Nine Questions to Ask

This list has been complied by the Playwork division at SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Learning.

The nine questions every parent should ask…

Any parent leaving their child somewhere or with someone for the first time has the right to be concerned and ask as many questions as they like beforehand to ensure they are comfortable with the environment. But what questions should you be asking before choosing a registered out of school club or play setting?

1. Do all the staff hold a current CRB (Criminal Records Bureau check)?

It is illegal for any child care organisation to employ staff which do not hold a CRB. Any paid or unpaid members of staff who will have unsupervised access to the children must carry a CRB. If the answer to this question is in any way vague you should not leave your children there.

2. How many children are there to each staff member?

Ideally there should be no more than eight children to each staff member, for children 3 years old or over. The staff ratio must be 1:4 for children under 3, although it is very unusual that an out-of-school club will cater for this age.

3. What qualifications do the staff hold?

Most playworkers are required to hold a Level 2 qualification, so you should expect this, but a Level 3 is ideal. Obviously, the best qualification for the work is a playwork qualification. Other positive qualifications you should look out for include the Award in Playwork for Early Years and Childcare Workers, or training courses such as Take 5 for Play or Time to Play.

4. What is the out of school club’s policy on handling a sick child?

At all times at least one member of staff present should hold a current paediatric first aid qualification. If your child becomes unwell or has an accident, it will be recorded and, where a child is distressed, needs treatment or is infectious, you will be contacted. You will be asked to give details of any medication needed by your child, any allergies, or particular needs that he or she might have when you register your child, to help the staff deal with any emergencies that might arise and provide the best possible care. All staff members should be able to explain their procedures, if asked.

5. What is the out of school club’s policy on handling a situation where there has been an altercation between two children?

Staff must never use corporal punishment, nor should anyone else on the premises. All registered settings must have a policy and procedures for safeguarding children in their care while ensuring that children’s behaviour is managed in a suitable manner. You should be offered a copy of the policy when you register your child with the club.

Children will usually be allowed to sort out disagreements between themselves in a play setting, as this helps children learn negotiation skills, manage conflict and gain confidence. However, where a child might get hurt, or hurt him/her self, the playworker may intervene. In clubs where there is a wide age range, clubs are expected to ensure that the behaviour of children over the age of eight years does not have a negative effect on the younger children.

6. What activities will the children participate in?

There should be a wide range of play opportunities available which children can choose from as and when they wish. This might include arts and crafts, ball games, table-top and board games, dressing up materials, musical instruments, computers, den-building, cooking, reading and more. In addition, children may be offered the opportunity to go on trips to the baths, the local park or further afield. The setting must make information available to parents on activities that children might undertake. Good Playwork settings will apply the Playwork Principles to their practice, ensuring that children and young people can determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.

7. How does the out of school club manage issues such as food intolerances and allergies?

Ofsted inspection visits check that the childcare is accessible and inclusive, and takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of each child are met. Information about any specific needs your child has will be requested when you register to use the scheme. This might include a particular diet for religious, cultural or medical reasons.

8. How much fresh air do the children get?

The children should certainly spend some proportion of the day outdoors in the fresh air. It is not acceptable or healthy for the children to be inside all day. However, there are no official guidelines on this. Parents should of course make allowances for poor weather conditions.

9. How flexible is the out of school club in terms of being able to accommodate your child on extra days at short notice?

Childcare schemes, including registered out-of-school clubs, must make arrangements with other childcare providers or with parents for occasions on which the scheme is not able to provide childcare.

According to Stephen Studd, Chief Executive of SkillsActive, parents can often feel that other people will view them as neurotic if they ask too many questions but they should not worry about this. The answers to these questions are important and any good out-of-school club will respect that.

Information about Playwork

Playwork facilitates children’s play outside the educational curriculum for 4 -16 year-olds. Playwork takes place where adults support children’s play in settings that include after-school clubs, holiday playschemes, adventure playgrounds, parks, playbuses and breakfast clubs.

More information can be found on their website http://www.skillsactive.com/playwork

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