Every child in England will have access to an extended school by 2010, if the government has its way. But what exactly are extended schools and what impact will they have on the world of social care?
What is an extended school?
The government wants all secondary schools to be open from 8am to 6pm all year round offering a “range of services and activities” to help meet the needs of children, their families and the wider community. Find out more in the extended schools prospectus published last July.
What about primary schools?
They will be expected to work with other local voluntary sector or private providers to make sure children and families have access to extended services. In practice, schools may operate as clusters to make sure extended services are available or may rotate their responsibilities with other schools.
What services will extended schools provide?
All schools will be expected to offer a range of “core services” by 2010.
• Wraparound childcare available 8am-6pm all year round
• Activities including homework clubs, study support or sport
• Parenting support including information for parents on “key transition points”, such as when their children start a new school
• Referral to a specialist support, such as speech therapy, child and adolescent mental health and behaviour support
• Providing wider community access to computers, sports and art facilities.
Some of it, such as health and social care, will be free, but the schools will be expected to cover the cost of services such as childcare by charging.
Schools won’t be expected to provide all this themselves – they can hire staff if they want, contract with an independent provider or get clustered with other schools.
Why provide extended schools?
The government believes that schools are often the most well-resourced facilities in a community but are sorely underused outside school hours. Also, one of its big visions with the Every Child Matters agenda is to bring universal and specialist services closer together. Hence you get universal childcare and a route into specialist services, such as mental health, in the same building.
If that were not enough, after-school services also allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to get the study support that might not be available to them at home. And it gives parents the chance to return to work.
What are full service extended schools?
The full service extended school initiative has, since 2003, supported the development in every local authority of at least one pioneering extended school. A recent Department for Education and Skills commissioned report found that so far they are having “significant positive effects on children, adults and families”.
Who is paying for extended schools?
The government will pump in £840m of “start-up” funding over the period 2003-8. But it expects extended services to become sustainable over time, through charging and “reconfiguring funding strands at local level”.
How will extended schools affect social care?
The recent DFES report found it was not yet clear that the positive outcomes produced by full service extended schools were widespread enough to transform communities. Also there is still work to do in engaging the most vulnerable members of society.
So, it sounds like extended schools need a lot more social care input if they are really to achieve their full aims.
Find out more