After-hours childcare role outlined in report

Schools should play a bigger role in childcare after school hours and during the holidays, says a new report from the Department for Education and Employment.

The report, Work and Family: ideas and options for childcare, analyses 343 responses on a national framework for childcare following a consultation paper launched by education junior minister Cheryl Gillan last August.

The 46-page consultation report says there was "considerable" support for more childcare in schools, especially after school hours and during the holidays.

A number of organisations criticised schools for being slow and reluctant to change.

The Parents at Work pressure group said: "While employers have started to make work more flexible to fit with the needs of parents, schools have been remarkably slow to respond to changing work patterns and to adapt hours to suit."

And Hertfordshire County Council said: "Schools of all types are an under-used facility. Unfortunately many governing bodies (which control the use of premises out of school time) are reluctant to allow out-of-school clubs to operate or charge high rents to clubs which do run."

Wight Training and Enterprise Council said there was tension between schools and out-of-school clubs: "Some teachers think they are the only worthwhile providers of educational experience. There needs to be a cultural change. "

There was overwhelming support for a national strategy on childcare. The Confederation of British Industry called for a Government-led framework and the Daycare Trust said the Government must be an active partner in childcare policy.

The question which attracted the greatest number of responses (104) was: "Is school-age childcare the right priority?" Views on this question were almost evenly balanced. A slight majority (54), including most of the childcare organisations, felt that efforts and resources should be spread right across the age range.

Work and Family: Ideas and Options for Childcare is available from the Department for Education and Employment Publications Centre, PO Box 6927, London E3 3NZ. Tel: 0171 510 0150.

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