Schools in the UK are to "replace churches" as the centre of local communities according to a new government directive due today. In a major announcement, Education Secretary Charles Clarke is expected to say that schools will be turned into community centres open to local people before school starts and in the evenings. The centres will offer childcare to pre-school children, youth clubs for teenagers and even health centres for parents and teenagers who will be offered confidential medical advice, including on contraception. "Churches used to be the centre of communities but they are not any more," said one government source. "The idea is to group together lots of different community services in schools and make use of school facilities so they become the hub of local communities." Under the plans, primary schools will become "community institutions" that offer "a much greater range of services than just teaching". The public would have use of playing fields, gyms and even school computers. Retired people would be able to attend evening classes and learn computing. School facilities would also be available to the unemployed to allow them to improve their skills. Primary schools are expected to become the focus for "educare", with services offered for up to ten hours a day between 8am and 6pm. Nurseries would be based at primary schools for pre-school children to allow parents to drop off their children before and after school. There would also be after-school play groups based at primary schools and breakfast clubs designed to encourage healthy eating.
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