
year to set out in greater clarity when it hopes to achieve some
of its main policy proposals. In order to keep track of progress
on the Children's Plan, we intend to take evidence for the Secretary
of State again when the progress report is published. (Paragraph
A clear timetable for implementation is an important
part of delivering the Children's Plan vision. This is why DCSF
published a timetable as part of the Children's Plan Implementation
Pack in April 2008.
This document gives a clear indication of the overarching timeline
for the delivery of key commitments made in the Children's Plan.
The report that Government will publish at the end
of 2008 to set out progress made on the Children's Plan, will
indeed provide a further opportunity to set out plans for implementing
commitments made in the Plan.
8. If there is to be long term planning it
is important to stick to objectives. The way in which the DCSF
sees the ECM outcomes being linked to the objectives in the Children's
Plan needs to be clarified as soon as possible, and the new strategic
objectives need to be maintained for the long run. The fact that
there are now three sets of indicators that the Department is
usingfive Every Child Matters outcomes, six strategic objectives
and five PSA objectivesis unsatisfactory. The Department
needs to be clear both for the sake of its own work and that of
the wider children and families workforce which objectives it
is primarily working towards. (Paragraph 22)
DCSF published a new Every Child Matters (ECM) Outcomes
Framework in April 2008, as part of the Children's Plan Implementation
Pack. This shows how
the ECM outcomes align with and are supported by the Government's
PSAs and the Departmental Strategic Objectives.
The Departmental Strategic Objectives, which drive
the DCSF's activity, and the cross-Departmental Public Service
Agreements for which DCSF and other departments are held accountable,
directly correspond to the ECM outcomes. A common set of indicators
unite all three. Together, they set out what Government needs
to do for the next 3-10 years to be sure children are healthy,
stay safe, enjoy and achieve, achieve economic wellbeing, and
make a positive contribution.
The new ECM Outcomes Framework also clarifies how
indicators used at a national level are reflected in the National
Indicator Set for local government. The Local Government White
Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities published in October
2007, committed to introducing a set of streamlined indicators
that would reflect national priority outcomes for local authorities
working alone or in partnership.
Public Service Agreements
9. If targets are to be respected, the way
in which they are decided must be more transparent. For that reason
we ask the Department to set out in its annual report or in the
response to this report the basis on which the targets for indicators
under the new PSA objectives have been determined. (Paragraph
Each PSA is underpinned by a small basket of national
indicators, which were developed in consultation with partners
and negotiated with HM Treasury as part of the Comprehensive Spending
Review process. Factors such as relevance to the PSA outcome,
data quality and frequency, and links to departmental performance
were considered. A subset of indicators also have specific national
targets attached (all other indicators are expected to improve
against baseline trends over the course of the spending period).
Where new national targets have been set, the Department has sought
to strike a balance between ambition and credibility to drive
improvement. Two 2010 targets were rolled forward from the previous
The PSA Delivery Agreements, published in April,
provide further background to explain the rationale for the targets
to support the delivery of the PSAs.
In line with the Committee's recommendation, the DCSF will provide
further detail through the Autumn Performance Report later this
10. The new Department needs to be explicit
how it intends to drive improvements in services for children
and families. In particular, Ministers will need to spell out
how their desired outcomes will be hastened and delivered by the
various different performance drivers currently in use. In some
cases, there may be conflicts between 'choice' as exercised by
parents and the demands of PSAs. (Paragraph 32)
11. There are still tensions between the Government's
desire to secure collaboration and co-operation between institutions,
and financial incentives and performance requirements which stimulate
competition. These two policies need to be carefully managed.
Where competition is introduced it is important that it does not
lead to fragmentation of provision. (Paragraph 33)
The final chapter of the Children's Plan (Chapter
7 Making it happen) sets out how Children's Trusts and the 21st
Century school will be central to the Government's strategy for
delivering these improved outcomes in partnership with all those
on the frontline working in the children's workforce.
In particular, organisations at the national, regional
and local level which commission, fund and provide services to
children need to have clear roles and responsibilities to drive
improved outcomes for children and young people. The empowerment
of parents is at the heart of the Children's Plan vision and the
principles which underpin the Government's strategy to deliver
improved outcomes for children and young people.
The Children's Plan was clear that Government needs
to do more to back parents and families, for example, providing
childcare and additional support from professionals to help deal
with the challenges of bringing up children. The Children's Plan
was also clear that children's services need to be shaped by and
responsive to children, young people and families, not designed
around professional boundaries. Giving parents the information
that they need to make decisions about how to access services
for their children is key to delivering the improved outcomes
set out in the cross-government PSAs.
The Department believes that delivering this enhanced
information and choice for parents can be achieved alongside increased
collaboration between organisations throughout the delivery system.
There are a number of benefits for children and parents in increasing
engagement between schools, encouraging innovation and the sharing
of ideas, resources and expertise.
A central part of our schools improvement strategy,
and the National Challenge in particular, is to promote
collaboration between schools.
The Department is making it easier for the best head teachers
and teachers to support other schools, including through the National
Leaders of Education programme. The National Challenge will accelerate
our Academies and Trusts programmes, potentially allowing up an
additional 200 schools to benefit from collaboration with strong
schools, other educational providers and strong partners.
Already, most of our Trust school pathfinders and
aspiring Trust schools are working collaboratively with other
schools to acquire a shared Trust. The Academies and Specialist
Schools programmes show that working with external partners brings
significant benefits to schools. The Department is encouraging
hard forms of collaboration (for example in rural schools) including joining
up administrative functions and sharing School Business Managers
to free up leadership time. We have also made capital funding
available to support schools to collaborate through the Standards
and Diversity Capital Fund.
DCSF will provide further detail on how the delivery
chain will work together to strengthen these arrangements in the
Children's Plan progress report at the end of 2008. Prior to this,
DCSF will publish detailed plans in a number of key areas, notably
the 2020 children's workforce strategy, covering everyone who
works with children, young people and their families, which will
set out a coherent approach to the development of the children's
The forthcoming DCSF and Department of Health strategy
for children and young people's health and the final report from
the review of child and adolescent mental health services will
provide further detail about how improvements will be secured
in these areas. The Department has already provided detailed plans
on school improvement: the National Challenge toolkit for schools
and local authorities is published alongside Promoting
Excellence for All, a School Improvement Strategy, which aims
to secure improvement in all our schools, and our first and most
urgent commitment is to raise standards in schools with a long
history of low attainment.
12. We will want to be kept informed of the
review of schools funding as it goes through its different stages.
With funding growing more slowly in the current CSR period than
in the previous one, decision on calculating and distributing
schools funding will be even more critical. The changes in funding
to the 16-19 sector, and the implications for 14-19 funding, will
also need to be examined carefully. (Paragraph 40)
The Government welcomes the Committee's interest
in the review of school funding and their intention to examine
the proposed changes of 16-18 funding from the Learning and Skills
Council to Local Authorities as set out in the joint DIUS/DCSF
White Paper Raising Expectations: Enabling the system to deliver.
The review of the distribution of school funding
is at an early stage. The Department has set up a dedicated schools
grant (DSG) Formula Review Group consisting of partner organisations
representing local authorities and schools. There have been three
meetings of the group, looking at different aspects of school
funding which may form part of the new formula.
One of the aspects of school funding the group is
considering is the shift in responsibility for 16-19 funding from
the LSC to Local Authorities. The key issue for this change in
relation to the school funding review is whether the Department
looks to introduce a 14-19 funding system. Any proposals will
need careful thought and consultation before a decision is made.
Proposals are due to be discussed by the review group in July.
The review process is public and easily accessible
for all interested parties. All stakeholders, including schools
themselves, will have the opportunity to contribute to the review.
Stakeholders beyond the review group have been invited to submit
papers and to attend meetings of the group on topics of particular
interest. Papers, minutes of meetings and information about the
work of the group are available on the TeacherNet website. There
will be a formal consultation period in early 2010.
The Department will continue to keep the Committee
informed of the progress of the review.
Efficiency and productivity
13. We are keen to see the detailed assessment
of the achievement or otherwise of the Gershon targets in order
to establish how much more effectively the education and children's
services systems are operating. We will also wish to see how the
new efficiency targets in schools are monitored and the extent
to which they are achieved. (Paragraph 45)
Ensuring value for money (VFM) is an imperative for
the Department. The Spending Review 2004 Efficiency Programme,
the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 VFM Programme and the Public
Value Programme are just part of the Department's commitment to
ensure it continues to spend taxpayers' money in the most effective
The Department's Annual Report 2008 sets out progress
made by the former Department for Education and Skills (DfES)
against the 2004 Spending Review efficiency targets of £4.35
billion. Efficiency gains of £3.4 billion were achieved by
the end of December 2007.
The Department is confident of achieving the target
in full and will report the final outcome in its Autumn Performance
Report 2008. Further returns will be provided to HM Treasury on
a quarterly basis, recognising that there are some lags in the
Department's reporting of efficiency gains, due to the use of
academic years as opposed to financial years and the unavoidable
time taken to gather data from so many front line institutions.
The table (below) gives a breakdown of the reported
figure by policy directorate in the former DfES. The table demonstrated
that 72% of achievement to date has been delivered through Schools
|DfES policy directorate
||Efficiency Savings Reported in December 2007 (£m)
|Lifelong Learning and Skills (LLSD) 14-19*
|Children, Young People and Families*
|LLSD Further Education & Skills; and Higher Education**
* Legacy target now owned solely by DCSF
** Legacy target now owned solely DIUS
The savings made enable frontline professionals in
schools, colleges and higher education institutions to use their
time more productively. Benefits are generated through workforce
reform, investment in ICT, reducing administrative burdens and
improving procurement of goods, services and new school buildings,
in part using a new procurement centre of excellence (the Centre
for Procurement Performance) to strengthen procurement practice
across the education and children's services sectors.
As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007
settlement, DCSF signed up to meeting the cross-government target
of 3% cashable savings year on year. This equates to £4.5
billion cashable savings by 2010-11. Arrangements for monitoring
and delivering these savings are included in the DCSF Delivery
Agreement which was published in December 2007. Progress against
our target will be reported in November 2008.
14. We ask the DCSF to set out what it anticipates
the new Public Value Programme will require of the Department,
and of schools and other children's services providers. (Paragraph
The Budget 2008 announced plans to build on the success
of the existing public sector efficiency programme by launching
the Public Value Programme to look at major areas of public spending
and find smarter ways of doing business and saving money.
As part of this process, the DCSF Public Value Programmes
- Building Schools for the Future;
- Childcare; and
- Teaching Assistants.
Work in these areas is being taken forward jointly
with HM Treasury and the Department will report progress to the
Chief Secretary in June this year and for the 2008 Pre-Budget
2 www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/government_changes.aspx Back
Building Brighter Futures: next steps for the children's workforce
(DCSF, 2008) www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/childrensplan/downloads/7482-DCSF-WorkforceMatters.pdf