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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
'Open all hours' plan for schools
Going to school
School hours could become more convenient for working parents
Primary schools in England will stay open for 10 hours a day, under government childcare plans.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke said such "extended" schools should provide more welfare and childcare services.

Although the formal school day would not change, schools would remain open until 6pm to provide childcare for working parents.

Many schools already provide breakfast and homework clubs for children.

Mr Clarke said in a speech that such "wrap-around" services, from 8am to 6pm, would eventually be extended to all primary schools.

This would provide time, before and after the formal school day, in which pupils could take part in supervised activities.

Widening services

The idea, announced earlier this year in the government's five-year education plan, is for an extended school to be opened in every local education authority by 2006.

EXTENDED SCHOOLS PLAN
Open 8am to 6pm
Provide childcare services to "wrap round" the school day
There will be supervised activities such as sport, art and clubs
Parents could have to pay
One extended school in each local authority by 2006
1,000 extended schools by 2008

By 2008, the five-year plan promises that there will be 1,000 such extended schools.

Mr Clarke told a conference in London: "Parents and children too often have to move between nursery, school, childminder and childcare club to obtain the childcare they need. And even where it is joined up, the provision often stops during the school holidays.

"We need to create a universal, one-stop service for parents and we expect to make significant progress over the next five years. Schools will be at the heart of this."

Such "educare" schemes - combining education and welfare - are seen as a way of helping children to have a safer and more stimulating after-school environment - and to provide parents with a greater range of high-quality childcare.

The extra hours in school could be spent in activities such as sport, art, clubs and societies - but the government has already claimed that this will not mean extra work for teachers.

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Brilliant solution for working parents
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This would require additional staff - and the five-year strategy says "parents might be asked to contribute towards the cost of some extended services".

Schools could also work together in networks to provide a wider range of services.

There are also ambitions to provide adult education and parenting classes - and to use schools as bases for health services and advice.

Caveats

The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Steve Sinnott, said teachers in England would welcome the initiative but must be at the centre of deciding whether or not it should apply in their school.

"In addition, the necessary resources must be made available to enable the employment of extra staff to provide the extended school day. Teacher involvement beyond the normal school day must not be on a compulsory basis," he said.

"Care must be taken to ensure that work undertaken in after school clubs does not contradict or undermine the education provided to pupils during the day."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis said it made sense to get maximum use out of school facilities and to keep children in a single, secure place throughout the day.

But no-one had told schools how they were supposed to pay for this.

Asked about funding, Mr Clarke indicated that various existing money streams might be used - he did not promise any new money.

Open gates

He was speaking at a conference organised by the charity 4Children.

Its chief executive, Anne Longfield, said in a BBC News Interactive forum that in perhaps 10 years' time she could envisage schools - if they kept that name - being much more about supporting families.

"I think we'll see schools where the norm isn't that the gate is closed the norm is that the gate is open.

"Children will expect to go in early if they want to or need to go in early and food will be served.

"And children will expect to stay longer during the day and have a whole range of different activities going on."




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Luisa Baldini
"The government believes wraparound care will take the pressure off parents"



SEE ALSO:
More than just a school
14 Oct 03 |  Education
52m boost to community schools
13 Mar 03 |  England
No school is an island
12 Dec 02 |  Education


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