The government has given further encouragement to schools to set out on the path to providing extended services with the publication of a ‘prospectus’ on extended schools.
The 32 page brochure outlines the government’s vision for all children to be offered access to a variety of activities beyond the school day by 2010. Families and the wider community will also be able to benefit from extended services, which can include childcare, adult education, parenting support programmes, community based health and social care services and multi-agency behaviour support teams as well as after school activities.
In the foreword to the document, the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, takes care to reassure teachers that they will not be expected to run the new services or take on extra responsibilities. ‘Instead’, she says, ‘we will help and support schools to work with parents and the wider community to make this vision a reality.’
The prospectus itself points out that governing bodies have a key role to play in developing and leading extended services. It will be the governing body that has ultimate responsibility for deciding whether a school should offer additional activities and services and what form these should take.
Governing bodies cannot provide any service that might interfere with their main duty to educate pupils or their responsibility to promote high standards of educational achievement at the school. Before making decisions, governors will need to be aware of any additional responsibilities that may result from providing additional services through the school. As with existing school activities, governing bodies can delegate the practical delivery of services to others, but they will keep ultimate legal responsibility.
Under the Education Act 2002, the governing body must consult the LEA, school staff, parents of registered pupils, pupils themselves where this is appropriate and ‘such other persons as the governing body consider appropriate’ before it provides any community facilities or services.
The prospectus stresses that, ‘Involving children and parents in deciding what extended services are offered and how they are offered is critical to ensuring that needs are met.’
The role of governors in the process is set out in much greater detail in a separate leaflet, Governors’ Roles and Governance, which is available from the extended schools section of the TeacherNet website. The leaflet offers four models of how the governance of an extended school, or a cluster of schools, might be organised. It also provides a useful checklist of tips for governors to consider in developing extended services.
The website also includes more detailed information than the prospectus on setting up extended services, including advice on the legal and financial aspects.
The government is promising start up funding to help schools develop extended services. This money will be distributed by local authorities, which have already been allocated £110 million for the current academic year with another £432m to follow over the next two years. There will also be £250m made available directly to schools through the school standards grant between 2006 and 2008.
The DfES wants to make sure that extended services develop in a way that is consistent with workforce reform, so the National Remodelling Team has been given a lead role in supporting schools as they develop new services. It was expecting to have started work with at least 2,500 schools this term.
John Adams, chair of the National Association of School Governors, holds the view that much of the extended schools agenda is to be welcomed, but suggests that it promises to be ‘the biggest change that school governors have had to confront since the 1980s’.
Extended schools: Access to opportunities and services for all is available free from DfES Publications on 0845 60 222 60, quoting reference DfES-1408-2005-DOC-EN. It can also be downloaded from www.teachernet.gov.uk/extendedschools
Core components of an extended school
The DfES has set out this ‘core offer’ of what it wants to see in or accessible through all schools by 2010. – High quality wraparound childcare provided on the school site or through other local providers, with supervised transfer arrangements where appropriate, available 8am – 6pm all year round. – A varied menu of activities to be on offer, including homework clubs and study support, sport, music tuition, dance and drama, arts and crafts, special interest clubs such as chess and volunteering, business and enterprise activities. – Parenting support including information sessions for parents at key transition points, parenting programmes run with the support of other children’s services and family learning sessions to allow children to learn with their parents.
– Swift and easy referral to a wide range of specialist support services such as speech therapy, child and adolescent mental health services, family support services, intensive behaviour support, and (for young people) sexual health services. Some may be delivered on school sites. – Providing wider community access to ICT, sports and arts facilities including adult learning.
Governors’ roles in extended schools
– Locating supplementary funding sources for initiatives – Safeguarding the delegated budget – Securing suitable insurance – Appointing extra staff (in voluntary aided and foundation schools)
– Ongoing monitoring, evaluation and overseeing of the extended activities