Publication - Consultation paper

Out of school care in Scotland - draft framework: consultation

Published: 30 Aug 2019

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.

Out of school care in Scotland - draft framework: consultation
Annex B: Discussion paper

Annex B: Discussion paper

What do we know about Out of School Care in Scotland?

Key points

  • The literature underlines links between access to out of school care (OSC) and child poverty. Access to affordable and accessible OSC has been highlighted as a potential barrier to taking up or staying in good quality employment, or increasing hours. Childcare costs may put pressure on family budgets, and families may find accessing the available financial support difficult.
  • 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. Childcare costs during school holidays may also put pressure on family budgets or make sustaining work difficult.
  • There is a range of childcare available out of school hours from registered OSC providers such as breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs, registered childminders, to clubs providing supervised activities.
  • Grandparents are the most common providers of OSC, although a significant minority of families use formal OSC. The majority of children also participate in some form of out of school activity.
  • Use of OSC is strongly linked to parental employment, and the most common reason parents give for using OSC is that it allows them to work. Conversely, the most common reasons given for participation in out of school activities relate to the child's enjoyment or development.
  • In general, higher income families are more likely to use childcare and formal OSC, than families in the lowest income group.
  • The majority of families who use OSC are positive about their arrangements; however, affordability and lack of choice are issues for some.
  • Overall, there is a lack of robust evidence on the role and impacts of out of school care/activities.
  • The available evidence suggests that the main potential impact of OSC on parents and the broader family is through positive labour market outcomes. There is evidence that using OSC 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.
  • The limited evidence available also suggests that high quality OSC 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.
  • 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 pointing to a potential role for these activities in reducing the attainment gap.
  • It is important to note that as children from families with low socio-economic status are less likely to access OSC than those from higher status backgrounds; as a consequence, they are less likely to benefit from the developmental advantages associated with participation in OSC.

1. Background and policy context

1.1 Purpose of this discussion paper

This paper provides an overview of what we know about 'out of school care' (OSC) in Scotland. It has been developed alongside the draft framework on OSC, and is intended to inform discussions about the development of policy on OSC. The paper draws on a range of evidence relevant to OSC in Scotland, including some existing reviews of relevant literature, and research and analysis commissioned to fill evidence gaps identified. It is not, however, based on a comprehensive or systematic literature review. Instead, this paper should be viewed as work in progress that will be further developed alongside the framework. The paper begins by describing the policy context in Scotland and considering literature on the role of OSC in tackling child poverty. Then it outlines what we know about current provision and use of OSC in Scotland, and describes findings from research on parents' views of the affordability and availability of OSC. Finally it considers what the evidence tells us about the impact of OSC on child and parent outcomes.

1.2. What is out of school care?

There is no single formal definition of out of school care (OSC) in the UK. However, there is a general consensus that OSC 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".[10]

1.3 Policy context

Scottish Government's OSC policy dates back to 2003 when School's Out was published.[11] This has provided the underpinning policy framework and guidance for OSC for the last 15 years. Policies relating to early learning and childcare (ELC) and school education have changed hugely since then as has the wider policy context, particularly in relation to child poverty and inequality.

From August 2020, the provision of funded ELC will expand from 600 hours to 1,140 hours. The expansion of the funded ELC entitlement will provide parents with 30 hours per week (if taken during term-time) of free at the point of access ELC for all 3 and 4 year olds (and 2 year olds who meet certain eligibility criteria). This policy is focussed on ensuring a universal best start for all children and reducing the poverty related attainment gap, however, it will also enable parents to consider their own situation and may be a factor in enabling them to access or increase education or employment. The vision for ELC is underpinned by the principles of quality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability.[12]

Within school age education, Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence encompasses all the experiences that are planned for learners wherever they are being educated. It takes account of all the experiences that learners can have through learning out with school and in activity that would previously have been thought of as extra-curricular. The curriculum aims to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need if they are to flourish in life, learning and work, now and in the future, and to appreciate their place in the world. Additionally, the Scottish Attainment Challenge is a targeted initiative to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap.

In November 2018, the Poverty and Inequality Commission provided advice to the Scottish Government on addressing poverty during school holidays.[13] They underline that families face a range of additional costs and pressures during the school holidays. The Commission recommended that Scottish Government, COSLA and local authorities work together to take a strategic approach to developing and funding a coordinated package of school holiday support.

The 2017-18 Programme for Government committed to publishing a framework for after-school and holiday childcare within this parliamentary term.[14] The 2018-19 Programme for Government provided more detail, noting that Scottish Government will publish a consultation asking for views on that draft framework in the next year.[15] In developing the framework, it is important to understand what is currently available and what barriers prevent access to OSC, in order to set out what more needs to be done to ensure that OSC is available for all children.

1.4 Legislative requirement

In Scotland there is no statutory duty on local authorities or any other body to provide out of school and holiday childcare. The 1995 Children (Scotland) Act placed a statutory duty on local authorities to provide daycare for school-age children 'in need' before and after school, and during holidays. The 2014 Children and Young People (Scotland) Act placed an additional statutory duty on local authorities to consult with parents on their OSC needs. Parental involvement and engagement is an important priority for national government, local authorities and schools.

2. The role of out of school care in tackling child poverty

2.1. Out of school care is important in supporting employment

The Scottish Government's child poverty delivery plan highlights the importance of OSC in enabling many parents, particularly lone parents to enter work or being able to increase their hours to a sufficient level to make work pay.[16] Childcare can be a significant cost for households with children, and a lack of affordable and flexible childcare can limit opportunities for paid employment. Not being able to access flexible childcare may mean parents have to choose low quality part-time jobs, take a role they are overqualified for or leave work altogether.[17]

Research in this area has tended to focus on costs for ELC for pre-school-aged children. A report by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland highlighted that other costs arising from children's attendance at school - including the cost of school uniforms, transport costs, and school trips, events and clubs - place pressure on family budgets and can lead to unequal access to opportunities or stigma.[18] Coram Family and Childcare report that in 2018-19, the average cost of an after-school club for a week in Scotland was £54, while the average price of a childminder to 6pm for a week was £68.[19] They also suggest that there is a lack of childcare available for school-age children after school.[20] The weekly price of holiday childcare is £123 per child in Scotland.[21]

Financial support is available to low and middle income families to help pay for child care through the UK Government "tax-free childcare" scheme, Universal Credit, or the Working Tax Credit childcare element (which is being replaced by Universal Credit). However, conditionality on working hours, having to pay upfront costs and difficulties with accessing such support make this difficult for some families. Moreover, for some families the cost of childcare will exceed the support that is available. Additionally, as clubs providing a specific activity are not officially counted as childcare, parents will not be able to pay for them using tax-free childcare or childcare support through the benefit system. Coram Family and Childcare also note that these type of clubs do not usually offer enough hours of care per week to provide reliable childcare for working parents.[22]

Save the Children held a series of 'childcare conversations' with over 100 parents (of pre-school and school-aged children) across Scotland.[23] They report that parents faced challenges finding suitable childcare. The report notes that the families they engaged with were facing very similar barriers to accessing childcare, with the key barriers being inflexible provision and high costs, particularly for low income families. A particular concern for parents with school-aged children was the cost of after-school and holiday care, which often involved trips and other extra-curricular activities that added to the cost. A lack of suitable childcare meant that parents had to rely more than they would like to on informal support in the form of family and friends. Save the Children also found that parents wanted similar things from childcare provision, namely high quality care that benefits their children's growth and development, and is easily affordable and accessible.

2.2 Families living in poverty face additional challenges during school holidays

School holidays make up around 13 weeks of the year, so children and young people spend a quarter of their year not in school. A number of important supports for families are not provided during school holidays e.g. free school meals, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and activities. The Poverty and Inequality Commission underline that families face a range of additional costs and pressures during the school holidays including: the cost and availability of holiday childcare; financial pressures such as additional costs for food, fuel and activities/transport; providing play opportunities and activities on a low income; parenting challenges and social isolation for both parents and children with existing supports and activities stopping.[24]

Some research suggests that for low income families, school holidays can increase financial pressure and lead to food insecurity, poor health and missing out on opportunities that are available to children in higher income families. There is research on "summer learning loss" which shows that during the school holidays, children's learning is at risk of stagnating, or even regressing, and that this may be more pronounced in children from low income families. However there is a lack of evidence in the UK context - the majority of research on summer learning loss is from North America where holidays are longer.

Literature exploring childcare during the school holidays is limited. Stewart et al, in a review of the literature, suggest that the high cost of childcare can mean that during the school holiday period many families are financially no - or little - better off in work.[25] They note that sustaining work during school holidays can be particularly challenging for lone parent families. Stewart et al also note that holiday support for children with Additional Support Needs and disabilities is particularly poor, with local authorities reporting little to no provision for such families. Further, that for some parents the difficulties in managing childcare costs and scheduling result in them taking unpaid leave, choosing zero-hour contracts or self-employment.

CPAG in Scotland's research on the cost of school holidays and childcare in Glasgow found that 86% of parents agreed that holiday childcare is too expensive and a further 57% reported that childcare did not suit their working schedule.[26] The Poverty and Inequality Commission note that it is difficult to identify whether there is sufficient holiday childcare available.[27]

2.3. Some families experience food insecurity during the school holidays

Families' experience of food insecurity during the school holidays is increasingly the focus of policy discussions but the evidence base on the topic is limited.[28] Discussions tend to be based on anecdotal evidence and the rise in food bank use over the summer.

The Scottish Government committed to monitoring household food insecurity in 2016, following recommendations from an Independent Working Group on Food Poverty. The most recent data from the Scottish Health Survey showed that, in 2017, 8% of adults in Scotland experienced food insecurity, defined as worrying about running out of food due to said that, at some point in the lack of money or other resources.[29]

Worrying about running out of food was more prevalent amongst adults with lower household incomes, adults living in more deprived areas and adults with limiting longstanding illness.[30]

In 2019, the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger estimated that up to three million children in the UK risk being hungry in the school holidays. This group comprises over a million children in poverty who receive free school meals during term time, and two million children who do not receive free school meals because their parents work.[31]

The number of food parcels distributed by food banks in Scotland has increased substantially over the last 5 years. Between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, 210,605 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in Scotland by food banks part of the Trussell Trust network - more than double the number of parcels distributed in 2013-14 (71,428).[32] In addition, recent analysis by Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change reported that 221,977 three-day food parcels were distributed between April 2017 and September 2018 by 84 (out of 94) of the independent food banks identified in Scotland. The Trussell Trust report that use of their food banks increases during the summer holidays.

A UK-wide survey of parents with children aged 5-16 years, conducted by Kellogg's in 2015, found that 60% parents with household incomes of less than £25,000 reported that they were not always able to afford to buy food outside school term time, and that a third of parents had skipped a meal so that their children could eat during the school holidays.[33] A survey conducted by CPAG in Scotland in 2015 found that 28% of parents had skipped meals to feed their children and 7% had used food banks to feed their children during school holidays.[34]

A range of potential negative impacts of food insecurity in the school holidays for children and their parents have been suggested in the literature. These are often combined with wider issues relating to the cost of the school holidays, including the high cost of and lack of suitable childcare available. There is some research suggesting that children eat less healthily and do less physical activity over the holidays, which is linked to wider negative health impacts.[35] Research has also found that some children may experience social isolation and loneliness over the holidays: a lack of money for food is often accompanied by a lack of money for taking part in activities, and not having food in the house can be a barrier to inviting friends over to play.[36] Some research suggests that circumstances experienced during the school holidays, including poor nutrition, social isolation and emotional and financial stress within the family can negatively impact on children's school readiness, cognitive functioning, well-being and social integration.[37]

3. Current out of school care provision in Scotland

There is a huge variety of before- and after-school and holiday childcare provision across local authorities. The majority of it is delivered by private, third sector and charity organisations, although often situated within school buildings and grounds. Childminders also deliver OSC provision. There are also a wide range of policies and strategies in place at local authority level.

Registered OSC services must operate within the same legal and regulatory requirements as ELC settings. They must be registered with the Care Inspectorate as 'Daycare of Children' services (if they operate for more than 2 hours and if their main function is to provide childcare). Staff working within these services are required to register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and must meet qualifications standards including a degree level qualification for all managers.

According to the Care Inspectorate there were 981 registered OSC services operating in Scotland in 2017, an increase from 686 in 2012.[38] For 738 this was their main service, with the remainder also providing childcare for younger children including ELC. There were also 648 breakfast clubs and 440 registered holiday services. Most regulated OSC services (642) were either private, voluntary, third sector or charitable organisations. A minority (96) were delivered directly by the local authority. Services were predominantly concentrated in urban areas. These out of school care services were providing care for around 52,550 children in Scotland, compared to the 34,530 registered in 2012. In addition, 16,470 children accessed OSC with a childminder. Across all regulated service types 79,198 children aged 5 and over were registered with services for OSC.

As well as registered OSC services there are many supervised activity clubs (including Active Schools clubs; sports; drama, arts and culture focussed clubs) which operate during term time often for less than 2 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 are, again, not required to be registered with Care Inspectorate: although they operate for more than 2 hours a day, their primary function is to provide activities for children rather than to provide a daycare service for children. It is not currently possible to quantify this provision across Scotland as there are no reliable data collected on these services.

In January 2019 the SSSC published their most recent figures relating to the Children's Services Workforce.[39] They report that in 2017 4,850 workers were employed in 736 stand-alone OSC services with an average of 5 workers in every service. An additional 620 workers were employed in 44 holiday play schemes. The voluntary sector was the largest employer for OSC: 490 workers were employed in the public sector, 1830 in the private and 2,530 in the voluntary sector. The average number of hours per week worked in OSC and holiday play schemes was around 18. The average worker was aged 34 years in OSC and 25 years in holiday play schemes. The majority of OSC and holiday play scheme workers worked part-time (92% of OSC workers and 77% of holiday play scheme workers) and the majority (88% and 82%) were female.

Overall, the Care Inspectorate report that in 2017 84% of OSC services were found to be good or better in all quality themes (an improvement compared to 79% in 2016).[40] Local authority OSC services had the highest proportion of services rated good or better (94%) followed by voluntary/not for profit services (86%) and private OSC services (78%). In around 97% of childminders the quality of care and support and the quality of environment was found to be good or better in 2017.

4. Use of out of school care and participation in out of school activities

Analysis of data collected from Birth Cohort 1 (BC1) of the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS) in 2012/13 (Sweep 7) provides information on OSC use at age eight.

Information on other organised out of school activities is also available from Sweep 8 and Sweep 9 of GUS when the cohort children were respectively 10 (in 2014/15) and 12 (2017/18).[41]

Additionally, in 2019 the Scottish Government commissioned a telephone survey of parents of 5 to 13-year-old children in Scotland to better understand what parents would like from OSC.[42]

While the two studies are not directly comparable - they relate to different time periods and child ages, and the questions asked and data collection methods are not directly comparable - similar patterns of OSC use were found across these data sources.

The majority of all parents (77%) in the 2019 parent survey reported using some form of childcare during term-time and/or the school holidays, while 23% used neither. Just under two-thirds of families in the GUS study (64%) reported using some form of childcare during term-time and/or the school holidays, while 36% did not use any childcare.

4.1 Term-time childcare

More than half (58%) of all parents in the parent survey used some form of childcare during term-time. A third (33%) of all parents used only informal term-time childcare (such as grandparents, other family or friends), 12% used only formal term-time childcare (such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and childminders), while 13% used both types. Overall, grandparents were the most commonly used type of term-time childcare (used by 37% of all parents). One in five (21%) of all parents used a breakfast and/or after-school club; 13% used breakfast clubs and 14% used after-school clubs.

Similarly, in 2012/13 slightly over half (53%) of families in the in GUS study used some form of term-time childcare (either before school, after school or both). The most popular childcare provider for both before- and after-school care was grandparents (11% and 31% respectively), followed by a breakfast or after-school club (9% and 14%). Of the families who said they used childcare before school, nearly a third (31%) reported using it every day of the school week. By contrast, of the families who used childcare after-school, only 18% used it every day of the week and nearly half (49%) said that they used it on only one or two days.

4.2 Holiday childcare

Around 6 in 10 (61%) parents in the 2019 parent survey used holiday childcare. Forty two per cent of all parents used only informal holiday childcare, 7% used only formal holiday childcare, and 12% used both. Grandparents were the most commonly used type of holiday childcare (used by 43% of all parents), while 16% used a play scheme or holiday club.

Around half of families (51%) in the GUS study reported using childcare during the school holidays. The most popular holiday childcare provider was grandparents (39%), followed by a play scheme, summer or holiday club (11%). Use of formal providers was more common during term time than for holiday care (43% compared with 14%).

4.3 Out of school activities

A large majority of children in the GUS study were attending out of school activities; however, the proportion decreased over time from 89% at age eight to 84% at age 12.

Team sports were the most common out of school activity at age 12, with just over half (52%) of children participating regularly. Individual sports (46%) and art, music and performance (40%) were also popular. A minority (16%) of parents reported that their child did not attend any of the out of school activities listed.[43]

At age eight, individual sports were the most common out of school activity, with 64% of children participating regularly. Community clubs/groups were the next most popular (48%). Team sports were less popular at age eight (36%) than they were at age 12, as were art, music and performance activities (35%). A large majority of parents whose children were participating in these four most popular out of school activities at age eight reported that they were paying for their child to attend (between 82% and 95%).

At age 10 (Sweep 8), parents were asked how long their child spent in organised, structured activities outside of school each week. Just over half (53%) spent an average of up to five hours in organised activities per week, while a third (33%) spent five or more hours in out of school activities.

4.4 Children's age and out of school care/activities

In the 2019 parent survey, parents were more likely to use term-time care for younger children, aged five to seven (62%) or eight to 10 years old (64%), than older children aged 11 to 13 years old (48%). Holiday clubs were used more for children aged five to seven years old (20%).

Analysis using data from families in Scotland participating in the UK Millennium Cohort study - focussing on children aged five, seven and eleven years old (in 2005, 2007 and 2012 respectively) - explored OSC.[44] It found that usage of after-school clubs increased as children got older (from 11% at age five to 18% at age seven and 11 years old), while usage of breakfast clubs increased between age five and seven (from 6% to 11%), then decreased again at age 11 (to 8%). The analysis also found that throughout the primary school years, the percentage of children participating in sports clubs less than once a week or not at all dropped (from 49% at age five to 24% at age 11), while the percentage attending three of more days a week increased (from 9% at age five to 32% at age 11).

4.5 Out of school care is used primarily to allow parents to work

GUS data shows that families where at least one parent was working part-time or full-time were considerably more likely to be using any childcare than families with no parent working. Families where at least one parent was working were nearly three times as likely to be using any childcare before the start of the school day and more than twice as likely to be using childcare after school or during holidays, than families with no parent working. The use of formal childcare was also strongly associated with parental employment.

Similarly, the 2019 parent survey highlighted that both term-time and holiday childcare were more likely to be used by families in which all parents were working, either full- or part-time (72% of this group used term-time childcare and 71% used holiday childcare), compared to families where at least one parent was not working (where 30% used term-time childcare and 41% used holiday childcare). Single parents working full-time were the family group most likely to use both term-time and holiday childcare (85% and 76% respectively).

Relatedly, the main reason by far given in the parent survey for using both term-time and holiday childcare by those who used it was that it allowed parents to work (79% and 65%). While around a third of all parents said they did not use term-time or holiday childcare (33% and 32% respectively) because they/their partner could look after their child. Reasons for using term-time care differed somewhat for families with at least one non-working parent. While the most common reason was still that it allows the parents to work (32%), other reasons were more common, for example: it allows them or their partner to study/train at college or university (20%); their child enjoys it (17%); and for reasons related to the parents' health/disability (13%).

Similarly, analysis using data from families in Scotland participating in the UK Millennium Cohort study reported that 'childcare' was cited by 80% of parents/carers - rising to 90% in the highest socio-economic groups - as the principal reason for using OSC.[45]

4.6 Participation in out of school activities is primarily for children's enjoyment

Of the parents who reported that their child attended an out of school activity at age eight, the most popular reason given for their participation was that the child enjoys it (93%), while around 7 in 10 (69%) said it was for the child to learn new skills. Parents were also asked in the same sweep why their children did not attend any (or did not attend any additional) activities. The most popular reason given by parents was that their child did not want to attend any (or any more) activities (31%), with 29% saying that their child already does enough activities. A considerable minority gave reasons relating to practical difficulties for parents (23%) and cost (23%).

4.7 Socio-economically advantaged families are more likely to use out of school care/activities

GUS data show that families in the top income quintile were more likely to report using any childcare than families in the bottom quintile (77% compared to 53%). Families in the top income quintile were nearly twice as likely to use childcare both before and after the school day than families in the bottom quintile. Considering area deprivation, more families in the least deprived quintile reported using some sort of childcare than in the most deprived (70% compared to 59%). While there was no difference in the use of before-school and holiday childcare across area deprivation quintiles, families in the least deprived quintile were more likely to report using after-school childcare than families in the most deprived areas.

There is also a strong socio-economic differential in the use of formal OSC both in term time and during holidays. Higher income households and those where both parents (or lone parents in single parent families) worked at least 16 hours per week were more likely to use formal OSC than households on lower incomes or those where at least one of the parents was not in work. Results from modelling the joint effect of parental employment, SIMD and household income on the probability of using formal childcare providers suggest that area deprivation (as measured by SIMD) appears far less important in shaping the use of formal childcare than family characteristics like parental employment and household income.

The parent survey found fairly similar patterns for OSC use by household income and area deprivation. In terms of formal OSC, those on a higher income (more than £60,000 per annum) were more likely to use after-school and holiday clubs (34% and 38%, compared to 23% and 26% overall). Similarly, those living in the least deprived areas were more likely to use after-school clubs and holiday clubs (31% and 40%, compared to 22% and 26% overall). Those in the most deprived areas, however, were more likely to use breakfast clubs (31% compared to 22% overall).

Analysis of the UK Millennium Cohort study found that primary school children from socio-economically disadvantaged families had lower take-up of most OSC arrangements than their more advantaged peers, except
after-school clubs.[46] Analysis using data from families in Scotland participating in the Millennium Cohort study also reported that, generally, the better educated and the higher the occupational status of the parents, the more likely they were to use formal OSC.[47] Although breakfast clubs showed a more even distribution of users across the socio-economic spectrum than other forms of OSC. The analysis also found that children in the lowest socio-economic groups were less likely to participate in sports or physical activity clubs compared with the highest socio-economic groups.

5. What are families' experiences of the availability and affordability of out of school care?

The majority of families in the GUS study using OSC (87%) reported finding it either 'very easy' or 'fairly easy' to arrange suitable childcare during term time, with slightly fewer (79%) saying so about arranging childcare during the school holidays. The vast majority of parents who used childcare (95%) said that were either 'very satisfied' or 'fairly satisfied' with their current childcare arrangements.

Just over a third of parents (36%) in the GUS study that used some form of OSC said that they either had 'a great deal of choice' or 'quite a lot of choice' when arranging OSC. Around half of parents (50%), however, said that they had 'not very much' choice and 13% reported that they had 'none at all'. Families in the top income quintile were more likely to say they had a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot' of choice when arranging OSC (44% compared to 33% of users in the bottom household income quintile), and less likely to say they had 'no choice at all' when arranging OSC (8% compared to 15% of users in the bottom income quintile). Similarly, families in the least deprived SIMD quintile were more likely to say they had a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot' of choice than those in the most deprived SIMD quintile (42% compared to 30%).

Nearly 3 in 10 (28%) parents who were using some form of childcare reported finding it either 'very easy' or 'fairly easy' to pay for their child's OSC; however, a minority (10%) of families said they found it 'fairly difficult' or 'difficult'. Half of families (50%) said that they did not pay anything - largely due to the use of informal childcare providers. Families in the top income quintile were more than three times as likely to say it was 'very easy' or 'easy' to pay for childcare than those in the bottom quintile (51% compared with 16%). Conversely, the bottom income quintile were three times as likely to say it was 'very difficult' or 'difficult' to pay for childcare than those in the top quintile (10% compared to 4%).

The 2019 survey of parents asked specifically about parents' views on formal OSC. The report notes that those who used breakfast and/or after-school clubs were overwhelmingly positive about their convenience and affordability, which suggests that these aspects are crucial in ensuring access to these services. Among term-time childcare users who did not use breakfast or after-school clubs, some of the main reasons they did not do so were because they were too expensive (31%), there were none in their local area (15%) and the timings of the clubs did not suit them (11%). Users' views on play schemes/holiday clubs were also largely positive, with the majority saying that the clubs were convenient and affordable. As with term-time childcare, holiday childcare users who did not use play schemes/holiday clubs indicated that the main reasons they did not do so were because they were too expensive (39%), there were none in their local area (10%) or the timings of the clubs did not suit them (8%).

A significant minority of parents who did not use term-time care said that there were either no affordable breakfast, after-school or holiday clubs nearby (20%, 25% and 19% respectively) or that they did not know of any (19%, 20% and 16% respectively). Parents living in remote rural areas were much more likely to say that there were not any breakfast/after-school clubs in their area (66%, compared to 15% overall). Parents who said there were no affordable breakfast/after-school/holiday clubs near to them were asked if they would be interested in using these clubs if they were available. Forty four percent said they would be very/somewhat interested in using an affordable after-school club if it was available, and 31% said they would be very/somewhat interested in an affordable breakfast club.

6. What impact does out of school care have on children and parents?

Evidence on the impact of OSC on child and parent outcomes is limited. An evidence briefing published by NHS Health Scotland in 2015[48] (updated in 2018[49]) noted that there is a lack of recent, robust evidence relating to the impact of OSC in the UK.

6.1 Impact of OSC on children's outcomes

Overall, the limited evidence available suggests that high quality OSC 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.

The NHS Health Scotland review found "very little robust evidence" relating to the impact of OSC on children from the UK, with much of the available literature addressing forms of OSC that are not relevant to the Scottish context (e.g. assessing specific targeted programmes in deprived inner-city areas in the USA). The review identified some broad positive impacts of OSC on children, including: building friendships with those from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds; developing relationships with adult role models; increased social skills, confidence and self-esteem. There is also some "weak evidence" that indicates a link between breakfast club provision in deprived areas in the UK and short-term increases in levels of concentration, more primary school children eating fruit for breakfast, and fewer secondary school children missing school.

The review notes that the benefits of OSC are related to a child's socio-economic background, with those from more deprived backgrounds experiencing the greatest benefits. Based on this, they suggest that OSC must be of a level of quality at least on a par with the quality of care that families from less deprived backgrounds are able to provide to their children. Social interaction was highlighted as being of particular importance for 'only' children and those from rural or disadvantaged areas. The review also suggested that being able to engage in activities was of particular importance for children with disabilities or "special educational needs".

Evidence for some less positive impacts of OSC was also noted by NHS Health Scotland, including: primary school children showing greater conduct difficulties; secondary school children displaying less prosocial behaviour; tiredness; and lack of time spent with family. More broadly, a lack of appropriate provision for children older than eight was highlighted in the review, with older children reporting experiencing boredom. Given the majority of children attending OSC are aged between seven and eleven, there is scope to further examine the age-appropriateness of OSC provision in Scotland.

6.2. Impact of out of school care on parent's outcomes

The available evidence suggests that the main potential impact of OSC on parents and the broader family is through positive labour market impact. The NHS Health Scotland review found evidence that using OSC 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. A European study (including the UK) found OSC increased female participation in the workplace. Other potential benefits include improving the mental wellbeing of parents/carers (for example, through reducing financial pressures and stress around having to arrange informal care).

Non-economic impacts reported by parents in deprived communities include practical support in terms of childcare to help manage crisis situations and provide respite. Play workers are also seen as an informal source of emotional support and as signposting to or helping to access other services.

6.3. Impact of holiday programmes on children and parent's outcomes

Most evaluations of holiday programmes identified were small-scale and qualitative in nature, and as such their findings cannot necessarily be considered to be representative of holiday programmes more widely. Nevertheless, the existing evaluations considered here do point to a range of potential positive impacts for the children and families who attend.

Some evaluations have found that children tended to eat more regularly and more healthily when attending a holiday programme, and that they tended to be more physically active. Holiday programmes can provide children with the opportunity to be with existing friends they might not otherwise see in the holidays, and also to make new ones.[50] Holiday clubs can also help relieve the financial pressure on families through providing food to children, meaning that food at home lasts longer, and by providing activities free of charge for children, reducing the demands on parents to take them out. If parents are working it can be a valuable source of childcare that would otherwise be unaffordable, allowing parents to continue working over the summer period.[51]

A range of positive impacts for parents were also noted.[52] These included: eating more healthily and food at home lasting longer; a reduction in financial stress, both because food and activities were being provided for children and because, in some cases, holiday programmes acted as a form of childcare allowing parents to maintain their working hours over the holidays. Programmes can provide opportunities for parents to participate, volunteer, and access nutritional food and activities, which could play a role in increasing parental confidence, improving healthy food awareness, and offering informal social support through community networks. Some programmes reported decreases in social isolation and loneliness for parents, allowing them to interact and make friends with others in their community.

In relation to tackling food insecurity during the school holidays, it was generally seen as important to include activities as well as food. This helped to reduce the stigma by making the focus less about the affordability of food. In addition, fun, enriching activities add another beneficial element to programmes through increasing physical activity, learning, socialising etc.[53]

6.4 Impact of out of school activities on children's outcomes

Evidence on the impact of out of school/extra-curricular activities on children's outcomes is fairly limited. Compared to early years research, which has established the importance of the home learning environment and the activities in which young children participate, there has been much less research into how children of school age spend their time. As noted earlier, we know that disadvantaged pupils are less likely to participate in these types of 'enrichment activities'. There are, however, some studies that suggest that these types of 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.

Some evidence for children in England comes from the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) longitudinal study, which found that participation in learning outside of school hours was a predictor of progress in Maths and English between the ages of 7 and 11, after controlling for background characteristics.[54] More recent analysis of the longitudinal UK Millennium Cohort Study found that some formal activities were associated with attainment and social, emotional and behavioural outcomes at age 11.[55] Sports clubs and 'other' (unspecified) club participation was positively associated[56] with attainment outcomes at age 11. Participating in organised sports or physical activity was also positively linked to social, emotional and behavioural outcomes. Among economically disadvantaged children,
after-school club emerged as the only organised activity linked to child outcomes: participation was linked to both higher attainment and pro-social skills.

Evaluations of after-school activities/programmes suggest some positive outcomes although the research designs do not always allow conclusions.[57] The Children's University programme for pupils in primary schools combined outdoor learning activities, after-school clubs and community social action.[58] The evaluation[59] - a school-level randomised control trial - found that the programme was linked to slight progress in pupils' reading and maths performance. A smaller improvement in non-cognitive outcomes of 'teamwork' and 'social responsibility' was also found. The gains in teamwork and social responsibility results for disadvantaged pupils were better than the overall figures. However, the authors note that if changes in attainment alone are the primary goal, these relatively small effect sizes suggest that there will be more cost-effective routes to achieve this outcome.

The Education Endowment Foundation has assessed the impact of arts and sports participation on academic learning.[60] They underline that enriching education has intrinsic benefits and 'all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, deserve a well-rounded, culturally rich, education'. It is important to note that, in both cases, participation was defined as occurring either as part of the curriculum or as extra-curricular activity. Overall, they conclude that the impact of both arts and sports participation on academic learning appears to be positive but low. Overall, the evidence is rated as 'moderate' for arts and 'limited' for sports. Improved outcomes for arts participation have been identified in English, mathematics and science. Benefits have been found in both primary and secondary schools, with greater effects on average for younger learners and, in some cases, for disadvantaged pupils. They also note that participating in sports and physical activity is likely to have wider health and social benefits.

7. Summary

There is a range of childcare available out of school hours, from registered OSC providers such as breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs, registered childminders, to clubs providing supervised activities before or after school or in the school holidays. There is no statutory duty or specific funding to provide OSC.

The literature highlights links between access to OSC and child poverty. 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 the financial support available difficult to access. Research suggests that 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. Some research suggests that the cost of childcare during school holidays may put pressure on family budgets or make sustaining work difficult, particularly for lone parents. Also 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, and health and
wellbeing.

Considering data from a number of surveys highlights that the majority of parents use some form of childcare during term-time and/or the school holidays. Grandparents were the most common providers of before and before-school and holiday childcare, although a significant minority use formal OSC. Additionally, the majority of children participate in some form of out of school activity, with sports being the most popular.

Both term-time and holiday childcare are far more likely to be used by families in which all parents were working, either full- or part-time. In particular, parental employment is highlighted as one of the key drivers of use of formal OSC in term-time. Further, the most common reason parents give for using OSC is that it allows them to work. Conversely, the most common reasons given for participation in out of school activities related to the child's enjoyment or development. Several studies underline that, in general, there is a strong socio-economic differential in use of OSC and participation in out of school activities. In particular, higher income families are more likely to use any childcare and formal OSC than families in the lowest income group.

The majority of families who use OSC are positive about their arrangements. However, slightly over 6 in 10 families in the GUS study reported a lack of choice when arranging OSC, and a significant minority reported finding OSC difficult to pay for. Low income families were more likely to report a lack of choice in arranging OSC and having difficulty paying for OSC.

Overall, there is a lack of robust evidence on the impacts of out of school care/activities on children and families. The available evidence suggests that the main potential impact of OSC on parents and the broader family is through positive labour market outcomes. There is evidence that using OSC 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. The limited evidence available also indicates that high quality OSC 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.

Research suggests that 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. Some research suggests that the cost of childcare during school holidays may put pressure on family budgets or make sustaining work difficult, particularly for lone parents. Also 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, and health and well-being.

The available evidence suggests that the main potential impact of OSC on parents and the broader family is through positive labour market impacts. There is evidence that using OSC 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.

The limited evidence available also indicates that high quality OSC 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.

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. 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.

It is important to note that, as children from socio-economically disadvantaged families are less likely to access out of school care/activities than those from more advantaged backgrounds; they are less likely to obtain the potential benefits that are associated with participation in these types of enrichment activities.


Contact

Email: kate.smith@gov.scot