Schools not only teach, but they provide wrap around care to cover parents’ working hours.
If you ever wanted evidence of how far schooling has evolved since we were at school then surely wrap around care at school is it. Out of hours care, wrap around care, breakfast club, after school club, extended day, it comes in many guises. And then there are nurseries… But the essence is the same, to provide care for children outside the 9.00am to 3.30pm school hours; the hours that parents are still at work.
Demand for wrap around care is high
Demand is high because of families’ changing social and economic circumstances. According to the Office for National Statistics (2016), in 49% of two parent families both parents work. For the 25% of families that are single parent families, 66% of parents work.
As a result, the government mandates all state primary schools to provide wrap around care, from 8.00am to 6.00pm, should parents request it. Unsurprisingly almost all do. State primary schools will either run wrap around care themselves or outsource it to a registered provider. These outsourced providers can use the school’s facilities or an off-site facility. It’s not free, it’s an extra cost to parents.
In contrast, although most independent day schools offer something, only 60% offer care from 8.00am to 6.00pm.
Most senior schools offer access to a snack bar, library or classroom if not an out of hours activity or club.
Wrap around care doesn’t vary much by school
So what do pupils do? It is age dependent but wrap around care doesn’t vary much by school. As such parents have a simple binary choice; the school provides it, or not. In general, before school care is little more than supervision in a classroom or dining hall; with a snack style breakfast. Sometimes there are movement or light dance activities to get the pupils prepared for the day.
After school care activities are typically homework, a light snack, board games and TV or videos. Some state schools run after school clubs or an activities programme on some days, but not all. Independent schools tend to offer a lot more activities, and with more variety.
At the top end of wrap around care is occasional boarding, where pupils can stay overnight. They are fed, homework is supervised, they have activities with friends and a sleepover. Needless to say, it’s a popular, if expensive, option. Other schools offer a minibus service to local destinations for their pupils.
Really taking the day care bull by the horns, some schools even extend their wrap around care to all-day holiday clubs.
Catering to the needs of working parents is something that head teachers have to grapple with today, more than twenty or thirty years ago. It does pose the question of whether schools are primarily places for learning or for child care. Currently, wrap around care generally looks and feels as though it is outside the remit of the school day and those who teach within it. There are lessons and some after school activities which naturally extend from those lessons (eg sports clubs, homework). And then there is wrap around care, plonked around the outside and lacking the continuity of the rest of the school day. Evolutionary, probably, but an opportunity for schools nonetheless.