If you’re working, you are likely to need childcare even when your children are of school age, to cope with the school holidays and the extended hours of your working day.
When your child starts school, your childcare needs may be reduced somewhat, but they don’t completely disappear. What happens during school holidays? And what do you do if you are at work during the hours before or after school? Who takes care of your children then?
Don’t worry – a combination of school staff, parents, community groups or your local council will usually have this covered.
Types Of Out Of School Hours Care
There are two types; before and after school care, and vacation care. These may or may not be run by the same organisation at any given school, but they are classified under the same category – Out of School Hours Care.
Before and after School Care is usually available from 7.30am before school, and until 6pm after school. Vacation care will be available for the length of the school holiday (excluding Public Holidays).
They can be used on a full, part-time or occasional basis. They are usually located on or near the school grounds.
If you require Out of School Hours Care on a full time basis, it is important to find out about your local services early. They can quite often be booked up in advance, and you will need to get in early to ensure a place for your child.
Who Runs It?
The majority of Out Of School Hours care services are operated by incorporated, parent based associations, community groups such as churches or community centres, school councils and local councils. Some long day care centres also offer out of school hours care, usually for the younger age groups.
Is It Regulated?
Out of school hours care is not currently covered by licensing regulations (with the exception of the ACT). Voluntary, national standards are currently being introduced in each state / territory and national quality assurance guidelines are also being developed.
How Much Does It Cost?
Fees vary significantly, depending on the type of service provided, who’s providing the service (eg. a childcare centre or a community group), and even the area in which you live.
Fees are usually charged by the session, not by the hour in the way the Child Care Benefit is calculated. Parents using approved Out of School Hours services may be eligible for fee relief under the Child Care Benefit Scheme. Your service will be able to tell you if they are approved to receive the benefit.
What Will My Child Do There?
Most services offer recreational activities as well as ‘quiet time’, for rest and/or homework. The activities are designed to suit the children’s ages, experiences and cultural backgrounds, and to offer an opportunity for the children to socialise and have fun. They include crafts, hobbies and sport, and are similar to the types of things your child does at home.
How Do I Find It?
Your local council will include out of school hours activities in their directory of children’s services. These are usually available at council offices or at your local library. Another valuable source of information about these sorts of programs is your child’s school – enquire at the school’s office or consult the school’s newsletter (if they have one).
How Do I Choose Before And After School Care?
Proximity to your child’s school is probably the major factor in your choice of before and after school care. You don’t want your child walking long distances – especially in winter.
Make sure you understand completely where responsibilities lie with regards to the transfer of your child from school to after school care, and get to know the people looking after your child.
Also, never underestimate the importance of building a network of friends who also have children at your child’s school. They will provide you with an essential back up should anything go wrong – for example if your car breaks down and you can’t make it to pick up your children on time.
How Do I Choose Vacation Care?
Make sure you investigate all the activities available in your local area – these will usually be many and varied. Think about the types of activities your child enjoys – remember, your child will be spending all day here throughout the holiday period.
It may even be worthwhile looking at the activities provided outside your local area – for instance in a neighbouring council area. Look at the activities on offer and think about what your child will enjoy the most.
Will your child’s school friends be going there? Which activities will your child enjoy the most – a trip to the zoo or a day skateboarding? Soccer camp, tennis camp or gymnastics camp? The brochures provided by Vacation Care organisers are usually very comprehensive, and will show a timetable of events and activities planned for the length of the holidays.
Choosing Outside Of School Hours Care – A Checklist
What are the age groups of children attending the program? Are the children together all the time?
- What are the activities on offer? Are there alternatives if the activities do not suit your child?
- Can the children choose between quiet and active play?
- How does the staff help new children settle in?
- What training and experience do the staff have?
- What procedures are in place to supervise the children when playing outdoors and during excursions?
- For vacation care, what excursions are on offer?
- Check out the venue and outdoors play areas. Do they look safe and clean? Is the equipment well-maintained? If the venue is close to busy roads, are access points well-guarded?
- What meals are provided?
- What are the travel arrangements? Is there transport to and from the venue, how much does it cost and are the children supervised while in transit and during waiting times?
- What are the first aid and emergency procedures in case of an accident?