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Schools to play expanded role in childcare provision

17/07/2013 Joanna
The government has published a new report highlighting the increased role that schools and staff in education jobs can play in providing childcare services.

Its publication 'More Affordable Childcare' sets out plans to help families to meet the costs of childcare, increase the amount of affordable provision and ensure parents have the information needed to make informed choices.

As part of this, the government would like primary school sites to remain open for more hours each day and for more weeks in the year, providing an amalgam of education, childcare and extra-curricular activities.

However, it rejects a top-down approach to facilitating this; instead, schools were given the freedom in September 2011 to change their opening and closing times and are now also receiving discretion to set their term and holiday dates.

Furthermore, legislation has been brought forward freeing maintained schools from having to consult when offering out-of-school-hours facilities and having to follow the advice of the education secretary and local authorities on this topic.

The government similarly wants to bring forward legislation to reduce the bureaucracy facing childcare providers who wish to register with several school sites.

Moving forward, the Department for Education will also work with schools and childcare providers to examine better ways of using the school estate.

In a written statement to parliament, parliamentary undersecretary of state for education and childcare Elizabeth Truss asserted: "Reliable and affordable childcare is vital to giving parents the choice to get into and remain in work.

"We know that for many parents, before and after school and holiday care is the most difficult and costly to find."

The report insists that it is not asking staff in teacher jobs to work longer hours, although it does also include case studies of a number of schools where teachers have played a part in their extracurricular offerings.

Commenting on this publication, Anne Longfield, chief executive of charity 4Children, said there was "much to welcome" in it, commending in particular its advocacy of more school-based childcare, although she warned more concrete incentives may be required to make this a reality.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelADNFCR-2164-ID-801613329-ADNFCR
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