Governing bodies often feel they are being bombarded with inappropriate government initiatives and expectations. Extended schools with high quality 8am-6pm childcare the answer to many parents' prayers is one such. The trouble is that one size does not fit all and many small village primaries, like ours in Devon, are struggling not only with how they can deliver this initiative by 2010, but whether there is even a demand for extended school services.
Our school day starts at 8.30am and finishes at 2.45pm, with after school clubs to 3.45pm three days week. Already a range of clubs is on offer, from Italian and homework support to science and sports.
To assess demand, we distributed a questionnaire among parents, asking what they wanted the school to provide. Did they want: more after-school activities; parenting support such as family learning activities; referral to a range of specialist support services; wider community access to school facilities eg. sport, ICT?
Yes, parents wanted support for more after-school activities, particularly music, cookery and sport. A few were interested in learning with their children. But there was not much interest in holiday provision.
Parents were also asked if, assuming they had the appropriate expertise, they would be prepared to lead an activity. Another important question was whether they were willing to pay for extended activities.
Armed with the answers to these questions, the school can now make plans. The governors agreed to go for a mixed response, putting together a booklet listing the services available from the school and those within the local area.
Liaising with other schools, community facilities and commercial providers to make it as comprehensive as possible is a task for 20078.
Chair of Musbury Primary School, near Axminster, Devon