Out-of-school providers forced out by schools wanting to take over

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The Out-of-School Alliance (OOSA) says it has seen a huge increase in the number of providers operating clubs having to hand over the provision to the school in which it is based.

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Reports suggest that some schools want to run the out-of-school clubs to increase their income

According to OOSA, schools are either putting up the cost of rent, sometimes by as much as 100 per cent, or not renewing providers' contracts, so they can take over the running of clubs.

catherine-wrench-and-clare-freemanCatherine Wrench and Clare Freeman, joint directors of OOSA (right), claim the main motivation of schools is to increase their income as many face cuts to their budgets.

They say that in most cases providers have no recourse at all, even if they have operated a club on the site for a number of years.

One Bristol out-of-school provider, which has used space free of charge for six years, has been told by the academy group that runs the school, and wants to run the club, that she will have to start paying to use the space.

The provider, who also works as a teaching assistant at the school, which became an academy this year, has been informed that as an employee of the academy she is required to pay to use its premises, which she says would not be financially worthwhile. The club only operates for two hours a day, cares for a maximum of 18 children and the fees are very low.

It follows communication with the academy group's head of finance, who in the summer asked to see the provider's accounts for the academy's own audit, despite the club operating on a sole trader basis.

She said, 'Before becoming an academy, there was no interest from the school to take over the running of the club, but now that has changed. In the six years I have been running the club, I have only just started to make any profit. Last year, I had £100 left in the account at the end of the year.

'I have spent the past five years building this business up and don't want to just hand it over.

'My concern for parents is that if the academy takes over the club it will increase fees. My current fees are lower than what a childminder charges and I offer flexibility with payment and places.'

Another provider in Lancashire is also facing losing her club to the school in which it is based.

She told Nursery World that the head teacher of the school has been using scaremongering techniques to convince parents on the club's committee that taking the provision in-house would be a better option. The provider has been running the out-of-school club for more than ten years as a not-for-profit organisation.

According to the provider, the head teacher has told parents on the committee, which she also chairs, giving her access to the club's accounts, that if anything happens to a child while attending the provision they could be sued.

The same provider also fears that the head teacher, who she believes wants to take over the running of the club as it would be an additional revenue for the school, will put up her rent, making the business unviable. Currently, the rent on the space within the school is very low on the understanding that children attending the school get first refusal of places at the out-of-school club.

About 56 of the 80 children that attend the school go to the out-of-school club, which is rated 'good' by Ofsted.

The out-of-school provider told Nursery World, 'The head teacher expressed interest in running the out-of-school provision following a conversation with the council about setting up a nursery on the school site at the start of the year.

'The advisor from Lancashire County Council told the head teacher that lots of schools are taking the out-of-school clubs in-house so that they can provide wraparound care.'

Lancashire County Council was asked for a comment, but failed to provide one.

'While the club currently does not make much money as most is spent on staff - we operate above the recommended ratios, the school would look to save money by staffing the provision with its teaching assistants and move to a 1:30 ratio instead,' the provider said.

She added, 'Our out-of-school club is very popular with parents as the provision is very play-based. This is one of the reasons many parents chose the school. Another school down the road, which recently took over running the out-of-school club on its premises, turned it into a homework and computing club, which parents were not happy about. My concern is that if the head teacher of the school takes over my club the same thing will happen.'

Ms Wrench and Ms Freeman of OOSA said, 'Out-of-school clubs are very vulnerable to this sort of sharp practice from schools, and even more so from academies, as providers can't even appeal to the local education authority for help.'

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