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
    Longfield.

    “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
    together.

    “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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