This week we see more news that shows the increasing risk of social exclusion and lack of social mobility in the current climate.

Save the Children have commissioned research that indicates that nearly two-thirds of UK parents cannot afford after-school activities for their children.  Evidence of the benefit of out of school hours activity is widespread and strong, it has real impact on the achievement and aspiration of young people and it broadens their horizons improving social cohesion and cultural understanding.  So if you find the statistic above worrying then consider this – the polling showed that nearly three-quarters of those parents below the poverty line can not afford after school activities.  Overall 29% revealed that their children don’t take part in any out of hours activity.

What can we do about this?

Schools can and do form the heart of communities and should lead the development of offers that are accessible to their families.  Schools do not have to organise this themselves – but they do need to have an ethos that encourages partnerships that can deliver.  So lets build the partnerships and make use of our valuable assets (people and places!).

Partnerships like this should form part of the Big Society, equally, as we see new forms of school organisation emerge (free schools and new academies) there is a clear opportunity for the development of a value driven approach to school governance and partnership that can deliver on a wider offer for young people.

In my experience with Creative Partnerships and working for central government I have seen the great practice that exists and that it does not have to cost a lot (certainly not the £20 per week cited in the reports of the Save the Children poll).

Lets get our priorities right here and give young people the opportunities they need and deserve.  After all - children did not spend their way to a record national deficit.


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