Esteem raised out of hours

Ofsted study finds schools and centres with extended services are boosting the confidence of pupils and parents. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Schools and children's centres that offer extended services are helping to boost self-confidence and achievement among disadvantaged youngsters and their parents, inspectors said this week.

Some schools showed improvements in GCSE results, with one secondary doubling the number of pupils gaining five A*-C grades in two years.

Pupils and their parents also developed more positive attitudes to learning and showed raised aspirations for the future.

Better access to health services meant families were more aware of healthy eating and the need to take regular exercise, the Ofsted study said.

Extended schools and centres were set up under the new Every Child Matters legislation under which the Government pledged that by 2010 "all children should have access to a variety of activities beyond the school day".

Integrated services include breakfast and after-school clubs for children, holiday activities, health services such as speech therapy, and story-telling. Some services also include activities for parents, including parenting classes, healthy cooking courses, stopping smoking and basic skills education.

Inspectors looked at 20 settings in 16 local authorities between April 2005 and March 2006. Seven of these were centres, four were secondary schools, one was a special school and eight were in the primary sector.

They found that almost all the provision was effective in meeting the needs of children, young people and adults in the local community. In half, the impact of services was found to be good or better.

The report said: "Pupils gained self-confidence through their involvement in extended services. They became used to working with a range of different agencies, including local universities, sports organisations and police and community workers.

"These organisations also encouraged pupils from under-represented groups to join, supporting cultural integration and enhancing their confidence."

Management and leadership among providers were found to be at least good in more than half of settings, and all the schools and centres were committed to providing inclusive services, the report said.

But the inspectors also found that short-term funding made it difficult for services to plan ahead, and this sometimes affected what provision was available and the extent to which particular activities could be sustained.

They said some children suffered from a lack of continuity in services when they moved schools.

The report recommends that the Department for Education and Skills should ensure that funding allocations and time-scales allow enough time for consultation and introduction of extended services. Local authorities should ensure services are developed coherently with communities and draw on the expertise of successful providers, it said.

It also found that family learning sessions involving younger children enabled parents to appreciate the value of learning through play. Some took part in childcare and child development courses which helped family relationships. Before and after-school provision and holiday activities made parents feel that their children were being cared for in safety.

* - document number HMI 2609

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