Alarm bells ring over extended schools agenda

Extended schools present opportunities and threats for the children’s workforce but there is work to be done to ensure the agenda does not result in the exploitation of lower paid, less qualified staff, public sector trade union Unison warned today.


Christina McAnea, Unison’s national secretary for education services, told an extended schools conference organised by the children’s charity 4Children that there needed to be minimum standards for extended school services and a framework for providers.


These should be enforced and applied by local authorities, McAnea added, to ensure consistency of service delivery and to avoid the “worse case scenario of the expansion of the already low paid and exploited workforce”.


She called for all schools to conduct a “skills audit” of staff to fully appreciate the range and depth of skills and training already in place. “There is a need for all staff to be included in staff development plans and particularly those staff often overlooked who are at the lower end of the pay and qualification scale.”


The government was also warned that adequate funding was crucial if it was to realise its vision for extended schools and live up to parents’ expectations.


Ann Gross, divisional manager for extended schools and child care at the Department for Education and Skills, told delegates that the £250m extended schools money going directly to schools between 2006 and 2008 was “kick start funding” and, in the future, schools would need to focus on creating services that were sustainable. A further £430m is going to local authorities.


However, Phil Hallman, head teacher at the Runcorn-based St Martin’s Primary School, which is part of an extended school project, insisted that every school needed its own properly funded budget.


“There’s no way we can expect schools to take this forward unless every school has a base entitlement,” he said. “It’s no good asking schools to bid for a limited pot because we will all want it.”


Hallman said there was a very real danger that parents’ expectations would be built up only for them to be dashed if sufficient funds were not forthcoming.


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