Half of all primary schools and a third of all secondary schools are due to be open from 8am to 6pm throughout the year by 2008

Every Child Matters is focused on a need to bring together services for children and young people, and one of the ways in which this can be accomplished is through extending schools, in respect of the times when they are open and by making them open to the whole community in which they are located. Extended schools were found to bring about a ‘range of positive outcomes’, including improved attainment, attendance and behaviour, greater parental impact on their children’s education, wider community engagement, as reported in the Evaluation of the Extended Schools Pathfinders Project in April 2004.

Strategic planning for the way schools extend will involve collaboration between local authorities and children’s trusts. Surveys led by the local authority should be able to determine the current provision, the availability and nature of the school buildings and the current needs of the community so that a plan can be formulated which reflects local needs.

Extended schools must be supported by education, social services and health services if they are to maximise their potential. A coherent approach will prevent duplication of services, and can be the way to tackle community regeneration.

There are five elements which are to be at the heart of the services which will be offered by extended schools. They are:

  • childcare available from 8am to 6pm all year round
  • a wide variety of activities on offer: sport, clubs, homework support, etc
  • support for parents, including opportunities for family learning
  • access to specialist services
  • access to school facilities for the wider community.

4children are working with the DfES, the National Remodelling Team and the charity ContinYou, to support those schools planning to extend in these ways. At the point when schools are considering how they might tackle the childcare element, 4children suggest a six-stage process:

1. Mobilise: schools need to find out what is already on offer in their area, and who they can talk to, to find out more about local childcare opportunities and facilities
2. Discover: schools should find out more about the needs of the local community and work with the local authority to share their knowledge of the local area
3. Deepen: schools will be considering their options, and finding out how local childcare providers can collaborate with them, as well as debating charges
4. Develop: schools will be planning the ways they will organise their provision, fund it and staff it, and explore how they can work with existing providers. At this stage they will start to market their services.
5. Deliver: schools will launch their services
6. Sustain: schools will monitor their provision and respond to changing needs

As a provider of childcare you should be involved in these discussions with your local schools, so that you can extend and not duplicate the services for children and their families.

Case study

One provider has responded to the needs in her own area by offering a variety of care for all children.

One of the largest childcare centres in the UK has opened in Suffolk. Located at Lowestoft, it offers over 225 places daily, catering for all ages from new-born babies to 14 year olds. It is open seven days a week and provides a complete service all year round. Parents can even use the centre as a creche at weekends if they need a short break from their children, or want go shopping without them. The children can be dropped off at the centre, and picked up later.

The centre is the brainchild of mother of four, Lucy Daniels. She comments ‘When I moved here with my family, there was no support network.’ There was a gap in childcare provision and this led her to the idea of a centre with full weekend and holiday provision. Forever Kids was born. Funding was one of the problems that Lucy faced, as she had to provide 60% of the cost herself, with the remainder coming from grants. Another difficulty was finding a suitably large site with sufficient parking. Eventually an industrial unit was discovered which could be transformed into the new centre.

Forever Kids has separate play areas for different age groups. The nursery area is kept separate from the older children. There is a specially designed children’s kitchen where children can learn food hygiene and cook food. Security is provided by 16 CCTV cameras. A minicam system is being set up so that parents of nursery children can link into a secure internet site to check on their children’s wellbeing. Around 50 staff will eventually be employed on site, together with a variety of entertainers, fitness specialists, etc, who provide special holiday workshops with the older children.

The centre has the motto ‘Learning to play. Playing to learn’. It aims to develop children’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical abilities. Mrs Daniels says,  ‘It’s been hard work, but I always had a vision of what would be here.’

Report by Angela Youngman

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