Out-of-school care is care provided to school-aged children outside of normal school hours. It can include both formal care (such as breakfast and after school clubs, holiday clubs and childminders) and informal care provided by family and friends.
There is evidence that out-of-school care can have benefits for both children and parents. For example, an NHS Health Scotland evidence review published in 2015 found that out-of-school care can have a positive impact on children, especially younger children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, including on relationships, self-confidence and, particularly, the opportunity for play in a safe environment. It also found good evidence that using out-of-school care allows some parents, especially single parents and those not in work, to secure employment, increase working hours or undertake further education or training.
The Scottish Government’s out-of-school care policy dates back to 2003 when School’s Out was published. This has provided the underpinning policy framework and guidance for formal out-of-school care for the last 15 years.
The Programme for Government 2018-2019 committed to developing a draft strategic framework on after school and holiday childcare by summer 2019. This framework will be developed using a collaborative approach by engaging with the formal out-of-school care sector as well as parents and children.
Research aims and objectives
In developing the new framework, it will be important to understand what is currently available and what barriers prevent access to out-of-school care. The Scottish Government therefore commissioned a survey to provide data on parents’ experiences of out-of-school care.
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.
The research was conducted using a quantitative approach, comprising telephone interviews with 2,002 parents of 5 to 13 year old children. The survey sample comprised a targeted set of landline and mobile telephone numbers, taken from national consumer survey data. Quotas were set by age of child and, to ensure the achieved sample was representative of the population, by the working status of parent(s), area deprivation (SIMD), and region.
Interviews were conducted by Ipsos MORI telephone interviewers, using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), between 9 May and 2 June 2019. The interviews lasted an average of 6 and a half minutes.
Users of term-time childcare
- More than half (58%) of all parents used some form of childcare during term-time. It was more common for parents to use term-time care for younger children, aged 5 to 7 (62%) or 8 to 10 (64%), than older children aged 11 to 13 (48%).
- Term-time childcare was used more by families in which all parents were working, either full- or part-time (72%) than families where at least one parent was not working (30%). The main reason by far for using term-time childcare given by those who used it was that it allowed parents to work (79%).
- A third (33%) of all parents used only informal term-time childcare (such as grandparents, other family or friends) while 12% used only formal term-time childcare (such as breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and childminders). Thirteen per cent used both informal and formal care. 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. These clubs were used more for children aged 5 to 7 years old. Those in the most deprived areas (SIMD 1) were more likely to use breakfast clubs (16%, compared with 13% overall), while those living in the least deprived areas (SIMD 5) and on a higher income (more than £60,000 per annum) were more likely to use after-school clubs (both 23%, compared with 14% overall).
- 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. Indeed, 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, there were none in their local area and the timings of the clubs did not suit them.
Non-users of term-time care
- Forty two per cent of all parents did not use any type of formal or informal term-time childcare.A third of all parents (33%) said they did not need term-time childcare because they/their partner could look after their child.
- Five per cent of all parents did not use any term-time care but said they would be interested in using an affordable breakfast club if there was one near them. Parents whose child was aged 5 to 7 years old were more likely to be interested than parents of older children. Eight percent said they would be interested in using an affordable after-school club if there was one near them. Families earning less than £20,000 per annum, single parents and those who child was aged 5 to 7 were the most likely to be interested in an after-school club. The main reasons these parents would use a breakfast or after-school club would be to allow them/their partner to work, or to work more hours.
Users of holiday childcare
- More than half (61%) of parents used holiday childcare. Most (82%) of these parents also used childcare during term-time, while 36% of those who did not use childcare during term-time used it during school holidays.
- As with term-time childcare, holiday childcare was more likely to be used by families in which all parents were working, either full- or part-time (71%), and the main reason by far given by those who used it was that it allowed parents to work (65%).
- Forty two per cent of all parents used only informal holiday childcare, while just 7% used only formal holiday childcare. Twelve per cent used both.
- Grandparents were the most commonly used type of holiday childcare (used by 43% of all parents). Sixteen per cent of all parents used a playscheme or holiday club. These clubs were used more for children aged 5 to 7 years old (20%), and by those living in the least deprived areas (SIMD 5) (25%) and higher income families (27% of families earning more than £60,000 per annum).
- Users’ views on playschemes or holiday clubs were largely positive, with the majority saying that the clubs were convenient and affordable. However, as with term-time childcare, holiday childcare users who did not use playschemes or holiday clubs indicated that the main reasons they did not do so were because they were too expensive, there were none in their local area or the timings of the clubs did not suit them.
Non-users of holiday care
- Thirty nine per cent of all parents did not use any type of holiday childcare. Their reasons for not using holiday childcare were very similar to the reasons parents did not use term-time childcare. A third (32%) of all parents said they did not need it because they/their partner could look after their child, 5% said they could not afford it and 2% said there was no holiday childcare nearby.
- Thirteen per cent of all parents did not use any holiday care but said they would be interested in using an affordable playscheme or holiday club if there was one available near to them. Families earning less than £20,000 per annum, single parents and parents whose child was aged 5 to 7 were more likely to be interested.
- The main reasons these parents would use an affordable playscheme or holiday club would be to give their child the chance to do other activities (50%) and to spend time with other children (49%). Smaller proportions said that it would allow them/their partner to work (13%) or to work more hours (6%), or reduce the need for them to take annual or unpaid leave from their work (8%).
The provision of free or subsidised food
- 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 were more likely to use term-time and holiday care for the provision of free or subsidised food.
- Among non-users interested in using affordable term-time or holiday care, the provision of free or subsidised food was rarely given as a reason they would use these types of care.