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.

5. What do people think?

This draft framework is the product of a period of extensive engagement, listening to those with an interest in out of school care over a period of nine months. We would like to continue this listening process as we develop our policies and have used the voices of those we've engaged with to demonstrate the impact of out of school care, the current picture in Scotland and what might need to improve in order for us to be able to deliver our bold vision.

Local Authorities

From September 2018 to January 2019, the Out of School Care policy team contacted each local authority in Scotland to informally discuss out of school care provision and policies and guidance at a local level. All local authorities were contacted by telephone or email in an effort to gather general information on out of school care provision across the country. From these discussions we gained a good understanding of the variety of approaches to out of school care taken in different authorities across Scotland.

Our discussions informed us that across Scotland there is a wide range of support for out of school care within local authorities. Some local authorities have created council-level policies or guidance for out of school care but many councils do not have such formal arrangements. There also appears to be variation across the country on as to the ways in which policies are developed and implemented, where out of school care policy sits and what's included in any support offered. Support comes in many forms including free access to training, subsidised training costs, advice services, free or subsidised school lets and grants to support running costs.

Some local authorities are providing out of school care services directly, although often in small numbers. Local authority provision is generally not widely available and private and voluntary sector organisations provide the majority of services. A small number of authorities noted that they have specialist services which provide out of school care for children with additional support needs and disabilities.

A number of local authorities noted the challenges of providing out of school care in remote rural areas, where there may only be a small number of children and highlighting that it can be very difficult to run sustainable business models in these cases.

Case Study

Glasgow City Council

Heather Douglas, Early Learning and Childcare Manager

Glasgow has invested in out of school childcare for many years offering a range of support to 90 services operating from 51 Glasgow schools and 39 other community buildings, providing places for around 5,000 children. We understand that a family's need for high quality, affordable, reliable childcare is a continuum - beginning in early years and extending throughout primary school (and sometimes beyond).

Childcare is a community planning priority for Glasgow, where its fundamental importance in supporting inclusive growth is recognised along with the role it plays in helping Glasgow families to take up and maintain employment, secure in the knowledge that their children are being well cared for.

Quality Improvement

GCC has improved quality in OSC services by funding the Scottish Out of School Network to support services to access the "Achieving Quality Scotland" Quality Improvement framework.

As a direct impact of this investment, 42% of Glasgow OSC services achieve Very Good/Excellent at inspection against a national average of 25%.

Practice Support

GCC supports seven local Childcare Forums to provide a peer network, share practice and maximise funding opportunities. Each forum has a specific OSC sub-group.

The Council also provides funding to support the OSC workforce to access certificated qualifications (up to 70% of cost), ongoing CPD and an annual conference attended by 180 OSC staff.

Innovation and New Services

GCC is keen to support new services and innovative practice to benefit children and families. Riverbank PS, our newest Glasgow school in the heart of the East End, will host an OSC service when it opens in August 2019.

One of the city's providers also runs a longstanding teenage OSC service, which also supports young people into employment. Conversations are also taking place in a number of areas to expand outdoor provision.

Financial Support

GCC supports OSC services to access school premises by offering subsidised lets. This support amounts to over £344,000 annually.

Many OSC services also access grant funding via the Council through both the Integrated Grant Fund and small Local Area Grants totalling c. £250,000 per year.

A team of community focused officers within the central Early Learning & Childcare Team has a remit to support OSC with funding and practice issues.

Case Study

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeen City Council's approach to childcare policy recognises the importance of out of school care for ensuring equity and equality for families and positive outcomes for all children. We regularly review, consult and update our policies, adopting a partnership approach with providers to ensure we are delivering high quality, flexible and affordable out of school care provision which meets the needs of children and parents.

Supporting Out of School Care in Aberdeen

Out of school care is delivered jointly by the local authority and partner private and third sector providers. The majority of settings are based in schools and we offer free lets in our buildings to out of school care providers - including cleaning and janitorial services. We also support the development of new provision in the city and ongoing training for staff.

In our priority localities and areas of deprivation, Aberdeen City Council offers subsidy grants to support the costs of out of school care so that it's affordable for parents on low incomes or in education and training. As a result, high quality out of school care is accessible to all families.

In fulfilment of the requirements set out in the Children and Young People (2014) Act, regular consultation with parents and children gives us the opportunity to hear their views on local out of school care provision and ensures we are meeting their needs.

Focus On Children

Children and young people have the right to take part in and influence decisions on issues that affect them, as set out in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that children and young people are at the heart of decision-making. We want to ensure that future policy on out of school care meets the needs of all children, and is shaped by their views, interests and feelings about out of school care.

How we Heard

We delivered a series of theatre workshops with after school clubs and youth groups to gather views on what children like to do after school and in the holidays. We have also included data from a recent survey conducted by the Scottish Out of School Care Network.

What We Heard

The Scottish Out of School Care Network (SOSCN) undertook a consultation with children attending out of school care settings across Scotland from summer 2017 to summer 2018. 652 children participated aged from 4 to 15.[8]

"Playing with my friends and doing new things." (Boy, 10)

"We have lots of fun and the staff and children look out for each other. We have lots of fun there; the staff are funny. We make friends at the club. The staff help other children and it runs very well." (Boy, 11)

"You can play with your favourite toys and hang out with your buddies." (Boy, 7)

"Having fun with spare time and making dens with blankets." (Girl, 10)

Overall children were very positive about their experiences of attending out of school care:

  • 87% of children agreed that the staff care about children in the club and listen to them.
  • 88% of children agreed that they know they can ask staff if they need help or have a worry.
  • 78% of children agreed that they mostly enjoy being with other children at the club.
  • 76% of children agreed that they are quite happy at the club.
  • 74% agreed that they can choose what play and games they do at the club.

"It's amazing: I can speak to staff about my worries. I like how we are involved with new changes at a club. I love making new friends I enjoy going on trips. I like how Brenda teaches us new games." (Girl, 10)

"Nothing - the club is perfect." (Boy describing what could be better about out of school care)

According to the children's responses, the 'top 5' best things about out of school care are:

  • Play/playing (34% of children)
  • Friends (19% of children)
  • Toys/games available (11% of children)
  • Snack/food provided (7% of children)
  • Going outside/outdoors (7% of children)

According to the children's responses, the 'top 5' things that could be better about out of school care are:

  • Nothing (16% of children)
  • Better/more toys/games (11% of children)
  • Better play opportunities (6% of children)
  • Better snack/food (6% of children)
  • Going outside more (5% of children)
  • Going on trips (5% of children)

Active Inquiry Workshops - engaging children through theatre

Creative methods often help to maximise engagement with children and young people. We connected with arts and theatre company, Active Inquiry, to help us design and deliver theatre workshops which would help children express their views creatively. Active Inquiry works with communities to engage with democratic processes and decisions which affect their lives through theatre. Communicating through drama enabled the children to find different ways other than verbal to explore and present ideas. Using fictional scenarios, children were given ownership of the process and encouraged to be bold with their ideas. The drama helped generate rich ideas which provided insight into their interests, and their wishes for activities after school and during the holidays.

"You need fresh air and exercise as well as just learning."

We ran workshops in four after school clubs, with children aged between 5 and 11 years, and one youth club with young people aged between 11-16 years, in Glasgow, Newton Mearns and Edinburgh. Children were asked to imagine that they lived on a fictional island where school days are long and there are no summer holidays. Using a series of games, tasks and scenarios, children explored questions around their time out of school - why it's important to have time away from the classroom, what sort of activities they like to do and what kinds of adults they would like to work with them during these times away from school.

"The forest is fun, you can make dens"

The importance of time away from school

Children and young people noted that they have a right to free time away from school and recognised that it was important to have breaks from classroom-based learning. They said that it's important for young people to take part in healthy, active sports which will give them a balanced lifestyle. Children stressed that they need time for playing with friends and that they should have opportunities to do "new and different things", to go to new places and to have fun. Children highlighted that there are many learning opportunities beyond the classroom such as outdoor activities, learning by doing, and learning from others when they get the opportunity to meet new people who can share their different experiences.

Activities for after school and in the holidays

Children and young people explored a wide range of activities they would like to have access to after school and in the summer. Using theatre, they expressed their ideas through performance and explained the reasoning behind their choices. The activities that children suggested fell into the eight categories in the table below.

Trips and travel was a key theme that came out strongly in the drama workshops. Children were keen to visit different places - from local parks, to further afield places such as beaches and woods, to trips abroad - and to meet people from different areas and cultures. Through the drama children showed that meeting new people, making friends and learning about difference was important to them.

The children we spoke to had a strong awareness of the importance of physical and mental health - sports and exercise came across as some of the most popular activities and children were well-aware of the importance of physical fitness and the benefits for mental health when you get to experience something that you enjoy and have the ability to relax.

Relationships were highlighted by many of the children and young people. They showed that they would like to spend much of their time outside of school with family, friends and trusted, supportive staff. It was also important to them that they had opportunities to do different activities with members of their family. They saw these relationships as important for support, especially in helping them to feel better when they find things difficult.

Play was a key theme in all of the drama workshops. Children and young people want opportunities to have fun doing a range of varied activities and by being allowed time to use their own imaginations. They frequently expressed that they wanted to have freedom and choice, to be able to spend their time how they would like to.

Computer games and activities where children could learn or develop skills also came across as popular activities. They said that it was good to learn in different ways, outside of the classroom. Some of the children considered their future careers and connected their ideas for after school activities to the sort of jobs they would like to do when they grow up.

Overall, children felt that the activities they suggested were important because they needed something fun and different to school, they wanted to have an opportunity to do a variety of activities and learn while having fun and doing practical or physical activities.

"Kids need to explore new places and get out to do things they've never done before."

Type of activity




Swimming, gymnastics, surfing, abseiling, running, basketball, football, archery, dancing, tennis, golf, netball, volleyball, boxing, cycling

Being healthy and active is good for your health.

It's important to be healthy and active, it uses your energy and it's fun.


Drawing, drama, band, music, singing, art, design, crafts

To have fun.

Learning new skills

Reading, writing, sign language, history, making clothes, weaving, inventing a machine, learning about different jobs, training, debating, coding, science club

Sign language is a good skill to have and helps you communicate with people who are deaf.

"If you have someone deaf in your family it means you can talk to them."

It's fun to learn new skills.


Going to the park, swimming, fun places, going abroad, travelling to other countries, museums, cinema, shopping, theme parks, Waterstones, ice-skating, bowling, laser tag, bus trips, using different modes of transport

Children repeatedly talked about the importance of variety: doing new and different things. They wanted to explore new places, meet new people and learn about different cultures and communities. Children said that in some cases children may not have had opportunities to travel or to use different types of transport and they should have a chance to experience new things.


Playing outside, beach days, camping, going to the park, going to the woods, building dens

To have fun, to see new places.


Family days, spending time with family, playing with friends, meeting new people and making new friends, socialising

Being able to talk to people about what you're feeling and how you're doing is important. It's good to have people you can turn to if something happens.

To have fun and relax away from school.

Being able to talk to people about what you're feeling and how you're doing is important. It's good to have people you can turn to if something happens."


Cooking, baking, learning recipes, eating

Children described cooking as a fun activity where they could learn something, but also wanted to have tasty food to eat and to share.


Xbox, Fifa, Apex, Call of Duty, Realm Royale, Chess, imagination room, dressing-up clothes, lots of different activities, toys

"We should get infinite play time".


Going home, films, scripture union, zoo workshops, shopping days, votes for kids, helping in the house, pampering

Some children noted specific activities which they enjoy, but did not necessarily have wide appeal across the groups.

Important qualities for staff

Children had discussions about the sort of adults they would like to work with them to support them and care for them during free time after school and in the holidays. They said they would like:

"Somebody fun."

"Somebody who knows how to do lots of things so they can help you learn and have fun."

"People who are kind and caring and care more about things than just school."

"Someone who is sporty and does exercise."

"I feel like I can talk to them more than my teachers and I can trust them more."

"They're not as strict as teachers, you're less likely to get in trouble."

"They need to be flexible with their time and be nice to the children."


Through a variety of methods, children and young people were able to tell us about their experiences of out of school care and about the broader range of activities which they enjoy and which enhance their lives. They articulated well the positive benefits which access to activities and support from trusted adults can deliver and the importance of having a safe space where they can relax, play, socialise and feel at home. We will continue to gather and understand children and young people's views about what's important to them in their time out of school and during the holidays to ensure that this helps shape our developing policy.

Q5: 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?

Q6: What do children and young people want from out of school care services and does this differ dependent on age?

Q7: What different activities or provision might secondary school aged children want?

Focus On Parents

During Spring 2019, we gathered information from parents across Scotland about their thoughts on out of school care, learning about the needs of their families and hearing their vision for the future.

How We Heard

We did this in three ways in April 2019:

  • We commissioned the social research institute, Ipsos Mori, to conduct a large scale piece of research to find out how out of school care is currently being used in Scotland. We wanted to know what types of out of school care provision families are using, what other childcare arrangements may be in place, and gain a better understanding of the reasons underpinning these choices.
  • We considered the findings from the Scottish Out of School Care Network's survey of parents and carers who are currently users of registered out of school care services.
  • We also carried out a series of events to meet with parents from around the country to hear their views in greater detail.

The evidence presented here and the questions that we will be consulting on have been developed in partnership with parents, as they reflect on the priorities of their own families.

What We Heard

Ipsos Mori surveyed over 2,000 parents of children aged 5-13 in Scotland - both users and non-users of school care - to understand their views of school age childcare.

Specifically, the research looked at:

  • the proportion of parents who use out-of-school care and what types of out-of-school care they use
  • whether parents find out-of-school care accessible and affordable and what barriers exist to accessing out-of-school care
  • the reasons parents use out-of-school care and whether affordable and accessible out-of-school care supports parents to engage in work, training, or study
  • why some parents don't currently access out-of-school care, whether they would like to access it and, if so, why
  • how important it is for parents that out-of-school care includes food provision and whether they see benefits from there being food provision at out-of-school care.

This survey was carried out over the phone and took an average of six and a half minutes. It is also worth noting that 70% of the respondents were female. The full report is available at

Summary of Survey findings

The use of out of school childcare was similar across both term-time and the school holidays, with more than half of parents using term-time care (58%) and holiday childcare (61%). Half of all parents (50%) used both, while 23% used neither.

Families in which all parents were working were the most likely to use out of school care and, relatedly, by far the main reason for using it was to allow parents to work. Those least likely to use out of school care were families earning less than £20,000 per annum, those living in the most deprived areas (SIMD 1) and larger families (with three or more children). The main reason parents gave for not using out of school care was that is was not currently needed, since they/their partner could look after the child.

Grandparents were the most commonly used type of out of school care (used by 37% of all parents during term-time and 43% during school holidays). Previous research has shown the benefits of this type of care include allowing the grandparent(s) to spend time with the child, and providing parents with convenient, flexible, cost-free childcare[9] . However, a reliance on grandparents to provide childcare can also be problematic for parents. For example, it can cause difficulties if grandparents have other commitments or are away or ill, while parents can feel guilty about relying on grandparents, particularly as they get older and/or if they have health problems. Therefore, the availability of other forms of affordable and accessible childcare is important to help reduce any burden upon grandparents providing childcare.

In terms of the use of formal childcare, similar proportions used breakfast clubs (13%), after-school clubs (14%) and holiday clubs/playschemes (16%). These types of childcare were used mostly for younger children (aged 5 to 7). Further, use of breakfast clubs was more common among those living in the most deprived areas (SIMD 1), most likely due to the introduction of free or subsidised breakfast club schemes in these areas by local councils.

Meanwhile after-school clubs and holiday clubs/playschemes were used more by families in the least deprived areas (SIMD 5) or on a higher income (more than £60,000 per annum).

Users' views highlighted that the convenience and affordability of formal care is crucial in ensuring access to these services. Some of the main reasons parents gave for not using these services were because they were unaffordable and/or difficult to access (due to location or unsuitable timings). It should be noted however that those most likely to use formal childcare tended to be families in which all parents were working, those on a higher income, and/or living in the least deprived areas, and so consequently more likely to agree that they were affordable.

The provision of free or subsidised food was more likely to be a reason parents used breakfast clubs than after-school or playschemes/holiday clubs. Just over a third (35%) of breakfast club users agreed that free or subsidised food was a reason they used the club. In comparison, 16% of after-school club and 11% of playscheme or holiday club users said one of the reasons they used these clubs was for the provision of food. Single parents and those living in the most deprived areas (SIMD 1) were more likely to use term-time and holiday care for the provision of free or subsidised food.

Parent/Carer Workshops

We spoke to a wide range of parents as part of our direct engagement including:

  • parent representatives from across all local authorities in Scotland (working with the National Parent Forum Scotland)
  • parents in Dundee, including a group of parents with children with disabilities or additional support needs (working with Dundee City Council)
  • single parent families in Glasgow (working with One Parent Families Scotland)
  • kinship carers in Edinburgh (working with Mentor's Kinship Care Advisory Group)
  • parents with lived experience of poverty (working with the Poverty Truth Community)
  • parents from communities in the West of Scotland (working with Parent Network Scotland)
  • single parent families from across Glasgow and North & South Lanarkshire (working with One Parent Families Scotland)

Parents were keen to share their stories and suggested innovative solutions to some of the challenges and barriers that they face in accessing childcare during term time and school holidays.

Accessibility and Affordability

In line with our survey results, many of the parents we spoke to identified affordability as the biggest barrier to accessing childcare. Many parents told us that it would not be possible to pay for out of school care from their wages, or wages that they could expect to earn. Low income parents also told us that it could be challenging to find out about free or low cost activities in their local area, and have struggled in the past to secure a place for their child particularly during school holidays.

Parents highlighted that affordability is a particular issue for families with more than one child. While it might be affordable to send one child to a breakfast club or other out of school care service, once other siblings reached school age, parents told us that it would no longer be affordable. For working parents, this could mean no longer having access to affordable childcare, and children being unable to attend clubs with their friends.

"I just couldn't afford it, not on the wages I could earn" (single parent on the costs of OSC)

For parents currently studying, support with childcare was generally being provided by colleges and universities. Parents described this as playing a crucial role in enabling them to complete their courses and gain a qualification. However, for parents who were approaching the end of their studies, the transition to work (including managing the cost of childcare) seemed like a daunting prospect. In this space, we know there are a number of third sector organisations providing crucial long term support to help manage transitions into work in a diverse range of circumstances.

In both rural and urban communities, parents told us that transport costs amplify issues relating to accessing affordable childcare. Because of this, there was a clear preference for childcare settings to be local. This may mean that parents have to balance their choice of what their child can attend with what is convenient to access. The costs of transport can be particularly challenging in rural communities, where there may not be any local provision.

All parents we spoke to just wanted childcare to be affordable and related to their income in some way. Overwhelmingly, parents who weren't in employment told us they would like to work and those who worked part time told us they would like to be able to increase their hours. The transition from study to working and from unemployment to taking up work was highlighted as a particularly difficult time.

Kinship carers said that respite was very important for them and that more out of school care could help them with this as a family, particularly for lone kinship carers. One carer commented that if out of school care was more accessible it could open opportunities for employment which are currently out of reach for him.

Members of the Poverty Truth Community also shared other challenges that childcare might alleviate if it were more accessible, specifically the stress of looking after children and managing other commitments, navigating the Universal Credit system and a lack of flexibility from employers. Members stressed that more flexible, affordable childcare could enable them to find work, or better work and working hours, and would alleviate stress in their lives.


The flexibility of childcare often impacts on affordability, and also has important repercussions for parents' employability. Out of school care in its current form tends to be available between the hours of 7:30am and 6pm. Holiday activities that are subsidised (and sometimes used as childcare) tend to vary in hours, and overall, offer fewer hours. However, these activities may be free or low cost, and meals and snacks might be provided. It was recognised there was a huge variation in the services and activities available over the holidays. This can be challenging for parents to navigate. The costs of these services can vary considerable, and are likely to be the determining factor in decision-making for parents and that this was hard to navigate for parents and that costs of these services varied hugely but would often be the determining factor in decision making for parents.

A number of parents told us that the hours for childcare and overall lack of flexibility did not cater to their needs due to the nature of their work, including irregular working hours and changing shift patterns. Some parents thought that a more flexible option where childcare could be changed week to week or even booked by the hour would be really helpful. Many of the working parents we spoke to who were already using an out of school care solution which met their needs and supported their working pattern noted their appreciation of a flexible approach by their providers.

"The after school service is amazing. I changed my hours at work last year and would not have been able to do so without this service. There is a variety of different activities which is available and is fantastic. Also helps that the staff are all friendly and brilliant at their jobs. My child loves coming here." (parent speaking about after school club)

Scottish Out of School Care Network Survey

From the summer of 2017 to the summer of 2018 the Scottish Out of School Care Network conducted a survey[10] of parents/carers who were using out of school care in various locations across Scotland. In total, 298 responses were received.

Overall, parents/carers were very positive about their experience of using out of school care:

The top six most positively rated statements were:

92% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: 'Safe - my children are safe in the service.'

91% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: 'Nurtured - the staff are friendly and supportive.'

91% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: 'I am happy with the quality of the service.'

90% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: 'My children generally enjoy attending the service.'

90% of parents/carers either strongly agreed or agreed with the following statement: 'Active - my children have access to physical plan and activities both indoors & outdoors.'

61% of parents/carers who provided comments highlighted staff as being the 'most notable thing' in the service.


From our engagement, many parents told of us how limited access to childcare is impacting on their ambitions either by preventing their (re-)entry to the labour market or enabling career progression. Many parents highlighted the use of informal childcare (most notably grandparents) to meet their requirements. However, this is not always an option for all families and parents noted that it can also present its own challenges. Even parents with a local support network told us that they often struggled to find regular, reliable childcare and often felt like they were a burden on family members. Parents recognise the value of family and friends in terms of the support provided and enabling children to socialise in a range of settings. However, the first choice for many parents would be to have access to reliable childcare.

Almost all of the parents we spoke to were women. Childcare issues appeared to disproportionately affect mothers, some of whom reported that they could only look for employment which fitted within school hours so they were available to look after their children. Other parents told us that they have multiple part time jobs in order to manage childcare requirements. For parents who have taken time off to look after their children during their early years, it can be difficult to return to work. One parent told us that these difficulties stem from negative perceptions of parents re-entering the workforce as she put it, "people think you've lost your brain cells". We also learned that parents transitioning into work and exploring childcare for the first time require greater support to understand what provision exists in the community for their child to access, and the financial and practical support that may be available. Reflecting on employment opportunities was an emotive subject and parents clearly articulated their frustration at their situation and lack of options.

Again, it is important to balance this with the very positive reflections we had from working parents who were using out of school care options which supported them to work. Parents clearly articulated the positive benefits for their children and the importance of the provision in enabling them to continue and progress in their careers.

Lower income parents told of us the vicious circle of not being able to access work without childcare, and not being able to put in place childcare without employment due to prohibitive costs. This is likely to exacerbate the gap between lower and higher income parents as it follows that those that have secure access to out of school care would be in a stronger position to stay in employment and advance their career.

"Now I'm down to part time and it's soul destroying" (parent from Glasgow who had to reduce working hours because she could not access childcare)


All of the parents that we spoke to stressed how important it is to them that their children are safe, happy and having fun with their friends. Parents were less interested in qualifications for staff and more interested in staff knowing and understanding their children, being enthusiastic and interested in their play and learning.

In general, parents had very positive experiences of using out of school care or had heard from friends about the positive impact that it can make. However, some parents also shared some more negative feedback around children sometimes being bored, food choices being limited (particularly at breakfast clubs), activities sometimes not being child-led, and a lack of quality resources to facilitate play.

"I'm capable of earning more than £73 a week, if someone would just give me a chance." (parent from Glasgow)

Parents shared a preference for out of school care to be activity-based, allowing children to pursue their hobbies and get outdoors wherever possible. Opportunity to play outdoors and make use of community resources was identified by parents as important for promoting their children's wellbeing and development. Indeed, amongst non-users of out of school care parents said that opportunities such as these would make them reconsider, as they could see a clear benefit for their child. Parents were clear that they wanted the time their children spent in out of school care to be relaxing and to be clearly different from the time they spent at school.

Accessibility and Affordability

Parents recognised that, in general, there are a range of childcare providers and activities available in the community for their children to access. This was particularly the case in urban settings, with fewer choices in rural areas. Some parents from more remote areas did provide examples of there being no available provision locally. In these situations, most childcare was led by parents and could not always be relied upon. Despite the clear challenges, parents engaged with us creatively to consider a range of possible solutions.

"OSC can offer invaluable life experiences" (Parent from Shetland)

"I just want to go to work and know that they're happy" (Parent from Dundee)]

Although there are a far greater range of choices in urban areas, some parents felt that they were unable to access most out of school care, and other activities for their children, due to cost. These parents felt that many options for their children (including those which may be subsidised to some extent) were unaffordable. Parents told us that they take their children back to the same museums, art galleries and parks repeatedly, because they are the only activities that they can access easily and afford. Again, transportation was a key concern.

"parents are isolated, they have nothing" (parent from Argyll and Bute)

For those parents already using out of school care, they spoke very positively about how accessible their chosen provision was, with some noting the ease of picking multiple children up from the same place and many noting that the convenience of picking up from a local school.

Additional Support Needs (ASNs)

Accessibility concerns, and transportation issues, can be especially significant for parents of children with disabilities and additional support needs. Some parents noted that there was very little out of school care locally which provided appropriate support for their child and in some areas parents noted that waiting lists were very long for specialist provision. Some parents also reported that children attending specialist schools did not have any access to out of school care at their school. However, also within mainstream schools we heard examples of families unable to access after school and holiday clubs because the provider was having difficulty meeting the additional support requirements, including upskilling staff and resourcing additional staff. In these examples, parents reported that they felt they had no option but to put their career on hold due to lack of suitable childcare.

"We could afford the childcare, but there is no childcare….without Granny we would have had to massively cut our working hours." (parent from Dundee)

Charlotte's story

Charlotte lives in Glasgow and is a single kinship carer for her 11 year old granddaughter. Charlotte is unemployed and she feels that with the responsibilities of being a kinship carer of a LAAC (looked after and accommodated child), in particular regular social work and numerous other child related appointments, make it impossible to work "you can't work as a kinship carer, you just can't." Charlotte's granddaughter has attended after school and school holiday clubs in the past through a local charity which supports children in kinship care. These activities have been great and have given Charlotte a welcome break whilst also giving her granddaughter lots of opportunities to make friends and go on trips which she loved. Unfortunately, all of these programmes have been short-term, so Charlotte isn't able to rely on them throughout the year. Charlotte finds being a kinship carer very demanding as she's with her granddaughter all the time, apart from when she is at school. She also recognises that this might not be the best experience for her granddaughter as she is becoming more reliant and demanding on Gran's company. Charlotte said "I feel like she's quite isolated because she's just with me all the time." Charlotte receives one night of respite every fortnight when her granddaughter goes to stay with a foster care family overnight. Charlotte finds this very helpful but her granddaughter is saying she doesn't want to go anymore and doesn't enjoy her time there. Charlotte is increasingly feeling under pressure and guilty about taking time for herself.

"maybe if there were more clubs or activities, she [my granddaughter] could go to after school I wouldn't feel the need for foster care respite."

Maureen's story

Maureen lives in Glasgow with her husband and three sons aged 11, 8 and 6. Maureen's husband works as a security guard, which means he often works irregular shift patterns and childcare largely falls to Maureen. Maureen has a degree qualification and worked in youth work for years, but stopped working to look after her boys when they were young. When her youngest started his last year of nursery, Maureen felt ready to go back to work but couldn't find a way to manage the childcare - "I was ready to go back to work but there was just no way." Now, after over ten years of not working Maureen says it is challenging trying to get back into work while managing childcare - "If you cannae get the childcare you cannae get the job, if you cannae get the job you cannae get the childcare." Despite these challenges Maureen is looking for volunteering opportunities which she hopes will lead to paid work which would make a huge difference to their family - "If I got a job it would really help lift us out of poverty."

The nature of Maureen's husband's work as a security guard has also placed a lot of strain on their family. She said "a lot of employers don't accommodate for families" and noted that in some industries, such as security, "the whole culture needs to change, they're not treating staff well at all…they can't retain because if people aren't valued and respected they'll have sick days or they won't stay on." Maureen said that her husband has experienced a huge amount of stress due to his working conditions and the hours which are not family friendly. She said there have been long periods where her husband has worked back-shift and isn't able to spend time with his children after school and in the evenings which has caused "broken connections for the family."

Maureen and her husband are in receipt of Universal Credit but they have had difficulty in accessing the money they are entitled to. Even when her husband had a period of ill health and spent time in hospital after surgery, they didn't feel able to apply for additional benefits for fear that it wouldn't work properly - "We're both so stressed out with being on Universal Credit. We were terrified of the benefits system, we were terrified to apply for anything." The stress caused by difficulties with money, his employment and health has meant that Maureen's husband is experiencing a period of depression and though she wants to find work herself and give him a break she feels that the family would still benefit from access to childcare - "I just don't know how healthy it is for any child to spend time with a depressed father or mother."

Maureen feels strongly about the importance of youth work and youth complexes which give children and young people choice and independence. She said that children and young people need a "safe place to go where they're developing in their learning and they are supported." What's most important is that children are happy and looked after, these were the most important factors ahead of staff qualifications. The school that Maureen's sons attend does run some after school activities, but these are not always reliable and can be cancelled at the last minute. She also said that it was difficult because activities for different age-groups are held on different nights - "If one of my kids has an after school club to go to and the others don't it disrupts our routine because I have to pick up twice in the space of an hour." This also means that these after school activities don't help meet the family's childcare needs as a whole.

"If you cannae get the childcare you cannae get the job, if you cannae get the job you cannae get the childcare."

Marie's Story

Marie lives in Glasgow and is a single mum to her daughter, who is in primary 5, and her 21 year old son. She works at a community baker, two days a week and her daughter attends an after school club on these days. The after school club costs £18 per day and Marie also pays for breakfast club on her working days which costs £2 a session. Marie pays for the childcare but is able to reclaim 70% of the costs through tax credits. During the school holidays, she pays for full days of childcare, from 8:30am to 5:30pm , at the club. She said that even with the 70% claim, "it's expensive but there's nothing I can do, I need to use it."

Marie said she's very happy with the after school club, that her daughter enjoys the activities and especially the trips they get to go on in the summer holidays. Her daughter would like to attend breakfast club every day, so that she has longer to play with her friends, but Marie can't afford this. She can't afford to spend any more money on childcare. Marie also appreciates the fact that the after school club have been supportive and flexible, giving her extra time to make payments at times when she's struggled to meet the costs.

Marie told us that she used to work in care, a job that she really enjoyed. She said "I loved that job, and I was good at it, but I couldn't do those hours…I just couldn't." She couldn't find childcare to fit with the new hours, so she had to leave her job and find other work. This experience, and the experience of finding childcare in general was described as very stressful. Marie commented - "The lack of childcare, it causes you stress - you can end up with people off sick." Marie's new employers have been more flexible and have agreed to change her hours to accommodate the school drop-off and pick-up. Marie feels conflicted about how much work she's able to take on; she'd like to work more hours and stop receiving benefits but she doesn't think that she'd be able to afford to work more, because of the cost of childcare - "If they [my employer] gave me more hours I don't think I could take it, I couldn't afford it. I'd like to come off benefits but no."

Lindsay's story

Lindsay is a single mum to Sophie who is 8 years old. Lindsay works in a supermarket, shift work, 16 hours/week which she has had to negotiate to fit around school hours and weekends when her mum can look after Sophie. She would love to be able to work more hours but the cost of childcare means that it's not possible.

Sophie attends breakfast club at the school each day which costs £1/day. The after school club would cost £400/month if she used it every day. There are also difficulties with signing up to full terms and set days and the upfront deposit required.

Lindsay makes use of other more affordable options for activities for Sophie after school including athletics and dancing which are provided by Active Schools and cost around £40/term. She noted that even this is difficult to afford, particularly as you have to pay up front and altogether at the start of each term. She also uses a local drama group which costs 50p/week for an hour and a half of drama.

Lindsay told us that she struggles during school holidays. Sophie enjoys sports, especially football but there is a lack of affordable provision and particularly where Sophie's autism could be well supported. She noted that she works for nothing in the summer and finds it stressful juggling work and family time and having to rely on her mum to provide some of the childcare - "it costs me more in childcare over the summer than I earn"

Lindsay had previously not worked but was keen to provide a stable home environment for Sophie and to set a good example. She did say that it was really difficult to maintain her job given the stresses of arranging childcare. Lindsay was positive about the benefits of out of school care for children, particularly those clubs providing activities as a priority. She said it would be a "huge help if childcare was more available and subsidised in some way, I don't want it for free". She said that it would make sense if "people paid what they could afford" noting that she thought people wanted to work, it was just too difficult - "it sometimes feels like you get no thanks for working".

Lindsay also noted issues with the benefits system, particularly with reclaiming the costs of childcare and that she'd been let down before and ended up in financial difficulty so it "just wasn't worth the stress anymore. I just pay what I can afford from my wages".


We know that out of school care is mostly used by families where one or both parents are working, with secure and higher incomes. However, all of the parents that we engaged with seemed to experience some insecurity relating to childcare. Some parents were able to manage this by paying additional costs (for example to keep a child's place even when it was not required), while others were in a position that they had family members that they could rely upon. Most of the parents we spoke to felt that their own experience of using out of school care could be improved. A number of discussions focussed on comparisons with out of school care elsewhere in Scotland, showing that parents anecdotally have a picture of what was available elsewhere.

Parents and carers who were struggling most with accessing childcare tended to be on lower incomes and were restricted in their childcare options by affordability. Rurality was highlighted as an issue in relation to childcare choices and was often exacerbated by challenges with local transport. We also heard of particular challenges in accessing out of school care from parents of children with a disability or additional support need. Even within cities, where there is greater choice in out of school care provision, parents told us that they struggled to find suitable, age appropriate childcare and activities. This picture tended to be exacerbated in more rural locations.

The outcomes for families resulting from a lack of access to childcare were the same regardless of income level or circumstance - lack of certainty, making it difficult to plan for the future, and a real impact on employment prospects. This was felt by parents at a range of educational levels, and parents often expressed negative implications for themselves, their children and their family relationships.

Q8: How can we make sure out of school care is an affordable option for more families? (e.g. subsidised provision, remove barriers in accessing benefits, help with upfront costs)

Q9: How can services be more effectively delivered in rural/remote areas to meet the needs of families?

Q10: How can we ensure that children with disabilities and additional support needs can access out of school care services?

Q11: What flexibility do parents and carers need from out of school care services? Can you tell us why this flexibility is important?

Q12: What is important for parents and carers in terms of location of out of school care services? Should they be delivered in schools, community facilities, outdoors?

Q13: What ages of children do parents/carers need provision for?

Q14: Do parents/carers need food provision as part of after-school and holiday clubs?

Out of School Care Sector

It is really important that we listen to the views of the out of school care sector in shaping the developing out of school care policy. So far this has included engaging directly with those working in registered out of school care services and with childminders. We have also visited a range of activity based services although the views of those working in these services haven't been gathered more formally to date.

How We Heard

Between November 2018 and March 2019 we delivered a series of regional events in collaboration with the Scottish Out of School Care Network (SOSCN). SOSCN are a charity and membership organisation, funded by the Scottish Government, who support the rights of children to access quality play, care and learning opportunities before and after school, and during school holidays. They provide information, resources, guidance, training and a quality improvement framework, Achieving Quality Scotland.

These workshops were designed to give staff working in the out of school care sector the opportunity to share their views on the current picture in Scotland and to consider what changes or improvements they would like to see for their sector in the future. The events took place in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness. 250 practitioners attended from 162 services and while there were some issues and ideas that were particular to local areas, there was much consensus about the ambitions, the barriers and the changes required to benefit the out of school care sector in Scotland.

What We Heard

Improving children's outcomes

Out of school care practitioners were proud to share the strengths of their services and their important role of caring for and supporting children. One practitioner summed up an out of school care service as "A fun and flexible place where all children are valued and included" - this reflects the view of the sector well, with its child-centred approach and focus on fun.

Services were described as nurturing, safe, and welcoming environments that:

  • provide a range of tailored activities and experiences for children
  • give children opportunities to socialise and form friendships
  • are distinct and separate from the formal learning environment of school
  • provide free time for children to have fun, to be themselves
  • value children's thoughts and ideas and respect children as individuals
  • are inclusive - for all children, including older children

Workforce qualities and qualifications

Practitioners reflected that:

  • a dedicated, caring, loyal, passionate and resourceful workforce exists.
  • generally qualification requirements are viewed positively
  • it is beneficial to have access to specific training for school age childcare
  • training should be accessible and affordable
  • a mix of skills and qualifications is important for providing diversity and richness of experience
  • more flexibility with the range of acceptable qualifications would be welcome

Recruitment and retention

Practitioners commented on:

  • challenges of recruiting and retaining out of school care staff
  • importance of quality staff - people who can relate to children and connect with them
  • barriers to attracting staff due to part time nature of work
  • pay and conditions being often poor and not reflective of qualifications and professionalism
  • better promotion of careers in out of school care required
  • a national pay scale could be helpful

Regulation and wider support

Practitioners noted:

  • challenges relating to Care Inspectorate registration and inspection requirements
  • requirement for more tailored policies and guidance
  • greater flexibility around staff ratios would be helpful
  • the un-level playing field which exists between registered childcare and activity based services which are often providing options for the same children in the same communities
  • more support from some local authorities would be welcomed
  • a fair and consistent approach to policies such as free school lets was needed

Accessibility & Affordability

Many of those working in out of school care were keen to make services more widely available to families who are not currently accessing them, including:

  • parents and carers who may be out of work, looking for work, training or studying
  • families who are experiencing poverty, especially one parent/carer families
  • families where a child has a disability or additional support need
  • families where there is a need for respite (for either the child or the parent/carer),

They also noted:

  • the importance of community and links to supporting the local economy, by enabling parents and carers to work.
  • the importance of flexibility and the need for services to be responsive to local needs in order to best support the families and communities they work with.

Food Insecurity

Practitioners noted:

  • a clear need to join up out of school care services and holiday food provision as part of the food poverty agenda
  • existing out of school care clubs may be less stigmatising for children than services established specifically to address holiday hunger
  • high quality care and a wide range of activities alongside food provision is important
  • the importance of providing food choices and opportunities to be involved in food preparation with quality ingredients

Joined-up working

Practitioners highlighted:

  • benefits of local networks where they exist
  • importance of collaborative working, especially with schools and senior leadership teams
  • a desire for improved communication and partnerships with schools and local communities
  • some challenges with information sharing when working alongside other professionals involved in supporting children.
  • out of school care should be viewed as a community resource with links across the community

Spaces and Facilities

Practitioners across Scotland noted the challenge of finding high quality, dedicated and reliable spaces for out of school care services. Staff said:

  • ideally they'd like to work in settings which are purpose designed with space for different activities and functions
  • ample storage and access to a kitchen and outdoor space is required
  • they're often frustrated by the lack of protected space for services, particularly in schools
  • out of school care should be considered at the design stage of all new-build schools
  • their service is often seen as a low priority and they can often be moved out of the space at short notice
  • environment is so important for delivering high quality play experiences
  • they would like to make best use of outdoor and community spaces

Resources and funding

Practitioners noted:

  • the challenging nature of running out of school care services with limited budgets and resources
  • a need for funding support to help with provision for children with additional support needs
  • funding for transport costs which are prohibitive for many settings, particularly in rural areas
  • a desire to share more resources with schools and noted issues with rising costs of lets, particularly in some areas.
  • the range of costs of services for parents
  • the sector could benefit from support in helping businesses, especially third sector and charitable organisations to run sustainably.


How We Heard

In June 2019, we conducted a small-scale online survey to collect information from childminders about the out of school care services they provide. The survey was circulated to members of the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) and 147 childminders currently providing childcare to school-aged children completed the survey. All responses were submitted anonymously. In addition to the online survey we also visited some childminders in their homes and community spaces to learn about their experience of childminding in Scotland.

What We Heard

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Over three-quarters (78.1%) of respondents reported providing OSC to five school-age children or fewer, and just over two-fifths (43.9%) of respondents reported providing OSC to three school-age children or fewer.
  • Nearly all (95.9%) of respondents reported providing OSC to children from two parent households, compared to just under two-fifths (38.1%) who reported providing OSC to children from single parent households.
  • Just over four-fifths (81.6%) of respondents reported providing OSC to children from households where both parents were in full-time employment. Just over one-third (34.7%) reported providing OSC to children from households where one parent is in
    full-time employment. Very few (1.4%) reported providing OSC to children from households where both parents are not in employment or study.
  • Childminders told us that the focus of our new framework should be on:
    • Flexibility of childcare (most popular option)
    • Accessibility for all children and parents (2nd)
    • Affordability for parents (joint 3rd)
    • Quality of activities (joint 3rd)
  • 90% of childminders told us that community spaces are either 'important' or 'very important' to their out of school care provision.
  • 99% of childminders told us that outdoor spaces were either 'important' or 'very important' to their out of school care provision.
  • 87% of childminders offer some kind of food provision as part of their service.

In our discussions, childminders were overwhelmingly positive in describing their work, referencing the close connection that they develop with families which can enable greater flexibility in the service that they provide, and their joy of caring for children.

It is important to note that the findings of this survey are not representative of the views or practices of all childminders in Scotland. However, the results do offer insight into areas that may be explored further as part of the development of our future policy.

Childminders described their service as providing:

  • care in small groups which can be especially important for some children
  • a home from home environment
  • tailored activities which are planned by the children
  • a relaxing environment before and after school
  • strong bonds and family ties due to the individual nature of childminding
  • services for all children and families

They spoke about:

  • the importance of accessing the latest training and progressing in their own professional development.
  • being content with the quality of training on offer
  • the importance of transferring learning to their professional practice
  • the challenges of accessing training - a wider range of training options was requested
  • face-to-face opportunities to network with childminders and other childcare professionals are valuable
  • challenges of finding time for training given the sole responsibility for children and long working hours
  • feeling valued as part of the childcare sector and the need to maintain this positive reputation

Childminders felt that they provide:

  • an affordable, accessible service for parents and carers
  • flexibility for parents and carers including early drop off times and late pick ups
  • a responsive service often changing plans to suit parents needs
  • continuity of service for children and families
  • options in rural communities which might not sustain a larger service

Childminders told us they:

  • make use of resources within the community to provide a wide range of activities for children
  • can use local resources based on children's requests -swimming pool, library etc.
  • find it easy to make best use of local outdoor spaces - parks, beaches, woods etc.
  • often form networks with other local childminders to create new opportunities for play and learning
  • have good communication with local communities including schools
  • benefit from local authority support where it's provided particularly in accessing training

Zoe Thwaites, Avoch, Scottish Highlands

I have been childminding for four years and provide care for children of all ages including out of school care for those of primary school age. As a childminder, I believe I can play a crucial role in providing care for children out of school hours. Children are able to relax after the pressures of the school day, while continuing their social development through interaction with other children in a home based environment. There are opportunities to extend learning through free play and creative activities as well as through outdoor sports all within the local community and surrounding areas.

Mila's mum says "Mila (11) has benefited hugely from being looked after by Zoe. Through Zoe she has experienced new things and undertaken dozens of projects. A shy and anxious child when she first attended Zoe's, she was instantly comfortable in Zoe's care due to the careful, warm and welcoming atmosphere created in the house. Over the years I have seen her confidence flourish".

Emily's mum says "My daughter Emily (8) has been provided with the comforts of a home based environment at the end of the school day, where she has been able to relax with friends through a multitude of outdoor opportunities and creative activities. Emily spends time with younger children, some of pre-school age, with whom she can take on a caring and mentoring role within boundaries set by Zoe to the benefit of all".


There are still many challenges facing the out of school care sector and there was a desire for these to be recognised and acted upon in order to improve what is understood to be a vital service for children and families. We engaged with a dedicated and professional workforce who understand the importance of their services to the children and to the parents and carers who use them. The workforce however, feel strongly that their sector suffers from a lack of recognition and understanding, although this was less of a focus for the childminders we spoke to. Staff working in out of school care provision said that they felt there was little knowledge or appreciation of the skills, qualifications and experience they have - even from parents who use out of school care services and other professionals who they engage with regularly.

Most staff we talked to share a vision for out of school care in Scotland that is accessible and inclusive for all children. It was widely recognised that services could support many more children and families if provision was more affordable and accessible to those on low incomes, and that it could have a much bigger role in supporting those who experience food insecurity and poverty. Many practitioners advocated for financial support, subsidies or funded places for families who need them. Staff also stressed that there is a need for more funding to support children with disabilities and additional support needs. They noted the importance of specialist equipment, staff training and ratios.

The sector highlighted a disparity between the registered childcare sector and activity based services whose primary function may not be childcare but for many families may be providing a childcare service. These services may be providing high quality provision but aren't subject to the same requirements in relation to staffing qualifications or ratios of staff to children.

Both childminders and out of school care staff were passionate about the high quality service they're already providing to families and that it was important not to lose sight of this when considering changes to the sector. They noted the positive outcomes for children who are accessing their services and that this would always be their main focus.

Q15: What qualifications, skills and experience should the out of school care workforce have? What is most important and why?

Q16: 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 provisions be the same or different? Why?

Q17: How can we promote working in the out of school care sector as a more attractive career choice?

Q18: How can we increase diversity across the out of school care workforce?



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