Activity clubs and out-of-school clubs are two terms that are often used interchangeably. Although both provisions typically operate before/ after school and during school holidays, there is a significant difference between the two.
Activity clubs provide lessons or tuitions to children for a particular activity (e.g. Dance or martial arts club, tuition centres such as Kumon, basketball club etc.). They are also generally exempt from registering with any regulatory authorities such as Ofsted.
Out-of-school clubs, on the other hand, are categorised as settings that provide wrap-around childcare to working parents. These clubs usually offer a mix of structured sports and activities along with free play and support with homework. Apart from a few exceptions, most out-of-school clubs are legally required to be registered with their regional regulatory authority (Ofsted in England, The Care Inspectorate in Scotland, the CSSIW in Wales and the Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland). Please see our post on starting an after school club in the UK for more details.
In this post, we will look at the five important areas to be aware of when setting up an activity club for children.
1. Registering your club
As mentioned earlier, all activity clubs in England are generally exempt from registering with Ofsted if you offer adult-led coaching lessons to children from no more than two of the following categories:
- Performing arts
- Arts and Crafts
- Languages, religious or cultural study
- School study or homework support
Moreover, depending on the nature of your club, the Ofsted’s Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook also allows you to claim an exemption if:
- Not even a single child at your club attends lessons for more than two hours per day, even if your centre is open for more than two hours a day
- All children attending your centre are aged eight or above
However, if you wish to accept childcare vouchers, tax-free childcare and working tax credits from parents, you have the option to register with the Voluntary part of the Ofsted’s childcare register. Check out the Ofsted registers for more details.
2. Staff-Child Ratios
If your club is not registered with the Ofsted, you are not required to follow the statutory staff-child ratios applicable to out of school clubs. However, make sure you check with your insurance provider regarding any restrictions based on the number of staff present.
3. Staff Qualification and Training
Unlike with Ofsted registered out-of-school clubs, there are no statutory requirements for you (as owner/manager) or your staff members to hold any specific qualification or training to run the centre. But if you plan to provide any snack or food at your setting, it is mandatory to ensure the staff handling the food are trained in food handling and hygiene. And, although not a legal requirement, it is considered good practice to have a member of staff trained in first-aid and safeguarding to make sure you can handle an emergency appropriately.
4. DBS Checks/ Criminal Record Checks
It is mandatory for all adults (including employees or volunteer) who works with a child on an unsupervised basis should have an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check if you are in England or Wales. The checks are to be carried out from Disclosure Scotland if your club is in Scotland or from Access NI if you are in Northern Ireland.
If you have signed up with Ofsted and you are the registered person on their records, Ofsted will obtain a DBS check on you as part of the registration process. You would then be responsible for obtaining DBS checks on your staff and any other volunteers (above 16 years of age) who would be working at your centre.
However, there is a catch if your club is not registered with Ofsted or other regulatory authorities.
As the owner of the club, you are not legally eligible to apply for an enhanced DBS for yourself. The reason? DBS checks are unfortunately designed for employers to check the criminal records of their staff and potential employees. As you are self-employed, you cannot carry out a full check on yourself as many of the questions cannot be used in a self-assessment format.
But, when you run a non-registered activity club, you would still require an enhanced DBS check if you will ever have to work unsupervised with any child. Under such circumstances, you could consider securing a DBS check through a membership organisation that you are a part of. For instance, if you are a member of the Out of School Alliance, you can request an enhanced check through their OOSA Vetting Scheme.
5. Policies and Procedures
As with the qualifications and staff-child ratios, there are no statutory requirements regarding policies and procedures if you are not registered with any regulatory authority. However, it is always advisable to maintain your own Safeguarding Policy, Health and Safety Policy and Administering Medication Policy.
Similarly make sure you capture all the details for each child (including contact details, emergency contacts and medical information) on your registration form. And remember to keep accurate records of each child’s attendance and the dates on which they attended your setting.