Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 15:40 UK

Parents worry about summer costs

young people playing football
Schemes are available for all ages

Six in 10 parents are worried about the cost of keeping their children busy in the school holidays, a survey suggests.

Pupils in Northern Ireland, Scotland and many private schools have already broken up for the summer. State schools in England and Wales will soon follow.

A survey for the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) found 31% of parents wished their children had a shorter summer holiday.

At the same time 36% felt guilty about not spending time with their children.

The biggest worry among the 1,000 parents surveyed (55%) was that their children might spend too long playing computer games or watching television.

A quarter were worried about their children not getting enough exercise.

For some families, there are more serious worries. The summer holidays are a time when children could be drawn into trouble.

England's Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) helps fund schemes run through schools and helps schools extend the services they offer to the community.

It says low cost holiday clubs and activities are available at schools in most areas.

Hilary Emery, of the TDA, said: "The majority of schools now provide children and families with access to a great choice of enjoyable and exciting activities outside term time.

"We want to help and encourage children and young people to find out about these opportunities and take part. Schools and local authorities can advise parents about what is available."

Activities are run at schools, although often by a third party such as the local authority or a local sports club.


At Bispham High School in Lancashire, this summer, there will be a football club for primary school children run by professionals from Blackpool FC.

Staffordshire Moorlands County Council in the English Midlands is running sports, outdoor activity and climbing courses for children across the area.

At Brixton in south London, Loughborough Primary School runs summer activities, including sessions run by the Metropolitan Police.

Head teacher Richard Thornhill said the school talks to parents to find out what activities they would like for their children.

"We use the extended services to make our school the hub of the community," he said.

That is really a risk group, prone to a whole series of temptations
Richard Thornhill, London head teacher

The school runs themed weeks for the youngest children, aged from three to eight, where they can do cooking or sports or arts and crafts five days a week.

Charges are low - at £10 a week - and heavily subsidised.

Older children aged from nine to 16 are offered activities such as sports, DJ-ing, arts and fashion as well as trips to theme parks or London attractions.

Mr Thornhill says teenagers and pre-teens in his area are very vulnerable and the activities are a way of trying to keep children safe, engaged with school and on the right side of the law.

"That is really a risk group, prone to a whole series of temptations. The big concern is to make sure they do not get involved with the criminal justice system.

"Quite a lot of our children get involved in petty crime, shoplifting, low-level vandalism."

He said the scheme gave children a place to have fun, with Metropolitan Police officers leading many of the activities "from driving the mini-bus on an outing, to organising a football match".

The link between the young people and the police helped in community relations, he said.

The schemes, which run all summer, attract about 80 children on any given day, he says.

It is important that it is a very local service, Mr Thornhill said, especially because of the gang culture, where people from one estate could be harassed or attacked for walking in another gang's "territory".

"Children can walk here safely and know they are not going to get accosted or assaulted because they are wearing the wrong bandana."

He says there are benefits for the school in running the clubs too.

"It does help enormously. Children who have had this experience over the summer are more engaged with school. Attendance improves, behaviour improves and they are more ready to access the curriculum.

"Everything tells you it's a good idea."

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