A SCHOOL has revealed plans to end a free, after-school childcare service, despite criticism from parents.

Northwick Park Academy, on Canvey, has finished lessons at 1.30pm on Fridays since 2020 to give teachers time to mark exams and plan lessons.

As part of the scheme, children were allowed to stay on site until 3.15pm but now the school is ditching the “free childcare” and asking parents to pay £2 if they want their child to stay at the school.

Parents have raised concerns that having to collect their child at 1.30pm will be disruptive to anyone working.

A parent, who asked not to be named, said: “Many working parents are upset by this announcement, why has the finish time not changed back to the normal time as it was only changed due to Covid?

“How can parents be expected to pay for their child to finish at a normal school finish time?

“It seems that working parents are being penalised and now have another financial worry during difficult times.

“If there are so many children staying does that not indicate a need for them to resume normal hours on a Friday?

“Can they not ask for evidence from parents that they work?”

Emma Lane, chief executive at the Northwick Park Trust which oversees the school, stressed the move was not to penalise parents and the fee had been kept to a minimum.

She said: “For three years we have offered free childcare on Fridays for parents or carers who are working or studying from 1.30pm to 3.15pm.

“From September 2024, we must be open for 32.5 hours a week, it is currently 32.

“We are in the middle of a consultation with our community with two options, the responses we have received so far indicate in favour of keeping an 8.30am start and having a 2pm finish to the teaching week on Fridays.

“There will be a nominal charge of £2 for childcare for children staying from 2.00pm until 3.15pm.

“This policy is in line with other local schools who have made a childcare charge on Friday afternoons for several years.”

She added: “We will continue to offer onsite childcare provision at Northwick Park for 51 weeks of the year for children aged 2 to 11 from 7.15am to 6.00pm.