Before you decide to take the plunge and set up an out of school club, it is useful—if not essential—to establish that a need exists for out of school care in your area.
Survey of demand
Schools are supposed to 'regularly' survey parents to check whether there is a demand for wraparound care at their school, but not all schools keep this up to date. If a school claims that there is no demand for wraparound care at their school, you should ask when they last surveyed the parents and whether you can see the results of the survey.
Ideally you should offer to conduct your own survey of the parents so that you can be sure that the information is as current as possible, and so that you can phrase the questions as you choose. Most schools will allow you to circulate a questionnaire in the children's book-bags, but if for some reason the school is unwilling to do this, you could do a quick face-to-face survey with a clipboard at the school gates, or hand out leaflets as parents pick up the children from school.
Analysing the results
When you come to analyse the results of your survey, you should be aware that they can be misleading. This is because:
- You are asking parents for an expression of interest, not a commitment to use an out of school club. Don't rely on all of those 'yes' votes to convert into actual bookings.
- Parents are unwilling to change existing childcare arrangements (even if they are unhappy with them), unless they know that you are still going to be there in a month's time, or even a year. So even if they are interested, it might take them some time to swap to using your club.
- People's situations change: the current economic climate means that job situations are changing rapidly, so someone who needs childcare in February, for example, may not be needing it by the time you open in September. On the other hand, there will be other parents who suddenly find that they do need childcare who didn't at the time of your survey.
So with the best will in the world, don't pin all your hopes on the results of a questionnaire. View the results as just a rough indication of the level demand rather than a clear prediction of occupancy levels. Instead, ask around amongst the school community as much as possible—word of mouth is your best advertising and can be the most accurate method of assessing demand.