Free extended services under threat

12th February 2010 at 00:00

Poorer children may be barred from accessing extended services in schools because the current financial situation makes it unlikely that the government will provide the extra funding needed, a leading charity has warned.

Government funding which allows disadvantaged families to access childcare and after-school activities for free is unlikely to continue, according to 4Children, which runs many schemes in both primaries and secondaries.

Official research has shown that middle class families benefit most from extended services, for which schools charge. The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) have been providing funding for poorer children to use them for free - at first in a small group of pilot areas. This year English schools will share #163;167 million so those pupils can attend clubs.

But Anne Longfield, 4Children's chief executive, says much more money is needed to make a difference.

"If you break this down by each school it's not a huge amount, and it doesn't look hopeful they will get this amount next year so there's a lot of uncertainties in schools," she said.

Speaking at an extended schools conference in London this week, children's minister Dawn Primarolo admitted that "proper funding" was needed to ensure the survival of free extended services in schools.

She promised that "future funding" would be available, but gave no details of how much this would be. The minister said schools needed to work in different ways to make sure extra activities were "sustainable", including using local professionals to provide them.

"There are several overlapping funding streams available so we want schools and children's centres to look together to see how local services can be delivered," she said.

"We know there are difficult choices ahead in the future, but we are committed to making sure we play our part in making extended schools happen."

The new Ofsted framework means that extended services can now affect an inspection judgement. All schools will have to be open from 8am to 6pm from September this year.

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