4 April 2012
A final round up before Easter
This is my first blog since the launch of the School Exclusions Inquiry report on 19th March. I want to thank everyone who attended the Parliamentary launch, particularly the young people who introduced the animation which highlighted our findings. You can view it here. Supported by Catch22 they had also acted as an important advisory group during the Inquiry. They were joined by four members of my children and young people's advisory group "Amplify" who have been involved in advising me on the progress of the Inquiry throughout. In addition I want to show my appreciation for Charlotte Leslie MP, member of the Education Select Committee and Baroness Estelle Morris of Yardley, former Secretary of State, who jointly hosted the launch and made lively and vital opening remarks. Ms Leslie also chaired an interesting Question and Answer session. Thanks also to everyone who took part in the Inquiry from the visits we made to the written submissions and formal oral evidence given and very special thanks to the Inquiry Panel for their contributions throughout.
There was a great deal of media coverage about the report both nationally and locally. This helped raise awareness of the issues arising such as illegal exclusions. A number of organisations issued statements showing how important this is.
We are now awaiting responses from a range of stakeholders such as the Department for Education (DfE) who are obliged to consider our recommendations and reply. Year 2 will follow!
At the same time our work in other areas continues. Today our Business Plan for 2012-13 and Strategic Plan for the next two years are being published. You can see our priorities for the coming months and years as we carry on promoting and protecting the rights and responsibilities of children and young people.
Yesterday some of my staff and I met with a group of asylum seeking young people for two hours and listened to their stories, hopes and dreams. This encounter with these young people provided us all with a powerful reminder of the many reasons we do what we do here at OCC. And today Deputy Commissioner Sue Berelowitz, Director of Policy Ross Hendry and I met with colleagues from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Sue and I have met with DfE officials, to share some common threads of business and agree ways forward as the new financial year begins.
Last week, along with the other three UK Children's Commissioners, I expressed my deep concern at the reported introduction of a pilot by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) to use dental x-rays for age verification of asylum seeking young people deemed to be 18 but claiming to be children. Children may be at increased and unnecessary exposure to medical radiation, and there have been years of condemnation of the poor science and questionable ethics and legality of this procedure, and we have protested in the strongest terms to Ministers, as have many others, challenging UKBA and the Government to end this pilot immediately.
Finally I wanted to let you know that, as a public body the Office of the Children's Commissioner abides by what are called the "Purdah" rules. This is the practice of no public body governed by the rules making any major announcements ahead of elections, whether local or national. This will therefore be the last blog before the May local elections in England, but as always our work on behalf of children and young people will carry on behind the scenes. So let me wish you a good and no doubt well earned break over the Easter long weekend. I look forward to updating you on our work in May.
Children's Commissioner for England