news analysis of role social services staff will play in new extended schools

Social services staff are going back to school to help deliver the
government’s ambitious plans to provide community services in 240
extended schools over the next three years, writes
Anabel Unity Sale.

Baroness Cathy Ashton, minister for Sure Start, unveiled the
government’s plans to fund at least one extended school in every
English local education authority (LEA) by 2006. A total of
£52.2 million is being targeted at schools in the most
disadvantaged areas before the initiative is rolled out throughout
the country.

Some, including social services professionals, are sceptical about
extending schools’ role into wider community services and raise
questions about the viability of education and care staff working

Changes to the Education Act 2002 have enabled schools to directly
provide child care, family learning, health and social care,
lifelong learning opportunities, study support, sports and arts

Government guidance on extended schools suggests social services
could be utilised to help schools reduce poverty and social
exclusion by orienting projects towards specific clients, such as
children with special educational needs or foster children.

Association of Directors of Social Services co-chairperson of
children and families committee Penny Thompson says the ADSS
strongly supports the government’s drive to extend schools’ role
and give social workers a key part to play in this.

She adds: “This is in line with all the work social services
departments have been doing on the future development of children’s

Local Government Association senior project officer Ian Elliott
agrees and says the government’s move links into the work the LGA
has been doing with seven pathfinder authorities since 2001 to
promote schools as a community resource.

He says: “Schools are the hub of the community and using school
premises to deliver a range of activities will benefit all the
community, not just those attending the school during the normal
school day.”

Social workers are well used to reaching out to children and adults
at risk of social exclusion, experience that will be just as useful
in a school setting. “Having professional support to cater for
children on school premises will be a vital gateway and in some
cases a welcome relief for school staff,” Elliott says.

Bringing the different professionals dealing with children together
into one locality is necessary, argues Association of Chief
Education Officers’ lead on children’s services, Christine

She says: “On a day-to-day basis there is not a close relationship
between teachers, social workers, speech therapists and community
and mental health personnel.”

Davies cites the Victoria Climbi’ case as a wake-up call for
professionals working with children to communicate, meet and share
information on clients. She sees extended schools one way of
addressing this deficiency.

Funding for extended schools has been broken down into £7.6
million for 2003-4, rising to £13m for 2004-5 and £31.6m
in 2005-6.

The government has allocated £200,000 each to 25 LEA
pathfinder projects currently testing different models of extended
schools up until this autumn.

Resources have also been given to LEAs to appoint co-ordinators to
draw up strategic plans for extended schools and local managers to
work with clusters of schools to create and manage their extended
services. The funding for 2003-4 is £4.8m, £10.6m for
2004-5 and £65.6m for 2005-6.

With such large sums of money at stake, some are concerned social
care professionals could be sidelined and have little input into
how it is allocated. But Davies says this is “no time for
territorial preciousness”, and that all agencies involved in
providing services in extended schools need to talk together about
their plans.

She says: “Agencies ought to be doing that in children’s services,
but if they are not the extended schools model could act as a
catalyst for this.” She warns that sustained government investment
is needed if the work of the services in extended schools is going
to have any impact. “It is no good putting in money for three years
and then saying there is no more at the end of it.”

The financial challenge councils now face, Elliott believes, is how
to link health, community, police and social services so that a
wider range of funding can be accessed to benefit the whole

How extended schools are managed needs to be addressed if it is not
to become an obstacle, says David Tuck, National Association of
Head Teachers’ national council member for Luton, Hertfordshire and
Bedfordshire. “When working in a school there has to be clear and
effective single-line management through the head teacher,” he

Tuck speaks from personal experience as head teacher of Dallow
primary school in Luton, which he says has “aspired” to offer
extended services to its local community for the past two

He also advocates extended schools having systems in place for
information sharing and the same policies regarding areas such as
child protection. “Each profession can’t have different child
protection policies and you can’t have staff saying ‘this is just
between my client and I’.”

The fabric of the buildings used as extended schools can be a
logistical obstacle to their success, argues Elliott: “Most schools
are designed to deliver education rather than to run a range of

Davies says if necessary this can be overcome by having extended
services based in a neighbourhood rather than an individual school
if it lacks the room to accommodate the new services.

Clearly, there is plenty of support for the government’s aim to
place schools at the hub of a community. But it must make sure that
while it empowers professionals to work in a new way the physical
environment can meet the challenge too.

How extended schools will be rolled out

Year 1: 2003-04

By 16 June 2003 deadline:

– 34 LEAs involved in the Behaviour Improvement Programme to
improve school attendance will nominate one school each to become
an extended school.

– 27 LEAs involved in the Excellence in Cities Partnership to raise
standards and increase specialist provision to nominate one school

– All successful schools to have some extended services in place by
September and to have all services available within a year.

Year 2: 2004-5

– 25 LEAs involved in Excellence in Cities Partnerships to nominate
a school.

– 20 further LEAs to nominate a school from the most disadvantaged

Year 3: 2005-6

– Rolled out to include all other LEAs that have not yet

Sheffield local education authority

Karen Worrall is head of access and inclusion at Sheffield local
education authority. She received notification from the department
for education and skills three weeks ago that one school in her
area could apply for funding to become an extended school. She has
until 16 June to make an application.

Her LEA is involved in the department’s behaviour improvement
programme to improve the attendance and behaviour of pupils in four
of the city’s secondary schools and their associated primary

Worrall says: “This is a very exciting opportunity. It is about
making schools a vibrant part of the community and those sorts of
communities have higher levels of attainment.”

Worrall says the LEA is in the process of drawing up the criteria
its schools will have to match in order to be considered for
extended school funding.

“We want to make it as open and transparent as possible,” she says.
The criteria will include evidence of existing community work,
partnerships with other agencies and parental involvement.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.