Breakfast club is just the start of the extended day

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
An angry Churchill, warning of German rearmament in 1935, famously quoted an anonymous poem - "Who is in charge of the clattering train?"

Headteachers, on a more mundane level of existence, are more likely to be challenged by an angry parent asking, "Who is in charge of breakfast club?"

It's a good question. So far as parents - and children - are concerned, everything at any time of day, is the responsibility of the head. And yet, as David Dixon, head of Bowbridge primary in Newark, Nottinghamshire, points out, that's one implication of an emerging contradiction in government policy on extended schools. "They seem to have shifted the goalposts," he says. "When we first learned about extended schools, and saw the case studies, it all seemed to be about a holistic approach to school improvement. Now, though, there's greater emphasis on childcare and we're hearing that headteachers and staff shouldn't have any extra workload, so you just get service providers in."

It's a shift that he finds disappointing, "I accepted greater workload because by engaging more with the local community, we'd end up with children who were more receptive to learning," he says.

Mr Dixon is deeply committed to the extended school ideal and welcomes the increase in the number of people coming in to get involved. At Bowbridge there's a health clinic, community cafe and adult learning centre, as well as the usual breakfast and after-school clubs.

The school is one of the few primaries to carry the Quality Award from Quality in Study Support. This scheme is based at Canterbury Christ Church university, and recognises all aspects of a school's support for pupils and families over and above the curriculum.

In a research paper - part of his higher degree studies - Mr Dixon writes, "The author has always sought greater autonomy by continuing to market his school in the locality and beyond and to seek other sources of revenue to bolster a rather tight budget." For him it's a way of improving parental support in a school in a deprived area, traditionally short of parent power.

In the same paper, he writes, "If a school can utilise its various stakeholders to increase its autonomy, it can be empowered to break through attainment and achievement glass ceilings."

He's sure, though, that extended schools are only going to work if the relationships between staff are good enough to survive a general trend towards tight job descriptions, performance indicators, precise definitions of working hours and responsibilities.

In short, everyone has to get on with each other and work to a common purpose without worrying over-much about crossing boundaries. In primaries, particularly, this takes care of itself to some extent. As Mr Dixon says, "It's often people associated with the school who are doing the other jobs - dinner staff doing the breakfast club for example." The proviso, he emphasises, is that everyone has to back the extended school concept. "If people are convinced it's worth it, then they'll take the inconveniences."

GH Quality in study support: DfES study support: www.standards. studysupport Extended schools: wholeschoolextendedschools

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