MPs: Clarity needed in departments’ responsibilities

MPs have called for it to be made clear which department is responsible for specific children’s and educational issues.

A report from the children, schools and families select committee says greater clarity is needed to address challenges resulting from joint working between various parts of government on issues relating to children.

It says the newly-created Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) only has sole responsibility for early years and five-to-13 schooling.

For all other areas of children’s policy the committee claims the department has joint responsibility and varying degrees of control.

Responsibility for education is split between DCSF and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

In its report the committee says neither department appears to have the lead role on 14-to-19 education.

The committee is calling on the DCSF and children’s secretary to demonstrate strong and decisive leadership to ensure effective and coherent policymaking.

The report also recommends that the DCSF sets out each department’s responsibility towards diplomas.

“Joint working across government departments presents both challenges and opportunities for all involved, including our committee,” said chairman Barry Sheerman.

“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 committee’s report also makes a number of recommendations on the government’s Children’s Plan.

“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,” said Mr Sheerman.

“We urge the government to be clear about what it hopes to achieve through this ambitious plan.”

In response to today’s report, a DCSF spokesman said the department did not agree with a number of the findings, particularly on 14-to-19 education and diplomas.

Schools minister Jim Knight added: “There is no confusion over roles – we have been crystal clear from the start that DCSF is in charge of all 14-to-19 curriculum and qualifications, including the diploma.

“Our plans for the Children’s Plan are clear – our timetable and key milestones were published this month, after detailed work across government.

“The department has clearly stated what its priorities are. The Every Child Matters outcomes are central to all government departments’ work – and for the first time, our strategic objectives, Public Services Agreements, directly correspond to them.”