The general election of 1997 saw the spotlight of the newly elected Labour government focus on the need for out of school childcare provision more intensely than any previous administration. In its' detailed 5 year Out Of School Childcare Strategy the government acknowledged the need for childcare provision as a major tool in enabling parents (particularly of school aged children) to enter or return to employment and training. This was by no means a new idea, the Finer Joint Action Committee report of 1976 recognised that the lack of affordable, locally based childcare provision for school aged children was a major barrier for many parents in gaining work or furthering their education. From 1993 - 1997 the Conservative governments' Out of School Childcare Initiative, delivered through the Training & Enterprise Councils (TEC's) enabled many new out of school clubs to access 1 year start up funding.
The Childcare Strategy aims to build on the work that has gone before through an ambitious programme to support the broad development of childcare services to 0 - 14 year olds (16 for disabled young people), through the establishment of Early Years Development & Childcare Partnerships (EYDCP's) in each local authority area. These Partnerships are required to have broad representation from the private, voluntary and statutory childcare sectors and should also include representatives of parents, employers, training bodies and other relevant agencies. They are required to produce annual Childcare Plans, detailing how they will develop and support childcare services.
The New Opportunities Fund (NOF) is an arm of The National Lottery, which has awarded funding to new and expanding out of school clubs since April 1999. Funding is usually granted for one year to meet the operating costs (salaries and running costs) of clubs providing new or additional childcare places. Applications are considered approximately 3 times a year. Successful applicants must be able to show that the club is sustainable beyond the period of NOF funding, applications are usually passed by NOF to the local EYDCP for comments.
This term usually refers to afterschool clubs and holiday playschemes offering services for children aged approximately 5 -12, although it can include many other settings. Daycare is usually defined as closed access provision: where children are registered by parents, where children cannot leave unless collected, offering services from approx. 8.00am - 6.00pm during school holidays and 3.30pm - 6.00pm during term time.
Most EYDCP's employ Childcare Development Workers (or contract other agencies to undertake this work). These workers should be able to offer support to those who are hoping to establish an out of school club, offering guidance and practical help in the various tasks that will need to be undertaken and issues that need to be considered.
For an out of school club to be sustainable the need for provision must first be established. This is usually undertaken by a market research questionnaire, often circulated through one or several schools in a particular locality. Questions would normally include: what days parents may want use the club, how much they'd be prepared to pay, number and ages of children etc. Careful consideration will need to be given to existing provision in the locality and what effect a new club could have on this.
If it appears from the Market Research results that there is sufficient demand to establish a club, a meeting would normally be called of those parents who have expressed an interest. These parents would normally agree a steering group, who would agree to take on various tasks and agree a series of dates when they will meet again to review progress. It is vital that the steering group contacts the local Social Services Registration & Inspection Unit at this stage.
A set of governing documents or Constitution would be drawn up detailing how the club will be managed, this would normally be adopted at an inaugural General Meeting of all those who have expressed an interest in using the club and at which a Management Committee would be elected. The legal status of such a club is an Unincorporated Association. Some clubs also become registered charities; further advice on this would normally be sought from the local law centre or the Charities Commissioners.
A range of policies should be adopted which will govern the overall running of the club. Although this may initially seem quite daunting, they are vital to ensure that everyone running, using, working for and funding the club is clear how the service will operate. Policies should include: Equal Opportunities, Health & Safety, Child Protection, Volunteer, Bookings.
All clubs operating for more than 2 hours a day for more than 5 days a year are required to be registered by the local Social Services Dept under the terms of The Children Act 1989. Clubs must be registered before they start operating and are subject to annual inspection visits. Registration Officers will need to be satisfied that the club is meeting required standards under the Act including premises, staffing and management. If the club is approved, it will be issued with a Registration Schedule which will detail standards it must meet, how many children can attend etc.
For a club to be sustainable in the long term it must be able to attract sufficient funds to meet its' operating costs. Income would normally come from 3 main sources: fees charged to parents, grants, self-generated. There is often a fine balance between these 3 elements.
If the fees charged are too high the service will not be accessible to low income families, for many of whom alternative childcare services may also be cost prohibitive. If the fees are too low, the club must rely on attracting sufficient funds to meet costs from the other 2 sources. Many clubs operate a sliding scale of fees: for 1st & 2nd child, 1 & 2 parent families, those on low incomes, students etc.
Some clubs are able to attract funding from their local authority, charities and trusts however this can take a lot of work and needs to be done on an on-going basis. Some have been successful in attracting corporate sponsorship from their local businesses. This funding is often easier for new clubs to attract to start up or buy new equipment etc, established clubs often find it difficult to `attract such funds for an existing (all be it much needed) service.
Self-generated income can come from a variety of sources e.g. sponsored events, jumble sales etc. It can often be very frustrating where an event which takes a great deal of effort seems to generate little funding at the end of the day. There is also the problem that very often the same people (particularly those who are using the club) are being asked for money over and over again through different events. Fundraising events should be planned carefully to ensure energies are put into those that will take minimum effort and generate maximum net returns.
To ensure financial sustainability can be achieved it is essential that a detailed cash flow projection is prepared and annual budgets are prepared and reviewed closely during the course of the year.
Clubs are required to have staffing levels 'on site' of 1:8 for children aged 5 - 8, 1:10 for children aged over 8. More staff are required 'off-site' e.g. for outings, Afterschool collection etc. Leaders and deputies (and in some cases other staff) will be required to complete various checks: health records, police, equal opportunities declaration and 'fit person' (qualifications / experience). It is essential that references are obtained for all staff, many clubs also choose to run police checks on staff whom Social Services do not check. Fair Play for Children can provide advice and support with this.
All paid staff and volunteers should be given appropriate support and supervision. They should also have access to training to allow them to develop their skills and ultimately improve the quality and develop the service they offer to the children with whose care they are entrusted.
Clubs should offer a varied programme of activities, and outings (where appropriate), they should also have access to outside space. The programme should offer a broad, stimulating range of activities which aims to meet the developmental and cultural needs of all children and be FUN. Children using the club should be actively involved in drawing up the programme of activities and their ideas should be incorporated into fundraising appeals. Children should be supported in drawing up 'rules of the club', which should be displayed and should be phrased in a positive way i.e. not a list of 'don'ts'.
The space used by the club should be broadly divided into different areas, however it can be a good idea to change these around from time to time. These could include: a messy area - for art/craft activities, an area for board games/quieter activities etc, a 'chill out' area - ideally with floor cushions/soft furnishing, perhaps some books, a games area - for large indoor games/group games, an IT/TV/music area.
The layout of the space available should consider health & safety issues of the activities on offer and how these will be staffed. Children should be encouraged to decide on the use of the space available and to 'take ownership' of it through displays of work, posters, murals, pictures etc.
Clubs should aim to be as inclusive as possible to all children. This should encompass the physical accessibility of the premises being used, in terms of access, resources, layout of the club etc. The programme of activities, books, games, outings etc should reflect and draw from a broad range of cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles, to support individual children's needs and their understanding of the society in which they live.
Consideration should be given to: where the club is based, how advertised, how the club will support disabled children, how it will implement a multi-cultural play programme.
It is important that clubs remember they are not alone. There has been a rapid growth in out of school clubs in recent years with a 25% increase in places between 1997 - 1999. Clubs now exist in most areas and making contact with neighbouring clubs can help enhance the service the club offers and provide advice on dealing with issues that arise. Many areas also have play forums, training networks etc which usually involve a broad range of groups and agencies offering complementary services. EYDCP meetings are open to the public and most have sub-groups dealing with different aspects of childcare, which welcome input from providers and service users.
Membership of national agencies such as Fair Play for Children, Kids' Clubs' Network (KCN), the Joint National Committee for Training on Playwork (JNCTP) can also help clubs keep up to date with wider developments in the field of playwork and childcare.
Most clubs not only seek to serve a local community but rely on its' goodwill and support for their continued operation. To ensure they are responsive to the needs of the local area clubs may consider co-opting representatives of the local community onto their Management Committee. A club newsletter (ideally produced with the children) distributed to the local area can help ensure there is a two-way flow of information.
Making contact through networking links can be invaluable to a club in terms of the information and support that can be gained and given, it can also often offer an opportunity to be involved in the development of services.
Many in the field of Play believe that Daycare focuses on the needs of parents not children and that the Childcare Strategy is an employment driven initiative. Many in the field of Daycare would agree, but believe that Play is an essential ingredient in high quality childcare provision; that the Childcare Strategy should be used to gain recognition of the value of all Play and the need for better resourcing for Play outside of closed access provision, to meet the needs of children.
Kids' Clubs Network, Bellerive House, 3 Muirfield Crescent, London E1 9SZ, Tel: 020-7512 2112, web-site: http://www.kidsclubs.com Promotes the development of Kids Clubs throughout the UK and is heavily involved in the National Childcare Strategy.
The Daycare Trust, 21 St George's Road, London SE1 6ES, Tel: 020-7840-3350, Fax: 020-7840 3355, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk Likewise, an influential organisation in the field.
Education Extra, 17 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PL, Tel: 020-8709 9900, Fax: 020-8709 9933, e-mail: email@example.com, web-site: http://www.educationextra.org.uk This organisation focuses on the educational aspects and opportunities of the out-of-school situation.
BAND, Bristol Association for Neighbourhood Daycare Ltd: 81 St Nicholas Street, St Paul's, Bristol BS2 9JJ, Tel: 0117-954 2128, Fax: 0117-954 1694 A federation of local out-of-school projects which has pioneered a great deal in the way of development, support and training. BAND [member of Fair Play] has done a great deal to progress this provision, and set standards which have been important in national development terms. We owe BAND a great deal of thanks for this Guide's contents.
Department for Education and Employment, SEB1, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NF
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