What does ‘extended school’ mean to politicians, teachers and parents and what will it mean for more able pupils? Deputy head Paul Ainsworth explains

I recently accepted a deputy headship in an exciting school and after my appointment was confirmed I was issued with a job description including extended schools. My mind began to imagine an adult education type role in an FE establishment where I would be expected to run the provision at the end of the school day in addition to my core function of developing the curriculum for our pupils in traditional school hours. 

I had picked up that all schools would have to be open from 8am to 6pm and secondary schools would also be open in the school holidays, but I did not know the detail of when this would happen, how it would be funded or what the role of teachers would be in this. In the interview I was quizzed on my understanding of extended schools and central to my answer were that we could not expect, nor even should we ask, our teaching colleagues to take on extra duties beyond the school day. In the debrief it was explained that extended schools had been placed within my remit due to quality of my answers in this area. Since the beginning of this academic year I have been researching the concept to try to understand what impact it will have not only on my own high school but also on primary and more traditional 11-16 or 11-18 secondary schools.

What is an extended school and when will they start?

By 2010 every school should provide access to year-round extended services. There are five ‘core’ services or the ‘core offer’. These are:

  • varied study support activities
  • high-quality and affordable childcare
  • swift, easy referral to specialist support services
  • support for parents and carers
  • access to school resources for the local community.

These build upon support many schools already offer on an ad hoc basis. Through extended schools the government is legislating that all pupils and parents have access to study support activities and high-quality and affordable childcare between 8am and 6pm.

Will teachers have to work longer hours?

There is no expectation that existing classroom teachers will have to perform additional duties.

Extended schools are not about teachers running new services or taking on additional responsibilities. We are told that only the most appropriate people should deliver extended services. In practice this means a wide range of staffing can be utilised: current or additional support staff, health, youth and social workers, local sports or arts organisations, private companies or providers and individual or volunteer groups.

How will it be funded?

Money is entering schools through a number of routes. These include via local authorities, through the Standards Fund and direct to school through the School Standards Grant. In addition, funding is entering schools to support personalised learning during and beyond the school day through the Dedicated Schools Grant and again via School Standards Grant. The money is not ring fenced, but instead is earmarked for extended schools; each headteacher, with the governing body, will have to decide how much money will be used to fund extended provision in each individual school.

For the extended school services to be sustainable families will have to be charged for elements of the extended school. Each school will have to grapple with the charging element. However, the most basic guidance is that schools should charge for all childcare and community access and may charge for some study support.

How do we decide what the extended school consists of?

Schools are legally required to consult about any extended schools they plan to offer by consulting LAs, families and communities. Some of the early extended school activities that have been funded were driven by direct pupil requests to school management.

As we approach 2010 and schools have to provide access to childcare, they will also begin to consider how to manage the extended school. This will not necessarily be by direct delivery where schools make arrangements themselves, employing staff, administering and so on. Consultation on the nature of the extended services offered, the size of the school and the skills within the community may well suggest a particular delivery arrangement.

Core services – supporting G&T

Study support
The most relevant of the core services to the G&T coordinator, study support, describes the wide range of activities and opportunities offered by schools outside curriculum time. It encompasses the traditional extra-curricular programme: sport, music, drama, additional qualifications, homework clubs, booster or catch-up and G&T provision beyond the classroom.

In a previous edition of G&T Update (June 2005) this element of G&T provision was described as the ‘outside-in approach’ in contrast with work occurring in the classroom, the ‘inside-out approach’; extended schools will not alter this element of school life. What will change is the requirement to charge pupils for provision.

The DfES expects some study support to be provided free to support its personalisation of the curriculum (including catch-up) and it is expected that some after-school sports activities will be free. However, following a consultation exercise, there would appear to be an underlying assumption that many study support activities will be directly funded by parents with the school establishing its own charging policy for pupils whose families are in low-income groups. The only item that cannot be charged for is provision that prepares children for public examinations. Where this leaves activities that G&T pupils may access such as an additional foreign language course is debatable.

In the DfES guidance it suggests charges should be made to cover the cost of additional tuition. However, if the course is aimed at working towards an additional GCSE in that language, then it is preparing children for public examination and hence suggests that it cannot be charged for.

The situation could also arise where some staff are being paid additional monies to deliver study support and others will not be paid. This is already the case in schools where colleagues have been paid to deliver KS3 SATs booster classes and in the next classroom another colleague will be delivering GCSE extra study for no additional remuneration. The same is true for sporting activities where outside agencies are paid to deliver minority sports but the PE staff are continuing to lead extra-curricular provision for no additional payment.

Schools may be forced to carefully design robust staffing policy on extra-curricular provision. For example, staff could be encouraged to deliver an extra-curricular opportunity with further provision they deliver to be paid for. This will impact on G&T pupils who have a propensity to participate in more extra-curricular activities than their peer group.

Childcare
The second section of the core support is childcare. In primary schools it is likely that more formalised links will be made with local childcare providers.

In secondary schools it is more likely that the childcare will focus on supervised homework clubs in the school. One area of potential difficulty for the G&T coordinator is when enrichment activities finish before 6pm, as parents could still have the expectation that children will be cared for until 6pm. Mechanisms may therefore need to be established to move the children either from the activity to the childcare provider or to a supervised homework club.

The charging aspect again looms its head: will the child who’s been at the enrichment activity pay less than the child who’s been in childcare since the traditional school day finished, as they have spent less time in childcare?

Parenting support
For G&T coordinators, parenting support is an area that schools who are working towards the NACE Challenge Award are encouraged to provide G&T activities or trips that both pupil and parent attends. Some schools already run G&T parents’ evenings where guidance is given to parents in how they can support their G&T child.

Extended schools need to ensure that pupils have access to swift and easy referral to specialist support services such as speech therapy, child and mental health services (CAMHS), family support services and so on. The G&T coordinator needs to ensure that they can use the school systems to refer pupils when they consider there is a concern.

The last access of the core provision is ensuring that the local community has access to school facilities. This could greatly aid the G&T coordinator in that if more outside groups use school facilities it will be easier for them to direct G&T pupils to appropriate activities which can build upon their skills and aptitudes.

Inspection of extended schools

This enlargement of school services raised the question of how will it be inspected. There have been occasions under the old Ofsted framework where G&T coordinators had masterclasses running in extra-curriculum time and were then frustrated that inspectors did not observe the activities. This is more likely to happen under the shortened Ofsted system. Ofsted instead will be asking school leadership teams:

  • why did the school decide to offer these particular extended opportunities?
  • how are they impacting on standards and achievements?
  • how well are the activities and services used?

Summary

In writing this article I have raised as many questions for myself as I have answered. There is no doubt the advent of extended schools is a very exciting time. Schools need to consult widely and carefully plan their provision to ensure it is financially sustainable, including the careful construction of a charging framework. Schools will also have to work with a wide a variety of individuals and groups beyond teachers to provide the extended school.

Paul Ainsworth is the deputy head at Belvoir High School

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