Ruth Bradbury offers a wealth of practical advice on getting the most from the extended schools initiative
The Government's extended schools strategy requires that, by 2010, every state school in the UK is delivering at least the ‘core offer’ of extended services and, as this deadline approaches, the issue is moving higher up the agenda for many schools. To raise attainment in the long as well as the short term, schools need to play a significant role in contributing to community cohesion, local regeneration and sustainable development. As a potential focal point for the whole community, schools are ideally placed to offer support to students and families which goes beyond the traditional timetable, contributing to the effectiveness and quality of learning, and also to social and economic development. Extended services fall outside the core business remit of delivering the National Curriculum to young people, and an increasing number of schools are looking to their business managers or equivalents to oversee their introduction. Even if this is not the case in your school, the development and establishment of extended provision will have an inevitable impact on traditional areas of business management, including premises, personnel and finance. Finally, it is worth pointing out that the management of extended services is growing as a potential opportunity for career progression for many business managers in a sector where progression can otherwise be extremely limited. I will begin by outlining the five elements of the extended services offer. I will then offer some suggestions for how to undertake the early stages of research and planning, before looking in more detail at some of the practical implications for schools of extended services delivery. A checklist of tips which may help you ensure the overall effectiveness of the strategic planning of extended services is then provided at the end, together with some useful links for further information.
The core offer ‘Wrap-around’ childcare 8am-6pm
This element is aimed at removing barriers to economic activity for parents, and at ensuring that children are safe, secure and engaged in appropriate activity while their parents are at work. For primary schools, the requirement relates to the provision of professional childcare services ‘wrapped around’ the school day and all day during the school holidays. For secondary-age children, where the notion of childcare is largely no longer appropriate, available services will often overlap with the ‘varied menu of activities’ (see below).
Varied menu of activities
This involves the out-of-hours provision of a range of activities for students in both study support and enrichment, with the broad aim of increasing young people’s engagement in their education. This can range from homework clubs, catch-up sessions and access to ICT facilities to opportunities for sport and the arts, to brain gym, thinking skills or learning an additional language. One concept which is being employed by an increasing number of schools is that of the ‘OwnZone’ model, developed by Continyou (see end of article for web address). This model provides a framework for out-of-hours delivery where provision is divided into three ‘zones’ – SkillZone, LearnZone and ChillZone – and support and guidance on implementation is available from Continyou, as are consultancy services.
This element of the core offer is one which attempts to overcome the barriers to learning for young people which may stem from their home and family environments. Provision could include activities such as family fun days; drugs awareness training; parenting classes; ‘lads and dads’ learning sessions; courses on supporting your child through SATs /GCSEs; and how to cope with adolescence.
Swift and easy referral
In keeping with the Every Child Matters agenda, swift and easy referral is about enabling school staff to work closely with other agencies involved in ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of young people. Examples would include health and social services, speech and language therapy, counselling services, and behaviour support services. These close working relationships – possibly involving sharing of premises in some cases – are intended to ensure that children are given the support that they need, at the time that they need it, in all aspects of their lives. The principles of swift and easy referral also involve a commitment to the tracking and monitoring of support offered to children, and the use of the Common Assessment Framework.
Community access to facilities
This will require schools to make their facilities available to the wider community – for example through the provision of on-site adult learning opportunities, and the letting of sports and arts facilities. Schools could also consider collaborative projects and initiatives with local community groups. The rationale behind this relates directly to the long-term raising of standards and achievement, as it is quite likely that community learners will be the parents or future parents of students. At the same time, this element of provision addresses the wider agenda of lifelong learning and regenerating communities by developing the skills and employability of adults.
It is important not to simply leap in and begin developing extended services at your school without first of all carrying out some essential research. A framework for this research can be constructed by focusing on four key questions. 1. What is your school’s existing extended provision? By their very nature, even those schools that have not formally begun to address the extended schools agenda will find that they already have activities taking place which fall within its remit. For example, any after-school club can be part of a ‘varied menu of activities’, and booster and/or revision classes – in term-time or the holidays – are typical examples of study support. Transition events and parent information evenings are core aspects of parental support, and if you let your premises to any local groups, then you are already contributing to community use of facilities. Depending on the size and phase of your school, you may be able to pinpoint levels of existing provision through a few conversations, or you may have to conduct a more extensive paper survey. Either way, the first stage of your research should involve locating existing provision and mapping it against an extended schools audit checklist designed for individual schools. Many local authorities have developed their own checklists, which will be available from their extended schools coordination teams. Alternatively, an example of a comprehensive checklist, together with a number of other potentially useful documents, is available on the West Berkshire Council website (see end of article for web address). 2. What are other local schools and organisations offering or developing? In many large towns and cities most people will live within walking distance of more than one secondary school and a number of primary schools. There is also a wide range of voluntary and/or charitable groups offering services and support for young people and adults. It is, therefore, important to ensure that you work in partnership with other current or potential providers when developing services, not only to avoid competition and rivalry, but also to ensure that there is a coherence of provision across the local area. This will be especially relevant when considering community use of your facilities, including adult learning provision, as members of the local community who do not have links to any school may have no automatic preference, and neither they nor the schools will be best served by several sites offering identical provision. 3. What is the local need? The development of extended services has many similarities to the setting up of a new business or enterprise, and thus you need to ensure that you have conducted suitable market research before offering a ‘product’ to your customers. There are a number of ways in which such research can be carried out, including:
- A questionnaire to parents enquiring whether they would use school-based childcare facilities. If so, then roughly how often, and how much (if anything) would they be prepared to pay?
- Varied menu of activities
- A survey for students (to be completed in form/class time if possible, to enhance level of returns) asking what type of activities they would like to see on offer before and after school. It is probably best to provide a tick-box list, but to leave space for additional comments.
- An agenda item at a school council meeting where the topic can be introduced and representatives asked to survey other students’ views and report back.
- Parenting support
- Questionnaires for parents/carers (incorporated into childcare and/or adult learning questionaires) surveying whether there is a market for a wide range of family learning activities.
- Discussions with local agencies, including the local authority/local strategic partnership (LSP). For this type of provision, it is likely that your school will have to do more than simply wait for participants to present themselves: unfortunately, those parents who may derive the most benefit from such schemes – at least in terms of community regeneration and raising standards – are those who may well not volunteer unprompted.
- Social statistics for the local area, especially the index of multiple deprivation (IMD) scores, which show levels of deprivation based on a range of criteria and by geographical areas (known as output areas) with – at the lowest level – a mean population of 1,500 people. This kind of information will also be critical evidence if you are considering applying for external funding for parenting support and family learning activity.
- Community access to facilities
- Questionnaires for parents/carers surveying the scope for adult learning provision.
- A presence at parents’ evenings, both to distribute questionnaires and to speak directly to parents.
- Surveys among the local community, using mailshots and/or a presence in local shopping centres etc to identify the need for adult learning and potential community hire of the school premises.
- Making contact with local community and special interest groups such as amateur dramatics, local history groups, skateboarding clubs, reading circles etc to find out if they would wish to make use of the school premises, or even work with the school on joint projects (again, particularly useful if you wish to apply for external funding from trusts and charities which do not fund schools directly).
Note that wherever possible you should include potential future parents and students as well as current ones in your research. For secondary schools this could include contacting students in Years 5 and 6 and their parents. For primaries, this could involve work with local nurseries, Sure Start etc, or even direct mailing in some cases. 4. What good practice have you learned about? Many schools already deliver a range of extended services and can be a great source of inspiration and practical advice. The first port of call for a broad overview could be case studies available on Teachernet (see ‘links’ below) and in DfES publications. However, there is no substitute for actually talking to practitioners and visiting their schools to see extended provision in action. Contact your local authority extended schools team, ask them to recommend local schools that are already providing services, and arrange to go and see for yourself. Most schools will be only too pleased to showcase their achievements, and discussions with people who have already gone through the process can be invaluable, especially in terms of the practicalities of transforming extended services vision into practice.
As with all national strategies and ‘big ideas’, the devil of implementation is invariably in the detail. While few would argue with the desirability of the extended school as a concept, the practical implications for the day-to-day running of your school can be daunting and will for most involve a significant culture shift. Not only is it probable that daily opening hours will increase, but the long-established annual pattern of term-time and holidays is likely also to be superceded, and with it the working hours of individuals and the roles, responsibilities and liabilities of the governors and school leadership team. The nature of your school, your community and your shared vision for extended services will determine the precise nature of the challenges you will face, and it would take much more than one article to address and offer solutions to all of them. However, I hope that the following list, mostly in the form of questions, will go some way towards providing an initial focus and starting point. I would stress that the purpose of this list is not to try and make the task seem insurmountable, but to identify the type of practical considerations which must – and always can – be addressed.
Premises/health and safety
- Where on your site is most suitable for extended/out-of-hours provision?
- If you are planning an ‘Ownzone’-type arrangement do you have sufficient, adjacent spaces and facilities to offer each specified type of activity
- If you have a large site, does the chosen area have an isolatable alarm system, so the rest of the school can be locked up at the end of the ‘normal’ day?
- Does the area have, or could it be provided with, its own reception desk? (Particularly important if you are considering adult learning delivery.)
- Are there easily accessible toilets, including disabled facilities?
- Is there disabled access to learning spaces?
- Is there sufficient security, including CCTV? What will be the signing in/out procedure?
- If you are considering crèche or nursery facilities, does the proposed space meet health and safety and other regulations? (Information is available from your local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership.)
- If the school is to be open all year round, how will your programme of major maintenance/premises development work?
- How will you manage relationships between the daytime teaching staff and the staff or other agencies who may be using the same spaces for out-of-hours provision? Wherever possible, it is preferable for staff using the same room at different times to be introduced to one another and to agree protocols for practical issues such as refilling printers, cleaning whiteboards and ensuring that any furniture that may be moved is returned to its original positions. On a wider level, it is also important to ensure that ‘core business’ staff are aware of the purpose and aims of your extended schools provision, and of how it is linked to the development and success of the rest of the school.
- Is your public liability insurance sufficient to cover extended services? If your insurance is non-delegated and you are part of a blanket local authority policy, then the chances are that it will be, although you should still check with your local authority. If you make your own arrangements, then you will need to clarify your policy with your insurer.
- If outside agencies will be using the site, do they have sufficient public liability insurance?
- How will you ensure that all extended services activities, included those provided by outside agencies, are risk-assessed appropriately?
- Do you have sufficient caretaking cover for out-of-hours and holiday opening? If not, should you pay overtime or recruit additional caretaking staff? Will you require additional shifts from cleaning staff?
- Is reception cover required during out-of-hours provision?
- If full-time caretaking and/or administrative staff have an informal arrangement to work shorter hours during school holidays, how will you approach this? If staff are paid for a full 37-hour working week then they can of course be required to work those hours. However, the school will have to acknowledge that some goodwill may be lost in the process. It is certainly unacceptable to pay overtime in such circumstances, but you may wish to consider some levels of additional staffing, at least for a transitional period.
- To staff extended provision will you a) redistribute/extend the hours of existing staff, b) recruit additional staff, or c) use external providers, either through partnership agreements or the letting of premises?
- If you do recruit additional school staff, will they have temporary or permanent contracts? If funding is time-limited then temporary contracts represent a more prudent approach. However, this may result in a reduced recruitment field, a higher staff turnover and consequent instability.
- If you are considering incorporating existing after-school clubs into formal extended services provision, how will you ensure that they run every week and to specified times? If teaching staff have not traditionally been paid to run clubs, how will you approach the fact that other people will be paid to deliver other provision at the same time? One way of dealing with this could be to maintain a clear demarcation, possibly reinforced by physical location, between teacher-run clubs (run voluntarily; term-time only; tend not to last more than an hour or so) and formal extended provision (published regular hours; paid staff; running till 6pm).
- Will you need a senior leadership out-of-hours on-call rota? During the day, it is accepted in most schools that there needs to be an SLT member on site. Should this be the case for extended schools activity, much of which may be potentially less structured and more ‘risky’ than day-to-day activity?
- How will you fund the various aspects of extended services? Schools may not use their main section 52 allocation for this purpose. Nevertheless, there are a range other options, including:
- School Standards Grant – this can be used for any aspect of extended or community provision.
- Personalised learning funding (via the Dedicated Schools Grant) – this can be used for study support or for any other activity which can be shown to directly benefit students or broaden the opportunities available to them.
- Charging – you could introduce fees for certain activities, for example childcare, after-school clubs and adult learning. If you do this, then you will need to ensure 1) that your school has an up-to-date charging policy, and 2) that your fees are realistic, and are comparable to charges made by other organisations for similar provision. To charge more will not attract customers; to charge less may well create difficult relationships with other providers, some of whom you may wish to work in partnership with in the future.
- External funding – there are a range of government grants and charitable trusts which can be used for aspects of extended provision, especially those which relate to community or family learning. The Big Lottery Fund is currently inviting bids of between £10,000 and £500,000 for its Family Learning programme. For smaller projects, Awards for All (also National Lottery-funded) offer between £300 and £10,000 for projects that enable people to take part in art, sport, heritage and community activities, or that promote education, the environment and health in the local community. In addition to the lottery, there are numerous charitable trusts and foundations that will fund projects which meet their aims and criteria. Your local authority may have a department which deals with external funding, or you could purchase a software package such as Grantfinder, which is quite expensive but is extremely comprehensive, is constantly updated, and will easily pay for itself if utilised effectively. This said, extended services provision lends itself to partnership projects between schools and smaller groups and organisations, and it may be that these groups would be eligible to apply for funding for joint initiatives.
- If your aim is for some aspects of extended services to be self-financing, or even to cross-subsidise other areas of provision, how will you ensure that this is actually the case? Ideally, you will need to have conducted robust market research and produced a business plan which identifies all costs – indirect costs and overheads such as heating, lighting, cleaning etc as well as outlay on direct staffing and equipment. You will then have projected income streams based on your research and identified a break-even point at which the activity will be viable. You will also have included contingency plans and/or an exit strategy should the project prove to be a non-starter.
- How will you ensure that you keep track of the financial transactions that relate to extended services? Will you set up discrete cost/profit centres? How will you report on financial performance to the governors?
- Will part of your provision include letting your premises to external providers? If so, you will need an up-to-date lettings policy.
- Are you aware of the VAT regulations surrounding the provision of different elements of extended services provision?
Extended schools strategy: tips for success
- Understand your local area: get to know the key players at the local authority and the local strategic partnership (LSP). Review local social statistics.
- Produce an outline extended schools action plan based on your research and make sure that its key objectives are included in the school improvement plan.
- Make sure that there is an SLT member with the responsibility and time to make extended provision happen.
- Don’t try to do everything at once. Go for a phased introduction of services with plenty of time for review and adaptation. Remember to break everything down into small, manageable steps.
- Ensure that all school staff understand the rationale behind your extended services provision and are kept up to date with plans and developments.
- Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself. The job of the school is to ensure that your community has access to the core offer: it need not necessarily all take place on your site, or be delivered by your staff.
- Always be on the lookout for opportunities for partnership working. This will not only spread the workload but will also ensure coherence of provision and broaden your local knowledge and potential impact.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: there are plenty of schools already involved in delivering high-quality extended services – speak to as many people as you can and learn from their experiences and their mistakes.
- Don’t get carried away: extended provision can be endless and exciting, but make sure you retain a focus on raising standards and achievement in your school and wider community.
Extended schools rationale – Ofsted: Extended Sevices: Supporting School Improvement www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/_files/38B38AE9C9A7090AF4AAE1B5477B3EB4.pdf Checklist for auditing existing extended schools provision www.westberks.gov.uk/ index.aspx?articleid=7900 Continyou/OwnZone www.continyou.org.uk/content.php?CategoryID=876 Extended schools case studies www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/extendedschools/casestudies Overview of local strategic partnerships www.neighbourhood.gov.uk/page.asp?id=531 Office for National Statistics – local area statistics www.neighbourhood.statistics. gov.uk/dissemination/ DfES video on setting up extended services www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/ extendedschools/Video Practical tips and support www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/ extendedschools/practicalknowhow Big Lottery Fund (Family Learning, Awards for All) www.biglotteryfund.org.uk Grantfinder www.grantfinder.co.uk
VAT and extended schools www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/ extendedschools/practicalknowhow/ vatandextendedschools