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Extended Schools - Education Extra developed into The Extended Schools Support Service (TESSS)

Author: Julie Caulier Grice
Published Date: 10 April 2008

In the UK, there was a growing recognition that schools could not solve the problems associated with social exclusion and multiple disadvantage on their own. Rather, there was a need for the ‘availability and accessibility’ of specialist advice in addition to school staff to promote and support out-of-school-hours learning and activity opportunities.

Strong school-family-community links were emphasised as was parental involvement in children’s learning in literacy and numeracy. The primary beneficiaries of extended schooling were both school children and also the wider community, as the local population can take advantage of services provided by extended schools, such as computer training and adult learning. Prior to its UK roll-out, the main sources of research on extended schools existed in the US, where extended or full service schools developed over the last 20 years. Literature from the US highlighted that existing schools and education systems were failing in their contemporary contexts, as they could no longer meet the complex needs of their students. The move to full service schooling was therefore part of a more holistic approach to providing support for the educational, social, emotional and physical needs of students. A key theme is that needs should not be met in isolation, or by particular institutions acting alone.

The initiative for schools to provide a range of services and activities, beyond the school day to help meet the needs of children and young people, their families and the wider community, was conceived of as a means to tackle social exclusion and multiple disadvantage. Schools were encouraged to work in partnership with other organisations across the private, voluntary and community sectors to offer childcare and to provide other activities and support for children and parents to help them achieve their full potential. This included providing access for children and parents to specialist services on school sites. The inspiration for Extended Schools came from organisations like Education Extra, which was founded in 1992 and joined forces with the Community Education Development Centre (CEDC) to form ContinYou in 2003. Extended Schools offers support to schools and local authorities in providing extended school services through The Extended Schools Support Service (TESSS).

Extended Schools have now become a part of government policy and by 2010 all schools will be required to provide access to extended services. Half of all primary schools and a third of all secondary schools are expected to provide access to extended services by 2008.

Education Extra was founded as a charity in 1992 by Michael Young, who appointed Kay Andrews, a former policy advisor to Neil Kinnock, to head and develop the initiative. Little was known or understood about what was happening in after-school activities in England at the time. One of the first tasks was, therefore, to find out what activities children were involved in after school and why teachers were providing those particular activities. It quickly became apparent that there was a huge opportunity for children and schools to use school space and time more effectively. Before Education Extra was established, there had been a range of initiatives in the UK, including local programmes such as the village-college approach of the 1920s, which were seen as forerunners to more strategic interventions in extended school services like Community Schools. In Scotland during the late 1990s, the idea of New Community Schools was in the early stages of conception, founded on the notion that a range of services is necessary to help children overcome barriers to learning. The New Community Schools initiative also advocated the need for “a clear policy focus on linking education, health and social services and a significant and innovative attempt to use a community based approach to modernise schools, raise attainment, improve health and promote social inclusion.

Through local and regional partnerships, Education Extra initially raised money to fund project work in Bristol and East Leeds to build understanding around the situation at a local level and to demonstrate and learn what could be achieved through extended schooling. Education Extra stressed the need to gather a strong evidence base to support the claims that extended schools were having positive effects. Evidence of effectiveness helped garner support and backing to take the initiative forward. Through this process, Education Extra started to map what schools were doing at a local level, and began to establish close contacts with the schools, helping to develop a professional base and network for learning and sharing ideas. The introduction of a national award scheme early in the initiative, was the first attempt at recognising the good work that schools and teachers were already doing in this area. Twenty awards were given in the first year out of some 300 applications. The award scheme played a crucial role in giving praise and positive reinforcement for existing school programmes, helping to boost morale, increase motivation, and raise the profile of after-school activities. It also further helped to establish and build up the network of supporters and schools involved in the initiative. It was around this time – the mid 1990s - that the then Conservative government started putting more money into after-school childcare.

For Kay Andrews what was crucial to the establishment of Education Extra was securing a funding base from a variety of sources, creating a synergy around the evidence base, and building a culture of ‘doing’ and ‘learning’. By the time core funding was secured later on from the DfES, Education Extra already knew what activities different partners and organisations would fund. This saved time and enabled them to focus on developing and expanding learning outcomes of after-school activities through local cooperation with other bodies and organisations local to schools. Diffusion/scaling up For Andrews, the scaling up began in earnest in 1995 after she challenged the then Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Shepherd, to consider how after-school care could be turned into after-school learning. DfES subsequently provided funding, and partnerships were set up between twelve schools and Local Authorities and the Government, to further develop after-school learning. These twelve schools essentially became the first pilot schools, establishing a partnership between government and Education Extra. With state backing and additional funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Baring Foundation and others, Education Extra was expanded, building relationships with additional schools, local partners and local authorities. Even with preliminary government backing, timing was still important in getting projects off the ground. As Andrews acknowledges: “The point about dealing with the voluntary sector is that if you have a good idea it’s absolutely useless unless it’s the right time for the idea. Ten years ago I wanted to start cooking classes and clubs. It hasn’t just happened randomly; all the arguments were the same as ten years ago but no one was listening and it wasn’t a priority …. You can’t really allow for that when you are planning.”

The significant breakthrough came when New Labour entered government in 1997. Money from the New Opportunities Fund was secured to help fund the Extended School scheme. In 1998, with encouragement and funding from DfES, Education Extra quickly set up a 50-school pilot study support scheme. It was only a three-week scheme based around summer literacy projects. However, these pilots inspired more ideas for ‘excellence’ schemes, to be run during the summer in schools. The schemes would be learning-based and more importantly, fun for the pupils and teachers involved. Rewards were built into the schemes for the children who participated and attendance rates were very high. Early on, it was recognised that giving schools control and ownership was vital to the successful spread of the Extended Schools idea. As Andrews states, “the trick in those early schemes was … [that] the schools had total autonomy over the design of the scheme and we encouraged them to do their own evaluation. If we had tried to design a single system that they all could use, it wouldn’t have worked …We were never going to tell people what to do. We were going to find out what worked best and then spread it.”

The evaluation of the 50-school pilot scheme led to the following recommendations:

• Schools or Local Education Authorities (LEAs) should conduct an audit of current provisions and a needs analysis before any provision is set up;

• Schools or LEAs should appoint managers of schemes and projects who have the authority and capacity at the strategic level to progress the provision. T

he evaluation added impetus to spreading the idea of Extended Schools and by 2001 the government White Paper, Schools: Achieving Success , followed by the 2002 Education Act, gave governing bodies the power to extend the range of services schools could provide. Capitalising on the political climate, in 2002 the DfES funded the pilot ‘Extended School Demonstration’ projects in Brighton and Hove, Cambridgeshire and Durham. Subsequently, the DfES stated that it would promote Extended Schools but not fund the activities themselves. Rather, it would establish infrastructure to support the development of initiatives. This was followed in 2003 by the launch of the Full Service Extended Schools (FSES) initiative, with the aim that all schools should offer a core set of extended activities by 2010. Although there were significant variations between schools, the ‘core’ elements of an extended school were fairly static and revolved around providing the following:

• High quality childcare provided on the school site or through other local providers;

• A varied menu of study support, such as homework clubs, catch-up provision, gifted and talented provision, sport, music tuition, dance and drama, arts and crafts, visits to museums and galleries, foreign language classes, volunteering and enterprise activities, special interests clubs;

• Swift and easy referral to specialist support services such as speech therapy, child and adolescent mental health services, family support services, sexual health services;

• Wider community access to ICT, sports and arts facilities, and adult learning. Andrews says that it was always the intention of Education Extra to get the government involved and by 2000 the organisation had achieved its original intentions to ‘awaken ideas and potential’, and to energise and empower schools and the individuals within them to create new capacity and better use existing resources for extended learning and activities.

In 2003 Education Extra merged with the Community Education Development Centre, forming ContinYou, to support schools in developing extended learning opportunities for a wide range of people in local communities. Having offered the initial set of core services, many schools started to diversify and as they acquired more projects and core funding: breakfast clubs, book clubs and other after-hours activities were established. This diversity in activity and multi-agency work was something acknowledged as largely beneficial in early evaluations of FSES. After-school activities were becoming almost universal, mainly because schools were so receptive to the ideas and the supporting DfES infrastructure. This enabled the initiative to spread quickly and easily. Diffusion of the initiative was also aided by the level of trust that Education Extra had placed in schools as central actors since the beginning, as well as the fact that the programme had always ensured that schools received recognition for their achievements. LEAs were quick to see the Extended Schools initiative as an opportunity to rethink the role of schools in relation to pupils, families and communities. The majority of LEA officers reported a positive impact from Extended Schools due to: improved service management and coordination, improved standards in school, extension of existing services and provision of new services, increased access to services and more effective service delivery, increased school autonomy, and improved meeting of children’s needs. Extended Schools supported specific interventions for young ‘at risk’ groups within schools and the community, and this sometimes also helped to change attitudes among parents, making them more likely to access facilities available at school sites. The integration of multiple community services around an extended school could also lead to more efficient delivery. The Ofsted report, Extended services in schools and children’s centres, added further weight to the success of Extended Schools and found that the major benefits for children, young people and adults attending extended services are enhanced self-confidence, improved relationships, raised aspirations and better attitudes to learning.

There were a number of challenges around the spread and take up of the Extended Schools initiative. Education Extra faced internal challenges as it became quickly clear that the initiative needed to be realistic about its own capacity to expand, particular in terms of strategic planning and staff skill sets. As Andrews said: “You could not keep on taking people on rather randomly because you like the look of them and you like their spirit. You need to look at their skill sets.” However, the majority of the problems were not ‘organisational’, as the Extended Schools Scheme did not involve the introduction, implementation or growth of a new organisation. Rather, the scheme was about the spread of an idea and generating a receptive ‘educational’ environment, which brings with it its own set of challenges around persuasion and weight of evidence to prove effectiveness.

Securing core funding from government brought its own problems, as schools became wary of government interference in their activities. This was echoed by the LEAs’, community groups’ and local partners’ fear that the initiative was losing independence as it was being scaled up. Education Extra made a conscious decision to devolve many activities to the local level in order to maintain distance between the government and schools. However, this choice precluded the possibility and scope to create a nationwide umbrella organisation to ‘enable’ and support schools. Although devolving activities and responsibility preserved the autonomy and ownership that schools wanted, it was at the expense of a nationwide support network. Andrews argues that this was a mistake, because national networking systems need to be in place to make the spreading and sharing of best practice easier, albeit driven from the bottom up. No such systems now exist.

Further problems arose as the initiative came to be seen as too successful, which often put it at a disadvantage when applying for alternative funding to other partnership organisations. Perhaps most problematic was the loss of control over what had originally been Education Extra’s greatest strength: close working relationships with schools, local organisations and individuals on the ground to help them to set up and develop extended services. For Andrews, there is an important lesson to be learnt: “Scaling up usually involves government money and working with complex partners that have different kinds of objectives. It’s extremely important to be clear about your objectives in relation to theirs and what it is that you would like to get out of it and why, how to maintain your relationship with people who ultimately will deliver it all for you, in our case, schools. The schools have to go on trusting you irrespective of the fact that you are now a more senior and distant partner because you are working with government more. It’s got to be very clear in everything you do that your values are still the same.” Working with government to scale up an idea can also mean that the types of evidence, evaluation and expected outcomes may begin to differ from those of the original organisation.

This was demonstrated in the case of Education Extra before they merged with CEDC in 2003. Andrews was very aware that after-school learning could help to improve examination results, but from Education Extra’s perspective, there was little point in trying to establish causal relationships between after-school activities and exam results. The DfES was very keen on trying to link improved exam results to the initiative, but Education Extra’s felt it was more important to acknowledge that it was the ‘soft’ indicators that counted. Another initial challenge that Education Extra faced was the lack of similar initiatives, either nationally or internationally that it could draw on for inspiration. Often moving the initiative forward was a case of ‘learning by doing’ and using school staff as creatively as possible, drawing on the activities that schools were already undertaking.

Education Extra also faced difficulties in promoting the idea among schools that had no tradition of after-school activities, and where levels of community interest and involvement were very low. These schools needed more support as compared with those that had a strong tradition of organising extra-curricular activities. The latter became flagship schools for Education Extra and acted as beacons for others.

Where properly managed, extended activities are compatible with a school maintaining high standards in its core business of raising student attainments. Small-scale and school-focused extended activities can be managed by schools without any significant restructuring. However, where schools already face significant challenges, involvement in extended activities can impose an additional burden on school heads and other teachers, diverting their energy from core responsibilities. There still exist concerns at the school level, about the extent to which schools can and should be fully extended. School staff drew attention to the risks of being over works and indicated that they had not received any specific training relevant to the extended services approach, and felt that training should be available.

Some schools faced more obvious physical challenges, including the lack of children‘s facilities within catchment areas and lack of transport. These issues could be exacerbated by a lack of space and conflict over the ownership of existing infrastructure and sites, alongside insufficient resources in terms of school governance and finance. More extensive and ambitious activities generally require a dedicated management structure, though the cost of this can be offset if the manager also has the task of finding additional funding. The larger the scope of extended activities, the more important it is for the school to be involved with supportive networks of other schools, community agencies and organisations. LEAs have proven to be critical in facilitating these networks.

The implications for the management and running of schools that took up the initiative included expanded roles and increased responsibilities for school governors. Governors with good community connections and support were often influential in the success of a school’s activities. LEAs also recognised the need for effective management, as well as the crucial leadership role of the head teacher. This recognition was important when trying to co-locate, integrate and work with partner organisations, such as those in health and social services, to expand extended services. Cooperation and partnerships required careful negotiation and management if a more effective and efficient model of extended services was to be implemented.