1. Background and aims
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.
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. Policies relating to Early Learning and Childcare and school education have changed significantly in the same time period, as has the wider policy context, particularly in relation to child poverty and inequality.
The Programme for Government 2017-2018 committed to developing a strategic framework on after school and holiday childcare within the current parliamentary term. The Programme for Government 2018-2019 built on this and further committed to developing a draft framework 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.
Formal out-of-school care services must operate within the same legal and regulatory requirements as Early Learning and Childcare settings. Out-of-school care is formally classified as a day care of children service, which means that all providers must be registered with, and inspected by, the Care Inspectorate and meet national care standards. Staff require to be qualified to the same level as Early Learning and Childcare practitioners and managers. There are currently just over 1,000 out-of-school care settings in Scotland, providing care for around 50,000 children. In addition to registered out of school care services, there are many activity clubs that operate during term-time and/or holidays, such as sport, art, drama, and music clubs, as well as activities such as Scouts. These clubs are not required to register with the Care Inspectorate (as their main function isn’t to provide childcare), but nonetheless may be included in broader conceptions of out-of-school-care.
An NHS Health Scotland evidence review published in 2015 found that out-of-school care can have a positive impact on children, particularly 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.
A report by Save the Children published in 2018, based on a series of ‘childcare conversations’, highlighted the challenge for parents in Scotland in in securing accessible, affordable and flexible childcare before and after school as well as during holiday periods. The report suggests that there are particular challenges for low income families.
The Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Delivery Plan, Every Child Every Chance, highlights the importance of out-of-school care 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. The Poverty and Inequality Commission recently provided advice to Scottish Government regarding the links between food insecurity and holiday childcare. It 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 that addresses the full range of pressures faced by families with low incomes.
In developing the new strategic framework for out-of-school care, 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.
This report provides the findings from that survey.