If you work fulltime, you may not have the opportunity to collect your child each day after school to bring them home, and may have to place your child in a School aged Childcare (SAC) service. There are many benefits from attending a SAC service. In addition to providing a safe and stimulating environment with appropriate adult supervision and facilitation during non-school hours, SAC services offer opportunities for your child to
- Socialise and enjoy time with friends
- Develop new skills and interests
- Participate in sports (in a non-competitive way)
- Participate in both structured and non-structured activities
- Do homework
- Improve interpersonal and social skills
- Build on what they have already learned during the regular school day
As a result children will develop greater confidence and self-esteem. Children are also encouraged to develop responsibility for them-selves and others through personal development programmes. Looking after school-age children requires different skills and facilities than infants and pre-schoolers – so it is important to make sure the SAC setting can provide the relevant care.
Visiting the Service
Making the Decision
Conducting a telephone interview is a useful way to narrow your search. It is a good idea to contact a few SAC Services in order to see which best suits your needs and the needs of your child. If you are a parent of a child with additional needs, there are a few more specific questions that you should ask, to determine the level of availability for your child and the experience of the people in the service in caring for a child with a specific additional need.
TIP: Avoid making the phone call at busy times such as arrival, departure, or lunch time.
Questions to Ask
Visiting the services you have short-listed is a crucial step in the decision making process as it gives you an opportunity to meet the people who will be responsible for providing care for your child, during the hours that you are unavailable.
This section will highlight the things that you should look out for during the visit and some recommended questions to ask
- TIP: Visit the service when other children are there to get a “true sense and feel” for the service
- TIP: Bring your child with you, to see how the staff interacts with your child. This is particularly useful if you have a child with an additional need as you can determine how comfortable the staff is with your child’s additional need, simply by how they react to them.
- TIP: Bring someone else with you. They can act as a second set of eyes for you on the service and look after your child for you as you talk specifics with the Manager.
A quality SAC service provides a safe, healthy environment that supports the physical, emotional, social, moral and intellectual development of all children, including children with additional needs.
The premises should be large enough to offer freedom and space to each child, yet the area should not be so large that it hinders supervision.
The premises should have a sense of order and cleanliness that is balanced with a sense of creativity and fun.
Room Environment and Routine
The SAC environment should plan and provide a range of play opportunities and activities to foster the development of children’s social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional capabilities. A strong focus on play should be a core principle of School-Aged childcare
The setting should encourage positive interactions between all children. The staff should actively engage in interactions with children individually and in groups and support in the development of relationships between both children and staff and children together.
As the most important people in children’s life, parental involvement should be at the heart of any quality SAC service. A parent should be regularly consulted with regarding their child and be presented with a parent’s handbook with details of the services policies and procedures, mission statement, opening hours, curriculum/programme and relevant fees.
All staff in a SAC service are required to have skills, knowledge and attitudes appropriate to their roles and responsibilities within the setting.
Policies and Procedures/Legal requirements
While SAC service are not required by law to register with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, best practice guidelines would recommend a set of standards to meet and a range of up to date policies and procedures, which should be reviewed on a regular basis.
Deciding what SAC service to send your child is an important decision so you have a right to be choosy. There are a lot of things to consider in terms of your needs and the needs of your child. Below is a little assistance that will make the process of deciding a little easier.
- Review the information that you have gathered.
- Talk to your child about the service they may be attending and get their opinion on the activities and routines. They may have noticed something that they are not comfortable with. Listen to them.
- If you still have questions or are unclear on something, call the service back and clarify.
- If you are not comfortable with the service or it does not meet your needs, keep looking. Trust your gut instinct.
- If you are happy with the service, book your child in or put your child’s name on the waiting list, if full.
- Find out when and who will contact you with starting date etc.
A school going child is going to be more understanding about the reasons they will be attending an afterschool childcare service. All the while it is still important to ensure that they are going to be comfortable and happy in the service from the first day.
- Firstly, it is a good idea to speak positively to the child about the service they will be attending. Talk about the staff or other children who are attending, discuss the activities and games that they will be doing. Making it familiar and exciting for them, will make the transition easier.
- Give the child an opportunity to meet the person/people who will be collecting them from the school.
- Ask the service about the opportunity for your child to meet other children that will be collected from the same school.
- Ensure your child is informed of the change in routine – the name of the person will be collecting them from school? From where will they be collected from?
- If you feel your child is not fully comfortable with the change, maybe organise for you or someone to accompany them on the first and second day, until they settle.
- Try not being too anxious yourself, your child will pick up on your mood.
- Make time with your child to discuss activities and games that they participated in, daily.