‘We must be more ambitious,’ says DfE leader

Damian Hinds gave a speech last week which outlined his vision for the future of children’s education and care

Last week, secretary of state Damian Hinds spoke to the children’s services sector for the first time at the ADCS conference in Manchester.

Hinds discussed the responsibility of professionals – teachers, social workers, and his colleagues a the Department for Education – in the future of children, and what children should expect from their lives.

He said: “For children growing up in 2018: on one hand, you look at life expectancy and technology, opportunities for travel, record employment – in some ways it seems young people have more opportunity than ever.

“At the same time, we have to recognise that there are unique pressures on children growing up now that didn’t exist a generation ago, as they navigate a virtual world as well as a real one. One in ten children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, which is a shocking statistic

“We have made significant progress on behalf of these children:

  • We introduced 15 hours of free early education a week for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, which 72% of eligible two-year-olds now take up;
  • We are trialling new projects to support parents to read at home with their children to help with early language and literacy;
  • Our £200m innovation programme in children’s social care projects is helping us find new and better ways of supporting vulnerable children;
  • Our pupil premium has made sure there is more support for those children who start school behind throughout their time at school;
  • And we’ve seen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their more affluent peers at GCSE level shrink by 10% since 2011;
  • And we’re doing more to support care leavers when they finish school, including a £1,000 bursary for care leavers starting an apprenticeship.

“But of course there is a great deal more to do.

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“Yes, there are examples of high performing local authorities and schools that defy the odds, with children succeeding despite a difficult start in life.

“But, children in need across the piece still have some of the worst outcomes at every stage of their education – in early years, they are two thirds as likely as peers to meet the required standard, by GCSE they are just a quarter as likely as peers to achieve good grades.

“And these groups also struggle later in life. Many of them end up leaving education early and experience joblessness. Too many end up on a pathway to welfare or even prison.

“We must be more ambitious for the most vulnerable kids, helping them to overcome the difficult starts and disadvantages. That is what progress for our country should mean.

“I have the same aspirations for the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children in our society, as I do for anyone.

“Whether they have special educational needs, whether they are in care, or come from a troubled home, I want every child to be able to do their best.

Hinds pointed out that he fully supports the people ensuring children do well in education:

“I’m going to stress my personal commitment to the people who actually deliver the care, on the front line. I’m determined to help you recruit, retain and develop the best, building on our great schemes like Step Up and Frontline to help recruit bright graduates, but also supporting existing social workers to get the skills and knowledge they need through new qualifications, continuing professional development, our leadership development programme.

“I commit to working together, to make sure every child can do their best.”

Read the full speech.

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