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Children’s Commissioner

October 19, 2009

Maggie Atkinson, director of children’s services in Gateshead has been appointed as the new Commissioner for Children for England in succession to Sir Aynsley Green. A 2nd October report in Children & Young People Now tells us that in a letter announcing her departure as director of children’s services for Gateshead Ms Atkinson wrote:

“I am excited to be taking on this national challenge, but I shall be very sad to leave both Gateshead, and all the many colleagues and friends with whom I have worked since September 2003.” The official appointment is expected to be confirmed following a meeting of the children, schools and families select committee next week.

Well, that happy expectation was rudely squashed when Barry Sheerman MP, chair of the children schools and families select committee, announced that the view of the committee was that Ms Atkinson:

lacked the “determination to assert the independence of the role, to challenge the status quo on children’s behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post, in particular by championing children’s rights”.

Ed Balls leapt to the defence both of her and of his decision and Bob Reitemeier, the Children’s Society’s chief executive , National Children’s Bureau  Chief executive Sir Paul Ennals, and Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey all weighed in to tell the select committee they were talking out of the back of their collective neck and that Ms Atkinson is the most independent, determined and generally wonderful person you could hope to meet in a month of Sundays.

I think that if all those deeply establishment figures are running to defend Ms Atkinson then the select committee may have a very good point.

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