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Should schools provide wraparound care?

Nicky Morgan wants to give parents the right to request full term-time and holiday care - is she right?

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 07, 2015 | People, policy, politics

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said parents in England will be given the right to request childcare from schools for the full working day, as well as during school holidays. 

Although many schools already provide this, Ms Morgan said all must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure it happens. Speaking at the Conservative party conference, Ms Morgan said: “We're going to give more working parents something the best schools already do.

'We will be giving families in thousands of schools a 'right to request' their school provides childcare for a full working day, before and after school and during the school holidays.

'If enough parents call for childcare at their local school, we will expect the school to take reasonable steps to accommodate it, in a way that works for them.” 

The Family and Childcare Trust responded to the news: “We welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Education to give parents the right to request that schools provide childcare for the working day, and look forward to hearing more detail about this proposal. 

“Some of the biggest gaps in childcare provision identified by local authorities are after-school and holiday childcare. Schools have an important role to play in this, but it is essential that they are given the support they will need to be able to deliver quality childcare beyond school hours. 

“This is why we are calling on the Government to use the £535 million saved from the delay to Tax Free Childcare and invest this money in childcare settings now so they are able to offer existing and expanded free hours of childcare at times when working parents need them.” 

School leaders’ union NAHT warns that the government’s pledge must not undermine school autonomy. Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said: 'Wrap-around childcare in schools is generally a good idea but there can be many reasons why a particular school can't offer it at the moment. It may be facing dramatic budget cuts; it may be struggling with recruitment; it may be facing new demands on exams or the curriculum. All these may rightly be a higher priority. 

'Extending provision beyond 38 weeks, providing care outside of term time, can also prove very difficult for schools because of staffing and a lack of private provision. As our early years report has shown, many schools are already cross-subsiding to provide current provision, and this announcement does nothing to address this. 

'Parents can ask but the government must guarantee that a school’s decision is respected. Otherwise, it is merely going to provoke conflict between schools and their communities and would undermine the decision-making of head teachers. This needs to be handled extremely carefully to ensure it is not just a populist gimmick.'    

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