The national agenda
The provision of extended activities and services forms part of a wider agenda and should contribute to both national and local strategies for integrated children’s services, community regeneration and community cohesion. At the heart of these is the raising achievement agenda.
This Quality Mark guidance complements and supports the agenda of Every Child Matters. It is also fully consistent with the principles informing Every Parent Matters (2007), Youth Matters (2005) and The Children’s Plan (2007), as well as those underpinning the Early Years Foundation Stage,1 the national improvement strategies for primary and secondary schools, and the national frameworks for inspection.
Benefits of the Quality Mark
Providers of extended activities and services will be thinking continually about how to improve what they are offering to children, young people, their families and the community they serve. This process is likely to include using self-evaluation tools against quality criteria and/or becoming involved in local and national quality improvement initiatives.
A provider using this guidance to work towards achieving the Quality Mark award will find the process of rigorous self evaluation, followed by action planning and regular review to identify impact, invaluable. It will complement and help to integrate other local and national initiatives, including work carried out for other quality assurance schemes covering the wider extended services agenda. It will also add value to current provision and practice.
Achieving a Quality Mark award will provide evidence of external validation and an acknowledgement of good provision, practice, progress and performance in those aspects of the extended services core offer which are targeted by the provider.
All practitioners, whether paid or voluntary, should be involved in helping to achieve a Quality Mark, and they can benefit from its value in providing continuing professional development (CPD). Involvement will contribute to developing and employing leadership and management skills such as auditing, action-planning, monitoring and evaluating, in a practical context and with a tangible outcome.
The relevant responsible body for the provider will find that work undertaken to achieve and sustain a Quality Mark offers a practical context in which to monitor and evaluate the quality of their centre’s/service’s provision and practice, and demonstrate how they are actively fulfilling their role in holding the provider to account.
For a local authority, promotion and use of the Quality Mark programme across its schools, early years and extended services providers will establish and demonstrate a coherent and consistent approach to delivering quality assurance. This will connect extended services, early years provision and school improvement to form an overall improvement agenda for children and young people.
Use of the familiar framework of ten elements, criteria, language, evidence sources and assessment approaches across the range of Quality Mark awards encourages and supports collaboration and understanding between practitioners from different sectors or contexts. Recognition of the national Quality Mark logo by participants, parents and practitioners will increase their confidence in the quality of any centre or service or provider, wherever it may be physically located.
Above all, achieving a Quality Mark offers valuable public recognition and ‘a pat on the back’. It celebrates the work of everyone involved in improving the quality of the extended activities and services provision made for children and young people and on the standards of learning and personal development they achieve.1 The Early Years Foundation Stage brings together Birth to Three Matters, the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage and the National Standards for day-care into a single framework for children from birth to the age of 5.