SCHOOL'S OUT: Framework for the Development of Out-of-School Care
The effect and benefits of OSC
Research - economic and social benefits
OSC is a fairly new form of childcare, with the first few clubs being set up in the 1970s. These clubs were funded under the Urban Programme. The voluntary sector developed a few clubs without any funding support. It is only over the last few years, with the launch of our childcare strategy and the greater availability of funding, mainly through the New Opportunities Fund, that OSC has established itself on the childcare scene. As a result, there is no Scottish or UK-wide research on the long-term social benefits of OSC to children, tracking children over a number of years.
But there is a lot of evidence of the economic benefits of childcare, including OSC, to parents in the UK and overseas. This is not surprising given the emphasis on providing childcare to help parents go back to work. Research has highlighted a significant effect on employment that in turn will help reduce poverty and disadvantage.
The relationship between non-parental care, including OSC, and outcomes for children will always vary depending on the features of children, their homes and their communities. And, actual social benefits will depend on the quality of the service.
Research that included an international literature review on the benefits of OSC was carried out on our behalf. 2 It will be available soon at www.scotland.gov.uk/insight. The benefits from the International Literature Review are summarised below.
Economic benefits of OSC
(Scotland, England and international reviews)
- The effect on the labour market is strong. Parents, especially lone parents, can take up employment opportunities or increase working hours. Parents benefit from childcare that is available when their child starts school.
- OSC breaks the cycle of deprivation in some areas, not only in allowing parents to go back to work but also in reaching out to children. OSC services are employing and training unemployed people from economically disadvantaged areas.
- OSC services are, in effect, small businesses operating in communities.
- Women's earnings are important in reducing a family's vulnerability to poverty.
- There has been a reduction in recruitment costs, better retention rates, reduced staff absenteeism and a wider pool of potential recruits for jobs (childcare generally).
Social benefits of OSC
(Scotland and England research)
- Fun and happiness for children.
- Opportunities for social interaction and development.
- Play where children learn to negotiate, take risks and make compromises.
- Increasing personal confidence and improving life skills.
- Healthy habits through opportunities for physical activity, sports and games.
- Developing healthy eating, especially in breakfast clubs.
- Peace of mind for parents.
- Reducing the number of 'latchkey' kids (children who go home to an empty house).
- Reducing the likelihood of negative behaviour in later life and changing social attitudes for the better.
- More positive school environment.
- International research has also highlighted many of the social benefits which Scottish and UK-wide research identified. And, for example, studies in Canada show that children have improved attitudes to school; in the USA, there is a reduced level of potentially disruptive behaviour and safer neighbourhoods and in Sweden and Denmark, the children's social and educational skills are well developed.
These conclusions are reinforced in the England-only Inter-departmental Childcare Review: Delivering for Children and Families. 3
The review states that:
- there is evidence that out-of-school care and study support have positive effects, particularly for disadvantaged children; and
- it is clear that childcare contributes to the tackling of child poverty by enabling parents to go out to work and lift their families out of poverty.
There is one important benefit. The research carried out on our behalf confirms the contribution of OSC to improving citizenship. 'Citizenship' is about respect for ourselves and one another, and about our relationships with other members of the neighbourhood and society. We and others need to work with parents to improve citizenship.
Scotland's school curriculum provides a rich source of education for citizenship. Launched in June 2002, a report produced by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) 4 recommended that we encourage thoughtful and responsible involvement in political, economic, social and cultural life. We need to provide pupils with the skills to make personal and social decisions that will affect their own and others' lives. (See www.ltscotland.com ).
In OSC, children and young people can also develop good citizenship through personal and social development. They learn to respect themselves and one another. This is especially important where older and younger children from different backgrounds meet together. It is also relevant where OSC is in school premises, and there needs to be a mutual respect and understanding between children enjoying themselves at the end of the school day, and teaching staff who may still be in the building.
Some clubs are better than others at organising activities to improve citizenship. It will often depend on the commitment, enthusiasm and skills of individual service managers. All activities also need to be planned to protect essential leisure and relaxation time, and to acknowledge that children want their own space.
A workplace nursery and OSC provider said:
'We have purchased books and videos on developing citizenship and community skills.'
A private childcare provider said:
'Children have formed their own "golden rules" for OSC.'
Voluntary sector providers said:
'We encourage older children to help out often with the younger ones. Often, giving them a duty gives them a sense of responsibility and self-worth.'
'Children encouraged "buddying" new children while they settle in.'
'We have introduced the children to a girl from Cambodia we have adopted through the World Vision charity.'
(SOSCN case studies)
Bishopbriggs Childcare Centre uses a programme based on education in human values, aimed at children aged between 2 and 12. The programme encourages a sense of good citizenship and looks at how the individual child can have a positive effect on others in their neighbourhood.
The research also shows how OSC can promote positive behavioure. Both early education and childcare, including OSC, play an important role in developing positive attitudes and raising the aspirations of the children.
Voluntary sector providers said the following:
'Attending our projects keeps the children off the streets. We encourage them to stay active and meet their needs as their interests change and mature.'
'Obviously, our existence assists in the prevention of latchkey kids. However, we have recently opened a base specifically for the 11 to 14 year olds in response to parents' requests.'
(SOSCN case studies)