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Give parents termly window to request childcare, schools told

Schools could give parents termly windows to lodge requests for on-site wraparound childcare provision, new government guidance suggests.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt outlined an “ambition” in 2022 for all primary schools to provide childcare on their site, with £289 million funding to implement the scheme.

Ahead of its nationwide launch in September, the Department for Education has today published guidance to help schools and academies understand how to respond to requests for more provision.  

(NOTE: This is the third publication of guidance on the scheme. Advice for councils we’ve already covered here, and wider advice for schools covered here).

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Families have ‘right’ to request childcare

The DfE said parents “have a right” to lodge written requests with schools for wraparound or holiday care for youngsters between the ages of four and 14. Disabled children are also eligible up to the age of 18.

Leaders should make families aware of this, setting out “the timetable and process that parents will need to follow”. All requests – including those from prospective mums and dads – should be logged and monitored.  

2. Schools could have to survey all parents …

The guidance suggested that schools could have a “termly or annual period during the year when parents” would be able to lodge their submissions.

Once a request for wraparound care on the school site has been received, leaders should engage with the local authority to “make them aware”.

The council will then be expected to work with the parent to consider if there is suitable provision in the area already in place.

“If the local authority does not have suitable wraparound provision in the area, and you [the school] do not have an up-to-date assessment of their parents’ wraparound needs within the last year, then you should proceed with a whole school right to request exercise.”

This includes consulting all parents to test demand. Help could be sought from prospective childcare providers.

3. … and consider if childcare is viable

Once parental demand is established, leaders should work with local authorities to understand options to increase wraparound care and assess if offering its own provision is a viable option for the school or trust.  

Parents should be informed of the outcome “within an appropriate timeframe, but no longer than a term”.

If a school decides not to proceed with wraparound or holiday childcare on its site, it should clearly communicate alternative options to families.

But if it goes ahead with offering the activities, it will be able to launch its own service, work in partnership with a provider or expand existing childcare.

4. Childcare providers able to lodge requests too

Providers make written requests to use school facilities for wraparound or holiday childcare at times when classes are not using them.

Among other things, leaders should ensure the firms have “properly vetted their staff (both paid and volunteer)” beforehand.

The guidance added: “For requests that you accept, you can consider recovering any administrative costs of processing the application from the provider. This can be part of the wider costs for the provision of services or facilities.”

They should be informed of outcomes within a month. If their bid is snubbed, schools will “not need to reconsider requests from the same provider for the same type of provision within 12 months of the last” one, unless demand changes.

5. Consider children with SEND

The guidance stressed that “any wraparound and holiday childcare you consider is suitable for all children in the school”, including those with SEND.

This will involve implementing “reasonable adjustments” to help them access the provision.

Schools should contact their local authority for support providing wraparound to children with SEND.

6. Councils to support schools open provision

The advice states councils have the responsibility to communicate “availability of wraparound childcare to families” and support schools and trusts to offer their own provision.

They should also “encourage providers to expand” their services and urge new ones to establish themselves in their areas.   

“Local authorities should facilitate and broker partnerships between schools, trusts, providers and childminders. This includes co-ordinating holiday childcare operating across school sites.”

Councils should also provide schools that do not offer wraparound care onsite with a list of all providers in the area.

7. Wraparound childcare funding allocations revealed

The government has also released breakdowns showing the amount of cash each local authority will receive for wraparound care over the next two years.

Birmingham (£7.44m), Norfolk (£7.42m) and Derbyshire (£7.15m) have been allocated the most amount of money. Meanwhile, the Isles of Scilly (£31,074.28) and Bracknell Forest (£227,115.95) are set to receive the smallest sums.

Guidance shows the funds were divvied up based on “the number of schools with primary aged pupils that either do not offer full wraparound provision or only have a partial” offer.

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