The Scottish Government ran a public consultation to invite feedback on the draft Out of School Care Framework. The consultation period ran for 14 weeks between 30th August and 6th December 2019. It asked 21 questions, consisting of three closed questions and 18 open questions.
A total of 1,270 usable responses were received, including 111 responses from organisations, 1,141 from individuals, and 18 event summaries. Most responses were provided by parents/carers (62%), followed by other individuals (21%) and out of school care providers (10%).
The issues identified and discussed by respondents at each consultation question tended to be fairly consistent between the different respondent groups.
National Policy Support
The consultation asked two questions designed to elicit views on how national policy could enhance and support out of school care.
What name should we use for the range of out of school services and activities? Is there a better term than 'Out of School Care'?
A total of 912 (72%) respondents provided a substantive response to this question.
Many respondents (30%) felt that the term 'Out of School Care' was satisfactory and/or saw no reason to change it. It was generally felt that the term was well understood, that parents/carers and children were familiar with this, and that the terminology was suitably descriptive and accurate. A further 10% of respondents indicated that they were less concerned with what the service was called, and were more interested in ensuring sufficient, affordable provision of high quality services.
Alternative names/terminology was suggested by some respondents however, with most being more descriptive of the provision (e.g. breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, and holiday clubs), or to include the term 'wraparound' or 'play'. Others supported a change to allow a move away from references to 'school' and 'care'.
Do you agree with our three key aims for a future out of school framework?
A total of 1,129 (89%) respondents provided a quantitative response at this question, with 705 (56%) respondents also providing qualitative comments.
Respondents were also overwhelmingly supportive of the three key aims outlined for a future out of school care framework, with 95% of those who answered the question indicating support for these. Providing accessible and affordable services was considered to be the most important aim, and was considered vital in supporting parents/carers to work, train or study. Respondents generally believed in the provision of high quality services, staffed by high quality staff who can provide a caring and nurturing environment. They were also supportive of services that can support children to try different activities, and develop life and social skills. Similarly, respondents were generally supportive of out of school services using/accessing community facilities and spaces so that children integrate with and feel part of the community. Having access to the outdoors was also considered important to promote health and wellbeing among children and young people. A common theme throughout, however, was that additional funding would be needed to allow the Scottish Government to achieve the specified aims.
The overwhelming support for the aims suggests that it would be appropriate for these to be retained and implemented.
Preferred Out of School Activities
The consultation asked seven questions in relation to the type of out of school activities that families want or need:
What range of services are needed? Can you tell us why these services are important?
A total of 1,203 (95%) respondents provided a quantitative response at this question, with 1,184 (93%) respondents also providing qualitative comments.
Most respondents felt that regulated out of school care (92%) and activity based clubs and programmes (85%) were needed, and over half of all respondents (56%) suggested that childminders were needed. Indeed, a wide range of different provision was seen as necessary to meet the needs and preferences of parents/carers and children, as well as to offer choice to families.
What ages of children do parents/carers need provision for?
A total of 1,162 (91%) respondents provided a response at this question.
Provision was considered necessary for a wide range of age groups, although the largest perceived demand appears to be for primary school aged children (52% of respondents identified this age group), as it was typically felt that older children would be more independent and more capable/trusted to be home alone. While secondary school provision seems less in demand, there was still a perceived need, particularly for those in S1 and S2 (26% of respondents identified a need for this age group) and a perceived shortage of current provision for this age group.
What flexibility do parents and carers need from out of school care services? Can you tell us why this flexibility is important?
A total of 1,085 (85%) respondents provided a response at this question.
Considerable flexibility was identified as being required by families. This included accommodating various needs in timings and uptake of sessions, being able to access sessions/change bookings at short notice, access fairer payment terms, and the safe transportation of children between school, activities and care services. However, organisations suggested that providing this degree of flexibility could be challenging for service providers within their current models of delivery, and costly.
Flexibility was considered to be highly important for parents/carers as working patterns vary, childcare is needed for school holidays and other school closures. It was felt that shift workers, in particular, are currently poorly catered for because parents/carers often need to adapt to short notice changes to their schedules. Reliability was also highly valued by parents/carers who need to be certain that space(s) can be accessed when needed.
What is important for parents and carers in terms of location of out of school care services? Should they be delivered in school, community facilities, outdoors?
A total of 1,139 (90%) respondents provided a response at this question.
The preferred location for out of school care services were:
- co-located in/with schools (43% of those who gave an answer);
- to provide a mix/variety of venues (23% of those who gave an answer);
- anywhere with access to the outdoors (20% of those who gave an answer);
- near to schools (18% of those who gave an answer); and
- in community facilities (12% of those who gave an answer).
The preference for services to be in or co-located with schools was largely due to convenience (for children and parents/carers) and because these were considered to already have suitable facilities. Several, however, felt it was important for services to be located elsewhere so that children get a change of scene.
Do parents/carers need food provision as part of after-school and holiday clubs?
A total of 1,158 (91%) respondents provided a quantitative response at this question, with 1,089 (86%) respondents also providing qualitative comments.
Most respondents felt that food should be provided as part of after-school and holiday clubs (81%), although there were mixed views as to who should provide this (the service or parents/carers). Service based food provision was seen as particularly important by many in tackling food insecurity for some families/children.
The main concerns over food provision were safety/risks for children with food allergies/intolerances and cost implications.
What do children and young people want from out of school care services and does this differ depending on age?
What different activities or provision might secondary school age children want?
A total of 1,184 (93%) respondents provided a response to the first of these questions, while 925 (73%) respondents provided information at the second.
Many respondents agreed that what children and young people want from out of school care will differ by age, and therefore activities should be age and stage specific, and the type of provision should be different by age.
For younger children it was suggested that services should provide a 'fun' environment with nurturing and supportive staff and should offer a range of activities and spaces to facilitate structured activities, free play and quiet space.
Generally, it was agreed that older children would require a more informal service and hands-off approach from staff compared to younger children, while also allowing them to be more actively involved in shaping their 'care' experience. Some also felt that secondary school age pupils would prefer more diverse and tailored offerings that help with the development of life skills and support the focus on attainment. It should be noted, however, that there was a lack of identifiable responses from young people of secondary school age so it is difficult to be certain about what they would like.
Making Out of School Care Accessible
The consultation asked five questions in order to elicit views on how to make out of school care accessible to all families and children.
How can we make sure out of school care is an affordable option for more families?
In total, 1,126 (89%) respondents provided a response at this question. Of these, 34% specifically mentioned the need for subsidised provision, 7% explicitly identified a need for help with upfront costs, 4% discussed barriers in accessing benefits, while a further 9% felt that all three of these would be required/helpful.
The provision of financial support was considered the most important issue (with this issue mentioned frequently throughout the consultation). This was discussed both in relation to providing subsidised or free child places, and to support services with costs (such as help with set-up costs, subsidised rent/free access to local authority facilities, help with staff costs, and grants to purchase equipment). There was little agreement, however, in relation to how any subsidies should be administered (e.g. available for the most vulnerable only, for those on benefits only, means tested, or universally available to all families).
How can we help to ensure that all families have access to an out of school care place for their child/ren if they want it?
In total 1,177 (93%) respondents provided a response at this question.
The main issues identified as being important in ensuring all families have access included:
- increased capacity both within existing services and the creation of new services;
- affordability, with many again advocating for funding/subsidies;
- greater and more effective advertising of services so parents/carers are aware of what is available; and
- ensuring services are accessible for children and parents/carers.
How can services be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas to meet the needs of families?
A total of 833 (66%) respondents provided a substantive response at this question.
While transport provision was universally considered important in order to support the safe transition of children between school and other services, this issue was particularly acute in rural and remote areas and considered as essential to ensure that rural/remote areas can provide an effective service.
Other elements considered important in rural/remote services included:
- ensuring services are easily accessible, with many suggesting schools and local community facilities should be used for out of school care services;
- recruiting staff from the local community and allowing use of volunteers;
- encouraging and supporting local communities to set-up their own services; and
- supporting greater provision of childminders.
How can we ensure that children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care services?
A total of 867 (68%) respondents provided a substantive response at this question.
The key elements that were suggested to ensure children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care services included:
- the provision of accessible venues - this included ensuring they are physically accessible as well as provide suitable quiet and sensory spaces;
- providing trained staff - this included both general awareness training and specialist support;
- greater consultation with families to identify demand, needs and barriers; and
- that funding or subsidies would be needed to absorb the additional costs so that these are not passed on to families.
What can we do to support community based approaches to delivering out of school care?
A total of 1,144 (90%) respondents provided a response at this question.
The key elements considered important to support community based approaches were similar to those required for rural/remote services and other issues outlined above. These included:
- the provision of funding and minimising the cost of rent;
- the provision of guidance, practical advice and support;
- encouragement/support to work in partnership with other local services; and
- that community facilities should be made available for out of school care.
Supporting the Out of School Care Workforce
Four questions were asked in order to understand how best to support the out of school care workforce to deliver high quality services.
What qualifications, skills and experiences should the out of school care workforce have? What is most important and why?
A total of 1,072 (84%) respondents provided a response at this question.
Many felt that it was important to provide a range of qualifications, skills and experiences within and between out of school care services. Parents/carers and other individuals were reasonably evenly split on whether formal professional qualifications should be required, or whether experience, skills and personal attributes were more important. All others, however, were more likely to favour the need for qualifications. At the aggregate level, there was a slight preference for out of school care staff to have, or be working towards, formal qualifications.
A wide range of experience/skills, qualifications, training/certification and personal qualities were discussed by respondents as being key, along with potential consequences and negative impacts of requiring formal qualifications for all staff.
Thinking about the full range of provision - regulated out of school care, childminders, holiday programmes and other activities - should qualification requirements for staff working across these be the same or different? Why?
A total of 987 (78%) respondents provided a response to this question.
For most respondent groups there was a fairly even split between those who felt the same requirements should apply and those who felt that differences should be accepted. Among third sector/charity organisations however, more respondents felt that qualifications should be different, while more OSC providers felt that the qualifications should be the same across the sector.
Those who supported the same qualification requirements typically argued that services faced the same risks/issues, and needed to provide the same level of support to children. It was also felt this would allow greater mobility of staff between the different service provisions. Others, however, felt that the qualification requirements should be tailored to suit each of the different settings and to ensure a range of different staff (and volunteers) can contribute to the sector.
How can we promote working in the out of school care sector as a more attractive career choice?
A total of 995 (78%) respondents provided a response to the question.
The key elements considered important to promoting the sector as a more attractive career included:
- more attractive salaries and employment terms and conditions;
- supporting/funding staff to gain qualifications and provide high quality training;
- clear career progression routes; and
- greater promotion of the sector both for recruitment purposes and to increase recognition/value of the sector.
How can we increase diversity in the out of school care workforce?
A total of 648 (51%) respondents provided a response to this question.
The main issues discussed by respondents focused on:
- the barriers created by the current salary and employment terms and conditions, and the need to improve both of these;
- placing less emphasis on formal qualification or recognising a wider range of qualifications and transferable skills/experience; and
- wider promotion of the sector, including encouragement to see this as a career, and to specifically promote diversity within the workforce.
Overall, the consultation achieved a high response rate, both in general and for each question posed. A high number of service users and providers responded, as well as a wide range of other stakeholder groups. There was also significant consistency in the range of issues discussed, both between respondent groups and questions.
The consultation provided valuable feedback to assist the Scottish Government in taking forward the Out of School Care in Scotland Framework. However, it may be necessary to further explore the needs/wants/experiences of a range of groups who risk being under-represented within the consultation responses, including:
- secondary school pupils;
- children with disabilities and additional support needs;
- those living in remote/rural areas;
- families with children with disabilities or additional support needs;
- parents/carers from deprived areas;
- parents/carers not currently accessing out of school care services;
- childminders; and
- activity club providers.
Alternative approaches may be required to get feedback from these groups.