National News - December 2016

To read all about this month's national news ... see summaries below and if you are interested to read more, visit (click) the heading link.

Children England: A £240 million expansion of the grammar school system is not what children need

With the public consultation on grammar schools not even completed yet, the government is wrong to pledge so much money for them in the Autumn Statement.
Far from helping children overcome the increasing divide between well-off and struggling families, the government’s plan to invest millions in new selective schools will leave the vast majority of children worse off, and intensify the pressure on children approaching the end of primary school to compete, perform and prove themselves through exams.
 
Latest NHS workforce figures show that at the end of July this year there were a total of 955 staff listed as working in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry - the lowest number since data collection began in September 2009. The figure represents a fall of 2.4% on the March 2015 figure of 978 staff - the month in which the government pledged a "complete overhaul" for children and young people's mental health services to address poor access and support.
 
The chairs of five parliamentary select committees have written to Education Secretary Justine Greening demanding the government backs down on its refusal to make sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory in all schools. The letter raises concern at the government's "lacklustre" response this week to a women and equalities committee report into the sexual harassment and sexual abuse of pupils in schools.
 
The government has been criticised for not doing enough to tackle widespread sexual harassment and violence against pupils in schools. The women and equalities select committee published a damning report in September highlighting the scale of the problem, including evidence showing that 59% of 13- to 21-year-olds had experienced sexual harassment at school or college in the last year. But in its response to the report, the DfE has rejected a number of the committee's key recommendations, including legally requiring schools to tackle the problem and for Ofsted to prioritise how well schools are monitoring incidents.
 
Fundamental deficiencies in the way the Metropolitan Police (Met) understands and responds to child abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE) are placing children in London at risk, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has warned. An inspection of the force's child protection work found that none of the force's borough teams or specialist teams assessed was doing a good enough job in protecting children. The report found that officers and staff do not properly understand the link between children who regularly go missing and sexual exploitation.
 
Thousands of low income families with disabled children have missed out on up to £4,400 in tax credits thanks to an administrative error by the Department for Work and Pensions. Approximately 28,000 families received at least £3,000 too little in disability living allowance from 2011 because DWP failed to inform HMRC they were eligible for the benefit. HMRC said it would repay any money owed for 2016-17 but not for earlier years, and that it was up to individuals to check they received the right payments.
 
Speaking in parliament education minister Lord Nash said the Department for Education will test new approaches to mental health assessments for looked-after children in as many as 10 pilot areas. The pilots are set to launch by May 2017. The announcement comes just two months after the government rejected calls from the education select committee for all looked-after children to be assessed by a mental health specialist when they enter care.
 
The Home Affairs Committee has published a short report on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) alongside evidence from former counsel. The Committee states that the work of the Inquiry is vital but that confidence in the Inquiry's ability to deliver its objectives has been seriously diminished by problems it has encountered. The report suggests swift and transparent action be taken to rebuild confidence in IICSA and its work among survivors, the public, and Inquiry workers.
 
Consultations
 
Closing 11th December
 
Closing 12th December
 
Closing 12th January

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