Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 13 Aug 2009

Local authorities now have to offer out of school activities by law, but children in many deprived areas still aren’t getting any. What can be done?

Hillary's Advice

You are right in pointing out that this matters because out-of-school activities are good for motivating young people and giving them confidence – as well as giving something to put on their c.v.
According to the public services team at the law firm Cobbetts, local authorities certainly do have an obligation to provide such activities for all their school-aged children -- within the limits of what is affordable and practical – and they are also charged by the existing equality legislation to make sure that whatever is available is offered in a way that pays attention to issues of fairness and equality.
However most out-of-school activities are organised by individual schools, so to fulfil their duties properly local authorities should be surveying what is available to school-aged children in their area and making sure there is no bias against any group of them.
If your authority is not doing this, “pressure can be put on LEA’s as democratic and responsible public bodies in a number of ways to find out their information and if necessary make sure, with the benefit of that information, that policies are being pursued to ensure compliance, particularly for the sake of economically disadvantaged children,” Cobbetts advises, adding that local authorities will become even more accountable if and when the Equality Bill becomes law as this will require them to consider how they could make decisions which might help reduce the inequalities associated with socio-economic disadvantage. “The matter of extracurricular activities in disadvantaged areas would be one such issue,” Cobbetts says.
So don’t stand by and see a bad situation continue. Roll up your sleeves and start putting pressure on your local authority to fulfil its obligation to all the children that it is responsible for.