Out of school care in Scotland - draft framework: consultation

This draft framework for consultation sets out a vision for out of school care, considers the current picture, and asks questions about the benefits and challenges of accessing out of school care.

3. Out of School Care Background and Evidence

What is Out of School Care?

There is no single formal definition of out of school care in the UK. However, there is a general consensus that out of school care is 'care provided to school-aged children outside of usual school hours and that this care includes child-minding, after-school clubs, holiday clubs and breakfast clubs'[2]

Families use out of school care for a number of reasons, the primary reason being childcare. Out of school care extends the school day to align with a typical working day and during school holiday periods provides full time childcare. However, some parents may also choose to use out of school care because of the experiences that it provides for their child, particularly opportunities to play, socialise and take part in a range of extra-curricular activities as part of a group.

In Scotland there is no general statutory duty on local authorities or any other body to provide out of school and holiday childcare to all children who attend school, although local authorities have the power to provide such care.

However, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 does place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide day care for school age children in need, before and after school and during holidays.[3] A child is 'in need' where they are of 'in need of care and attention' because of a number of factors related to the child achieving or maintaining a reasonable standard of health or development; or where disability, of the child themselves or a member of their family, affects the child adversely.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, placed an additional statutory duty on local authorities to consult with representatives of parents of children in need who are aged five or under and have not yet commenced attendance at a school, on their out of school care needs every two years. Parental involvement and engagement is an important priority for national government, local authorities and individual schools.[4]

The Health and Social Care Standards set out what people should expect when using health, social care or social work services in Scotland - this includes childcare. The objective of the Standards are to drive improvement, promote flexibility and encourage innovation in how people are cared for and supported. The Standards are underpinned by five principles: dignity and respect, compassion, be included, responsive care, and support and wellbeing.


Registered Services

Different delivery models for out of school activities exist. Regulated childcare, defined as a daycare of children service and registered and inspected by the Care Inspectorate. Daycare of children's service applies to services whose primary function is childcare and who operate for 2 hours or more in any one day and for more than 6 days in any one calendar year (as defined in the Public Reform (Scotland) Act 2010). We will refer to these throughout the framework as "registered out of school care services". Staff working within these services require to register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and all staff must meet qualifications standards equivalent to those working in early learning and childcare including a degree level qualification for all managers.

According to the Care Inspectorate[5] there are 981 registered out of school care services operating in Scotland. For 738 this is their main service with the remainder also providing childcare for younger children including early learning and childcare. There are also 648 breakfast clubs and 440 registered holiday services. These out of school care services provide care for around 52,550 children in Scotland.

Case Study

Flexible Childcare Services, Dundee

Flexible Childcare Services, Dundee, offers complete flexibility to families, both in our local community, and across Dundee. With space for up to 16 children, we pick up from all schools and transport them to our service. Within Families House, we have a room specifically for our school age children which has direct access to the outside area.

We are situated in a deprived area of Dundee. To support the families, we work on a week to week basis for booking childcare. The families pay for what they book. There are no set sessions, deposits or retainers. If the childcare is not required, the families have to inform us a week in advance and they are not charged. This has supported many of our families to be able to sustain and gain employment, and apply or attend college, due to the flexibility and cost of the service we are providing.

This summer, we have been accessing community fun days and activities. We did not want to add any more pressure onto our families by charging higher costs for children to go on outings. This has been very successful with the staff working together with the children to find experiences for them that are low cost or free of charge. The children have been able to visit a number of the museums within Dundee, which is something that many of them may not have had the opportunity to do previously.

"I have been using Flexible Childcare Services for the last three years. My two who attend the school club get picked up from the school and taken to the service… They are in the garden all the time, which is great as they spend all day in school and it gives them time to wind down and play… Having them at the same service means I am not running around different places to pick them all up. What a service, the children love it and so do I!" (Parent, Dundee)

"We want to show that we can provide a high standard of care at an affordable cost. Parents are able to attend college with childcare that fits around college courses and placements. For working parents, finding childcare that suits different working patterns can be challenging. We offer this service so that parents can work and afford their childcare." (Lesley Tait, Flexible Childcare Services Manager, Dundee)

Case Study

St Mirin's Out of School Club, Glasgow

St Mirin's was established in 1996 as a voluntary managed charity. Our club serves communities in the Kings Park and Castlemilk areas within the southside of Glasgow operating from St Mirins Primary School. Our service has consistently been graded as 'Excellent' and was the first out of school care service in Scotland to be awarded the Scottish Out of School Care Network's Aiming High Scotland (AHS) quality assurance award and also the first service to gain Achieving Quality Scotland Gold Award.

As a service, St Mirins put the rights and needs of the children at the forefront of all our work. For example: children approve and sign-off relevant policies which enables them to influence the direction of the service; children host the AGM; children generate questions that they wish to put to the Care Inspectorate; children write letters to new Primary 1 children inviting them in to the service before they start, and they can also complete 'snack assistant' training to become a snack helper. Children are not only taught about their rights but also the responsibilities that come with this to ensure that others' rights are met.

Play is also very much at the heart of the club and the service supports free-flow play through the premises which allows children to explore, create, and develop better social skills and relationships with peers (and adults too). The staff understand that good quality play experiences and opportunities support children in their development and learning but more than that, they create fun times and happy memories for the future.

"Heather loves coming to after school care and it makes it so much easier as a working parent when this is the case! Often she is enjoying herself so much when I come to pick her up that she wants to carry on what she is doing! She loves the craft activities the most.. She also enjoys the torches outside when it's dark. Heather's little sister Betsy is looking forward to coming after the summer too". (Parent, St.Mirins)

"Our service is innovative and proactive. Children very much lead the focus and direction of our service. The attention we pay to children's rights has been instrumental in helping us achieve grades of 6 (excellent) with the Care Inspectorate and we have retained these grades for seven years. Our staff turnover is virtually nil and most staff have been here for between 10 and 20 years. Our motto is PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence)". (Margaret McLelland, Manager, St Mirins Out of School Club, Glasgow)

Most registered out of school care services (642) are either private, voluntary, third sector or charitable organisations. A minority (96) are delivered directly by the local authority. Out of school care is therefore mainly a community based sector which has grown in response to public demand within individual communities. Out of school clubs are predominantly concentrated in urban areas, with 558 (76%) of these based in 'Large urban' and 'Other urban' areas. We know that providing services in remote and rural areas can be challenging but that the need for provision may well be greater in these areas due to the nature of employment and the requirement for childcare due to commuting time.

The Care Inspectorate childcare statistics provide information on the numbers of services and children attending these services. There has been a rise in the number of out of school care services operating each year since 2012, when there were 686 services. The number of children registered with out of school care services has also been increasing with 52,550 children registered in 2017 compared to 34,530 registered in 2012.

Most children (67%) attending out of school care are in the 7-11 age category.

Case study

Penny Anderson - Director at MACS (Mearns After-School Care Service)

Penny is one of the two founding workers of MACS in 1995. Originally the service operated from one site and provided 24 places. It now provides nine breakfast clubs, 11 out of school care clubs and two holiday care services and is a not-for-profit company employing nearly 100 people and providing care for hundreds of children on a daily basis. Alongside the two other company directors, Penny has been a driving force in constantly developing the organisation.

In addition to providing care services, MACS also delivers training on the Playwork SCQF Level 6 Qualification, Modifying Sensory Environments and is the first training centre in Scotland to deliver the National Progression Award in Forest Kindergarten. Penny believes passionately in developing a skilled and compassionate workforce and she herself continues to lead by example - "knowledge is development". After gaining her BA Childhood Practice at University of Glasgow she continued studying for a Masters and is currently undertaking a doctorate which is looking at recruitment and retention in the workforce.

Penny believes that you need to speak with passion to gain professional recognition but first you need to value yourself and the positive impact that you have on children's lives before anyone else will give you recognition. One of the most important skills is the ability to communicate and network with other sectors.

Out of School Care Practitioners

According to the Scottish Social Services Council[6] there are 4,850 registered out of school care practitioners working in stand-alone out of school care services in Scotland.

490 workers are employed in the public sector, 1,830 in the private sector, and 2,530 in the voluntary sector.

92% of workers work part time and 8% were full time (more than 30 hours per week).

88% of the workforce are female and 12% are male.


Childminders work from their own homes to provide a childcare service for other people's children in a family setting. These services can be provided before and after school during term time and often full time during school holiday periods. Childminders are regulated and inspected by the Care Inspectorate as a daycare of children service. Childminders do not require to register with the Scottish Social Services Council and do not require to be qualified in order to deliver childcare to school age children (although we know that many childminders do hold childcare, and other relevant qualifications). 16,470 children (age 5-12+) access out of school care with a childminder.

According to Care Inspectorate statistics, there were 5,426 childminding services registered at 31 December 2017[7]. Most of these services (5,300, 98%) told us that they provide a service after school hours.

Across all regulated service types in Scotland (including childminders) 79,200 children aged 5 and over were registered with services for out of school care.

Activity-based Services

In addition to registered out of school care services there are many supervised activity clubs (including Active Schools clubs, sports, drama and arts and culture focussed clubs) which operate during term time often for less than two hours at the beginning or end of the school day. These do not require to be registered or inspected by the Care Inspectorate.

There are also many holiday clubs which although they operate for more than 2 hours a day, their main function isn't to provide a daycare service for children. Their primary function is to provide activities for children. These clubs are also not required to register with the Care Inspectorate as a daycare of children service and staff are not required to be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council or to be qualified with a childcare qualification. As with childminders, it may be however that staff working within these services are qualified in many cases. Due to the lack of any registration requirement we are currently unable to quantify this provision across Scotland as there is no reliable source of data.

Case Study

Achieve More

Achieve More is a Glasgow based charity providing programmes of activities free of charge to children and young people from low income communities. Working in partnership with local schools Achieve More provides breakfast clubs, lunch time activities, after school clubs and holiday clubs across Glasgow. Currently active in 21 schools, 7 of these partnerships are supported by Pupil Equity Funding and include activities before, during and after the school day. One of these schools is Haghill Park Primary, based in Glasgow's East End.

"We began working with Haghill Park Primary School following discussions with the head teacher regarding a comprehensive programme of breakfast, lunch-time, curriculum and after schools activities. All activities are based upon the needs and wants of the children participating, with a focus on improving their physical and mental health and well-being, attendance and learning. At present over 80 children attend the sessions every day. Direct feedback from parents and teachers has been resoundingly positive and the children themselves have made clear how much they are enjoying the sessions. In summer 2018 we delivered holiday camp activities based at the school, which was free for all children aged 5-16 to attend, with transport and a hot lunch provided. Over 180 children participated in the camp, with over 100 turning up each day. This year we have over 350 children attending our summer activities everyday. All children receive breakfast, lunch and four hours (minimum) of physical activity". Robert McHarg, Achieve More, Chief Executive

"We have been working with Achieve More Scotland since early 2018. Our aim was to improve the health and wellbeing of our young people, and we wanted to challenge their boundaries and encourage them to be more active. The impact has been improved pupils' fitness, mental health, attendance and their overall behaviour and learning in the classroom". Shelagh Delahunt, Head teacher of Haghill Park Primary school.

Q1: What range of services are needed: regulated out of school care, childminders, activity-based clubs and programmes such as sports clubs, creative arts clubs, outdoor activities, other types of activities?

Can you tell us why these services are important?

Q2: What can we do to support community based approaches to delivering out of school care?

Cost of Out of School Care Provision

The cost of childcare in Scotland is influenced by a number of factors. The 2019 Coram Childcare Survey report notes that the average weekly price of an after school club for children age 5-11 in Scotland is £54 per child and the weekly price of a childminder until 6pm for children age 5-11 in Scotland is £68 per child.

The 2019 Coram Holiday Childcare Survey report notes that the weekly price of holiday childcare is £123 per child in Scotland.

Upfront childcare costs - which can include deposits, administration fees and the payment of fees in advance are common amongst childcare providers.

Support with Costs

Support with childcare costs is available for qualifying families through UK Working Tax Credit (WTC) or Universal Credit (UC). WTC and UC are aimed at lower income parents.

WTC is a legacy benefit that has now been replaced by Universal Credit for most people. The childcare element is designed to meet up to 70% of the total cost, depending on circumstances and household income.

The childcare element of UC enables eligible parents to claim back up to 85% of childcare costs within a monthly limit of £646.35 for one child or £1,108.04 for two or more children. Claimants must pay for childcare up-front, and then claim a reimbursement from the Department for Work and Pensions once it has been provided. The reimbursement is paid in arrears as part of the claimant's UC award each month. Earlier this year, the Flexible Support Fund was announced to help parents whose initial month of childcare costs was inhibiting parents from transitioning into employment.

Parents can only receive support with childcare costs through UC if they:

  • Receive UC child support for their child,
  • Are in paid work, or
  • Have accepted an offer of paid work, and
  • Pay for childcare because of this work.

In general, only working single parents or couples where both partners work can claim childcare entitlement, although there are some exceptions.

Support with childcare costs is available for families with a higher household income through childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare. Childcare vouchers are currently being phased out, and the scheme closed to new members in October 2018.

Tax-free childcare is replacing childcare vouchers. Through this scheme, UK Government pays £2 for every £8 that eligible parents pay to childcare providers, up to a limit of £500 every three months or £2,000 per year. This scheme is for working parents with a minimum income threshold - in a two parent family, both parents must be working although some exclusions apply. Parents can claim support for children aged 11 or under, and they must usually live with the person claiming. Parents of eligible disabled children can claim up to £4,000 per year until the age of 17. Claimants cannot benefit from tax-free childcare at the same time as Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.

Targeted support with childcare costs is available for certain groups, including, for example, students. Students at colleges and universities receive support with the cost of childcare through the College and University Childcare Funds and the Further Education and Higher Education Discretionary Funds which have been allocated by Scottish Ministers. These funds are available to all eligible students with childcare responsibilities. The funds provide assistance with the cost of formal registered childcare expenses. They do not place limits on the amounts individuals can access and give institutions the flexibility to determine award levels themselves.

The various forms of support to help with childcare costs can only be used with childcare providers registered with the Care Inspectorate. As described above, activity based services are not required to register as childcare providers. This means that families are unable to claim support to help cover the costs of accessing these services.

Compared to early years research, where there is a strong evidence base on the impact of early learning and childcare and the home learning environment, the evidence related to out of school childcare and activities for school-age children is fairly limited. We have summarised what we know about the evidence on out of school care in a working paper (Annex A) and highlighted the main points from this below.

The available evidence suggests that the main potential impact of out of school care on parents and the broader family is through positive labour market impacts. Out of school care allows some parents, especially single parents and those not in work, to remain in or secure employment, increase working hours or undertake further education or training.

For low income families, school holidays can increase financial pressure and may lead to food insecurity and missing out on opportunities that are available to children in higher income families. The cost of childcare during school holidays may also put pressure on family budgets or make sustaining work difficult, particularly for lone parents. There is some research that suggests that circumstances experienced during the school holidays - including poor nutrition, social isolation and stress within the family - can negatively impact on children's school readiness, cognitive functioning, health and well-being.

Access to affordable and accessible childcare for school-age children has been highlighted by some research as a potential barrier to taking up or staying in good quality employment, or increasing hours. Costs of childcare may also put pressure on family budgets, and low income families may find accessing the financial support available difficult.

There is also some evidence showing that out of school activities/programmes can have small positive impacts on a range of children's outcomes and indicate that they could play a role in reducing the attainment gap.

While there is a lack of robust evaluation of holiday programmes, the existing small-scale evaluations do show a range of potential positive impacts for the children and families who attend, including tackling food insecurity, and wider health and wellbeing, educational, and financial impacts.

The limited evidence available also suggests that high quality out of school care may benefit children by promoting positive social interactions and relationships, building social skills and confidence, and providing the opportunity for play in a safe environment, particularly for younger children and those from the most socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.



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