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Labour seeks to turn play clubs into work

The Labour party this week called for before and after-school clubs, - currently play-dominated - to become homework havens.

Estelle Morris, the party's junior spokeswoman on education and school clubs, said: "These clubs have the potential to be more than child care places, in particular we will be concentrating on this whole burgeoning notion of children learning outside school hours. And we will be looking towards homework clubs."

Ms Morris was speaking at a London conference on play and care for school age children.

Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard, who also spoke at the conference, said afterwards: "Quality is extremely important. Delivery might include homework, after-school meals and other kinds of activity but the quality overall is the important thing. We've got to realise that 95 per cent of parents are very satisfied with the quality."

A Department for Education and Employment spokesman said there was no single model for the clubs. There was a diversity in the 2,500 clubs in the UK and many linked their activities to education.

Julia Cleverdon, director of Business in the Community, said putting more emphasis on homework could increase employer participation in the Pounds 60 million government Out Of School Childcare Initiative, especially following last week's disappointing national test results.

Earlier Mrs Shephard had said the only disappointment with the scheme was the level of employers taking part.

The Kids Clubs' Network, one of the organisers of the conference, stresses that clubs should provide a wide range of stimulating and creative activities such as games, crafts and storytelling. But Colette Kelleher, the network's head of policy, added: "Children should be free to do what they want to do. They should be able to do homework and there should be a quiet area because by the time parents collect them it is 6 or 6.30, quite late."

The Network wants to open an extra 1,000 clubs by the end of this year, at a cost of Pounds 18million. The money will come from a mixture of public and private sources.

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