Extended Schools Update is a new e-bulletin which hopes to provide educational professionals with some practical insights and advice to support them with emerging practice at their schools

If your school is ambitious for all pupils to achieve their full potential in this year’s public examinations, there’s still time to organise an Easter holiday programme, although time is obviously not in huge supply! Alternatively you could transfer the principles suggested here to Whitsun half term or to summer holiday activities.

Year 6 pupils increasingly attend Easter booster classes, while most secondary schools run GCSE Easter revision programmes. Whether the activities are catering for 11 year olds or 16 year olds, they are come under the same classification – out-of-school-hours provision, and with the majority of mothers working, more often than not, this means that such holiday programmes enable parents to claim back up to 80% of the costs, as the childcare element of Working Tax Credit. As Year 6 and Year 11 pupils tend to fall into the ‘latch key’ category, it may not have occurred to either the school or parents that for pupils up to the age of 16 (if in full time education) parents are fully eligible for the child care element of WTC to pay for out-of-school-hours activity provision.

For schools breaking up on Maundy Thursday, April 1 and starting the summer term on Monday 19 April, the best time to run an Easter programme is the nine working days following Bank Holiday Monday. Although some schools run traditional holiday play schemes for working mothers, under recent changes to Child Tax Credit guidance, schools can count any out-of-school-hours provision as childcare – even for children up to the age of 16 at the end of the school year.

Since 2008, childcare and study support have been brought together as a single aspect of the core offer of extended services, as out-of-school-hours provision. See HMRC Help with the costs of childcare. Understanding this, will better enable you to plan your provision as meeting each of the five outcomes of Every Child Matters, albeit with an emphasis on ‘enjoying and achieving’.

A letter to parents should point out that they can claim up to 80% of the cost of the programme provided that:

  • both partners in a household work at least 16 hours per week
  • household income is below £58,000
  • parents understand the programme as part of the school’s childcare provision for its pupils and an aspect of its year round provision, not a one off event.

Parents will need the school Ofsted number against which to register their claim. This can be made by phoning the HMRC helpline on 0845 300 3900 to request a claim pack. Parents will be asked the cost of the provision averaged over 52 weeks, although when they make their claim, they will be sent a one-off cheque payment. The cost of an example primary or secondary programme is calculated below.

Taught not drop-in
The usual ethos for a primary school Easter scheme is directed play, and most secondary schools pay or encourage staff to volunteer time to provide drop-in revision sessions. In contrast, an organised programme should focus on formally taught sessions but a daily programme does not need to be intense. Perhaps the greatest value of keeping children and young people in a daily routine over the Easter period, will be to ensure they are as ‘learning ready’ as possible for the first day of the summer term.

The key to having the capacity to deliver a taught programme is persuading enough members of the school staff team to take part. Often staff go away for one week but rarely two weeks, so the offer of a week’s salary (at an overtime rate of time and a half) for primary staff or just one day for a secondary school subject specialist teacher, will enable the school to plan and organise a really effective programme.

Calculating the costs of a Year 6 programme
A primary school will wish to employ a teacher and two assistants to work with a group of Year 6 pupils each day, as supervised small groups for teaching sessions, will maximise pupil engagement and participation.

The cost of the teacher can be calculated as the ‘booster class’ rate of Main Scale, point 6 daily rate of £94.04 (outer London weighting) at time and a half which takes the payment to £141 which will be subject to NI and tax. The school will usually need to add 20% on-costs (pension and pay roll costs).

The teaching assistant rate (qualified at NVQ level 2) of £66.78 per day for seven hours will also be subject to NI and tax while the on-costs will be calculated at 12.5%.

Overall, a nine-day programme will cost the school £2871 for staff and on-costs.

If 30 pupils attend, the average charge should be £11 per day. While working parents can claim back 80% of this, pupils on free school meals could be funded through the school’s inclusion budget.

A Year 6 programme
The primary literacy and numeracy coordinators should be able to plan out revision sessions to cover the key topics for SAT revision. Pupils will also benefit from preparing for transition to secondary school. A recommended text for preparing Year 6 pupils with essential study skills and motivation strategies to prepare for secondary transfer is Successful School Transition by Ainsley Dawrent (LDA) which builds on Carol Dweck’s work around the resilient learner.

Calculating the costs of a Year 11 programme
For a six form entry secondary school or academy, the greatest impact on the Year 11 cohort will be through targeting up to 100 pupils per day. Four teachers per day should be employed at £141 per day which will cost the school £676 (including 20% on-costs) or £6984 for the nine-day holiday.

This can be recovered by charging parents £7 per day – £3.50 per morning or afternoon session.

A Year 11 programme
For the secondary school revision programme, deploying four specialist teachers for a full day for each of the core subjects, English, maths and science will enable ability grouped sets of approximately 25 pupils per set. For instance, day one is maths and you have four maths teachers in, day two is science with four science teachers, etc. Option subjects could be given a half day with two specialists – higher and foundation tiered groups. Option subjects could be timetabled together, ie humanities/performing arts if the Year 11 academic year timetable has been constructed in this kind of grouping of subjects.

A learning-to-learn morning could be built into the programme, reinforcing revision skills and strategies, using the UFA’s Brain Friendly Revision. This has been especially written to help Year 11 pupils manage stress, make the most of active learning VAK methods and make the fullest use of mind mapping and memorisation techniques.

It’s child and youth care – not school!
It is worth remembering that out-of-school-hours provision is voluntary not compulsory, so providing lots of fun in the way of sport, visiting speakers and off-site visits to local museums, galleries and libraries, is as important as the learning sessions. Although pupils usually bring a packed lunch, providing a breakfast club with smoothies and bagels will motivate Year 11s to attend on time and start the day with a ‘feel-good’ factor.

These are just suggestions for how you could organise the provision, but the principle of parents being able to benefit from the Childcare element of WTC remains the same.

Further information

  • Dawrent, A, Successful School Transition, 2008, LDA
  • Brain Friendly Revision, UFA

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010

About the author: Nick Holt is an education consultant. Previously he has been a teacher, local authority commissioning officer and most recently the extended services coordinator for an inner London borough. His consultancy Study’s Cool can help schools with all areas of establishing and sustaining extended services provision, and can be contacted at www.studyscool.co.uk