Schools that offer alternative subjects after hours are more likely to stop struggling pupils dropping out. That was the overwhelming verdict of education leaders who spoke at the annual Wales conference of community learning charity ContinYou Cymru in Llandrindod Wells last week.
Delegates at the town's Metropole Hotel heard about research into the effects of out-of-hours learning in raising the self-esteem of less-able pupils, who often found the school day boring.
Wales is undergoing a revolution in such learning. Schools are often open late into the evening providing a variety of clubs and learning opportunities for pupils and adults, including dance, music and sport.
Education minister Jane Hutt said the rise of the community-focused school was not just about extending the day. "It is about recognising that schools may need additional support from other professionals. We still have many young people not achieving their potential."
Susan Lewis, chief inspector, said community-focused education helped to reduce, or even eradicate, low achievement.
Every school in Wales should be offering out-of-hours learning by 2010. But Pam Boyd, director of ContinYou, said it faced challenges.
Ms Hutt announced an extra pound;4.2 million over the next three years towards creating community-focused schools. It will raise government funding of the initiative to pound;15 million up to 2011.
Estyn has already been commissioned to investigate how schools and local authorities are using the funding and will report back in March. But Ms Hutt refused to confirm that ContinYou would receive a government grant for its advisory work next year.
Mrs Boyd said: "We have still got a lot to contribute over the next three years but without a grant it will be hard to carry on."