For the past six years schools have benefited from receiving additional funding for providing extended services such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, parenting skills and family learning.
Since coming to power, the coalition government has signalled a sea change in education policy to give schools greater freedom to set their own priorities. All schools will benefit from the current Education Bill, which no longer requires schools to complete the School Evaluation Form or provide any reporting of their extended services or other activities to meet the Every Child Matters agenda, for example in Ofsted inspections.
However, although there will no longer be a legal requirement to provide wider services for pupils or their families, the Department for Education is very positive about the role of extended services, as expressed here in the November 2010 Education White Paper:
‘Locally, we will rely on schools to work together with voluntary, business and statutory agencies to create an environment where every child can learn, where they can experience new and challenging opportunities through extended services, and where school buildings and expertise are contributing to building strong families and communities.' (The Importance of Teaching 2.51)
From April 2011 the Department for Education will provide funding for children's services, such as children's centres, under its Families Early Intervention grant programme. The panel below shows that, although some of the terminology has changed, there is still a focus on schools achieving wider outcomes for their pupils.
|Pre- 11 May 2010
|Post- 11 May 2011
|Help children achieve more
|Narrow the gap
|Close the gap
|Targets and outcomes
|Results and impact
|Local areas, better, fairer services
|People working better to provide better services
Academies and the extended schools vision
With the coalition government's drive for many schools to convert to academy status in the next five years, how far will extended services continue to be relevant?
The answer is that many academies are very committed to providing pupils with additional learning and enrichment opportunities through an extended school day. Academies vary in the delivery arrangements of the longer school day. For example, providing an additional hour of directed time may be a stipulation of staff contracts so that all teaching staff lead at least one after-school club per week as part of their contract.
Other academies pay staff, for example, £1,500 per year for delivering three hours per week of activities such as sport or to run booster sessions for key stage 4 pupils, funded through the school budget. Just like schools, many academies run their after-school clubs on a shoe string, relying on staff volunteering to run activities, alongside outside agencies and charged activities run by outside providers.
The pupil premium
For every pupil receiving free school meals, schools and academies will receive £430 from September 2011 as an additional top up to their core funding.
The aim of the pupil premium is to allow schools to close the performance gap for disadvantaged pupils - just 27% of pupils eligible for free school meals go on to achieve five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths, compared with 54% of non-FSM pupils. The expectations of the pupil premium embrace some of the activities that have been funded up to March 2011 through the Extended Schools Standards Fund grant programme (see panel below).
|Expectations surrounding the pupil premium‘At the heart of our Coalition’s programme for government is a commitment to spend more on the education of the poorest children. Our pupil premium is designed to tackle deep-rooted disadvantage by taking additional money from outside the schools budget to ensure those teaching the poorest children get the resources they need to deliver:
The Schools System Structural Reform Plan, Department for Education, July 2010
In terms of the evolving role of school governors, through the White Paper the Department for Education specifically tasks governors with ‘10 key questions' such as: ‘Do we offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities which engage all pupils?' (The Importance of Teaching, page 72.)
This question can start a developmental question about the role of extended services for a school's most deprived pupils.
Questions for governors to ask about extended services
So a pertinent question for a governor to ask could be: ‘Do all the children with deprivation needs have the opportunity to attend at least one club regularly?'
An audit of the club registers for a particular week in the middle of term time will reveal how many pupils eligible for free school meals, EAL and SEN pupils are taking up club opportunities. This kind of snapshot often reveals groups of pupils who ‘miss out' on attending clubs. This can then form the basis of a strategy for the headteacher or school manager for how to encourage a greater take-up of clubs and opportunities by those pupils who will get the most benefit.
Funding and resourcing clubs
Schools have never received large amounts of external funding to provide extra-curricular activities for their pupils - at best around £5,000 through their local extended schools' locality area or ‘cluster' steering group.
Schools in more affluent areas pass the charges for extra-curricular activities to parents. Many schools create an ethos that staff voluntarily run activities as ‘distributed leadership'. Some schools offer training to staff, parents or other volunteers - for example, sponsoring the costs of the Community Sports Leadership Award coaching qualification - in return for running a school sports team. So, a mid-day meal supervisor might coach the girls' football team as part of her 25 logged hours to achieve the CSLA.
As well as staff volunteers, pupils can act as a resource for extra-curricular activities such as the Year 6 pupils running the chess club for younger pupils or secondary school pupils coaching primary-aged children as part of BTEC qualifications, the Duke of Edinburgh Award or ASDAN qualifications. Some schools are now asking teachers to run activities voluntarily and charge £3 per session, with their reward being a day off per term.
Tax Credits and child care
Currently, after-school childcare is supported by the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and since September 2008 parents have been eligible to claim WTC to help with the costs of school clubs, such as the breakfast club which is part of a school's ‘wrap around' childcare.
Working parents sometimes receive childcare vouchers from their employers through ‘salary sacrifice' schemes and these can be used by parents to pay for any after-school clubs run by a school for its own pupils. In fact, schools charging for any after-school clubs should encourage working parents to reclaim the costs through their Working Tax Credit childcare element eligibility. From April 2011, parents earning up to £42,000 per household will be eligible to claim up to £545 per year for the costs of after-school clubs for children up to the age of 14 (15 for children with disabilities), which covers 60% of families.
Social enterprise initiatives
Some clusters (close geographical groupings) of schools are beginning to work much more closely together to provide the complete range of opportunities for local families.
The E13 Learning Community is a ‘soft federation' of seven primary schools and Lister Secondary School in Plaistow, East London that have constituted their own charitable trust to give financial support to their local extended services. For example, Barclays Procurement helped the E13 schools put together a joint tender to go out to the London agencies to create an economy of scale for their collective supply cover needs.
The White Paper focuses on the savings available when schools share the same financial arrangements and the E13 Learning Community example has encouraged its local authority, Newham, to encourage all its clusters of schools to work more closely together as commissioning consortia.
The local extended schools network is also increasingly seen as an appropriate way of developing closer partnership working to raise achievement for all children and young people in a particular estate or neighbourhood. Schools are working together more collaboratively through local ‘knowledge clusters' or ‘learning partnerships'. This is a response to the White Paper's proposal of ‘families' of schools sharing similar characteristics to swap expertise and insights.
In this way, extended services build naturally on links schools already have with each other, for example through Primary Networks, School Sports Partnerships or even 14-19 consortia. Governors have a role to play in linking up with their counterparts in neighbouring schools to foster these kinds of collaborative opportunities.
The role of school manager
Typically an extended schools manager is a member of the non-teaching staff who weaves a wide range of partnership and other opportunities into the extended services programme the school offers to pupils and their families.
Adults other than teachers, such as teaching assistants, learning mentors and administration officers, can be extremely resourceful in brokering links with outside organisations that are able to offer services to local schools. So, however tempting it may be to make savings from this area of the school budget, in the face of the severe pressures likely to be experienced by many schools from April, cutting the post of school manager could possibly be a false economy.
Organisations providing help to schools
A number of national organisations provide help for schools around the sustainability of extended services:
- 4Children provides information about childcare, including term-time and holiday schemes, and can advise schools on how to nudge parents to claim their Tax Credit entitlements.
- Continyou has set up the ‘Learning Exchange', an on-line network and forum.
- Quality in Study Support (QiSS) is based at Christ Church Canterbury's Education Department and can offer a variety of continuing professional development opportunities to school managers to develop their skills in the area of extended services.
Quality assurance for extended services
The DfE is currently promoting QiSS's Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO), an accreditation scheme to help schools and academies assess the impact of their after-school clubs and other extra-curricular activities.
The framework has been used by over 5,000 schools and other organisations in planning, delivering and evaluating the impact of their varied menu of activities for out of school hours learning. Extending Learning Opportunities provides a developmental framework so that after-school clubs, family learning and parenting skills can become more self-funding, through a broader community development strategy. More information.
Nick Holt is an extended schools consultant and author of e-book Funding and Sustaining Extended Services beyond March 2011