Out-of-school clubs help parents balance work and family commitments by providing care for school-aged children before and after school, and during school holidays.
For parents, the clubs provide convenient and affordable childcare, located in or near to their child’s school, enabling them to work outside of school hours. For children, the clubs provide a safe, stimulating and fun environment, where they can relax and play after the school day, socialise with their peers and develop friendships independently.
The benefits Many parents select primary schools not just on the basis of the quality of education offered but also on the availability of wraparound care for the children. Access to school-based childcare is a major consideration for working parents when applying for school places.
Schools which offer wraparound care (whether provided directly by the school or by a third party) often find that there is an enhanced sense of community within the school, and improved communication with and commitment from parents. In addition, schools which host a breakfast club typically report a significant reduction in lateness, and an improvement in concentration and behaviour amongst pupils.
Schools also receive some financial benefit from hosting out of school clubs. If the school runs the club directly it will obviously receive income from fees, and if the club is provided by a third party then the school can expect to receive rent to cover their costs. It is however important to remember that out of school clubs typically run on fairly low profit margins, so shouldn’t be viewed as ‘cash cows’, indeed, many schools provide the space for free or at a peppercorn rent, as the benefits to schools are much wider than the basic rental income.
Ofsted registration Most out of school clubs which provide childcare – as opposed to say, football coaching, French tuition or homework support – need to be registered with Ofsted. A club must register with Ofsted if: children attend for more than two hours per day; the children are under the age of eight; and if the purpose of the club is to provide childcare.
For children in the Reception year or younger, the club will need to register on Ofsted’s Early Years Register. For children from Year 1 up to the age of eight, the club will need to register on the Compulsory part of the Childcare Register. Most out of school clubs are registered on both registers.
If the staff running the club are employed by the school, the club comes under the school’s existing Ofsted registration and does not need to register separately. Note that even if the club comes under the school’s Ofsted registration, it still needs to meet the relevant requirements for the Early Years Register and Childcare Register.
If the school invites a third party to run the club (such as a pre-school, voluntary committee, or private business), even though it takes place on the school premises the club needs to register with Ofsted in its own right.
The application process for registration with Ofsted can be quite lengthy: up to 25 weeks for the Early Years Register and up to 12 weeks for the Childcare Register, so if Ofsted registration will be required it is important to start the process as soon as possible.
Meeting regulations All out of school clubs that are registered with Ofsted must have a member of staff with a 12 hour paediatric first aid who is present and available at all sessions, as well as a trained lead practitioner for child protection. All other staff must have child protection training, and all staff involved in the preparation of food and snacks must have received and food handling and hygiene training. Finally, there must be a trained special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO), and all staff must have a satisfactory enhanced DBS disclosure.
From 1 September 2014 there is no longer a requirement for out of school clubs to employ staff with recognised childcare or playwork qualifications (so long as the children are of reception age or above), however it remains good practice to do so.
There are numerous specific requirements relating to a club’s premises, policies and procedures that it must meet to ensure the safety and welfare of the children, if it is registered with Ofsted. Full details of the registration requirements can be obtained from Ofsted.
Whether a club is registered with Ofsted or not, if it provides any kind of food – even if it’s just drinks and biscuits – it must be registered with the local authority as a food business. All clubs must also comply with employment law and health and safety legislation.
What should clubs offer? High quality out of school care should not just be an extension of the school day but should instead provide a clearly differentiated environment in which children can independently pursue their own interests and activities. Staff should facilitate this through the provision of appropriate activities and resources.
These should include: free access to outdoor play space; equipment for physical play (eg football, climbing frame, skipping ropes, ball games, etc); a range of indoor activities such as board games, construction toys (eg Lego, K’Nex), role play (e.g dressing up), toy cars, dolls, dinosaurs; computer games / Wii; and art and craft materials. There should also be a quiet corner for relaxation with blankets, cushions and books, magazines and comics.
It is good practice to offer a mix of planned and free choice activities, and also to have resources such as posters, toys, books, and dressing up clothes, that reflect disabilities, cultural and religious diversity.
All clubs must provide drinking water for the children throughout the session and most clubs also offer snacks or even cooked meals.
Things to bear in mind When setting up a club, providers need to think very carefully about their fees. This can be a fairly fine balancing act – clubs need to cover their costs, whilst providing an affordable service for parents. Recently announced changes to regulation for out of school clubs regarding staffing ratios come in to effect on 1 September this year. The statutory minimum ratio is being increased from 1:8 to 1:30, however clubs will still need to meet all the other Ofsted welfare requirements. For example, clubs are required to ensure the safety of the children, understand and meet the individual needs of the children, ensure they are adequately supervised, and keep them within sight or hearing at all times. Few settings will be able to fulfil these requirements if they operate according to the new statutory minimum ratios, and few parents would be happy to entrust their children to such settings.
Even if the statutory minimum ratio is 1:30, out of school clubs must also ensure that they are meeting the staff:child ratio demanded by their insurers. Childcare insurers typically require a ratio of 1:8 for early years children and around 1:10 for under eights.
Regarding profitability, most new clubs experience a slow take up initially. The general rule of thumb for childcare settings is to run at a loss in the autumn term, break-even in the spring term, and start to go into profit in the summer term. This is because parents are reluctant to change their existing childcare arrangements until they can see that a new setting is established and viable. Even when the club is making a small profit on a month by month basis, it can take some time for providers to recoup their initial investment.
Marketing is another important consideration. Useful tips for new clubs to encourage parents to take up places include: offering a free session; giving discounts for siblings; holding an open day; and participating in induction events for new parents.