School-Age Childcare Thematic Working Group (SACTWG) defines School Age Childcare (SAC) as: “School-Age Childcare / Out-of-school services refer to a range of organized age-appropriate structured programs, clubs and activities for school-age children and young people (4-18) which takes place within supervised environments during the times that they are not in school”. “School age childcare services are by definition about the care of children when their parents are absent.
Caring mean taking responsibility for children’s physical, emotional and developmental well-being. School age childcare services play an important role in the lives of the children who use them. It is essential that they meet children’s needs during the time they are used. This entails providing a setting where children feel they belong and where staff relate to them on an individual level as well as collectively.” These settings include: center-based, school-based, and other formal before- and after-school arrangements for children, as well as summer programming.
Elements of School Age Childcare Setting:
School age programs have the potential to play a positive and proactive role in developing social, personal and interpersonal skills. The out-of-school setting can nurture academic success, offer opportunities for physical activity, develop creative artistic expression and a wide range of associated skills in a happy and caring environment. The key elements which contribute to the delivery of a quality school age childcare service.
The activity program
The importance of play
The physical environment
The regulation of school age childcare
Training for the sector
Relationships between providers of school age childcare, the client children, their parents and on occasion the schools. Children like to feel they belong. As they grow to understand themselves both as individuals and in relation to others, they look for signs of acceptance and acknowledgement from their peers and the adults around them. Children need to experience a sense of belonging, and to be aware that their own actions can promote either a sense of belonging or exclusion for others. The school age setting offers endless opportunities to nurture a sense of self-acceptance and belonging for the child. Characteristics of children attending the services:
Enjoy playing games.
Like to make and keep friends.
Enjoys learning new things.
Great intellectual curiosity, wanting to know everything about everything — objects, ideas, situations, or events.
Learn quickly and with less practice and repetition.
Concerned about fairness and injustice — very aware of rights and wrongs.
Read rapidly and widely, after learning to read.
Absorb information rapidly – often described as being like sponges.
Can use materials, words or ideas in new ways.
Need time and space to explore ideas, develop interests.
Can concentrate for long periods of time on activities that interest them.
More eager to learn, more curious, more enthusiastic, and imaginative.
They need routine and consistency from adults in their lives.
Discovering things and inventing are favorite kinds of activities.
Have lots of energy.
Like physical challenges.
Need to feel that adults are in control.
Need good emotional support.
Their parents are still the most important persons in their lives.
How School Age Childcare Setting can cater:
A School Age Childcare setting requires a warm, welcoming and challenging environment where the child can feel comfortable, accepted and at home and, most importantly, can exercise choice in the daily routine. The needs of Children which include free play, team tasks or peers bonding are very important when considering the services curriculum. Provide activities that are flexible and based on the children’s choices and interests. Introduce variety in the program of activity, with a range of options and differences each day. Ensure the availability of free play and time for children to be on their own Casual play with and without equipment and team games with rules encourage children to learn to negotiate with each other.
The service must be culturally and socially inclusive to all children attending. The service should support a healthy-eating and healthy-lifestyle policy. Children should be encouraged to assess risk and identify safety issues themselves, where appropriate. Allow children to assist in curriculum preparation, social, emotional and development learning and academic learning if applicable. It should have a range of rooms or areas to facilitate more than one activity by a child or group of children at a time. It should provide adequate open internal space to facilitate more physical activities including sports and drama, where appropriate. It should provide a quiet area for reading, table based activities and homework. Encourage choice and self-confidence.
The school age childcare service should plan and provide a range of play opportunities and activities to support children’s social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional capabilities. While adopting a positive attitude to Irish language and culture, the School Age Childcare Service must also commit to meet the needs of children coming from different language and cultural backgrounds and of children with special needs and differing abilities.