Department for Education
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Children’s Plan Two Years On: next steps to achieve outstanding children’s services

- Ed Balls: children should be able to make the most of 21st century entertainment and   media -

- Sarah Thane to review the system of regulating child performance -

- Report published yestreday on the impact of the commercial world on young people says schools, parents, industry and businesses must work together -

On the second anniversary of the Children’s Plan, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw yesterday announced that Sarah Thane, former chair of the Royal Television Society and former advisor to Ofcom, will review the 40 year old rules governing child performance.

The review comes after informal discussions with a wide range of interested parties, including children’s organisations, broadcasters, producers and local authorities, found that existing regulations are clearly outdated and that there is also a case for conducting a broader review of the overall framework.

Ed Balls said:

"As a country, we want to continue celebrating the brilliant performances of children in stage shows like Billy Elliott or programmes like Britain's Got Talent, and it is right that our talented children should continue aspiring to appear on those stages.

“We also benefit as a country from the careful and sensitive insight into children's lives given by films like Fish Tank or documentary programmes like My First Year.

“But where many parents, educators and ministers become concerned is when programme makers seem determined to keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, to provide shock value for viewers and push up ratings, rather than to do anything positive or meaningful for our children, our culture or our country.

“The original laws were drawn up in 1968 to ensure that children could perform but without harm to their health or education and we now need to make sure they are still fit for the 21st century. I am really pleased that Sarah Thane has agreed to conduct this review to see what needs to change to bring these arrangements up to date.”

Ben Bradshaw said:

“The media landscape has changed dramatically since the existing rules governing children’s performance were introduced 40 years ago and so I’m pleased Sarah Thane with her vast broadcasting experience will be leading this review looking in to whether the legislation is still fit for purpose.

“Encouraging children to take part in performance activities is important not only because it develops their confidence and independence, but it also allows children to pursue their talents and ambitions and it’s essential that these opportunities can continue.”

Setting out details of the review by Sarah Thane, Ed Balls said it is right to question whether the 1960s legislation is still fit for purpose. The current rules were drawn up when there were only three TV channels.

The legislation predates the creation of Ofcom and need to take account of child protection and children’s safeguarding legislation passed in the last four decades. During discussions over the past few months with key stakeholders it has become clear that applying this 1960s approach in today’s setting is difficult.

For example, the regulations do not fit clearly with reality TV because the genre wasn’t invented when they were developed.

The current legislation is also heavily focused on a child’s medical fitness and allow, for example, for the appointment of a Matron to look after them; but they have far less to say about how different kinds of performance might affect the emotional wellbeing of a child, or about safeguarding children from the risk of abuse.

Ed Balls added:

“There are a number of difficulties with the 1968 regulations, and also the primary legislation on which they depend. For example, the legislation is highly complex; is interpreted very differently in different places; and is hard to apply to contemporary broadcasting. Concerns have also been raised that the regulations are often misapplied, or sometimes not applied at all. Some have also asserted that the current regulations don’t reflect current thinking about the nature of the biggest risks to children, or children’s greater maturity today compared to fifty years ago.

“Questions have also been raised about whether there is sufficient information and guidance currently available to parents who are considering agreeing to their children taking part in performance activities, or indeed to all of those putting on performances, and of parents.

“Increasing technological convergence also means that there is a need to consider these issues in a way that takes fully into account the fact that the boundaries between different forms of communication are blurring – those between television and the internet especially. Unless a modern framework is developed which consciously looks ahead there is a serious risk of it being rapidly overtaken by technological change.”

Sarah Thane has therefore been asked to explore the scope for consensus for an improved system of pre-performance regulation to apply to children’s participation in performance activities of all kinds, ranging from local theatre and talent shows, to films and TV programmes.

Sarah Thane, CBE, said:

“I am delighted to be given this opportunity. I look forward to working with children’s organisations, local authorities, producers, broadcasters and other interest groups to help shape new arrangements which are fit for the world children live in today and in the future.”

Report into ‘the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing’

The child performance review comes as ministers publish Professor David Buckingham’s independent report into ‘the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing’, which says that the debate about the impact of the commercial world on children is a polarised one, between those on the one hand who see children as victims, and others who see all children as confident and media-savvy consumers.

It also says that while there are risks and a need for appropriate safeguards, the commercial world and the media offers children great opportunities for learning, social development and enjoyment. It says children and parents need help in acquiring the skills to exploit these opportunities whilst staying safe.

The Government will support and facilitate tackling the issues that have been raised in Professor Buckingham’s report by:
• promoting greater media literacy for young people – the Department for Children, Schools and Families to look at how schools can help boost children’s online skills and teach young people about how to stay safe online through the recently launched UKCCIS strategy;
• setting up a panel to specifically see what place there is in the curriculum for further media literacy skills;
• updating the ‘myguide,’ website for parents to give them advice on everything from ‘phishing’ to spam to chat rooms and music sharing to help parents tackle the commercial messages that their children engage in;
• exploring the scope for developing a set of voluntary principles to underpin all forms of marketing and promotion of food and drink to children, particularly where established mandatory self and co-regulatory regimes do not exist; and
• the Chief Medical Officer is this week publishing his guidelines on the health affects and risks of children drinking alcohol.

Ed Balls said:

“Keeping children safe is all our responsibility. Often this is simply a case of arming parents and young people with the information and help needed to distinguish harmful material and experiences from good opportunities. That’s why I think it would be useful to see if schools have place in the curriculum to boost young people’s media literacy skills to help them navigate the wide range of media on offer to them in the 21st Century.

Professor David Buckingham said:

"Today’s children are growing up in an increasingly commercial world. Although there is a continuing need for regulation, we also need to ensure that children are informed and empowered consumers."

Children’s Plan: Two Years On

Marking the second anniversary of the flagship Children’s Plan, Ed Balls also set out his ambitions to continue investment and improvements to 21st century children’s services moving them from good to outstanding as we make this the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up.

He published a progress report showing how DCSF policies have made a real difference to children’s services benefiting children and young people, their families and practitioners. It demonstrates how the Children’s Plan has driven improvements by putting the child at the centre of policies, meaning services work more closely together to meet all the needs of the child.

Examples of real progress for children and families include:
• over 3,000 Sure Start Children’s Centres – offering integrated services to over 2.4 million children under five and their families;
• free early learning and childcare places for disadvantaged two-year-olds – more than 20,000 places now offer to 15 per cent of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds;
• over 4,000 people now trained as Early Years Professionals;
• one-to-one tuition through the Making Good Progress pilot - funding was made available to the 450 schools to deliver one-to-one tuition in English and mathematics to 10 per cent of their pupils at Key Stages 2 and 3;
• 97,000 young people working towards an apprenticeship;
• 850 new play sites across the country;
• 90 per cent of schools offering extended services – services include study support, before and after school activities, childcare, parenting and family support, access to specialist health and social care services, and community facilities such as adult and family learning;
over 2,000 families supported by Family Intervention Projects- providing intensive support to the most challenging families, and tackling issues like substance misuse, domestic violence, poverty, anti-social behaviour, crime and truancy.

Ed Balls said that schools and children’s services must work more closely than ever before with children, young people and their families, bringing professionals together, to improve lives and support more children to fulfil their potential.

The Pre-Budget Report has set out how we will continue to increase investment in the core services of early years, Sure Start, schools and colleges to deliver the ambitions set out in the Children’s Plan.

Ed Balls said we will now work with all who provide services for children and young people to deliver efficiencies; by doing this we can achieve the best possible value for money and protect the frontline, this being crucial if we to continue our unrelenting focus on improving outcomes for all children and young people.

Today’s report, ‘Children’s Plan: Two Years On: A progress report’, also sets out our next steps as we continue to work towards a better future for every child and young person. This will mean:
• new guarantees for parents and children of what they can expect from all our services, so that parents’ and children’s needs are at the heart of everything we do;
• great leadership that innovates, to drive ever greater improvement and shares knowledge right across the system, supporting all children to realise their potential;
• a highly skilled and professional workforce across all our services for children and young people, which can ensure no child is left behind; and; and
• partnerships within and between schools and children’s services – because no one can deliver for children alone and services need to work together if they are to intervene early and successfully.

Ed Balls said:

“Our mission is to make this the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. The Children’s Plan has put children, young people and families at the heart of what we do and marked the beginning of a very different relationship between Government and families – one where at every level there is closer partnership between services and children, young people and their families.

“Two years on and a great deal has been achieved, but there is more to do if we are to make our ambitions a reality for all children and their families across the country. In the next period, we need to move services for children, young people and families from good to outstanding in what they achieve.

“We know the frontline is vital to improving the lives of children, young people and families. It is what is done by head teachers, teachers, social workers, support staff, nurses, doctors, youth workers and police that makes a difference to children and young people’s lives.

“We need to build on the progress we have made through the first two years of the Children’s Plan by working together, continuing to invest in our front line services, and making efficiencies that will deliver more from our investment for children.”

The Government also today published guides for schools setting out how we will deliver the 21st Century Schools System.

The booklets, one for primary schools and one for secondary schools, summarise our detailed Timetable for Action, published on 4 December, which set out detailed plans for delivering the our vision of a 21st century schools system. The Government's goal is:
• for every child, a world class education that prepares them for the challenges of the 21st century, underpinned by Pupil and Parent Guarantees;
• in every school, excellent teaching and learning and the extra help each child needs;
• every school working in partnership, integrating services and sharing expertise because no school can do it alone;
• every school improving, with strong accountability, and rapid intervention when needed;
• every school and school leader supported, with the right roles for local and central government.

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. The Child Performance review will engage and work with all those with an interest in this area, including organisations representing children and parents, broadcasters, film makers, producers, theatre organisations, representatives of local arts and drama organisations, and local authorities, among others. Sarah will report to Ministers by the end of February 2010. Terms of reference can be found at:

2. Link to David Buckingham’s report:
3. The Children’s Plan 2 Years On: A progress report can be accessed at

4. Ed Balls also launched a new Children’s Plan website. The website includes case studies and a video showing how the Children’s Plan has made differences to practitioners, parents, children and young people over the past two years. For example, hearing from the centre manager, midwife, and parents at a Sure Start Children’s Centre; or from young apprentices and their employer. A new blog area will allow users new opportunities to share thoughts and see other users’ comments.

5. Link to guides for schools setting out how we will deliver the 21st Century Schools System

Primary - DCSF-01163-2009

Secondary - DCSF-01164-2009

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