Extended schools failing to meet parents' childcare needs | CPAG

Extended schools failing to meet parents' childcare needs

Published on: 
14 September 2016

Out-of-school services are failing to match parents’ need for afterschool and holiday childcare a new report (1) from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Family and Childcare Trust warns.

Almost two fifths (39%) of schools surveyed for the report said parents wanted holiday provision but only 29% of schools offered this. For afterschool childcare the shortfall was 11 percentage points, with only just over half of schools providing this. The mismatch was biggest in primary schools.

Drawing on surveys of more than 1,000 head teachers and of 1,200 children, the study found that extended schools are popular with children and schools, but lack of resources was preventing them from expanding.

Only 7 per cent of the children surveyed were not interested in extended school services. Head teachers felt that extended school services provided a valuable service, particularly for disadvantaged children. Two thirds said they had closed the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

Around three quarters of schools would like to expand the number of children using services and the range of services offered (76% and 73% respectively). One third wanted to expand their opening hours.

But many are facing barriers to expansion. The constraints on expanding were lack of funding (two thirds), of space (47%) and of staffing (54%). Only 6% said lack of need was a barrier to expansion. With adequate resources, there is clearly an appetite to expand these valuable services.

Extended schools refers to services offered through the school to pupils and the wider community, such as sports, arts or homework clubs, and wraparound and holiday childcare. Worryingly, the research found children from disadvantaged families are not using extended services before and after school as often as their better off peers, even though the services are usually part-funded by the pupil premium.(2)

Although in the vast majority of schools, kids from deprived families use the out-of- school services as much as their better off peers, in a small but significant minority, hard-up families use them less – possibly because they can’t afford the parental contributions that most schools ask for, the report finds.(3)

It found three quarters (75%) of schools offering extended services use pupil premium money to fund them; 71% use parental contributions and half use core funding. It’s unclear whether schools are using pupil premium money to support the target group of pupils or whether it’s spent in a less targeted way to fund services which are available for all pupils.

Narrowing the gap between less advantaged students and their peers was one of headteachers’ two top motivations for providing extended services.

The research also found kids with a retired or unemployed parent were less interested in extended school activities compared to kids with a parent working full or part time. Children whose parents were not looking for work out of choice had comparatively higher interest than kids of unemployed or retired parents – which implies that income, rather than the fact of being economically inactive per se, influenced families attitudes to and interest in the services.(4) Where kids from disadvantaged families are less interested in extended school activities it may be because they haven’t previously been able to do the kinds of things the services offer – and so are less inclined to pursue activities that are unfamiliar.

More key findings from the report include:

• Children and schools like extended services: Eighty six per cent of headteachers said the services had improved children’s access to sport and cultural activities, 77% said their services supported parents, 70% that they engaged parents with the school and their child’s education. Only 7% of children expressed no interest in extended schools services.

• The most common type of extended schools provision involves extra-curricular activities – for example after school sports clubs (90%) and music/arts clubs (78%).

• Although originally envisaged as a community-wide resource, extended services emphasise activities for pupils – only 49% of schools have community groups using school facilities and 46% offer parenting support, counselling and/or ESOL classes.

Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Alison Garnham said:

“Our findings show that extended services are popular with schools, with parents and with kids but they are not meeting families’ needs for after-school and holiday childcare. And it’s worrying that they’re not yet fully engaging the most disadvantaged children who arguably need them most.

“Done well, out- of-school services can achieve a huge amount both for children’s development and for parents who need childcare in order to work. But in recent years the idea has been allowed to go off the boil.

“If ever there was a time to invest in extended schools, it’s now - when two thirds of poor children are in working households and the child poverty rate is set to surge.

“Parents trust schools and want more childcare. And schools want to provide it but don’t have the resources. The new Government must respond to parents’ needs. It must establish a coherent vision and adequate funding for extended schools so that every parent who needs to improve their family income can do so in the knowledge that their kids have a safe and nurturing place to be that doesn’t smash the family budget.

“Extended schools also have a key role to play in making sure nutritious food is available for all children who need it, both before and after school and in school holidays thus avoiding the need to fund separate, stigmatising, child-feeding programmes.”

Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Family and Childcare Trust Megan Jarvie said:

“Extended schools services help boost outcomes for kids from all backgrounds. The extra-curricular activities and homework support help children to achieve academically and builds their soft skills.

“They also provide childcare to enable parents to work. Our own recent research showed high costs and big gaps for families when it comes to finding formal holiday childcare.

“We would like to see real commitment to increasing availability to meet demand, with a particular focus on deprived areas.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

• The Government should clarify the role of schools in childcare provision and support them to deliver this. The lower premises and equipment costs could help bring down the cost of high-quality childcare for school-aged children, as well as increasing supply

• The government should clearly articulate its expectation of the role that local authorities should play in improving the spread and quality of extended school services and in facilitating collaboration between schools and sharing best practice to make sure all children can access them.

• Schools should be encouraged to monitor the use of their extended services by disadvantaged children and should work with all families, including disadvantaged families, to understand the barriers to participation and then take action to overcome these.

• All out-of-school childcare should be registered, so parents can claim the childcare element in tax credits and universal credit. Schools should also monitor and respond to the impact that charges for services have on the participation of disadvantaged pupils, and should consider different charges if necessary. Schools that use the ‘pupil premium’ to fund services should not charge children eligible for free school meals for any services.

• The Government should expand the funding announced in the Budget for after school activities in 25% of secondary schools to all schools.

• Parents must be openly informed of their rights to request wraparound and holiday childcare and the process adopted by schools should give their request the best chance of success.


Notes to Editors:

1: Unfinished Business: where next for extended schools? draws on an online survey of 1,088 head teachers of English primary and secondary schools in May 2015. 63 % of respondents were from primary schools, 10% from secondary schools, 6 % from 16-18 education and 21 %nursery education.

This report also draws on the findings of an online survey by YouGov, undertaken to gauge the attitudes and interests of children towards before and after-school activities. Fieldwork was also undertaken in July 2015. The sample size was 1,181 children and was weighted to be representative of all children in Britain aged eight to 15. Key interviews were also carried out with two head teachers, a charity and a national organisation supporting the arts, in order to provide a qualitative element to the research and insight into the underlying issues, motivations and attitudes towards extended schools. A literature review drew together previous research in, and evaluations of, extended school schemes in the UK, and considers the available data about parental and mothers’ working patterns.

2: The pupil premium is additional money for schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

3: 84% of head teachers surveyed said their extended services were used by a mix of more and less advantaged families but of the rest, 6% said the services were used disproportionately by disadvantaged families and 10% said their services were used disproportionately by better off families – equivalent to 91 schools.

4: The YouGov survey for the report found average interest in a range of extended school activities was 8% lower among children in social groups C2, D or E than those in A, B or C1, at 26% and 32% respectively. Although the findings concern interest in activities rather than actual usage, they suggest that usage is related to circumstance. This may be because disadvantaged pupils are less willing or less able to use after-school activities or as a consequence of not having been able to pursue these activities previously, i.e. they are less inclined to pursue activities that are unfamiliar.

Children whose parents are categorised as ‘not working’, and therefore not looking for work out of choice, had comparatively higher interest (28 per cent) than those with a parent who was unemployed or retired (23%).

5: CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.

6: CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty coalition, which has members from across civil society including children’s charities, faith groups, unions and other civic sector organisation, united in their campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

7: The Family and Childcare Trust is the leading national charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare and family issues, working closely with government, local authorities, businesses and charities to achieve positive and long lasting change for families across the UK. Our vision is a society where all families are well-supported and have genuine choices about their lives.

The Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare costs survey is the definitive report on childcare costs and sufficiency in the UK and its data are used by the Department for Education and OECD. For further information, go to www.familyandchildcaretrust.org

For further information please contact:

Jane Ahrends

CPAG Press and Campaigns Officer

Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302


Mark Bou Mansour

Communications Manager, Family and Childcare Trust

020 7940 7535 or 07538 334772