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Out of school childcare

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Out of school childcare can be a headache for many working parents. Your child’s been happy at their nursery or with your childminder for the past three to four years, and everything has been running smoothly. But now that school is looming, your child’s day – and your childcare arrangements – are about to get a whole lot more complicated.

Without after school care, and maybe some help before school too, you’re not going to fit in a full day’s work. And since starting school is a big step, you might not want to change your little one’s childcare setting too. But, sadly, you may not have much choice. Your childminder might not pick up from the right school (they can’t be in two places at once, after all), and not every day nursery has an after school club, so places could be at a premium.

Where to start?

So, if you do have to choose something new, where do you start? Weighing up some pros and cons might help.

A childminder will only have a handful of children to care for, so it could be a more restful setting for a child who’s worn out by the new routines and rigours of a school day. But a club can offer more resources, facilities and activities – and a broader mix of other kids from different year groups, which could both stimulate your child and boost their social confidence. Plus, if your childminder is ever ill and unable to work, you may have no back up, whereas a club will have multiple staff and arrangements in place to cover sick leave.out of school childcare

Location?

The location could be a factor in your choice. Some clubs are run on school premises, but many aren’t – although clubs and childminders are likely to be walking distance from school. But, if your child is unused to travelling on foot, the ‘walking bus’ to an off-site after school club or a trek to the childminder’s house could come as a bit of a shock (albeit a healthy one).

Food

Think too about your child’s evening meal. If they have school dinners, then a light tea of sandwiches or snacks – as clubs tend towards – is probably fine. But if your little one has a packed lunch, then you could find yourself cooking a meal for them when you’re home from work just to get some hot food into them. A childminder may be more likely to offer a proper dinner, and spare you the trouble.

Holidays

You might want to bear in mind where your child will be cared for during school holidays. Unless you’re blessed with more annual leave than you know what to do with, or a very obliging extended family, you’ll probably need childcare support for at least some of the school holidays. Many after school clubs offer holiday clubs too, but day nurseries may not. So it might be worth your child attending at least some after school sessions in the same setting as the holiday club, if possible – that way it’s familiar and they’ll have made friends there before you hit the six-week break. Alternatively check with your childminder what arrangements they offer for the school holidays. It’s likely they’ll want their own holiday of course, so you might end up being tied to taking your summer break when the childminder’s away, so you aren’t left holding the baby (OK, small child).

Moneyout of school childcare

Cost, too, is likely to play a part in your decision. We’re all keen to balance the books, without losing the quality of care our children are getting, so find out whether a purpose-run after school club – in school or a local church hall for instance – is cheaper than an after school place at nursery, where you’ll be paying for more overheads. A childminder might offer more financial flexibility by charging by the hour, so you can shave a bit off the cost if you’re able to finish work early one day a week. Similarly if you have to work late now and again, a childminder might be willing to look after your child for an extra hour or two – a more institutional setting is unlikely to help you out in the same way.

What’s best for you and your child

Ultimately, your ‘choice’ might be made for you, driven by what’s possible and what’s most expedient for your working life, rather than by your (or your child’s) preference. But remember you can always change the arrangements if something really doesn’t suit.

And if availability of places means you have to mix and match different childcare settings on different days, try to see this as a positive. You could get the best of both worlds – some quieter days for your child, and more of a social scene on others. Just don’t forget what day it is, and turn up at the wrong after school club with two minutes to closing time, it’s not a good look!

 

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About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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