Out-of-school services are failing to match parents’ need for after school and holiday childcare, warns a new report.
The report, from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Family and Childcare Trust, says 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 the survey found 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.
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.
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.
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. 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:
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.”
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 a call for more government support for school’s childcare role; greater clarity of its expectation of the role that local authorities should play in improving the spread and quality of extended school services; more monitoring of the use of schools’ extended services by disadvantaged children; registering of all out-of-school childcare so parents can claim the childcare element in tax credits and universal credit; and a demand for parents to be openly informed of their rights to request wraparound and holiday childcare.