extended schools - theory, practice and issues

According to the DfES, an extended school is one that provides a range of activities and services often beyond the school day, 'to help meet the needs of its pupils, their families and the wider community'. We explore the reality - the theory and practice - and the issues around extended schooling.

contents: introduction · full-service schooling · the development of extended schools · extended schools - the current situation · extended schools - some issues · conclusion · bibliography · links · how to cite this article

photo - 2 girls on stairs - Michele Erina DoyleThe idea of extended schooling has its immediate roots in the development of full-service schooling initiatives in the United States. The establishment of the new community school initiative in Scotland (1999) was the first major implementation of the approach in the UK.  In Wales, the idea of community-focused schools has been used to explore similar provision. However, the idea of centring the provision of different services on school sites is hardly new. Since the nineteenth century there have been various examples of schools offering medical and welfare services alongside their more traditional activities (see community schooling). In this article we briefly examine idea of full-service schooling before reviewing the current theory and practice with regard to extended schools in England. We look at some of the implications of extended schools for informal educators and some of the issues around the development of community education.

Full-service schooling

Elements of what now passes for full-service schooling have been a part of practice in the USA for a number of years. A range of activities has taken place within schools in addition to the usual teaching. Over the last century these have included community use, the provision of welfare facilities (around health and cleanliness), support services in the form of school counsellors, and various sports and youth activities. One of the expressions of this has been the community school movement - perhaps the best known historical example being the approaches developed in Flint, Michigan in the mid-1930s. This movement grew in significant part out of the need to extend educational and recreational opportunities to adults and young people in local communities. In contrast, the recent interest in ‘full-service’ schooling has its origins in more remedial or meliorative concerns - and this is what has been largely translated into extended schools in England. The focus has been on the provision of health and social care services.

Joy Dryfoos, one of the key architects of, and commentators on, full-service schooling in the United States has argued that the basic original concept was that of the school-based health and social services centre. It entails ‘space set aside in a school building where services are brought in by outside community agencies in conjunction with school personnel' (1994: 142). They are to be ‘one stop, collaborative institutions’ (ibid.: 13). For the Florida Department of Education:

A full-service school integrates education, medical, social and/or human services that are beneficial to meeting the needs of children and youth and their families on school grounds or in locations which are easily accessible. A full-service school provides the types of prevention, treatment, and support services children and families need to succeed.. . services that are high quality and comprehensive and are built on interagency partnerships which have evolved from cooperative ventures to intensive collaborative arrangements among state and local and public and private entities. (Quoted in Dryfoos 1994: 142)

What elements should be present? Here Dryfoos (1994: 13) argues for a package of interventions that include both ‘quality education’ and support services.

Quality Education Provided by School:

Effective basic skills

Individualized instruction

Team teaching

Co-operative learning

School-based management

Healthy school climate

Alternatives to tracking

Parent involvement

Effective discipline

Provided by Schools or Community Agencies:

Comprehensive health education

Health promotion

Preparation for the world of work (life planning)

Support Services Provided by Community Agencies:

Health screening and services

Dental services

Family planning

Individual counselling

Substance abuse treatment

Mental health services

Nutrition/weight management

Referral with follow-up

Basic services: housing, food, clothes

Recreation, sports, culture


Family welfare services

Parent education, literacy

Child care

Employment training/jobs

Case management

Crisis intervention

Community policing


Only a few schools come close to this model and it is necessary to distinguish between full-service schools and school-based or school-linked services. 'The former puts everything - education and human services – together in a unified institution…. [The latter] is less restrictive. The idea is to add or to enrich what is offered on in the school building, but not necessarily to impact what goes on in the classroom’ (Dryfoos 1998: 2).

In more recent years there have been attempts to bring the notion of the full-service school more into the mainstream (see, for example, Dryfoos and Macguire 2002; Kronick 2002). Part of the argument made is that the first, experimental "full-service schools" have evolved into highly successful full-service community schools.

The development of extended schools

In England, policies on extended schools date back to a Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) report in 1998. This report showed significantly lower pupil attainment in disadvantaged communities. The emergence of new community schools in Scotland drawing upon the full-service model also drew DfES attention to the possibilities of what became described as 'extended schooling'. Starting in 2002, the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) began to actively promote the concept of 'extended schools'. They did this initially through some demonstration projects and then by sponsoring twenty five local education authorities (LEAs) to develop extended schools pathfinder projects. Each project was free to determine the focus of its work, though particular encouragement was offered to initiatives that would lead to:

Not unexpectedly, the original research found that there was little agreement on what constituted an 'extended school'. As Alan Dyson, Alan Millward & Liz Todd (2002) reported

This lack of clarity tends to generate a range of activities that have different aims and rationales. These can be characterised in terms of two dimensions: whether their focus is on students or the community; and whether they aim to enrich a functional situation or intervene in identified problems. This in turn has implications for how community 'needs' are identified, with communities perceived to be disadvantaged being more likely to have their needs defined in terms of deficits by professionals. Some correctives in terms of meaningful community consultation are needed in these situations - and there is evidence that such consultation is possible.

When the researchers came to evaluate the pathfinder projects (Cummings, Todd, and Dyson 2004) they found that most projects built upon previous work in this field and continued their work, using other sources of funding, after the formal end date.

Many activities were targeted at pupils and were focused directly or indirectly on learning. Overall, the commonest activities included breakfast clubs, after school and holiday activities for pupils, family learning, adult education, childcare and community use of school facilities.  The ‘full-service’ school in which community services are located on the school site was less common, though many schools were working towards this.

They were not able identify distinct ‘models’ of extended school approaches. However, they did see an emerging understanding of the task of extended schools. They defined the task in the following terms: 'An extended school maximises the curricular learning of its pupils by promoting their overall development and by ensuring that the family and community contexts within which they live are as supportive of learning as possible' (op. cit.).

Evaluation of the Extended Schools Pathfinder Projects - conclusions

The evaluation leads to a number of overall conclusions:

  • There is good reason to believe that extended schools have important positive effects and represent a good return on a relatively low level of additional funding. In order to determine their long-term effects, however, a longitudinal and wider-ranging evaluation strategy than has been possible here is needed

  • Where extended schools are more ambitious in terms of their aims, it is important that they develop dedicated leadership structures. The role of the co-ordinator is important not only in terms of attracting and co-ordinating funding but also to reduce the management burden on existing leadership teams.

  • Many projects have found that the development of extended schools is an important catalyst for enhancing collaboration between education and other agencies. The key to developing partnerships seems to be a careful and sustained process of trust-building where partners seek to understand each other’s aims, priorities and working methods. This is difficult given the pressures under which all agencies are working, so it is important that the process is given ample time and develops through a series of progressively more ambitious initiatives.

  • Although the point of delivery for activities is the school, local authorities have a key role to play in enabling extended schools to develop. They can give a lead in encouraging schools down this route, help plan local strategies within which the work of schools is embedded, network schools with other schools and agencies, link schools to communities, provide specialist expertise and advice, give a lead on the management of funding and assist schools with the evaluation of their work. Some authorities have appointed co-ordinators to lead this work, others ask existing officers to take a lead, others again see the development of extended schools as part of wider initiatives such as the development of integrated children’s and families’ departments. There are clear implications for the way the role of the LEA is currently defined.

  • It is particularly important that extended schools do not fall into the trap of imposing professional views of what is ‘needed’ on the communities they serve. Genuine community consultation and participation are necessary but as this is difficult to achieve, many schools find it helpful to work with partners who are more experienced in this field.

  • The experience of these projects suggests that in some cases it may be sensible to plan for a significant lead-in time before delivery can begin. This is particularly the case if schools have not previously been involved in extended activities or if major new initiatives are planned.

  • As extended school approaches become more widespread and ambitious, viewing them as time-limited and additionally-funded ‘projects’ may become less effective. It may be more productive to see extended activities as central to the role of every school (albeit to varying degrees) and a different funding model may need to be found to reflect this new understanding. In this case, there is the possibility of a real development in the way in which schools relate to their communities and set about educating their pupils.

Cummings, C, Todd, L and Dyson, A (2004) Evaluation of the Extended Schools Pathfinder Projects, London: Department for Education and Skills.


A NFER audit (that collated information on some 160 schools) did identify five main types or ‘arenas’ of provision operating within the concept of the extended school.  These were:

  1. additional schooling provision offering curriculum and leisure opportunities to pupils beyond the traditional school timetable

  2. community provision offering learning and leisure opportunities or general community facilities (e.g. drop-in or advice centres)

  3. early years provision, such as crèches or pre-school facilities

  4. family and parent provision involving support relating to their child’s learning or to a more general parenting or family role

  5. other agency provision (e.g. from health, youth or social services) and specialist provision, offering high-calibre facilities in areas such as sports, arts, information technology or business. (Wilkin et al 2003)

Their audit of extended schooling provision also showed great variety amongst schools in the range of activity and investment in them. Like Cummings et. al. suggested that there was some evidence that extended schools raised pupil attainment and attendance, and improved behaviour.

From this we can see three, crude paradigms of 'extended schooling'. The first approximates to [1] and possibly [2] above: developing extended activities i.e. activities that are valuable for pupils, parents or communities. A second broad model could be described as developing an extended school – a more 'coherent and sustained approach to underlying issues, such as pupil attainment and motivation, family support for and community attitudes to learning' {DfES 2003a). This would also involve elements such as [3] and [4] above. The third model might be described as a 'full-service extended school' as part of a wider strategy and might well involve the multi-agency work of [5]. This sort of division is reflected in the government strategy for education (DfES 2004c) (see below).

Extended schools - the current situation

Following on from the pathfinder projects, and particularly as part of the strategy around Every Child Matters (DfES 2003b; 2004b), primary schooling (Excellence and Enjoyment - DfES 2003a) and the Children Act (2004) the Government has looked to the extended schooling as a key expression of the 'joined-up' work of Children's Trusts. Catherine Ashton, the then Minister for Extended and Inclusive Schools, argued that every school should become an extended school. She made the case as follows:

I want to encourage every school to provide extended services and we have changed the law to make it easier for them to do this. We are also providing guidance, support and funding for every LEA to help all their schools to develop the services most needed by their community.

Extended services in schools can help improve pupil attainment, behaviour and motivation. They can help provide out of school study support to improve pupils’ learning. Engaging pupils in new cultural and sporting activities has a knock-on impact on motivation.

Joined up services provide children and families with better access to a range of health and social services, when and where they need them. Schools are an obvious point for the delivery of childcare – both before and after school.

Parents become more involved in schools that provide extended services, which helps them support their children’s learning. Schools providing services needed by local people become the focus of the local community and boost community pride and involvement. (Ashton 2004)

The desire that all schools become extended schools became part of the government Strategy for Education (DfES 2004c). It asserted that 'Extended Schools – both primary and secondary – will increasingly act as hubs for community services, including children’s services'.

The Strategy document was followed in 2005 by a DfES 'prospectus': Extended schooling: Access to opportunities and services to all. It made the commitment that by 2010 all children 'should have access to a variety of activities beyond the school day' (ibid.: 4). Extended schools were defined as schools that 'provide a range of services and activities, often beyond the school day,  to help meet the needs of children, their families and the wider community' (DfES 2005: 7). The English government wanted 'all schools and children and families to be able to access a core of extended services which are developed in partnership with others'.

Extended Schools - core services

The core offer for mainstream and special schools is:

  • high quality 'wraparound' childcare provided on the school site or through other local providers, with supervised transfer arrangements where appropriate, available 8am–6pm all year round

  • a varied menu of activities to be on offer such as homework clubs and study support, sport (at least two hours a week beyond the school day for those who want it), music tuition, dance and drama, arts and crafts, special interest clubs such as chess and first aid courses, visits to museums and galleries, learning a foreign language, volunteering, business and enterprise activities

  • parenting support including information sessions for parents at key transition points, parenting programmes run with the support of other children’s services and family learning sessions to allow children to learn with their parents

  • swift and easy referral to a wide range of specialist support services such as speech therapy, child and adolescent mental health services, family support services, intensive behaviour support, and (for young people) sexual health services. Some may be delivered on school sites

  • providing wider community access to ICT, sports and arts facilities, including adult learning

Schools will want to work closely with parents to shape these activities around the needs of their community and may choose to provide extra services in response to parental demand. The core offer ensures that all children and parents have access to a minimum of services and activities. ‘Extended School’ is not a status that schools centrally apply for as there is no blueprint for the types of activities that schools might offer.

How these services look and are delivered in or through a particular school will vary. Children with disabilities or special educational needs must be able to access all the new services. Schools will want to actively seek parental feedback and feedback from the wider community to review and improve their services.

Some of these services such as health and social care will be provided free of charge. These sorts of services will need to be funded often by local authorities and their children’s trust partners such as Primary Care Trusts. But for other services, such as childcare, charges will need to be made. Schools or the partners that they are working with will need to devise charging regimes that cover the costs of the services but that are affordable for working parents. The childcare element of the Working Tax Credit provides support for low income parents in meeting childcare costs.

Department for Education and Skills (2005) Extended schools: Access to opportunities and services for all. A prospectus, London: Department for Education and Skills, page 8.


Just how all this translates into action and funding is a matter for some speculation. The prospectus gives the following targets:

The provision of core services is heavily dependent on workforce remodelling and on working in partnership with a range of other agencies, the private sector and voluntary organizations. It is also dependent on head teachers thinking rather differently about their facilities and the nature of schooling. The heavy emphasis on childcare and voluntarily chosen varied activity (including much that is properly 'extra-curricular') within extended schools demands expertise, an orientation and resources that have not been particularly valued within English schooling over the last twenty years.

Some issues - extended schools and informal and community education

In this section we want to highlight some of the key problems arising for informal and community educators. As a result we do not look directly at some of the other issues around extended schooling. In particular, extended schools do pose special problems of management (which we touch on in our discussion of collaborative working). The basic question here is whether school management systems handle the the range of services to be offered. There are further questions arising out of the broad range of provision that falls under the title of 'extended schooling. For example, the actual number of what the government terms 'full-service extended schools' is relatively small (a target of one per local authority). There is, thus, always the risk that such extended schools will be seen as schools for problem families and stigmatized. However, here we want to focus on five key areas of tension for informal and community educators.

The problem of community

One of the striking features of the research undertaken by Cummings et. al. (2004) into extended schooling was just how focused schools remained on outcomes in their individual students. It will be remembered that the researchers framed what they found to be a common understanding of task: 'An extended school maximises the curricular learning of its pupils by promoting their overall development and by ensuring that the family and community contexts within which they live are as supportive of learning as possible' (op. cit.). Extended schools may be sites for some forms of intervention around norms, activities and organization within communities, but they fall a long way short of the classic concerns of community education and learning (see, for example, the contrast between this position and that taken by the Scottish Executive in Working and learning together to build stronger communities.  That document talked about community learning and development in the following terms: 'We define this as informal learning and social development work with individuals and groups in their communities. The aim of this work is to strengthen communities by improving people's knowledge, skills and confidence, organisational ability and resources'). As Henry Morris found with regard to village colleges, and other innovators around urban community schools there are deep and strong forces that pull schools back from a full engagement with their surrounding communities. It would take a fundamental reordering of the schooling system and of the orientation of teachers and policymakers for things to change.

A further, crucial factor that now acts against making schools the sites for community development and learning is the extent to which they have become disconnected with local communities and neighbourhoods as a result of government policies. While many primary schools have retained a reasonably local student population, the same cannot be said of secondary schools. In this sector there has been large scale movement away from the idea that schools should serve particular neighbourhoods. In significant part this has arisen out of an emphasis upon what has become known as 'parental choice' on the part of successive governments. (In reality for the more popular schools a more accurate title is 'school choice'). A further factor has been the development of specialist schools, technology colleges and the like. This has led to a far greater likelihood of students travelling some distance to their secondary school. The overall result, when combined with the impact of business thinking and increased local management in schools, has been a significant turning away from the engagement with local communities and groups toward a more individualized and consumerist relationship with parents.

Deficit/medical model

As researchers such as Dyson et. al. (2002) have noted, school managements and teachers can easily slip into deficit notions of local communities and of their students. Within current government policies, and more broadly in the discourse of full-service schooling there is a tendency to focus upon the behaviour of individuals. Action is, thus, taken to try to prevent them engaging in high-risk activities or upon treating their illnesses or troubles. The has been a tendency to adopt what might be described as a deficit or medical model of working. (Full-service schooling, after all, developed out of a concern to increase medical and social work provision on school sites). The problem is that what are in effect deeply political or public issues get treated at the level of private troubles. There is a danger of pathologizing people. This is not to argue against the provision of support services, simply to say that they need to be balanced by work that attends to the public issue. In this case we need to look at the impact of poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor; of racism and political exclusion on the lives of children, young people, their families and their local communities. There has not been great talk of this in terms of the ‘quality education’ on offer, nor has there been attention to approaches that look to community organization and mobilization. In many respects this is a rerun of a tension that runs through many initiatives – but this does not undermine its importance.

Collaborative working

Where schools enter into a fuller extended schooling model their staff have to learn to work in different ways, and to accommodate the requirements of other professionals more strongly (as is the case in full-service schooling). Schools have tended to be little fiefdoms, isolated to a significant extent from the direct interventions of other professionals outside the schooling system. Where schools have had to work with other agencies their relative size, statutory nature and high degree of control over what happens within their walls have often made them difficult partners. Things have tended to be done on their terms or not at all. Collaboration in community education initiatives has often been possible in the past because they were relatively insulated from what principals and heads saw as the ‘main’ activities of the school. Where work comes closer, for example, around some of the activities of youth workers on school sites, relationships have tended to become more strained (see informal educators in schools). In Scotland the impact new community school policies has been to insist upon collaboration – often on the school site – and this has shifted the balance a little away from principals and heads. They now need the co-operation of other professionals in order to reach the standards or performance by which their schools are judged. Just how the extended schooling model develops in England is a matter of some speculation. Certainly there has been a tendency for heads in a number of schools to insist on the new cadre of workers, assistants and mentors being responsible to them rather than to some outside agency. However, when it comes to managing medical and child protection staff they are far more likely to leave management to others.

A further factor in the English setting is the 'remodelling' of the school workforce (with the avowed aim of 'freeing teachers to teach'). An Association of Teachers and Lecturers briefing (2004) has highlighted the possible impact of extended schooling upon teaching. Teachers' role could be extended, for example, where they take responsibility for activities or services (e.g. around childcare); or where they are the ‘lead professional’ 'who guides and supports children and families through the services provided'.  On the other hand there could be a significant curtailment of influence. It could be that teachers effectively become more focussed on the planning and ‘delivery’ of the curriculum, 'while others provide pastoral care and support, or managing those who provide that support for children’s needs'. Both extension and curtailment are likely to happen as schools find different solutions to the issues they face.

The DfES (2005b) prospectus talks of involving children and parents and of parents helping in planning, running and evaluating activities. What is absent is any sustained consideration of the role of community groups and youth movements such as the guides and scouts.

Achievement versus welfare

There is an important and unresolved tension in Government proposals around Children's Trusts and in the plans for extended schools -  the relative emphasis on achievement as against welfare. Within schools there has been little contest over the decade or so - the primary concern is with achievement as measured in SATS scores and public examination success, and by attendance etc. Welfare has taken a second place - interest in it has been sparked, by and large, by any possible contribution to 'raising educational achievement'. Informal educators in schools such as learning mentors and youth workers have been well aware of this tension. Many of the students they work with have fallen foul of the push to achievement. Furthermore, the underlying philosophy of informal education has prized happiness and flourishing as central - and this has sometimes brought them into conflict with school policies and practices. With the rise of Children's Trusts, and an increased role for social work in extended schooling, there could be increased pressure for more attention to be given to student welfare. A further dynamic comes from the extent to which the testing, standards and outcome 'movement', which has come to dominate the discourse of schooling over the last decade or so has reached its peak and is on the decline. Extended schooling could prove to be a milestone in this respect.


It is quite clear that the amount of money announced (£680 million for 2005-8, of which £250 million will go directly to schools and £430 million to local authorities) is not enough to cover anything like the expansion required, nor will it continue at this level post 2008. The Prospectus explicitly encourages schools to charge parents for the childcare and other activities they provide (DfES 2005b: 27). While it is possible for parents to apply for the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit - it is not apparent what sort of other activity elements can be included. Whatever the outcome here it is clear is that extended schools will be developing a significant charging regime. Furthermore, for schools in areas of significant deprivation - where people do not have the money to pay for additional services - we may well find that it is only certain groups that have the resources to access activities. 


The emergence of extended schools, taken together with the development of Children's Trusts in England could have very significant implications for informal educators such as youth workers. They are very unlikely to provide the basis for large scale intervention in local communities - but they will be significant sites for the development of a range of children's and young people's services and opportunities. In particular, they will become the major site for the 'delivery' of the 'youth offer' (see the English Green Paper for Youth). Other initiatives such as Excellence in Cities and workforce remodelling have already been opening up new avenues for informal educators, but they have come at a price.

Unfortunately, increasing the number of informal educators has not necessarily enhanced the quality of informal education in schools. They, like their teacher colleagues, often find themselves running pre-packaged programmes and constrained by inappropriate targets. Worryingly a number have chosen or absorbed ways of thinking and being that approach education as a commodity. They have lost touch with informal education as a non-curriculum form and the possibilities for learning that flow from associational life (la vie associative). However, as David Halpin has shown it is still possible to cultivate a ‘vocabulary of hope’ (Halpin 2003) within schooling – and that informal education with its emphasis on conversation and association can make a significant contribution to the development of a more convivial public life. As we have seen, there are particular areas of tension that must be addressed if space is to be carved out by classroom teachers and informal educators for engaged and critical practice.


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Teachernet on extended schooling:

How to cite this article: Smith, M. K. (2004, 2005) Extended schooling - some issues for informal and community education', the encyclopedia of informal education, Note: this article uses some material from  Smith, M. K. (2000, 2004) 'Full-service schooling', the encyclopaedia of informal education,

© Mark K. Smith 2004, 2005