SCHOOL'S OUT: Framework for the Development of Out-of-School Care
Out-of-school care (OSC) lies at the heart of our policy to make sure that every child and young person is healthy, happy, safe and achieving their potential. OSC helps to promote and achieve better services for children and their families, including those who are vulnerable or deprived. At the same time, OSC is an extremely important service for all working families, whatever their economic or social circumstances. OSC is relevant to all sections of the community and in all geographical areas. So OSC ranges from delivery for all to more targeted approaches aimed at reaching children in need, including children from vulnerable families.
We have produced School's Out because we value OSC services, they are an essential part of the childcare strategy and yet they need to develop more to fully meet the needs of children, parents and the wider community. So this document sets out the way forward to help improve and promote OSC.
Section 2 (Introduction) sets out the aims of School's Out in making known, and reinforcing, the benefits and effect of good-quality OSC; in helping and encouraging the development of good-quality, accessible and sustainable OSC; and in ensuring progress in the delivery of priorities for action. We stress the value in having all sectors - local authority, voluntary and private - deliver OSC. We define 'children in need', 'children from vulnerable families' and 'children with additional support needs' since these terms are used throughout the document and we need to be clear about what children we mean. This section also refers to our consultation with children. Finally, it guides readers on the format of the document through the use of colour-coded boxes that provide information, guidance, and good-practice examples.
Section 3 (Resources for childcare) sets out the resources for childcare and Sure Start Scotland and shows the significant increase in resources between now and 2006. It also highlights extra funding for childcare from 2004-2005 onwards from social justice sources.
Section 4 (What we mean by OSC) provides essential background on defining OSC, on the use of OSC, and on demand for OSC. OSC is essentially care for school-age children: before school starts in the morning (mostly breakfast clubs); after the end of the school day (after-school clubs); and during school holidays (playschemes or all-day care). We recognise that it is mostly the children of working parents who use OSC. We also recognise that increasing numbers of children in need, including children from vulnerable families, and children with additional support needs also go to OSC. We confirm the continuing demand for OSC.
Section 5 (Consulting children) stresses, in the context of our consideration of children in OSC services, the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and welcomes the proposed establishment of a Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland. The section (and Appendix 2) summarises our consultation with children and young people, including with children in need or with additional support needs, and older children who no longer go to OSC. Children like to mix with friends in an informal setting at the end of the school day and like a wide range of activities. Most don't mind staying on in the school if their club is in school premises.
Section 6 (The effect and benefits of OSC) summarises the research that consultants undertook on our behalf to assess the benefits of OSC. We cover both the economic and the social benefits of OSC, drawing on international evidence. There are strong economic benefits of childcare, including OSC. When OSC is available, parents, including lone parents, are being helped into work or training. OSC services contribute both directly and indirectly to the economy: OSC services operate as small businesses, creating local employment and they help unemployed parents to take up paid employment and training. The labour market effect of OSC in helping parents into work far outweighs the direct costs of setting up OSC.
The research highlights the social benefits of OSC in terms of, for example, increasing children's personal confidence, improving their life skills and diverting them away from negative, anti-social behaviour. Parents benefit too in terms of 'peace of mind' and reduced levels of pressure.
Section 7 (Quality) summarises the role of the national care standards in assessing the quality of services for children and young people and the role of quality-assurance schemes. But the main focus of this section is on workforce issues. While the challenges in dealing with workforce issues are real - low pay, low status, recruitment problems, a need for more qualified staff - the action to help deal with the problems, both at national and local level - is making a real difference. We also support efforts to increase the number of men working in childcare. This section contains many good-practice examples that show the commitment, ingenuity and resolve at local level in helping to tackle workforce issues.
Section 8 (Premises and accommodation) deals with an issue that troubles OSC services a lot - the lack of suitable, good-quality premises for OSC. Local authorities and childcare partnerships need to help services deal with the problems since the availability of premises affects whether OSC can be maintained in the longer term.
We set out what we can do. The school-estate strategy and the development of new community schools allows local authorities to take account of OSC in developing and putting into practice plans for the school estate. There is also a way forward, not recognised by all as a potential solution, in that some local authorities are promoting the use of good-quality modular buildings for OSC. These are not 'huts' in the old-fashioned sense of that word, but bright and spacious and well suited to OSC.
We point out that premises other than schools can often be suitable for OSC and that new clubs should not be set up in schools if they are then to compete with existing clubs located in other premises.
We refer to our guidance on accessibility strategies which highlights that the planning groups responsible for producing accessibility strategies must consider how the strategy is addressing access for children with disabilities to services provided in schools by OSC clubs.
Section 9 (Access issues) confirms the good practice across authorities and by clubs in making OSC places available to children in need and with additional support needs. There is a need to do more because children in need and vulnerable families can benefit from OSC being available to them.
Since OSC services cater mainly for primary-school children, there is a need to consider providing suitable services for young people aged 11 to 14. This is the age where peer pressure can encourage negative behaviour, and where interest and achievement in school can decline. Again we provide some good practice examples of local innovation.
There is a section on diversity where we stress that everyone involved in providing OSC should be sensitive to issues of culture, race, sex, disability, religion, age and sexuality.
Section 10 (Links) acknowledges that OSC should connect with other activities, services and programmes, where that is convenient for the children and young people and their parents. So more can be done to make sure of better co-ordination between OSC and Out of School Hours Learning (OSHL), especially as both services develop similar skills in children, albeit from slightly different perspectives. Under a more closely connected service, the worthwhile activities under OSHL would continue as would opportunities for play, relaxation and mixing with friends. We also set out our policies on youth work, cultural activities and PE and sport and show the connections between them and OSC, for example, positive lifestyles, good health and physical activity.
Section 11 (Sustainability) is central to considerations about the future development of OSC. It comes at this point in School's Out as sustainability concerns are raised in other sections, for example, section 7 on quality and section 8 on premises and accommodation. We acknowledge that sustainability of OSC services is an ongoing concern. We set out the funding available for OSC and include in Appendix 3 a comprehensive list of funding sources.
On our behalf, consultants carried out a study across Scotland looking at: models for delivering OSC, other than the parent-led management committee model; and good practice in business support for the parent-led management committee model. This section summarises the consultants' work thus providing local authorities and childcare partnerships with full information about sustainable ways to deliver OSC. We acknowledge the considerable work undertaken by parents in managing OSC services. These services can continue to exist with more support from local authorities. Section 14 (Conclusions, priorities for action and recommendations) highlights the priority of making sure that vulnerable good-quality clubs stay open and recommends that some of the extra resources available to local authorities for the childcare strategy should be used to make sure that clubs are sustainable.
Section 12 (Employer involvement) refers to work-life balance policies, the employers' potential role in OSC and the role of local enterprise companies in helping childcare partnerships to work with employers. We mention a forthcoming seminar we are planning for employers, Chambers of Commerce and other interested organisations.
Section 13 (Our policies) sets out a number of important policies that are all relevant to developing OSC services. Some of the policies such as the school-estate strategy and Out of School Hours Learning (OSHL) are mentioned in the main body of School's Out. There are others such as integrated children's services, the review of breakfast services, the physical activity strategy and community regeneration that set OSC within a wider context. OSC does not operate in isolation and its connections with other areas are vitally important. For example, OSC can contribute well to the integrated services agenda where OSC is provided along with services for younger children with, say, social work and health support.
Section 14 (Conclusions, priorities for action and recommendations) emphasises the achievements in OSC over the last few years, including the growth in services and concludes that good-quality OSC services are vitally important for children, parents and the wider community. We set out our vision for the future, including an OSC place for all children whose parents want them to go to clubs. In order to achieve the vision, three priority areas are identified for action:
- making sure that vulnerable, good-quality clubs can stay open;
- providing suitable services for older children and young people; and
- making sure that children in need and children with additional support needs have places in OSC.
There are four recommendations aimed at local authorities and local enterprise companies. Essentially, we look to local authorities and others to review the development of OSC in their areas and to take action to improve the delivery of the services. We want local authorities to set their own targets for local OSC expansion by 2006 and for these targets to be agreed with us. We set out our role in making the vision for the future of OSC a reality, including, taking action to deal with those issues which can constrain the development of OSC. We will monitor and evaluate progress, including formally reviewing progress in 2005-2006. We set out the progress we want to see, including tackling sustainability concerns.