QDOSS (Quality Development of Out of School Services) national network’s submission to the Call for consultation Department of Education and Skills Statement of Strategy 2016-2018

qdoss

Making Better use of Educational Assets within Communities 

6(a) Comment on the approach contained in the Programme for a Partnership Government (are we capturing the essential issues, are there additional matters we should take into account).

 School based out-of-school services

The QDOSS national network welcomes the Programme for Government proposal to open schools after school hours for out-of-school-services (OSS) , subject to a range of concerns being addressed and clarified. We outline our key issues below in the context of evidence-based best practice on OSS. The issues are also underpinned by a commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. QDOSS recognises that the Programme for Government proposal builds on many current practices of school based OSS in Ireland, such as the OSCAILT project in Limerick, which opens a wide number of schools for such services, after school hours (see appendix A). Similarly, the School Completion Programme, under the auspices of NEWB, Tusla, has offered school based after school projects in a range of schools that combine opportunities for food, with homework and an enrichment activity of play. St. Ultan’s Ballyfermot offer another important model of an extended school.
The OSCAILT report (2009) found that the scheme had a major impact on the quality of life and learning for children, parents and adult learners and positively influenced the school culture and built community. The main benefits of the scheme to parents and adult learners included academic skill development; opportunities for personal development; opportunities for accreditation (including State Exams) and it was found to have built aspirations and confidence. The benefits to children included the enhancement of positive attitudes to lifelong learning; development of positive relationships between children and also between children and adults; personal development for children in terms of social skills and personal responsibility; opportunities to engage in a wide variety of activities; development of a sense of belonging; opportunities to socialise in a safe, nurturing, stimulating environment; opportunities to promote health and fitness, and opportunities to have fun and build aspirations.

• Our major concern is that school based OSS do not simply become more school, that OSS give firm recognition to children and young people’s holistic needs and rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) for play/recreational pursuits and relaxation and that OSS is distinctively different from school time.
• A central commitment to play/recreation, rest and relaxation for afterschool care services must be enshrined to ensure this school based, approach does not become simply an academic hot-housing, that may be stressful for children and even alienating some from the school system.
• We are concerned that any emphasis on academic attainment may be at the expense of the demonstrated importance and benefits of children’s play and rest, as recognised in Article 31 of the UNCRC.

Play is central to processes of learning and developing the capacity to learn. It fosters a multiplicity of skills now recognised as crucial to learning, imagining and innovation. These include: self-discovery; problem-solving; managing relationships; risk-assessment; risk-taking; divergent thinking; image-making and image-transformation; self-confidence; knowledge acquisition skills; comprehending and responding to difference; multiple intelligences and developing the joy of learning.
A narrow perspective on out of school time services/programmes regards them as an extension of school time, places to bridge the educational attainment gap, do homework, or be minded, rather than a place where children have opportunities to play and develop as creative beings, and experience the joy of learning.
Opportunities for play may also be curtailed by a lack of safe outdoor recreational space, particularly in areas where antisocial behaviour is prevalent (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012; Byrne & Greene, 2007). More broadly, children’s opportunities for play may also be reduced by excessive involvement in and reliance on electronic technology/screen-based entertainment and games (Levin, 2013); a decline in independent mobility (O’Keeffe & O’Byrne, 2015); a lack of resilience and increased risk-aversion (Jackson & Scott, 1999); and an increase in age-based segregation of children (Brown & Patte, 2013).

Article 31

1 States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
2 States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
Art 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also recognises children’s need to have downtime, to rest and relax. This requires firm recognition in any future school based OSS strategy.

While QDOSS welcomes the aspiration to make better use of educational assets within communities we have a number of key recommendations based on evidence based research. QDOSS’ concerns with the potential schoolification of the child through a failure to address children’s play and rest/relaxation needs must be addressed in at least 4 strategic ways:
1) Changing the physical environment of schools for suitable dedicated space for OSS
2) Ensuring a strong relational environment in the OSS school based setting
3) The need for a child-centred framework to inform the strategic vision of these proposed OSS based in schools
4) The need for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to lead the strategic development and implementation of this school based OSS strategy, in conjunction with those working already in the OSS sector

1) Changing the physical environment of schools for suitable dedicated space for OSS

A specific dedicated fund is a necessity to develop play/leisure and relaxation spaces, including outdoor spaces, in school settings where a variety of recreational activities/interests may be pursued. Rooms/spaces need to be provided for chill out time/rest/sleep with soft areas (including couches, beanbags, mats etc), areas to pursue quiet activities e.g. board games, multisensory activities, areas to facilitate participation in the different arts forms, play with appropriate toys/ equipment and outdoor spaces for a wide variety of activities/games. The development of garden spaces is also an important feature where children would have the opportunity to interact within natural settings.

Structured, semi-structured and unstructured play needs to be facilitated. When schools apply for any such infrastructure fund to develop dedicated suitable OSS spaces, it is important that they present the case that their physical environment is or can become a suitable one for OSS and for the different age groups being provided for within their OSS. Requirements regarding space have already been developed for the early years sector settings, and similar such criteria need to be met in order for a school’s application to be successful.
- While acknowledging that some school spaces hold the possibility to be multipurpose spaces, it needs to be recognised that not all schools may have a suitable physical environment and space for dedicated OSS, while some, though not all, may be in a position to develop their environment with the aid of infrastructure and resource funding.
- A vital issue is also the provision of hot meals which will require spaces to store food, to have hygienic eating areas and investment over time in kitchens within schools. The importance of involving children in making informed decisions around nutrition is critical to their health and wellbeing and the OSS offers opportunities not only to learn about nutrition but also to engage in cooking, budgeting and shopping for ingredients. A coherent strategy for delivering hot meals for children and young people in school based after school settings needs to be established
-This is an opportunity also for the afterschool sector and the school environment to have a helpfully transformative effect on the institutional culture and climates of at least some schools.
- School based OSS may provide an opportunity for some community and/or private OSS providers to move into school based settings and investment will be needed to help such providers with set up costs. It is important for a case to be made by a school for developing infrastructure for OSS that it is not going to displace other local providers funded by the state and is not simply duplicating existing services.

2) Ensuring a strong relational environment in the OSS school based setting

External inspections of school based premises and an afterschool relational environment is an obvious need for this proposal. Establishment of External Regulation of these OSS, including a national framework highlighting all aspects of service delivery to meet agreed quality standards is necessary, including governance, safety, staffing and programme suitability. The New Zealand OSCAR model is a key reference point here but quality issues can go further than this framework and cognisance needs to be taken of work on quality matters already carried out by various agencies (VCO’s and CCC’s) previously funded by government through both the ECCP and NCIP. External regulation needs a strong focus on the relational environment and feedback from children and young people about such an environment.
-A relational environment will also be facilitated by a large variety of experiences for children
-A relational environment is also aided by the presence of skilled and competent staff with appropriate levels of training/education for working with children and young people, including recognition of different skills needed for working with different age groups
- Colocation of school and OSS offers great opportunities for collaboration between both sites in terms of sharing of resources, sharing of expertise, collaboration on positive behaviour management and relational approaches etc., and joint CPD.

The strategic development of the OSS offers a timely opportunity to develop inclusive practices to nurture self- acceptance and belonging in the child. Inclusive practice can be promoted at a personal, interpersonal and policy level (Higgins and Kane, 2007, p.35). Additionally, in light of our growing diversity of children in Ireland the strategic development of the OSS provides opportunities to foster interculturalism (ibid, p.39) and instil citizenship in children (Moloney and Kane ,2007, p133). The relational environment of OSS holds the potential to instil a sense of citizenship and belonging in children through involving families and communities in a variety of ways.

Out-of-School Services as Part of a Holistic Approach to Prevention of and Intervention in Bullying in School
It is vital to recognise the detrimental impact bullying can have on a pupil/student’s self-esteem, psychological wellbeing and school attendance. With the school based afterschool care services, collaboration between schools, after-school projects and other local services are needed to target bullying. There is a need for integration of a variety of perspectives and approaches to bullying to ensure continuity of approaches across contexts, and sharing good practice so that the child experiences a caring, nurturing, learning, social environment within school time and in afterschool school time. Schools and after-school services, in developing and revisiting anti-bullying policies, need to consider the institutional and organisational features of schools and out-of-school projects themselves that can contribute to bullying in the first instance. Again the issue of developing spaces for relaxation and play/recreational pursuits in the environment of many schools needs to be addressed through a strategic and financial commitment.

3) The need for a child-centred framework to inform the strategic vision of these proposed OSS based in schools

Expedite the development of a child-centred regulatory framework and registration and inspection regime to enhance quality of service delivery. This is long awaited and much needed. Devising, improving and attaining quality standards is the shared ambition for all services and should be a condition for receipt of public funding based on a national framework for OSS. Work has begun on this within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and QDOSS is happy to contribute towards its development.
- Centrally involving all children and young people’s voices and feedback on their experiences, including those from the diversity of family and cultural backgrounds that participate in out of schools services
- Feedback from children and young people about the suitability of the length of time in the day for OSS to meet their needs, especially for younger children
- Art 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is key here:

Article 12

1 States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2 For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.
-A homework policy with maximum time limit within the OSS programme (Kane and Moloney, 2007, p.47) needs to be set for homework activities to ensure that other holistic needs of the child are being met; it is also important to ensure that parents do not simply contract out responsibility for the homework and academic progress of their children to others
- Dialogue processes based on the needs of children and young people need to be established between the school based OSS, parents and the school (including for bullying prevention, see below).
-Developing a sense of involvement and ownership for children and young people applies to the physical environment of the afterschool project. Building on current work to consult with children by the DCYA, there is a need to include their voice and be given opportunities to express their opinion on how the environment (of school as an afterschool location) meets their needs, and on how it could be changed and decorated to reflect their needs and voices. The centrality of the arts as a core component of after school provision, as well as nature (community gardens) and sport, all offer opportunities for children and young people’s voices and leadership, as part of a democratic environment that recognises and celebrates individual differences and needs. Funding needs to be provided for After-School programmes which recognise the vital role the Visual and Creative Arts can play for personal development, conflict resolution skills and in developing English language skills.


4) The need for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to lead the strategic development and implementation of this school based OSS strategy, in conjunction with those working already in the OSS sector

A clear commitment must be made that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will lead implementation and development of this strategy, in conjunction with those working already in the OSS sector, to ensure that there is not a ‘schoolification of childhood’ with the pressure on the school curriculum and national and international literacy and numeracy indicators. This will also ensure the distinctive suitable dedicated space in schools for OSS is different from school and gives full expression to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially regarding Art 31, 12 as well as other articles such as Art 29.

Article 29, 1, C

(c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
- Recognition of flexibility of models and options to meet the variety of children and young people’s individual needs, so that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach to out of school services, both in school, early years and community locations
- Centrally involving children and young people’s voices and feedback on their experiences, including those from the diversity of family and cultural backgrounds that participate in out of schools services

- This role will also include feedback from children and young people about their experiences of OSS generally, including on their experiences of the length of time in the day for OSS.
- There is a need to agree principles to underpin the delivery of services to ensure a broad focus is in place to promote children’s needs/rights/all round development- and to agree a vision for service delivery. Key guiding principles of school based and other kinds of OSS need to include a commitment to:
• promoting children’s rights and meeting the holistic needs of children and young people
• age appropriate approaches that support both individual and group needs
• suitability of the OSS environment for different age groups
• appropriately trained, skilled and competent staff with appropriate pay and conditions
• giving expression to the rights and voices of children and young people
• good governance and management

Shared agreement is essential on the competences required to deliver good services for school age children in the different age groups, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12

QDOSS has been calling for a national strategy for quality out of school services since its establishment in 2006. This national strategy is still required both to establish the framework of vision for the actions in the school based OSS and also to give firm recognition to the needs and importance of the community and private sector in OSS; school based OSS is not the only model of OSS. A number of other issues need to be addressed building on the themes of the QDOSS (Quality Development of Out of School Services) national network’s Agenda for Development document (Downes 2006):

Continuity of Staff and Career/Professional Development of Staff in Out-of-School Services

Relations of trust between staff and children and young people are vital to psychological
wellbeing. Nurturing positive relationships serve as a key protective factor for youth at risk of early school leaving. As staff continuity is essential in order for these relations of trust to form the following issues arise:
— The development and implementation of staff retention and recruitment strategies
— The facilitation of a national strategy for staff development and progression examining training and accreditation, employment opportunities and defined career progression in the Out-of-School Service sector
The lessons of the early years settings regarding poor safety, quality and relational environments in a number of settings need to be also heeded for this sector.
The sector is characterised by staff being insufficiently valued and being offered low pay. Many have an early years qualification but not an afterschool care qualification. Similar to early years services, enforce all staff to have an appropriate Level 6 qualification, specifically covering the knowledge and skills required for working with and promoting the development of school going children. Allocate a similar Learner Fund model to aid the up skilling of staff. There is an excellent training programme developed previously for the out of school sector as a full QQI accredited (formerly FETAC) Level 5 Award funded by Government and the EU through the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP). However, this programme has been deactivated by QQI in 2012 with significant detrimental impact for future quality standards in this sector.

Continuity of Services throughout the Year

Out-of-School services need to be consistently available throughout the Summer and other
holiday times to provide a point of stability during a time of changing experiences for children and young people. It is important to develop a national and local strategy for funding holiday time projects in socio-economically excluded areas in particular.

References

Brown, F. & Patte, M. (2013). Rethinking children’s play. London: Bloomsbury.
Byrne, T. & Greene, S. (2007). A needs assessment conducted with 51 children and 16 adults in the context of the development of out of school services in the Fatima and Rialto areas. Dublin, Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College.
Downes, P. (2006). Quality Development of Out-of-School Services: An Agenda for Development. QDOSS network, Ireland.
Fitzgerald, J., (2007). Addressing issues of Social Exclusion in Moyross and other disadvantaged areas of Limerick City Report to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion
Higgins, A., Kane, C. (2007) Inclusion in in Moloney, M., Higgins, A., and Ryan, S. (eds), Voice and Choice: Limerick City Childcare Committee and Mary Immaculate College.
Jackson, S., & Scott, S. (1999). Risk anxiety and the social construction of childhood. In D. Lupton (Ed.), Risk and Sociocultural Theory: New Directions and Perspectives (pp. 86 - 107). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kane, C. Moloney, M. (2007) Homework Support in Moloney, M., Higgins, A., and Ryan, S. (eds), Voice and Choice: Limerick City Childcare Committee and Mary Immaculate College.
Levin, D. (2013). Beyond remote-controlled childhood: Teaching young children in the media age. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Milteer, R. & Ginsburg, K. (2012). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty, Pediatrics, 129 (1): e204-213
Moloney, M. Kane, C., (2007) Citizenship and Responsibility in Moloney, M., Higgins, A., and Ryan, S. (eds), Voice and Choice: Limerick City Childcare Committee and Mary Immaculate College.
O’Keefe, B. & Byrne, A. (2015) Children’s independent mobility on the island of Ireland. Limerick: Mary Immaculate College.
OSCAILT (2009) Report of Dormant Accounts funded scheme to enable DEIS Schools in Limerick City to Maximise Community Use of Premises and Facilities, Dormant Accounts Fund.
Appendix A: OSCAILT model, Limerick

This Dormant Accounts Funded Scheme designed to enable DEIS Band 1 primary and post primary schools in Limerick city to maximise community use of premises and facilities. The Dormant Accounts scheme was initiated by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in response to the Fitzgerald report, which, due to the unique conditions profiled in the report, recommended that the DES ‘should be requested to identify how local schools can be supported, not only in developing their facilities, but also in providing a comprehensive range of services to pupils both during and outside school hours’ (Fitzgerald, 2007:11). The OSCAILT network, comprising the DES, the Transforming Education through Dialogue (TED) Project in Mary Immaculate College and the Limerick City Band 1 DEIS primary and post primary schools was formed to support schools during the roll out of this scheme. The Mission Statement of OSCAILT ‘Opening Schools for Life, Learning and Leisure’ encapsulates the commitment of schools to the holistic growth and development of children, families and communities. This network continues to meet as a proactive forum post Dormant Accounts Funding.