Council leader John Clancy talks about how the city council must work with partners to deal with unregistered schools, ahead of a verbal report to the education scrutiny committee tomorrow (Wednesday 10 February).
When I met the secretary of state for education recently I gave her an assurance that the continuing improvement of children’s services in Birmingham remains the council’s number one priority.
My intention is that Birmingham is recognised as the leading city for young people, for learning and for skills. This is not just about giving every child the opportunity to make the most of their abilities, regardless of their start in life. We will develop a joined-up approach to family support, learning, skills and employment, embedded in the community and the home, working with leaders across the public, private and voluntary sector.
‘Every Child, Every Citizen, Every Place Matters’ – this is not just a slogan but a promise that every school matters, and everyone in those schools matter.
We have heard recently concerns about the growth in unregistered independent schools where children are at best getting a very narrow type of ‘teaching’ and at worst are at risk of exploitation.
This council will provide strong leadership in establishing a city-wide risk assessment of all settings but it has to be a shared responsibility as we have limited powers of intervention with such schools. So it is vital we work in partnership with Ofsted and the Department for Education, which is what we are doing. In fact, since we first raised this as a national concern last year we have completely overhauled how we work with independent schools, and strengthened quality assurance, policies and procedures are now in place.
I have said elsewhere that neither intolerance nor extremism of any kind have a place in our city, and we have the people and experience to help the country as a whole tackle these challenges, rather than simply be a victim of them. We will lead by example to promote inter-cultural relations, working together to achieve shared ambitions and common benefits in our neighbourhoods.
To that end, I will say again and unequivocally that there will be zero tolerance of unregistered independent education provision.
This city council will put its children front and centre in terms of priorities and we are already making good progress with our social care and education improvements, but we need to pull together our council-wide and the safeguarding- and education-specific approaches to active citizenship and cohesive communities.
Put simply, as a council we will always express our care for every child wherever they are in this city, rooted in a deep understanding of the needs of children that demonstrates our promise that they are our priority.