The British Extended Services School Reform: A Marriage of Expertise and Infrastructure

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by Julian Piper, ContinYou, former Director of Extended Schools Support Service

International News    There is much to learn from England’s effort to turn all schools into Extended Services schools by the year 2010. The following account of capacity-building activities, results to date and lessons learned was written in 2008 by Julian Piper, ContinYou, former Director of Extended Schools Support Service.

Capacity-Building Activities 
Community education in England goes back to 1980, when John Rennie founded an organization called the Community Education Development Centre (CEDC) to promote, support and develop community education and community schools across the midlands region and, subsequently, across England and Wales. In 2003 CEDC and Education Extra merged to form ContinYou.

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) maintained a relationship with the work in England throughout the development of the current national policy. Key capacity-building activities included: A speech by then-Chief Executive Officer Philip Coltoff of Children’s Aid to the British Parliament in 1999; it was very influential in generating national policy interest in community/extended service schools. Children’s Aid’s then-Chief Operating Officer, C. Warren (Pete) Moses, spoke at the 2002 London conference that launched the report on Extended Schools. Children’s Aid organized several study visits for British officials to its community schools in New York City.

Phil Street, CEDC Director, had developed a model, based on his knowledge of The Children’s Aid Society and its Technical Assistance Center, that would provide schools and local authorities throughout the UK with support for the development of Extended Schools, which were increasingly at the heart of Government policy. By September 2003, the Government allocated funding to create a national capacity-building effort, led by ContinYou. Julian Piper was appointed as the Director of the Extended Schools Support Service and a regional team of part-time, experienced staff was appointed to work with the pilot ‘Full Service Extended Schools’ (FSES), which, it was hoped, would total at least 240 in number by 2005 (at least one in each local authority).

ContinYou found itself placed where it could amass unique levels of expertise through sharing in the development of these FSES and use its extensive contacts and resources to ensure that the developments were successful. A team from ContinYou visited New York in 2004 to find out more about Children’s Aid’s full-service schools and its National Center for Community Schools, and to learn how this model might be further adapted for the English system. ContinYou staff have participated in, and presented at, several of the Children’s Aid community school Practicum conferences over the years.

Results to Date
By 2004-5 it was clear that Full Service Extended Schools were showing significant signs of success (particularly in bringing areas of Government policy together but also in raising achievement, as evaluation reports were showing) and the Training and Development Agency for Schools (DfES) was impatient to roll out the program across all schools – setting a target of 2010 to achieve this goal. It was recognized that the full-service model was too costly and ineffective for all schools to take up and the core offer of 5 key areas of development was established as the criterion for being an Extended School. The branding is now ‘Extended Services’ and not Extended Schools in an effort to signify more accurately the rationale behind the policy.

The National Remodeling Team of high-powered consultants from industry had been successful in ensuring that all schools had taken on board the ingredients of Workforce Reform and Remodeling over a three-year period and DfES felt that they could also be the ‘engine’ that would drive the targets for Extended Schools to ensure that it would be achieved by 2010 as set out. In April 2005, therefore, on the renewal of the grant to ContinYou, it was agreed that the support would be offered jointly and in a complementary fashion through four delivery partners: DfES, ContinYou, 4Children (a small charity with particular expertise in childcare) and the Training and Development Agency (TDA).

The Training and Development Agency staff were the developers of various tools and processes to help schools and local authorities achieve the targets and, as a public agency, were able to put considerable pressure on local authorities and regional development offices to ensure that targets were met. ContinYou and 4Children were the reservoirs of expertise on how to deliver the services, demonstrate quality and measure the outcomes. In 2008, ContinYou, having previously been awarded annual grants to provide the support service, won a competitive tender from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (renamed by Gordon Brown when he became Prime Minister) for two (possibly three) years, which secures the service at least until 2010 and possibly until 2011. In addition, ContinYou contracts to support Community Focused Schools in Wales, and there have been considerable links between the two teams as the need to find common ground has emerged.

Lessons Learned

  • Key to the scaling up of Extended Service Schools in the United Kingdom was the government’s willingness to create pilot schools and provide quality technical assistance to expedite the process
  • The merging of Community Education Development Centre (CEDC) and Education Extra formed a stronger technical assistance provider, ContinYou
  • ContinYou’s relationship with the Training and Development Agency for Schools, the lead governmental agency for teachers training, has been key to going to scale quickly
  • Strategic partnerships of leading technical assistance providers –to offer joint and complementary support and relevant timely information—facilitates the process
  • The Policy Action Team on Education was instrumental in educating the Government about Extended School Services
  • The development of a network of community schools that would share ideas and demonstrate cutting edge practice through publications, networking events and a new website has enormous potential
  • Evaluation results of the pilots were very important in influencing national policy
  • Studying the American full-service schools model and bringing it to the policy-makers’ radar was very helpful to make the Extended Services Schools part of the national education reform agenda
  • Development of Extended Schools Clusters has made the provision of support more Manageable
  • Creating networks of experienced community schools practitioners and drawing on their knowledge has also been very helpful.