CPAG has published a new report with the University of Sheffield on extended schools. There has been a slow creep from the systematic, statutory intent of the extended schools programme to the piecemeal landscape of today, in which charitable provision has played an increasing role. Nowhere is this more evident than with breakfast clubs: originally, these were positioned as part of a suite of structural, state-driven responses to poverty and as a way of promoting educational attainment and social inclusion. Today, however, they are increasingly framed in such a way as to emphasise their role in meeting the needs of poor and hungry children, and in plugging gaps in state provision.
This research, carried out by CPAG with the University of Sheffield, stemmed from analysis of a context in which charitable food assistance to children has increasingly treated the symptoms of child food insecurity, alongside the diminution or withdrawal of systematic approaches that address the root causes of household food and economic insecurity. Extended schools have the potential to be one such response, helping to move away from ad hoc, piecemeal provision that can isolate and stigmatise children, towards an inclusive, strategic approach that can help to prevent family poverty in the round.
At different times, politicians have emphasised different roles for the extended schools model, in this study we took a cross-cutting food insecurity lens as a launching pad. However, we have explored how extended schools can be a potentially powerful policy response to various challenges facing families, including the multi-dimensional drivers of household food insecurity. We have identified five key areas in which extended schools could have a substantial role to play. We take these to be: providing childcare in a trusted setting; acting as a wider community hub; promoting child social and educational development; reducing attainment gaps; and fulfilling a social justice function by helping poorer children in particular.