Press release: New measures to end delay for children awaiting adoption

Children awaiting adoption could soon benefit from being placed with a family far quicker under a new approach that will open up a greater number of potential adopters for every child.

Next week’s Queen Speech will include specific new powers that will require councils combine their adoption functions if they fail to join together services under their own steam within the next 2 years.

At the moment, adoption is happening at too small and localised a scale. With councils working together, the choice of potential matches for a child would increase significantly, giving children a far better chance of quickly finding a permanent family.

Councils will be encouraged to identify their own regional approach that would see authorities uniting their adoption services under one system or outsourcing the delivery of their adoption functions into a single regional agency.

The new powers, contained in the Schools and Adoption Bill, would only be used if councils failed to take action quickly enough.

Last year, more than 5,000 children were found the permanent home they desperately needed - a record increase of 26% in just 12 months. However, more than 3,000 children remain waiting to be matched with their new parents, with more than half having spent 18 months in care despite there being adopters readily available.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with 2 adopted brothers, said:

Every single day a child spends waiting in care for their new family is a further delay to a life full of love and stability. This just isn’t good enough.

By coming together and joining forces, councils can make sure more children are matched with families far quicker - regardless of where they live.

Thanks to reforms under the last government, there are now more families than ever ready to adopt. The government now wants to make sure that fewer children face unnecessary delays before being placed in a loving and stable home.

There are currently no barriers to councils working together to streamline and improve the adoption system, but evidence shows that at present - when placing children for adoption - some councils tend to concentrate their efforts locally, rather than looking further afield for what might be a better match. This can lead to children waiting much longer than necessary when parents are readily available.

Actively encouraging councils to join forces and work together as regional adoption agencies will act as a triple win:

  • giving councils a greater pool of approved adopters with which to match vulnerable children successfully first time
  • making vital support services more widely available to adoptive families as and when they need them
  • better targeting the recruitment of adopters

The government will provide financial and practical support for councils and adoption agencies to enable them to bring services together regionally, and implement the greatest step change in the way children are matched for adoption in a generation.

Notes to editors

  1. The government will work with local authorities and adoption agencies to deliver this vision, and plan to provide both financial and practical support to help agencies come together. However, if some local authorities are unwilling to rise to the challenge, the government will hold a backstop power that can be used to direct councils to merge their services.
  2. The government’s reforms have already resulted in a world class adoption system, with record numbers of children placed in loving, permanent homes - an increase of 63% in the last 3 years alone. Yet the adoption system is still highly fragmented, with over 180 different councils and agencies recruiting and matching children with varying degrees of success.
  3. ‘An investigation of family finding and matching in adoption - briefing paper’ found that local authorities tend to seek to place their adopters approved ‘in-house’ before considering adopters approved by other local authorities and then voluntary adoption agencies. This results in sequential decision making, which means some children wait longer than they should to be adopted.

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Press release: Free schools drive social justice: Nicky Morgan

Free schools are the ‘modern engines of social justice’ helping ‘break the cycle of disadvantage’, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says today (22 May 2015) as she affirms the government pledge to open 500 new free schools this parliament.

Speaking on the day the latest application window for teachers, parents and education experts hoping to open a new school opens, Nicky Morgan said free schools are empowering parents to demand more for their children on a scale never seen before.

The government has committed to opening 500 more free schools in this parliament, equating to 270,000 additional school places in communities across the country. The new schools, on top of the 254 already opened, will meet the growing demand of parents for more excellent local schools with high standards and strong discipline. Research has also shown they are helping to raise standards in neighbouring schools by introducing fresh ideas and competition to local communities.

The government’s education reforms are helping more young people, regardless of their background, to achieve their potential and reach their high aspirations. In the past 2 years the gap in performance between disadvantaged schools and their peers has narrowed at both primary and secondary schools.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

Free schools are at the heart of the government’s commitment to deliver real social justice by ensuring all pupils have access to a world class education. This is at the core of our commitment to govern as one nation - creating a country where everyone, regardless of their background, can achieve their high aspirations.

Half of all free schools are in the most deprived areas of the country, offering a fresh chance for families to break the cycle of disadvantage by providing a quality of schooling never before seen in many communities.

It is free schools like Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford, providing an outstanding and innovative education to some of the country’s most deprived children. Or schools like ARK Conway Primary Academy, giving children in Acton the best possible start to life. These are the modern engines of social justice.

Parents want the best for their kids, and where they are unhappy with the schools on offer locally the free school programme empowers them to demand more and establish new, high performing, community-led new schools.

So I’m calling on all high performing schools, sponsors, charities, community groups and parents to come forward with their proposals for new schools and join us in our shared mission of providing every child with a truly world class education.

These brand new schools set up by parents, teachers, charities, academy sponsors and existing schools in response to demand from the local community, either where there is a shortage of places, or where the parents are not happy with the places on offer. So far the programme has resulted in 254 new schools, providing 125,000 places. 72% are located in areas with a shortage of places and half are in the most deprived communities in the country. They are more likely to be rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted than other schools.

The free schools programme is also transforming the lives of many of society’s most disadvantaged and disaffected children. 17% of all free schools are dedicated to special needs or alternative provision, giving more help to those most in need.

Through its school reforms the government is taking power away from politicians and bureaucrats and handing it to heads and teachers. More than two thirds of free school heads say they are having a positive impact on schools in their local area - driving up standards and ensuring more parents have a great school in their neighbourhood. Policy Exchange research has also shown that the opening of a free school is associated with improvements in local poorly-performing schools, at the same time as providing an excellent education to the pupils who attend the free schools themselves.

The government’s plan for education includes introducing new powers to tackle failing schools and improve those that are coasting. Two new measures that will give heads the ability to make an immediate start on improving underperforming schools will be confirmed in the Queen’s Speech next week.

Notes to editors

  1. The department’s new gap index indicates that the performance gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is closing at both key stages 2 and 4. At key stage 2, on the current headline measure, the proportion of pupil premium pupils achieving level 4 in reading, writing and maths combined has risen 6 percentage points between 2012 and 2014 - from 61% to 67% - and the gap with non-pupil premium pupils has narrowed by 2 percentage points. Over the same period, the attainment gap index has narrowed by 2%.
  2. At GCSE the new attainment gap index shows that the gap continues to close - by almost 2% since the previous year.
  3. Policy Exchange’s ‘A rising tide: The competitive benefits of free schools’ report found that the opening of a free school is associated with improvements in local primary and secondary schools.
  4. Read further details about opening a free school.

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