What’s in a name?

4Children has come a long way since it started life 21 years ago
as the National Out of School Alliance. From a tiny pressure group
it has grown into perhaps one of the most successful of
children’s voluntary sector groups today – so successful that
children’s minister Margaret Hodge chose its conference as
the platform to launch the Children Bill.

If you haven’t heard of 4Children, it’s probably
because until 4 March it was called Kids’ Clubs Network. So
why did the rather well-known KCN decide its name would no longer
do? Chief executive Anne Longfield has been at the helm for 10
years, and overseen both a doubling in the charity’s size in
the past five and now the rebranding.

She says: “Kids’ Clubs Network was a name that described
what out-of-school provision was, and that was what we needed. For
the past nine months we’ve been planning for the next five
years. The choice was either to define what we did very narrowly,
or to see it as a springboard for wider provision. We felt that
out-of-school child care had to be part of the agenda for extended
schools, responding to the needs of vulnerable children. We needed
a name that reflected that breadth, and considered all sorts, but
it was 4Children that distilled what we were about.”

But isn’t there a risk of losing identity with a name that
could equally describe any of the children’s charities?
Longfield believes that 4Children encapsulates the charity’s
unique selling point. “What distinguishes us quite markedly is that
we are for all children, and I’m not sure there are many
charities that do that. We’re about a universal
infrastructure that is for all children, not just vulnerable
children, although of course vulnerable children’s needs
should be met through it.”

4Children is calling for a comprehensive range of provision for
all children up to age 16, through a network of 10,000
children’s centres catering for children of ages. The
children’s centres would encompass all the programmes now on
offer including crime diversion activities, study support and child
care. This would involve £10bn in government investment, and
mean that schools would have to stay open from 8am to 6pm says

“Children’s centres should cater for the whole age range.
The government already sees extended schools as children’s
centres for older children. But rather than have 10 or 15 schemes
rattling around, each with its own funding, policy rationale and
timescale, and each with its own way of supporting children, we say
it would make sense to put them together in a mainstream programme
for all children.”

Longfield’s vision closely reflects the government’s
aspirations. Although the government hasn’t yet stepped into
line with the 4Children strategy on the issue of finance, education
secretary Charles Clarke has told the General Teaching
Council’s conference that within the next eight years all
schools will be open for more hours every day and will offer a
wider range of services.

But where does 4Children itself fit into the brave new world of
extended schools?

Longfield believes the organisation has already more than proved
its value as the honest broker between professions and between
agencies, able to get people together and get things done. “We see
our role as raising issues and debate, drawing on what we know
locally and lobbying. But also as agents for change, strategically
intervening to make it happen.”

4Children takes much of the credit for councils’ success
in meeting government targets for out-of-school child care
provision funded through the New Opportunities Fund. Using a pool
of their own staff and external consultants, 4Children has been
parachuting into councils struggling to create enough new places,
offering up to eight days’ help. It has also pioneered
after-school provision for teenagers through ‘Make
Space’ grants.

“Out-of-school provision has never belonged with any particular
profession or agency – and has rattled around between different
funding pots. That means we can facilitate people coming

“We also have experience of rolling out big programmes – of how
to get a programme out there and embedded and working. We know how
hard it is, and how determined you need to be both in a leadership
role but also in terms of local delivery to make it happen.”

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