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The idea that schools will be a centre of learning for only a few hours each day, for five days a week and for only...
The idea that schools will be a centre of learning for only a few hours each day, for five days a week and for only around 38 weeks a year will be a model of yesteryear. The creation of extended schools will put schools and learning at the very heart of our communities.

The Education Act 2002 makes it easier for school governing bodies in partnership with councils to innovate, exp-eriment and devise solutions to age-old problems. This is good news for councils in our drive to raise education standards.

Councils and schools are using their new powers to provide a range of on-site services for pupils, their families and the community. This concept of extended schools has been developed with the Local Government Association which, over the last 18 months, has supported seven councils to develop schools for the community, as part of its flagship Six Commitments project (LGC, 8 November).

The seven councils - Durham CC, Gateshead Council, Lincolnshire CC, Newcastle City Council, Sefton MBC, Tameside MBC and Warwickshire CC - have been working with schools, their teachers and governors, parents, the community and partner organisations to provide services from the school site for local citizens. This means services such as study support, before and after school childcare, health and social care and adult learning are more accessible. There are opportunities to engage the public, voluntary and private sectors through the local strategic partnership and through neighbourhood renewal.

At a recent LGA conference, the Department for Education & Skills launched guidance for councils and their schools entitled Extended schools - providing opportunities and services for all, which will be a valuable resource. It provides an overview of extended schools and their benefits, detailing processes for councils and schools considering providing additional services. There are case studies covering health services, adult learning and council services such as social services.

There is no question that the primary function of schools remains to provide high-quality teaching and learning for children and young people and that extended schools are about enriching learning experiences. Ensuring the protection of children will be as important in an extended school as in any other and DfES guidance stresses councils and schools must ensure children's safety.

The LGA has warmly welcomed the government's announcement that 25 councils will take forward the work on extended schools. The success of those and of other councils that decide to develop extended schools will depend on their ability to engage communities in the design and creation of extended schools.

The LGA is working with the DfES to ensure lessons are learnt and shared among all those who are interested.

Hazel Harding (Lab)

Lead member, Local Government Association schools for the community project and leader, Lancashire CC

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