Extended services not reaching the most needy

6th February 2009 at 00:00
Families unclear about opportunities open to them as schools organise extra classes before and after hours

Deprived children are least likely to benefit from government plans to extend school services, and parents are still unclear about what is on offer, even though Pounds 840 million has already been spent on setting up services, new reports conclude.

The extended schools scheme, set to cost Pounds 1.3 billion by 2011, has so far not significantly raised achievement in the classroom, according to the surveys.

Campaign groups have called for teachers to do more to tell parents about the new services, and Beverley Hughes, the childrens minister, has urged all schools and local authorities to do more to develop out-of-hours activities.

About 65 per cent of all schools now offer extended services, but unemployed families, single parents and special educational needs pupils are least likely to use the new classes on offer, according to research by Ipsos Mori.

A separate study, by the consultancy London Economics, says the impact of extended schools on children's work was so far limited to key stages 2 and 4. But researchers emphasised that the programme was not yet expected to have an impact on educational attainment.

The Ipsos Mori report found that both parents and pupils rated highly the extra classes run by schools. The most common reasons for not accessing the extra activities included lack of time or transport, cost, location or tiredness.

Primary schools were found to have done more than secondary schools to consult parents when planning such services.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, a charity that runs and promotes extended schools, said: "This survey shows a lot of parents do not know how much is on offer in schools, even though teachers said they sent out a lot of information.

"Either they are giving out the wrong message or they are selling the services out of context. Schools have got to be more proactive in seeking parents' views."

Ms Hughes for the Government said: "We need schools to show off their hard work and make sure that all parents and pupils are aware of the opportunities open to them.

"The research recognises that there is still a way to go before extended services are available everywhere, and that it is too early yet to see a widespread impact on attainment at the national level.

"It also highlights that schools need to do more to ensure that extended services meet the needs of children and families and that they are sustainable."

l 'Extended Schools Survey of Schools, Pupils and Parents', www.ipsos-mori.com

'Extended Schools - Establishing a Baseline Methodology to Estimate the Impact of the Extended School Programme on Attainment', http:search.publications.dcsf.gov.uk

Extra value

The number of extended schools has grown steadily since their introduction in 2006 when there were 3,277: 117 nursery, 2,328 primary, 734 secondary and 98 special schools. The figures had increased to 10,043 by spring 2008: 272 nursery, 7,542 primary, 1,912 secondary and 317 special schools.

Research shows pupil attainment has increased more in schools that have been operating the scheme longer. It seems to be helping pupils get better results in key stage 2 science and KS3 maths. Black and ethinic minority pupils have an "increased likelihood" of doing better at GCSE.

An Ipsos Mori survey shows the most popular activities were those run straight after the school day. Most pupils attend once or twice a week.

Only 16 per cent of parents reported their children used activities before school, but they went more often than once or twice a week.

Evening activities were provided by half of secondary schools, but only 21 per cent of primary schools and 38 per cent of special schools.

Only 6 per cent of parents said their child had attended an activity during school holidays in the past year, and half said they would like to use classes more.

Half of schools provided activities and childcare during school holidays, which were attended by an average of 34 pupils.

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