The '30 hours free childcare' offer for 3-4 year olds began in September 2017, and the government is keen for as many providers to sign up as possible. Nurseries, childminders and pre-schools are expected to provide the majority of the '30 hours free childcare', but out of school clubs are also eligible so long as they are registered on the Early Years Register.
Key issues for out of school clubs
The main issues that out of school clubs should be aware of when considering whether to offer the 'free' childcare, are:
- It is entirely optional. There is absolutely no obligation to participate in the scheme.
- The 'free' childcare offer is open to eligible parents of 3-4 year old pre-school children. Children who attend reception classes are not eligible, even if they are still aged four.
- You don't have to offer the full 30 hours per week. Parents can split their childcare between two providers, if they wish. For example a child could attend a pre-school for part of the day, and your after-school club for a couple of hours at the end of the day.
- If you do want to participate, your local authority must first approve your childcare setting and will usually expect it to have an Ofsted rating of 'good' or 'outstanding'.
- The final amount you will be paid per hour is decided by your local authority, based on the amount that they have been allocated by central government.
- If you do participate in the scheme, you will be taking pre-school children. This means that the exemption from the standard early years staffing ratio and qualification requirements that most out of school clubs enjoy, will no longer apply.
You cannot choose the hourly rate that you charge for the 'free' childcare. The amount that you will be paid for providing the 'free' childcare is decided by central government and, to a lesser extent, by your local authority. The government allocates a certain amount per hour to your local authority, which keeps a small proportion of this to cover central services then passes the rest (at least 93% in 2017-2018 and 95% in 2018-2019) on to providers. You can find out the government allocated rate for your area here:
Download the National funding formula
You cannot charge parents 'top-up' fees if the amount paid by the local authority is less than your usual hourly rate. However you are allowed to charge extra for meals, trips, etc.
Most local authorities will pay providers monthly in arrears for providing the 'free' childcare.
Implications of taking pre-school children
If you you start caring for pre-school children at your club, you lose the exemptions from the standard early years staffing ratios and qualification requirements that ordinary out of school clubs enjoy. This means that:
- The manager will need to have a 'full and relevant' Level 3 qualification (or above), a member of staff with a 'full and relevant' Level 3 qualification will need to be present at every session, and half of the remaining staff who are looking after the pre-school children will need to have a 'full and relevant' Level 2 qualification. See our article on Full and relevant qualifications for more information.
- You will need to operate at a staffing ratio of 1:8 for the pre-school children who are aged 3-4.
- In addition, in order for newly qualified members of staff to count as Level 3 or Level 2 qualified staff within your staffing ratios, they will need to have a current paediatric first aid certificate. See our article on First aid qualifications for more information.
The 30 hours 'free' childcare offer is separate from the government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme, although both schemes use the same Childcare Service website in order to manage accounts for providers and parents. See our article on Tax-Free Childcare for out of school clubs for more information.