Despite this, there remains a mixed picture about how far those working both at national and local levels have been able to grapple with the implementation of initiatives originating in their own departments, while working on a more integrated approach across services.
A priority, therefore, for councils is working out how to get the best from joining up disparate services and government initiatives. This needs an authority to take corporate responsibility for ensuring education and social inclusion are inextricably linked.
Taking corporate responsibility must include the following elements: a common sense of purpose, a corporate response to social inclusion, and community involvement, including those hard-to-reach groups which are often among the most socially disadvantaged.
Achieving effective outcomes for those who are at risk of exclusion requires partnership working within councils and with external partners.
Council education departments' capacity for working with the large number of agencies involved is limited by the government's obsession with the delegation of funds to schools. But in councils where partnership working is effective, it makes a major difference.
Around the country, in authorities where strategic and operational links have been made between relevant agencies, strategies to improve attendance and reduce exclusions have delivered results. The attainment of the children and young people in public care has improved, and authorities have been able to tackle economic regeneration by raising aspirations and educational achievement.
None of this can work without the meaningful engagement of the community. Consultative frameworks which involve all sections of the community are central to developing strategies to tackle disadvantage, relevant to those at risk of exclusion.
Recent initiatives, such as local strategic partnerships, the Children & Young People's strategy, and area committees and forums, offer a potential framework for a community-based approach to tackling social exclusion in an integrated way. The substantial challenge is to knit together all the relevant structures, policies, stakeholders and funding streams within the framework.
-- The Education Network is holding a major conference on social inclusion and education on 26 June in London, to be addressed by the education secretary Estelle Morris.
Policy officer, The Education Network