Out of school care

children Once your child starts full-time school, child care can become harder to arrange. One answer lies in out-of-school services. These are set up for children of school age to attend at any time when they are not in school, and are therefore a great boon to working parents. They are often based in or near school, and the numbers are increasing as more parents are working outside the home. Children are able to play, to learn and have fun in groups.

Out-of-school services can be registered with OFSTED if they are looking after children aged below 8 for more than 2 hours a day and over 6 days a year. The staff are usually called playworkers. Activities should be planned to help children learn, play and relax with their friends. Playworkers will often pick children up from local schools.Increasingly, schools are providing an extended day, and this is something you should investigate with the individual schools you are looking at.

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What are the different types of out-of-school service?

  • Breakfast clubs – open in the morning before school so children can have breakfast there.
  • After school clubs – open in the afternoons from the end of the school day till early evening.
  • Before and After School Clubs – open in the morning and afternoons.
  • Holiday playschemes – open during school holidays at varying times between 8.00am and 6.00pm.

What questions should I ask when choosing out-of-school care?

How do I know my child will be safe and secure?

  • First of all you know your child best – look for an out-of-school service you feel will be suitable for your child.
  • If the service is registered with Ofsted it should be checked to ensure the staff are suitable to look after children. At least half of them must hold an appropriate level 2 qualification. There are rules on the ratio of staff to children depending on the ages of the children catered for.
  • A check is also done on the premises of the registered out-of-school service to ensure it is safe and suitable for children. After the out-of-school service is registered, regular inspections are carried out to ensure a safe and suitable service is being provided. All registered providers must operate using the national standards for under 8s day care. You can find the standards here.
Some out-of-school services do not currently need to be registered, for example, those which only cater for children aged over eight. You can ask if they are registered.

How many children will there be?

  • Most out-of-school services provide places for between 10 and 40 children although some are smaller and others are larger.

What will be the age range of the children?

  • Most children attending out-of-school services are aged between 5 and 11.
  • Some services provide places for three and four year olds to fit around nursery or pre-school education. Some services provide places geared for older children aged 10–14, and sometimes children 15 to 16 with special needs
When will services be open?
  • Out-of-school services can open before school and care for children after school until about 6pm.
  • During the school holidays they are likely to be open between 8.00am and 6pm.
What about part-time childcare?
  • This may well be available, but you need to check in advance.
How do I find an out-of-school service?

Talk to your local Children’s Information Service (CIS) to find out more about the out-of-school services in your area. Find your local Family Information Service.

The information contained in this page is from the DfES factsheet on ‘Choosing an out-of-school service’.

Child care outside school hours is also provided by other child care providers - see our other pages on child care and early school options for more information. 

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