Providers and parents win right to request out-of-school care

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Childcare providers will have the right to ask schools to let them use their buildings to run out-of-school care on school sites, under plans announced by David Cameron.

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Parents and providers will be able to request that schools provide wraparound care

Parents will also have the right to request breakfast, after-school and holiday club provision at their schools.

Although schools will not be obliged to offer wraparound care, if they refuse to grant a formal request  for out-of-school care made by groups of parents they will have to give the reasons why.

Schools will be expected to respond to a request from groups of parents for breakfast and/or after-school childcare and consider either providing childcare themselves or using an external provider to run childcare on the school site.

The rule will apply to all state primary schools, academies and free schools. However, heads will not have to consider requests to run provision during the school day or when the site is being used for school-run clubs and activities.

The Prime Minister said the plan would increase out-of-school childcare provision and enable parents to work longer hours if they want to.

‘Ensuring children get the best start in life is at the heart of our plans,’ he said.

‘We want to help hard-working parents with their childcare plans, so we will give families the right to request that their schools provide childcare for a full working day, before and after school and during the school holidays.’

Meanwhile, Nursery World has learned that some out-of-school providers are claiming that schools are forcing them to give up their provision.

As we revealed on Monday, the Out-of-School Alliance (OOSA) has seen a huge increase in the number of providers operating clubs having to hand them back to the school in which they are based.

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.

OOSA welcomed the Prime Minister’s interest in the issue, but added that there was not much new in the statement.

Commenting on the proposals, Catherine Wrench, joint director of OOSA, said, ‘It’s an indication of much greater interest from the Government on wraparound care in schools, which is a good thing.

'But it’s always been the case that parents have been able to request it. The only bit that’s new is that schools will now have to give public reasons why they are not providing it.’

In theory, schools are supposed to have been regularly surveying parents’ need for out-of-school childcare since 2010, and if there is sufficient demand from parents have had to provide it (either themselves or via a third-party provider).

If there is insufficient demand schools are supposed to signpost parents to other providers such as childminders or clubs at neighbouring schools, she said. However many schools have ignored this requirement.

In some cases schools may have genuine reasons for not providing out-of-school childcare, for example if it is not economically viable or if they do not have the space.

Ms Wrench added, ‘This statement alone isn’t going to suddenly open up more childcare settings. What’s stopping providers is schools overcharging for premises, and providers being wary about setting up on a school site in case the school takes over their business.’

‘What we would like to see is Department for Education enforceable guidelines to schools on fair rent for out of school clubs and protection to stop schools poaching their businesses.’

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, the union for education professionals, said, 'On parents’ ‘right to request’ that schools provide childcare, we need to know more details about how this will work and be funded. Will it be for pre-school children as well as children of school age?

'This seems to be a return to the Extended Schools programme that faded away when the Coalition Government came to power.

'Back in 2013, when the Government published More affordable childcare, I warned about the  readiness and ability of many schools to deliver services on top of their core purpose of education, and the impact on them of taking on those extra services.

'My concerns remain. Great care is needed before this policy is implemented. If schools set up in competition with existing providers, rather than in partnership with them, this could destabilize the local childcare market, resulting in less, not more, childcare. The Government should be investing in existing providers to meet the needs of families.'

The National Day Nurseries Association said that according to its research 43 per cent of nurseries already work with schools, mostly providing wraparound care, both in schools and providers' own settings.
 
Purnima Tanuku, chief Executive of the NDNA, said, 'We support any initiative to support families in their daily lives.

'We would encourage schools who are now looking to provide this service to tap into the experience of their local childcare providers who are the experts in this field. Many already offer wraparound care for children before and after school.
 
'A close partnership between school and nursery is also vital in offering smooth transitions for children when they begin reception class and also supports families who have children in both settings.
 
'The key to a successful partnership is a good relationship between the school and its local childcare providers, with support from their local authority. We hope that this becomes the norm for schools across the country.'

 
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