Wraparound and holiday childcare guidance

‘Wraparound childcare’ amounts to before-school (eg breakfast clubs) and after-school childcare (eg twilight clubs), and ‘holiday childcare’ is any childcare provided by the school during the scheduled school holidays.

This guidance is to help maintained schools, academies and free schools respond to the following:

  • Requests from parents for the school their child attends to consider providing wraparound or holiday childcare
  • Requests from childcare providers to use the school’s facilities for wraparound or holiday childcare when not in use by the school.

Such ‘rights to request’ are for children from reception up to the end of key stage three (year nine). Schools may also want to consider providing wraparound or holiday childcare for those younger than five years of age, or for year 10 students and above, but such consideration is not within the scope of the ‘rights to request’.

All schools are encouraged to make their facilities available for use by the wider community. Of particular note, schools can charge for wraparound or holiday childcare – profits, however, must be reinvested in childcare services or the school.

According to survey evidence, 62% of parents of children aged five or older require some wraparound childcare (most commonly, after school), but many of these parents were unable to find it. Parents trust schools to provide their childcare, and the government wants and expects schools to get involved and provide such care where they can. And the government has provided additional funding to ensure more children have a nutritious breakfast as a healthy start to their school day.

Wraparound childcare features

It’s thought that good-quality wraparound childcare has a positive impact on children’s academic performance, social skills, emotional development and behaviour.

According to the DfE, disadvantaged children are likely to fare better than their peers who don’t participate in wraparound childcare, and they achieve higher scores in their key stage two assessments in English, maths and science at the end of primary school.

Wraparound and holiday childcare in practice

Schools take the lead in managing the ‘rights to request’ process and the final decision about what action to take. Governing bodies will want to ensure any agreed provision is consistent with the school’s long-term vision.

In handling the ‘rights to request’ arrangements, schools must act reasonably and give reasons for their approval or rejection of requests.

Schools must ensure childcare provision is suitable for all children in the school, including those with disabilities or special educational needs (SEN), to prevent discrimination and promote equality.

Schools must also ensure that all childcare arrangements, whether provided directly by the school or an independent provider, satisfy all the safeguarding and welfare protocols and that safeguarding checks are in place for all those providing the childcare, staff and other individuals.

Any complaint relating to the provision of wraparound or holiday childcare should be raised as a school complaint and follow the correct procedure.

The final stages of this guidance looks at the details of the ‘rights to request’ childcare.

The parents’ ‘right to request’

The process for handling parental requests would look something like this:

  • Inform parents of their ‘right to request’ wraparound or holiday childcare
  • Tell parents how you will collect the requests for childcare
  • Establish a timeline threshold for considering requests
  • Seek out wider demand across the school
  • Make a final decision with all the information gathered
  • Inform parents of the decision.

Schools should make parents aware of their ‘right to request’ wraparound and holiday childcare, including a process and timetable that the school will follow and how it will respond. It’s prudent for schools to present parents with a ‘window’ when they can make childcare requests to ensure multiple applications are coordinated and considered together and at the same time.

Schools should be clear about what information they need from parents to make a decision, including the type of childcare, the ages of the children requiring childcare and when the provision is necessary. Parents should set out their dated request in writing so that the school can log requests and keep a record.

Schools will need to be clear and then decide on a (numerical) threshold of parental requests that will enable it to provide childcare on a cost-effective basis.

If demand is too low, the capacity of the school to provide childcare will be at risk. There’s no harm in telling parents the threshold for requests. Schools may join forces with a neighbouring school to aggregate demand and make the provision of childcare more cost-effective and therefore more likely.

Once the number of requests meets the threshold, it would be prudent for the school to do a final check with parents that all points of possible demand have been satisfied. This will also prevent last-minute requests and flush out any additional applications that parents may want to make.

Once full and final ‘childcare demand’ information is known, the school can consider what shape the childcare arrangements are likely to take and discuss the provision with the local authority.

Schools may refuse to provide childcare with a reasonable justification:

  • No space available
  • Unsuitable space that cannot be reasonably adapted
  • Insufficient demand making childcare provision unviable
  • No possible partnerships with schools or providers
  • Other local provision is made and signposted by the school
  • School is in special measures or has serious weaknesses.

Schools should inform parents of their decision to provide childcare no longer than eight weeks from the time the window has closed. It’s considered good practice for schools to tell parents how many requests were received, whether the number of requests met the threshold, the reasons for the decision and set out any next steps.

If the school decides to go ahead with the provision of wraparound or holiday childcare, there are a number of possible models of delivery, and each school will need to decide which is best for them and the community they serve. Here are the models that schools typically follow:

  • In-house, where a school retains full control of all childcare provision
  • Blended, where a school partners with another school or childcare provider
  • External, where a school effectively outsources its childcare provision.

Schools should consult with their local authority before making a final decision. The Childcare Act 2006 places a duty on local authorities to arrange sufficient childcare, so far as is reasonably practicable, for working parents. Local authorities can act as a ‘clearing-house’ for parents, schools and childcare providers to ensure the most appropriate and available supplier matches demand.

When schools decide not to proceed with childcare provision, they should signpost parents to the local Family Information Service, which will have up-to-date information about the availability of alternative local childcare.

The provider’s right to request

Not dissimilar to the parents’ right to request, the process should follow these stages:

  • The school sets out clear criteria for considering requests
  • The school considers the request
  • The school informs the provider of its decision
  • Implement the new arrangements.

Schools should be clear about the criteria they will use to make a decision, the information they want providers to include in their requests and the timeframe to receive requests. Childcare providers should make their dated requests to schools in writing.

It would be good practice to meet representatives of the proposed childcare providers to discuss the finer details of the provision, especially if the proposed provider already has pre-existing on-site childcare arrangements.

Circumstances where it might be reasonable for a school to reject a request from a provider, in addition to those set out earlier in this guidance note, include the following:

  • Unsuitable provision – insufficient space or demand for the type of provision proposed, or the proposal does not cover the right age range or meet SEN or disability requirements
  • Insufficient information or limited evidence of value for money, quality or capability to deliver the childcare.

Schools should inform providers about the outcome of the process no later than eight weeks from the time they receive the provider’s request. Where schools have rejected a request, they are not expected to reconsider requests from the same provider for the same type of provision within 12 months of the last request. Where a childcare provider is approved, the school and the provider should agree on a plan to establish the provision.

About NAHT

NAHT is the leading union for school leaders’ and as a member you get access to legal support and advice, discounts and deals on your daily purchases, access to a mentoring scheme and savings on our highly-rated CPD courses and conferences. To join us, visit out membership page.