Pros and Cons of After School Clubs
Many people enrol their child or children in an after-school club, not really knowing what to expect. Unlike specialised clubs, which offer tuition in music, dance or sport, these clubs exist mainly to provide a safe environment for primary school children whose parents work.
For working parents, after-school clubs - which are a state school phenomenon - are a lifeline. Some parents, in fact, are so happy with the facilities that they send their children to both after-school clubs and breakfast clubs, in effect extending the school day from 8am until 6pm.
What is an After-School Club?After-school clubs are Ofsted-regulated clubs attached to a specific school, and are partially subsidised by the government. They offer children supervised, structured activities directly after school, usually until 5:30 or 6pm. Concessionary fees are often available.
As many after-school clubs have long waiting lists, preference is often, but not always, given to children whose parents work. Some schools don’t have after-school clubs but they sometimes offer supervised school escorts to take children to after-school clubs in neighbouring schools. Often these are after-school club workers or teacher's aides.
Some clubs offer specialised help with homework, others have “study clubs” where children work together to finish their daily assignments. It’s all part of the ethos behind these clubs, some of which – but not all - are designed to give disadvantaged children a better start in life.
Advantages of After-School ClubsMany working parents – especially those who are happy with their choice of primary school – take advantage of everything an after-school club has to offer. Advantages include:
- Can be significantly cheaper than other forms of childcare, costing often less than a fiver for the afternoon per child.
- Are Ofsted-regulated, which means parents have peace of mind that their child is in a safe, protected environment.
- Are on school premises, meaning you don’t have to worry about your child going out into town, crossing roads etc.
- Can instil a sense of continuity and security in a child, which is reinforced when school friends attend the club as well.
- In some cases, can provide supervised help with homework. That means that it’s all done when your child finally returns home, helping parents to spend quality time with their children without those homework battles.
Disadvantages of After-School Clubs
After-school clubs can be a lifesaver for working parents, but they still have some drawbacks. These include:
- Some clubs are only open during term-time, which means that you will have go find childcare on your own during half-term breaks, Easter holidays, summer holidays etc.
- Although cheaper than other forms of childcare, is not as cheap as it used to be. Until recently, for example, many clubs offered a free place for a third sibling – but not any more.
- Activities are often more “fun” than educational, and some parents feel their children are just being baby-sat, rather than being offered a stimulating environment.
- Can be tiring for children who sometimes feel that their school day has been extended by another two and a half hours.
Safe and Affordable - If Not Always StimulatingAn after-school club is often the only way that working parents can find safe, affordable childcare for their children. While not every school club is perfect, many kids enjoy the continuity that being with their friends provide, and look forward to attending. Some parents, however, complain that they are paying simply for their children to watch telly, or chat with school pals.
Most after-school clubs, however, offer a variety of activities, from arts and crafts to watching music videos to playing on a Wii. And while the majority of activities - if not all - take place on school premises, during nice weather this can include the playground or even a walk to the park, depending on the school.
Parents who want more structured or specialised activities, such as music, drama or sport, may choose to enrol their children in other clubs. But they cannot then be guaranteed childcare until 6pm, and may have to pay for additional childcare once the activity is over until they can pick up their children.