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Fears over extended schools' red tape burden

Providing free activities in extended schools would force teachers to work longer hours or employ extra staff - just to cope with the government bureaucracy involved, according to a new report.

Stopping fees for before- or after-school clubs might be the only way to make sure poorer children use the facilities, but this adds pressure, heads, admin and support staff told researchers.

As The TES has reported, middle-class parents are much more likely to take advantage of extended schools as poorer families cannot afford to pay for activities. But a scheme to make sure extended schools help the disadvantaged has also had mixed results.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, found 78 per cent of schools involved in the Extended Schools Disadvantage Subsidy Pathfinder saw workloads increase, purely to manage the money given to them by Government.

The pilot scheme gave cash to teachers as a way to reduce or stop charges for activities. Most told the report's authors, from BMRB Social Research and Newcastle University, that they had to work longer hours or employ extra staff.

There was also "enormous" variation in the take-up of activities.

About 442 schools in 18 councils took part in the project. Teachers said the workload proved a problem or a barrier to making sure children took part and in future they would need extra support, especially in administration.

The study also found 65 per cent of schools are charging for activities and this is deterring many families from using them. Four in 10 schools had changed their charging practices after taking part in the pilot; one-third had stopped charging poorer families for any activities; and 8 per cent had stopped charging any pupils for activities.

Researchers found that teachers who made their own decisions about the families they should subsidise were more likely to feel they had targeted the right people.

Those using guidelines such as entitlement to free meals said some of their pupils missed out, but found it easier to get families to reach the target of two hours of activities a week.

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