Parents of school-aged children manage a pretty impressive balancing act during the school year. Finding childcare for the hours of 3pm and 6pm – when you’re still at work – is a familiar struggle for many parents. Often, after school clubs are the answer to parents’ childcare woes. They are usually the most affordable option and give the children a chance to socialise with different age groups.
However, some children can view an after school club as an extension of their school day, and it can be quite tiring especially for younger children. Clubs usually have a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ which may not be right for your child (to be fair, organisers have to contend with children of all different ages, with varying interests, and at different stages of development!)
So what affordable alternatives are available if your child is unhappy at an after school club?
Family and friends
This option would be at the top of most parents’ preference list (it would definitely be top of ours!). Free or cheap, familiar and comfortable, flexible, totally trusted – if you’ve got a grandma or neighbour who fits that bill, that’s brilliant.
Unfortunately, for many parents living in London this isn’t an option. Even for those that are lucky enough to have family close by, we don’t always want to feel like we’re burdening loved ones. (As much as they may adore our kids, their grandparents are getting on a bit and aren’t always up for coping with the kids’… uh… energy and enthusiasm…). That said, there are ways you can get friends and family involved without putting too much strain on the relationship. If you can enlist the help of a combination of relative and friends, with hired child caregivers pitching in the rest of the week you can save a lot of money.
For family and friends to be a realistic option, they need to live close enough to be able to pick up the kids from school on time. They also have to have regular availability that fits around your work schedule. You also need to make sure that you follow Ofsted rules: friends cannot gain a reward (which doesn’t just include money) for looking after a child aged under eight for more than two hours in their own home without being registered. People have been prosecuted for illegal childminding, so don’t chance it.
Establish boundaries from the outset: How often can you reasonably leave your child in the care of a family member or a friend? What will happen if they are sick or unable to help on a certain day? Will they be paid? Reimbursed for food and expenses? Do you agree with their approach to discipline? Is it part of their role to help with homework? To cook for your kids?
If the friends or family option isn’t available, a childminder could be the answer. Childminders will collect your children from school and take care of them in their (the childminder’s) home. They are self-employed caregivers who are fully-trained and are registered with Ofsted in England. The childminder’s home must comply with all health and safety, fire safety, and food hygiene legislation, and they must undertake a paediatric first aid course, updated every three years. Unfortunately finding a great childminder can be like digging for gold – there has been a 24% drop in the number of childminders since 2012 according to Ofsted.
Childminders are only able to look after a maximum of six children under eight years, meaning places can fill up pretty quickly. Check your local authority website to find a list of local childminders and register early.
After school nanny
After school nannies are perfect if you prefer more personalised care and want your child to be taken care of in your home. They will pick your kids up from school, help with homework, make dinner and keep them entertained until you get home. They can also take them to any extra-curricular activities (and can even research local options for you if you like). They can sort out the bag for the next day and take care of things that the school has asked you to do. This can take the stress out of the evening routine and give you more quality time when you get home from work.
There are some downsides when it comes to the search for a nanny. Trawling through the internet, interviewing and referencing candidates can be time consuming. Alternatively, nanny agencies can help identify candidates but charge thousands in up front fees. Koru Kids is an alternative which offers the best of both worlds: making it easy to find an amazing nanny AND with no upfront fees. We recruit, vet and train students to become after school nannies. We also manage all the admin, including contracts and payroll. Plus, we have teachers on our staff who provide ongoing support and guidance to your nanny, ensuring they only get better and better over time.
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