Pupils' working day is now as long as parents'

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The school day has become as long as the working day for 70 per cent of British children who attend after-school clubs or who stay at school to do sports activities because their parents are still at work.

The school day has become as long as the working day for 70 per cent of British children who attend after-school clubs or who stay at school to do sports activities because their parents are still at work.

Two studies published today show how the long-hours working culture and the increasing tendency of two parents to work has transformed life for British children, who are regularly out of the house from 8.30am until 6.30pm on weekdays.

The first study, based on a survey of 1,030 parents with children aged 4 to 16, shows that children of doctors, lawyers and dentists are more likely to stay late after school than children from semi-professional and manual classes.

Parents from all social backgrounds said long hours at work meant that they did not have time to spend with their children after school and could not help them with homework or do other activities with them.

The findings show that Scottish children are the most likely to stay at school to do homework or have extra study lessons, while those in the TyneTees region are four times more likely to do sport than extra homework.

Computer studies are a popular choice for children in the South-east where 18 per cent stay late at school for extra lessons, compared with only 3 per cent in Scotland, and 9 per cent in East Anglia.

"The research shows that people are spending less time at home than ever before, as not only are parents working longer hours but schoolchildren are too," said Sonia Wolsey-Cooper, head of Lloyds TSBinsuredirect, which commissioned the research.

A second study, conducted by Dr Fiona Smith, of Brunel University, on after-school clubs, which she will present at a seminar today at the Family Policy Studies Centre, shows that 80 per cent of children attend because their parents are at work, studying or training. Only one in five chose to attend because they liked going to the club.

However, nearly all the children said they enjoyed their time at their club even though most clearly understood they had to attend while their parents worked.

"Staying on before or after school to allow parents to work is becoming part and parcel of life for more and more children. It's therefore crucial that out-of-school care provides and enjoyable, safe and fulfilling environment for children," said Ceridwen Roberts, director of the centre.

Dr Smith interviewed 400 children who attended after-school clubs and found that although they enjoyed going, they wanted to have more control over what happened in their club and have more activities geared towards older children.

Anne Longfield, director of Kids' Clubs Network, a national charity for child care that helps to set up after-school clubs, said: "The challenge for working parents is to find child care that is not only safe, affordable and reliable but also enjoyable - now we have the documentary evidence to show that kids' clubs are fun places to be."

Jennifer Townsend, who has three children, sends her seven-year-old son, Marcel, to an after-school club about three times a week. Ms Townsend, 39, works as a teacher in the morning and a carer in the afternoon. She picks up her son from school at 5.45pm.

"I need him to go to the after-school club so that I can have work and have some time off. He loves going there and quite often doesn't want to leave," she said. "He mostly enjoys going on the computer and has made a lot of new friends. It may seem like a long day but he seems to have loads of energy when I pick him up, and gets a chance to do lots of different activities. He is also developing his social skills in the process."

Beverley Farquharson, also aged 39, a vacancy liaison officer for the Employment Service in Clapham, south London, uses an after-school every day for her daughter. Teresa, aged eight, is picked up each day at 3.30pm by a member of staff at the after-school club where she stays until 6pm. "I need to work full time and Teresa enjoys going to the club," Ms Farquharson said.

"Each day she does different activities such as exercising, watching videos, drawing and painting. They also do her homework with her, which takes the pressure off me."

She picks up her daughter at about 6pm, from the club on Clapham Common and most days they go for a half-hour walk and discuss what has happened during the day.

"She gets to play with other children of her own age and is very happy going each day," Ms Farquharson said.

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