Continuing a series of posts by guest experts, I asked holiday club expert Lynne Newman to give her advice on how parents can go about choosing school holiday childcare and the factors they should consider.
The long summer holidays are so exciting for children. But for many working parents, juggling 6 weeks of childcare makes this a really stressful time of year. How do working parents go about choosing school holiday childcare? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.
If you are lucky you might have an employer who will consider a flexible working arrangement. Or, even luckier, very obliging Grandparents nearby (see Managing Grandparents if so!). If not, then the first step is to do your research to find out what is available. Here are the main options (cheapest first):
- Alternating time off with your partner, friends or family members to share the childcare
- Local authority/council-run play scheme
- Local schools
- Local leisure centre
- Camps at the local private school (usually sports based)
- Local tourist attraction, museum or theme park may run some provision
- Au Pair (may be cheaper than options above if you have several children)
- Private nursery for younger children
- Childminder or Nanny
- Residential camp
These options range from free of charge to £500+ per child per week. (The average cost of holiday childcare in the UK is £125 per child per week.) You can find out exactly what is available in your area and what it will cost by:
- Searching online to find listings on websites such as your local authority website, Netmums, Club Hub, Families Online etc.
- Reading your local newspapers and other family orientated publications such as Primary Times, Families Magazine, Raring to Go etc which are sent home from primary schools.
- Talking to other parents and schools.
When it comes to choosing school holiday childcare, you and your children’s personal situation and preferences will determine what you think will work best for your family. But before you make your decision, take a moment to consider the following points:
Is your holiday childcare registered with Ofsted?
Ofsted regulates and inspects providers to ensure high standards of childcare. This means that these providers employ qualified and experienced childcare professionals and operate within strict guidelines to safeguard your children. It is only Ofsted registered childcare which is eligible for Childcare Vouchers, Working Tax Credits and Tax Free Childcare which reduce the costs for working parents.
Have you checked the detailed information?
Providers differ in terms of the age range of the children that they care for, opening times and days, daily timetable, provision of food etc. So read the information fully to make sure that it will work for you. Pay particular attention to the pricing structure. Providers may advertise a daily rate but then make an additional charge for the wraparound sessions which comprise the full working day. You may also find that discounted rates are available for siblings, full week bookings or booking in advance. If you want to book different places for different children, consider the logistics of the drop off and pick up routine that you are committing to.
Can you book in advance?
There is not enough holiday childcare provision across the country and so those places with a good reputation are likely to be in high demand. Book your childcare as far in advance as possible so you can relax knowing that you have it under control.
Will your children enjoy themselves?
Apart from their safety and wellbeing, this is the most important factor of all. With the increasing demand for high quality holiday childcare, you and your children no longer have to accept a holiday of colouring, jigsaw puzzles or playing the same old games day after day. There are now far more exciting, child-centred clubs available offering a wide range of opportunities for children that they might not get the chance to experience either at home or at school.
But enjoyment is also the most difficult factor to guarantee! Here are some steps you can take to increase the likelihood of getting it right:
- Discuss it with your children and involve them in the decision-making process.
- Arrange to meet the provider(s) and ask them to show you and your child/children around the setting. If this is not possible then ring them and talk to them to check all the details and to ask any questions you may have.
- Try to book a session to try it out in advance so that your children are already comfortable with the staff and routines.
- Ask other parents and children for their experiences.
- Check social media for comments and opinions.
- Book your children into the same childcare as their friends.
- If your child is not happy for any reason, talk to the provider so that you have a chance to work together to get it right.
Good luck in choosing school holiday childcare – I wish you all the best for a stress-free summer filled with sun, fun and happy children!
This is a guest post by Lynne Newman from Fun Fest Holiday Clubs. Fun Fest Holiday Clubs aim to empower and engage children by giving them a choice from a menu of exciting activities every morning and afternoon. To find out more, please click here.
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