The government's education recovery commissioner has said that any plans to extend the school day should be compulsory – in order to "guarantee" disadvantaged pupils attend.
Appearing before the House of Lords' Youth Unemployment Committee this morning, Sir Kevan Collins said the evidence indicates that "the more voluntary things are, the less likely they're going to get to the hard-to-reach bits of your community".
Therefore, if the government takes the decision to extend the amount of time children spend in school, this should be "woven into the curriculum", he said.
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Sir Kevan was asked: "On this theme that you mention about catching up, do you think that we're missing a trick in regards to the potential of after school clubs being situated in faith centres – churches, mosques, gurdwaras, community centres – that would help with this monstrous catch up, and that could also continue way after, which you highlight is so important...those interventions that keep people on track and potentially going to reach their greatest potential?"
He responded: "One of the issues about after school, if you're going to extend time, is...a big question about whether you make it compulsory, part of the school day or voluntary.
"I think what the evidence indicates is that the more voluntary things are, the less likely they're going to get to the hard-to-reach bits of your community or into the nooks and crannies you want to get into.
"So for me, if we do want to increase the amount of time children spend in school for the richer experience, it should be woven into the curriculum and become part of the compulsory school day for children.
"That would be how we guarantee that our most disadvantaged communities attend."
He added: "It's not quite true with some of our minority communities, but if you take in general, when you make things voluntary, it's the more advantaged children who take advantage of it.
"So we need to make sure that it's for all children and that's why I'd tag it into the school day. I am conscious, though, what you don't want to do is cut off or stymie the activities that happen in voluntary activities in communities. That's why we'd have to be very careful to make sure these things are complementary and work together."
Sir Kevan has previously said that teachers will be asked to increase learning time for pupils as part of the education recovery plan.
But he has also said that teachers should not be asked to do "more for no more" if the decision is taken to extend the "educational experience".