EYU draws out the key points for early years education and childcare.

The extended services in 20 settings, including a range of schools and seven children’s centres were surveyed by Ofsted between April 2005 and March 2006, to find out the factors which contribute to effective provision of extended services.

The survey showed that the major benefits gained by children, young people and adults through attending extended services are enhanced self-confidence, improved relationships, raised aspirations and better attitudes to learning.

Miriam Rosen, Ofsted’s director of education said: ‘The report found there was no single blueprint for success. However, services were most effective when there was a plan which considered standards, value for money, affordability and long term sustainability. Strongly committed leaders and managers were key factors in successful provision and management was at least good in over half the settings visited.’

Some points of the report are of particular interest to those working in early years education and childcare and involved in providing extended services.

Impact on parents

It was found that the most successful approach was to develop services gradually, building on successful provision. Children’s centres are ideally placed to do this as extended service is part of the core service they provide.

A positive impact was most apparent in those settings which had consulted with parents and families about courses or services that they wanted or needed. Positive effects were:

  • parents began to appreciate the value of learning through play
  • parents found sessions on childcare and chid development helped them to relate in more positive ways with their children at home
  • families benefited from a one-stop access to health and other services
  • some parents progressed from attendance at courses to becoming volunteer helpers in the setting and/or the wider community
  • drop-in sessions were some of the most effective services
  • taster sessions encouraged take-up of courses.

Additional efforts need to be made by providers to reach some groups of parents.

Partnership working

When working with other agencies or providers it is necessary to have a shared vision about how to meet the needs of the local community. Working together means developing comprehensive plans, developing systems of communication and agreeing protocols.

Funding

A major difficulty noted by the report was that grants and funds are often short-term which made it difficult to plan strategically. They found that limited spending periods for some grants ‘constrained the breadth and depth of extended services and affected the sustainability and success of some services significantly’.

Evaluation and monitoring

The impact of services on pupils’ standards and achievement were not monitored consistently. The issue of problems of continuity of services and interventions when children moved from children’s centres to school was noted and more needs to be done to develop joint monitoring of the impact of services.

Recommendations

The report offers recommendations for all levels, the DfES, local authorities and schools and children’s centres. When leading extended services, schools and children’s centres should:

  • plan to sustain services through funding, maintaining interest and encouraging good take-up, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs
  • work with other settings to provide for the community’s wider needs
  • find a way to measure the impact on children’s learning
  • be accountable for the quality and effectiveness of the extended services they manage.

Ways to build on strengths

  • Know what you want to achieve.
  • Know the needs in your community
  • Find ways to maintain interest and encourage involvement.
  • Be ready to adapt to changes of need, or in light of experiences.
  • Build effective communication systems with all participants.
  • Collaborate with other providers to pool resources, staff, skills and time.
  • Monitor effectiveness and use this information to plan future service provision.

Ofsted (2006) Extended Services in Schools and Children Centres, ref no: HMI 2609 www.ofsted.gov.uk

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