Schools urged to stay open after lessons to support parents to keep working

01 September 2014

As more than 600,000 children start primary school for the first time this week, parents throughout the country are struggling to make new childcare arrangements which fit with their working patterns and school opening times with almost half of parents who are struggling to organise childcare saying they are considering giving up their job if childcare isn’t available.

The need for childcare when children start school is one that all working parents are familiar with. Office hours and school hours just don’t fit and as more parents take shift or sessional hours more flexible care is needed. Few parents have extended family close by who can provide childcare and they rely on breakfast clubs and after school schemes to enable them to work. All political parties are keen for schools to extend their hours to provide childcare to help but 4Children research shows that schools are not keeping up with demand from parents, putting jobs at risk as a result.

  • Nine in ten parents of children in primary schools which do not have after school clubs would like one in their school and four in five parents would like a breakfast club according to polling by national children and families charity 4Children.
  • Worryingly, of the parents struggling to find childcare for the start of term, 47% are considering giving up their job or intend to do so.
  • The survey shows single parents and young parents are struggling the most with 61% of single parents and 63% of young parents aged between 18-34 who have been unable to organise the childcare they need are considering giving up their job or intend to do so.
  • Some parents are relying on family to step in. A quarter (25%) of parents who are struggling to find childcare will rely on family to help and 28% intend to call on friends.

During the last decade there has been a decline in the number of primary schools offering childcare places. Although there has been an increase in the number of breakfast clubs, there has been a decrease in the number of primary schools offering after school care.

A survey of 500 parents with children of primary school age revealed 87% of parents whose child’s school does not have an after school club want one and 81% of parents would like a breakfast club at their child’s school which does not presently have one.

Government data shows one in five primary schools do not provide any before or after school childcare or activities, compared with 3% in 2005. 4Children is calling for more schools to work with local childcare providers to offer parents wraparound childcare between 8am and 6pm.

4Children Chief Executive Anne Longfield said: “The start of school can mean the start of childcare challenges for families lasting until their child is into their teens.

“Parents agree that primary schools could offer more childcare support. Schools are a very practical location for childcare - close to home with space and great resources at times needed. Many primary schools already open their buildings and host the breakfast clubs and after school clubs which parents depend on. The large increase in the number of breakfast clubs over recent years has benefitted thousands of children and parents.

“4Children would like to see even more schools working with childcare providers to help create the places needed to meet the growing demand as the numbers of children starting school continue to increase each year.”

Employers have an important role to play too. The poll found of those parents struggling with childcare arrangements 51% said their employers were allowing them to work more flexibly, 53% to work fewer hours and 33% now work from home some of the time. But just over one in four parents (27%) have not received any assistance from their employer of this kind.

Anne Longfield said: “Finding childcare that fits around the school day can be particularly difficult for single working parents and families where both parents have jobs. As we emerge from the economic crisis, the kinds of childcare families need is changing with parents working shifts, job sharing, on zero hours contracts or juggling more than one job. Employers can help to ease the pressure on families who have children at school by allowing parents to work more flexible hours but schools can also do much more by keeping their doors open after school hours.”

4Children is developing childcare hubs, a new approach to delivering quality, flexible childcare which coordinate the childcare options in the area surrounding a children’s centre to help families find out about the childcare options and piece together a package of childcare tailored to meet their needs.

Anne Longfield said: “Services need to modernise to help families find the childcare they need at the times they need it and childcare hubs will be at the forefront of this. We are calling on all the main political parties to sign up to a universal guarantee of quality, affordable childcare for every parent who needs it.”

  Notes to editors

  • Polling of 500 parents with children of primary school age was carried out by Opinium on behalf of 4Children between 26-28 August 2014.
  • One in five primary schools do not provide any before or after school childcare or activities, compared with 3% in 2005 which equates to 1,500 fewer schools.
  • During the same period, there has been a rapid rise with 5000 more schools providing before school care/breakfast clubs. Nearly two-thirds of primary schools do now, compared to just 3 in 10 in the middle of the last decade.
  • But, the number of primary schools with after school care and activities has fallen 13%, with 2000 fewer schools doing so now than in 2005.
  • Nearly 680,000 new children will be starting reception class this month, the highest number in sixteen years.
  • The number has been rising each year since 2006: there are approximately 100,000 more children starting school this year than there were eight years ago
  • This will continue to rise over the next decade, by approximately 20,000 more children
  • The total number of primary schools has risen by 10% over the last eight years to try and cope with this increasing demand for places.

  Changing number of wraparound care providers in primary schools over the last 8 years

  2005 (1) 2013 (2) Change
Total number of primary schools 17,167 18,906 +1,739 (+10%)
After school clubs 87% (14,935) 70% (13,000) -1,935 (-13%)
Breakfast clubs 40% (6,867) 64% (12,100) +5,233 (+76%)
Both 30% (5,150) 53% (9,900) +4,750 (+92%)
8-6pm term time 12% (2,060) unknown n/a
Some childcare 97% (16,652) 80% (15,200) -1452 (-9%)
No childcare 3% (515) 20% (3,706) +3,191 (+620%)

 Source: (1) Clemens et al. (2005) Extended services in schools. Research Brief RB681 (2) Department for Education (2014) Primary schools providing access to out of school care. Research report

There will be 678,113 children (approx.) in England of the age starting school in September (from ONS population data, around 100,000 more than in 2006. This will grow to around 700,000 children by 2024 (Source: ONS population projection data)

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows the rise in total employment since 2008 has been predominantly among the self employed which is higher than at any point during the last 40 years.

The latest Labour Force Survey estimates of the number of people in employment on zero-hours contracts is 622,000 for the period April to June 2014.

4Children is the national charity all about children and families. We have spearheaded a joined-up, integrated approach to children’s services and work with a wide range of partners around the country to ensure children and families have access to the services and support they need in their communities. We run Sure Start Children’s Centres as well as family and youth services across



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