If your out of school club is registered on Ofsted's Early Years Register the legal requirements for the staffing levels at your setting are specified in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. If your club is registered on Ofsted's Childcare Register the legal requirements are specified in Annex C of the Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook.
(Not sure whether your club should be registered with Ofsted? See our information about Ofsted registration.)
The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage originally had a very clear requirement that you must have a minimum of two members of staff on duty at all times, even if you only had one child present at your club, but this was quietly dropped in the 2012 version. However, the requirement to have two members of staff on duty was preserved for settings on the Childcare Register until it was updated in September 2014. Since then there has has been no legal requirement to have a minimum of two members of staff on duty, so long as you are meeting all the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the applicable Ofsted register. This continues to be the case with the latest update to the EYFS in 2021.
Meeting the requirements
Ofsted has confirmed that it is only acceptable to have one member of staff on duty if the setting is still able to meet all the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the Early Years Register (and also the Childcare Register, if applicable). For example:
- You must meet the correct staff:child ratios; in other words there can be no more than 30 children present (or no more than eight if they are younger than Reception age but aged 3 or over).
- If children younger than Reception age are present, the member of staff must have a 'full and relevant' Level 3 qualification.
- If only children of Reception age or older are present, the member of staff must have the necessary skills and experience to fulfil their role, but there is no longer a requirement for them to have a specific Childcare or Playwork qualification.
- The member of staff must fulfil the other skills or roles required at each session, ie they must hold a 12-hour paediatric first aid certificate, child protection training, food hygiene training, be fully competent in English, etc.
- The member of staff must be able to keep the children in sight or hearing at all times.
- You must have conducted the necessary risk assessments (eg When working alone how would you cope with an emergency involving a child or the member of staff? How would you ensure security of the premises? Is it possible to summon assistance? Does the layout of your setting enable a single member of staff to keep the children in sight or hearing at all times? What about children going to the toilet? etc)
- Ideally you will have some form of Lone Working policy, setting out how an individual member of staff would be able to work safely on your premises, whilst also ensuring the safety and welfare of the children.
Although at first glance this relaxation of staffing looks like a godsend to smaller settings, enabling you to reduce staff numbers (and therefore costs) on the days that only a few children attend, unfortunately things are not quite so simple. You will also need to check with your insurer to find out whether they are prepared to cover you if only one member of staff is on duty, especially if that one member of staff has no childcare qualifications.