There is no duty more important than ensuring that children’s rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and that they can grow up in peace. Kofi Annan, the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations
The aim of this paper is to review and critically analyse the Every Child Matters (DfES, 2003) framework as well as to discuss the impact of Every Child Matters agenda on a specific role within an educational setting. For this purpose, information was gathered through elements of practitioner-based research and observations along with the study and analysis of materials presented in books, research journals and professional publications, so as to evaluate the main aspects of the policy Every Child Matters and identify the issues it has raised for professionals working with young children, and particularly early years practitioners, as well as to propose some strategies that could support those practitioners throughout the process of inevitable changes associated with the introduction of the policy.
In 2003, the Government launched Every Child Matters, a comprehensive programme of reform for children’s services with wide-reaching implications for education, health, social services, voluntary and community organisations, and other agencies. Every Child Matters constituted the Government’s policy response to the findings and recommendations of Lord Laming’s Inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié, the young girl who died as the result of severe physical abuse and neglect in her family. It was published as a Green Paper for consultation on September 2003. Its proposals have since been further developed in subsequent documents including Every Child Matters; Next Steps and Every Child Matters; Change for Children. Many of the reforms proposed in Every Child Matters—including the establishment of a Children’s Commissioner for England—required amendments to statute. Consequently, a Children Bill was presented to Parliament in March 2004 and subsequently received royal assent on 15 November 2004. The Children Act 2004, as it now is, provides the legal ‘backbone’ for the programme of reform. (House of Lords and House of Commons, 2005) The proposals of the Government for reforming children’s services aimed to combine the development of an overall framework for universal children’s services with the need for targeted services to protect vulnerable children. The framework has introduced five outcomes for children’s services as being of key importance during childhood and adult life: being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; achieving economic well-being. As Benton, Chamberlain and Rutt (2003: 30) point out,
Thirty-nine quantitative indicators have been identified relating to these outcomes. For example, one of the key indicators of children being healthy is the infant mortality rate, whereas achieving economic well-being might be partially assessed by the percentage of young people accessing FE and training after completing compulsory schooling. Each of the 150 local authority areas can be assessed using any of these indicators that are available at the local level.
The research (Anning, Cullen and Fleer, 2004; Williams, 2004; Roche and Tucker, 2007) suggests that the introduction of the quantitative indicators along with other expectations of the Every Child Matters agenda has transformed the educational landscape in recent years. The need for effective and coherent multi-agency working has become apparent, and that was not just to ensure that abused children like Victoria Climbié no longer fall through the net, but also to bring together health, social care and education services for collaboration in the interests of all children and with effective provision at all levels. It is worth to mention that the story behind the development of the Every Child Matters still presents...
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