Issues in The Extent to Which Schools, Through Extended Services, Can Impact Upon Disadvantaged Children, Families and Communities
There is Europe-wide concern about disadvantage (economic, social and educational) and ways to ameliorate the affect these have on young people and their families in the context of education. This paper explores the effectiveness of the approach of one European country to deal with this situation, that of extended services in England, as delivered through extended schools. In other words this paper discussed the extent to which extended schools reach disadvantaged families and young people and are effective (Raffo and Dyson 2008).
By 2010, all schools in England will be expected to offer access to a wide range of extended services (ES) to children, families and the community from 8am - 6pm, 48 weeks a year, including school holidays. Schools may provide these services on-site or may provide access to such services offered by other schools or centres. Even in their early forms, extended schools (as they were then known) tended as often as not to be associated with efforts to overcome educational and social disadvantage. Likewise, full service extended schools were chosen for the most part because they served disadvantaged places and people (Cummings et al. 2005). Whilst there has been a national evaluation of extended schools (Cummings et al. 2007), this is the first study across the range of school situations to focus on the effectiveness of extended services for young people and families deemed disadvantaged. A socio-cultural theoretical framework was used to explore this focus.
This research involved a series of 15 case studies, in schools in England already rich in extended provisions and activities, but varied in terms of ethnicity, rurality, phase of education, and geographical location. The case studies sought to identify the:
• pattern of services and activities provided by the schools and their partners;
• the pattern of take up of services and activities;
• the extent to which services are designed to be universally accessible and attractive, or are targeted on particular (especially disadvantaged) groups;
• consultation strategies with disadvantaged groups, and facilitators and barriers to such strategies; and
• the response of child and family users to services and activities
Within each school, we interviewed the head and/or extended services co-ordinator, other relevant staff, and parents and children, to look at the factors which seemed to facilitate or inhibit the development of successful strategies. Systematic thematic analysis was applied.
We found a system of progressive universalism, meaning that extended services were delivered to everyone but that differential take-up and/or impact will bring greater benefits to disadvantaged groups than to more advantaged groups. However, there was some evidence that disadvantaged groups may be less willing or able to access services than their more advantaged peers. All of the extended service leaders in the sample were aware of the presence of disadvantage in the populations they served, and of the need to target at least some of their extended services towards the most disadvantaged groups and individuals. Disadvantage was defined differently in each situation, in relation to their own views and to local circumstances. Schools tended to have a range of procedures and practices for engaging with ‘hard to reach’ groups in order to encourage them to access service. Most of these practices relied heavily on individual contact and relationships. Whilst schools did not seem to see such services as a burden, there were practical problems in terms of funding. Furthermore, a systematic approach seemed to be lacking as was detailed consideration of the perspectives of service users (Todd 2007).
Cummings, C., A. Dyson, D. Muijs, I. Papps, P. Pearson, C. Raffo, L. Tiplady, and L. Todd. 2007. Evaluation of the Full Service Extended Schools Initiative: Final Report. Research Report 852. London: DfES.
Cummings, C., A. Dyson, I. Papps, D. Pearson, C. Raffo, and L. Todd. 2005. Evaluation of the Full Service Extended Schools Project: End of FIrst Year Report. London: DfES.
Raffo, C., and A. Dyson. 2008. Full service extended schools and educational inequality in urban contexts - new opportunities for progress? Journal of Educational Policy 22 (3):263-282.
Todd, L. 2007. Partnerships for Inclusive Education: A critical approach to collaborative working. London: Routledge.