Budget cuts cast doubt on future of extended services

13th August 2010 at 01:00
After-school clubs and childcare could be hit as local authorities lose #163;311m

Teachers could stop providing childcare and before- and after-school clubs because of a lack of funding and major changes to extended services, a leading charity has warned.

A combination of budget cuts and a planned "step away" from the policy by the new Government will lead to fewer "one-stop shop" schools, according to charity 4Children, which runs activities around the country.

There will be no more money to start up new extended services after a #163;311 million cut in cash given to local authorities, making it unlikely that the 2 per cent of schools which are not currently "extended" will offer more activities.

The Government is also cutting the "sustainability grant" for extended schools. This will affect staff training, childcare and courses run for parents.

4Children, which runs activities around the country, says less focus on the policy might lead to teachers losing enthusiasm when the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) loses responsibility for setting up extended services in November.

"If the Government steps back, there will be schools who step away," said 4Children chief executive Anne Longfield, who will be working with the Department for Education to help schools when the TDA's role ends. "An awful lot of schools might not put their energies into extended services.

"There might be schools that drift away if there isn't the same kind of concentration on the policy, or the same kind of championing. There are great things going on and it would be a retrograde step to backtrack."

An average of 98 per cent of schools offer extended services, but this ranges from 89 per cent to 100 per cent in different regions.

All schools are already supposed to offer activities before and after school, access to childcare for 48 weeks of the year, parenting and family support, "easy access" to health and social services and use of facilities such as computers.

TDA bosses, in a recent letter to councils, said that local authorities and schools should now prioritise the services which have "the greatest impact" on attainment, behaviour and attendance.

"While the TDA's role on extended services ends at the end of November, we will work with you, DfE, ContinYou and 4Children on extended services to effect a successful handover between now and then," the letter said.

TDA statistics show hundreds of schools have stopped providing the full range of extended services. Between October 2008 and July 2009, 277, or 1.3 per cent, were found to have stopped providing the "full core offer". Between April 2009 and March 2010, 149 schools stopped providing such services.

Forward planning will mean many extended services in Warwickshire will continue, according to Carol Bunyard, extended services strategy officer for the county council.

"We've always known funding would taper off, so we've made efforts to make activities sustainable and to ask schools to contribute towards the cost of employing co-ordinators," she said.

"We've also made efforts to get schools to share resources, and to make sure there is duplication of services. The fact services are provided by clusters of schools means not everyone has to run them."

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