And they are warning that this crucial loophole must be closed if the new ways of working set out in the Children Bill are to be a success.
'The government's vision of breaking down organisational boundaries and arranging services around the needs of children to ensure they are safe, happy, healthy and achieving has the resounding support of the group. However, it believes that the government risks undermining this vision by failing to require schools to identify priorities and resources to ensure that they provide for children facing additional challenges, working with other agencies where necessary.
'Although the government claims that schools are central to the successful delivery of improved outcomes, the bill neglects to require schools to change the way they work. The inter-agency group believes that although some schools will recognise the importance of working in a more co-operative way, the government cannot rely entirely on the excellence and integrity of head teachers. In order to fulfill this vital role, schools need clarity over expectations.
'This is a rare opportunity to radically reform children's services to ensure that agencies act on the warning signs when children have problems. It is vital that the Children Bill is amended so that schools - the agency where most children spend significant amounts of their time - have a statutory obligation to engage in this agenda and work in an integrated way around the needs of children.'
The organisations who have signed the statement are:
- The Local Government Association
- Child Abuse Investigation Command, Metropolitan Police
- National Association of School Governors
- Association of Directors of Social Services
- National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
- The Children's Society
- National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations
- NHS Confederation
- Confederation of Education Service Managers
- Association of Chief Police Officers
- National Children's Home
- National Children's Bureau
- The Connaught Group
- Association of Directors of Education and Children's Services