After school care - how do you do it?

(24 Posts)
ConvenientTruth Mon 18-Jan-16 00:27:07

My DD is starting school next September and I have no idea what we're going to do about the gap between school finishing and when we get home from work (roughly 6.15pm).

What do other people do for this time? We have a spare room so could have an au pair but I'd rather not. Could get a local childminder -- that's my current first choice -- but I'm wondering whether it'd be better to do activities, either at school or somewhere else. But how would she get there?!

Sorry for slightly pitiful and pathetic tone but would really like to understand what has worked for others.

Cressandra Mon 18-Jan-16 01:02:46

there area few after school childcare type clubs round us. Some in schools, others collect. They are not "activities" though, they are free play, craft and tv. However the ones round here all close at 6.00 on the dot. There are exactly 3 childminders who pick up from our school, so it's very much a case of who you know to find one.

I reduced my hours to do some pick ups, and we are used to fitting round 6pm nursery closing so school after school club works for us, a couple of days a week. I have a couple of friends who pay a student to pick up their DC and take home to tea. Others leave work early and work all evening. You may (or may not) find activities are too much on top of school. Our school doesn't let YRs do drama club, dance club etc for this reason.

I think you need to start by talking to the office staff at your most likely school, to find out what your options are. Good childcare providers don't always need to advertise and they can be hard to find. You may find they aren't that interested until you have her place confirmed. One difference we've found between nursery and wraparound is that wraparound has a much smaller lead time. Sept is ages away, and no one even has a school place until April.

slightlyglitterbrained Mon 18-Jan-16 01:13:19

Have the same thing for DS. DP currently picks up from nursery near his work at 6pm, so we'll need to figure something out. Also not sure whether it would be better to start off with after school club/childminder or whether to build up gradually by arranging short hours ar work for a couple of weeks IYSWIM?

Cressandra Mon 18-Jan-16 01:35:59

Slightly you will have a while to figure that out. Our school really recommends reduced hours for the first few weeks, for their time in school, let alone wraparound. When my eldest started they insisted on part time. It seemed impossible to do halfdays for the first week and build up, but we muddled through by saving leave, keeping them at nursery until 1st Sept, and nursery took them for half days after they'd started school. Until they were in FT school, after school club wouldn't take them. They did 3 weeks of PT school then a bit of FT before we added in new childcare on top.

These days parents have rebelled more strongly against the staggered starts and more schools give you the option of them starting FT from the start. However you might still want to look at saving a load of leave and/or taking some parental leave so you can be around for the first few weeks. I think starting school must be like starting your first ever job, only bigger. Even if they enjoy it, many will find it exhausting. And I am pretty sure it's easier if you have a parent around to chat with and, erm, express all those behaviours you've been bottling up all day, and all those frustrations that you're suddenly in a class of 30 and the teacher doesn't seem to be listening to you quite as much as adults normally do. 9-3 is a long enough day, even for those used to full days at nursery.

ScouseQueen Mon 18-Jan-16 01:38:48

In my experience, a child who's been in full time or nearly full time nursery will take full school hours in their stride. The question is whether the school your child goes to does half days to start with, and how long for - you can probably find this out now for the schools you will be putting down, so at least then you have an idea of what to expect.

Re the after school issue, my DS's school does not run any wraparound care so he is collected by an afterschool club based elsewhere three days a week. I negotiated an early finish (with working at home in the evening) one day a week so I at least got to pick him up once, and DH does the same the remaining day. That works well for us; however I also know kids getting picked up the whole time by the after school club and they get on perfectly well with it.

madwomanbackintheattic Mon 18-Jan-16 01:46:00

We've used after-school clubs, child minders, nannies, and relatives. At one point we had three children in three different settings, using three different after school facilities. Pick-up was fun.

Really you just need to find out what's available, make a decision, and get your name down. Logistically they are always a pain in the arse, but really you just have to roll with it and find something that works. Quite often the niceties of the situation are not especially relevant, it's just what is available. And if they become relevant, then you look again or try to rearrange your work hours.

For us, a nanny was by far the easiest, as obviously she did all the pick-ups and took the kids home - they could then snack, play, relax, in the comfort of their own home, and we didn't have to trawl round the neighborhood collecting exhausted kids. And she cooked their dinner so we didn't have to race the clock to rush dinner and bath and bed at a reasonable time.

Lurkedforever1 Mon 18-Jan-16 08:10:16

Dd did a combination of after school club and child minder. Partly for the occasions I wouldn't be back on time for after school club, partly cos she did that through nursery and because she would be going to the cms some days in the holidays so it kept her in a familiar routine.

Also my dd had no problems doing a full day in school then childcare, even when she first started. In fact the odd occasion I turned up very early she wasn't impressed!

ConvenientTruth Mon 18-Jan-16 10:17:54

Thanks everyone. This is really helpful. Partly comforting and partly terrifying I must say! No idea how we will manage part time transition. Hard enough to get holidays. Thank you for suggesting that we start thinking about it (and confirm with schools) as that will need upfront planning with our workplaces.

The school we are looking at thankfully has an after school club but I don't really know about the quality of it. I'm shocked that there are schools that don't... how on earth do people manage without?

noramum Mon 18-Jan-16 11:05:48

DD started with a childminder. There is an after school club next to the school (deliver and collect to/from school) but the majority of children is more KS2 and the Reception children felt a bit lost. The majority moved to a childminder setting quite fast unless there were siblings around already. And these were children who had attended nursery.

Clubs at school are often short (4.30pm) and can be fairly unreliable if run by the school as they are cancelled if the teacher is not there or the school building/grounds are used for any event. There are also run shorter than the term, normally starting and finishing around 1 week later/earlier.

I would always go the childminder route again. But as others said, DH and I also shortened our days, I work now 10-5, do the drop off in peace and DD finishes earlier to pick up around 5pmish unless he has late meetings (2-3x a months).

Even in Reception the school will expect you to read with your child daily, maybe do some simple spellings, there is most likely a weekly homework. This will increase in the years to come.

Another tip - keep at least one week annual leave aside for any kind of school events in the middle of the day.

Dixiechickonhols Mon 18-Jan-16 13:24:07

I use afterschool club some days, some days me and some days she has a club afterschool school so no childcare needed but agree school activity clubs can't be relied on.

Check how flexible afterclub is, ours can be used no notice some need pre booking well in advance.

DD's friend whose mum works full time uses a nanny so the child can go to clubs afterschool eg swimming, music lessons. Pays £10 an hour in NW.

Do think about holidays too. If you are using an afterclub that also offers holiday care that may make life easier. Also i've found doing activities helps as things like dd's dancing and gym offer holiday care so at least she is going to a familiar place. Holiday care is difficult until they turn 5. A lot of holiday care is only 9-3 and a lot word of mouth. Definitely speak to mums with older kids.

Random training days off or quirks like finishing at 2pm on lastday of term are the most difficult to cover. Also save some leave for daytime events/plays etc.

Most people seem to focus on the summer hols and how will I cover 6 weeks off when I only get x days annual leave. I've found summer to be the easiest as there is so much childcare choice, I take hardly any leave. But this year for example our easter is out of step with the county councils published holidays so i'm using some leave as no childcare.

heritagewarrior Mon 18-Jan-16 14:04:51

I'm really fortunate that both DH and I have the option to work from home and are employed in the public sector, where flexible working is well received. Because of this I work three long days and two short (school hours) to achieve full-time status. On the three long days my DCs do breakfast club and after school club at their primary school and are on site from 7.45am to 5.45pm. They have done this from YR. if I'm WAH on the long days I generally do drop off and pick up (school a 5 minute walk away). If I'm at meetings then I do one end of the day and my husband does the other. On the short days I do most of the school gate stuff, as I have the FWA, but not exclusively, we vary to suit. So far it's worked - my DCs are now in Y2. You need to take things like your own work patterns and school location when you decide what to do OP, as well as the childcare available.....

slightlyglitterbrained Mon 18-Jan-16 15:15:25

Blooming 'eck. Just adding up 6 weeks summer, 2 weeks Christmas, 2 weeks Easter, plus 1x3 weeks half terms. Plus 2+ weeks of part-time start.

And a week of randoms in there too? Is that right? So we're basically saying for 2 working parents with 5 weeks each, assuming that you are never off at the same time, you'll still have up to 5 weeks to get covered somehow?

I think we should be able to get after school care/holiday clubs round here, but to echo a pp, how the heck are people meant to work if the school doesn't?

HeadDreamer Mon 18-Jan-16 15:20:19

I use a childminder. It's more expensive then the after school club. But I feel DD1 would benefit from having a single adult she can rely on, over a group care situation.

Year R at DD's school cannot join the after school activities. DD is so tired after school anyway. And besides, I don't believe they will run till 6.15. If it's activities at another place, you'll have to provide the transport. They are usually 30-60min and aren't actually childcare.

HeadDreamer Mon 18-Jan-16 15:24:39

There's only 39 weeks of school. I believe that includes inset days as holidays. There will be holiday clubs too in your area. But a childminder will cover them too.

HeadDreamer Mon 18-Jan-16 15:26:22

Our school's after school club also runs a holiday club btw. That's very important if you need holiday care. Unless your child is a social butterfly and love going into a room of strange kids much older then them! I would imagine most would prefer familiar faces.

noramum Mon 18-Jan-16 15:44:47

*Blooming 'eck. Just adding up 6 weeks summer, 2 weeks Christmas, 2 weeks Easter, plus 1x3 weeks half terms. Plus 2+ weeks of part-time start.

And a week of randoms in there too? Is that right? So we're basically saying for 2 working parents with 5 weeks each, assuming that you are never off at the same time, you'll still have up to 5 weeks to get covered somehow?

I think we should be able to get after school care/holiday clubs round here, but to echo a pp, how the heck are people meant to work if the school doesn't?*

DH and I do it this way:

2 weeks together in Summer, one week maybe Easter or May/October half-term together.

I take a couple of days here and there in the half-terms so DD never has a full week somewhere, DH covers Christmas as his office virtually closes and he just has to reachable by email/mobile. The Summer holidays are the longest with over 3 weeks to cover and most expensive.

The rest is covered by various clubs. DD doesn't like to go everytime to the same so the first year was all about learning who does what where. As PP said, a lot are not full days, luckily her CM can do some local runs and DH can do some but only since last year when he started home office and DD is old enough to entertain herself consistent for 1-2 hours.

If you have childcare voucher as part of your benefit package, keep them, most clubs are regulated and accept them as well. We save a bit each months to cover the £100-300 bill for the holidays (a full day in a camp is here around £35).

sunnydayinmay Mon 18-Jan-16 17:44:49

Holidays are usually fairly easy, as lots of holiday clubs cover holidays. We have always used a fairly relaxed club, but sports centres often have sports related clubs, there are drama, art clubs etc.

After school, most people use after school clubs or childminders. The clubs may seem less structured than nursery, but it is only for a few hours.

Inset days, you are best making a good network of school parents, and taking turns!

Personally, I would book the first half term and Christmas holidays off as leave between you, and find a holiday club for the first February half term. You may find that your after school club also covers holidays, which is an ideal transition.

Dixiechickonhols Mon 18-Jan-16 17:49:03

Oh yes good tip about the childcarevouchers. We use computashare and save some each month then when the school holiday club bill comes pay that.

If you have any family who can help use it , mine goes on holiday to her grandma.

I'd save annual leave for random days. For summer she usually has 1 week grandma, 4 weeks school club, 1 week dance camp and 1 week ballet.

I only work 4 days so usually do a swap with another mum at school so I have hers one day and hers mine one day so she is only in a club 3 days.

Mine is 9 just as you start getting comfy and thinking you have things sorted it dawns on you that most clubs stop age 11.

RiverTam Mon 18-Jan-16 17:51:31

I changed my hours at work, which is what a lot of working parents I know have done - so not reducing hours but jiggling them around. After school club at DD's school has a 2 year waiting list! A friend also took DD one day a week after school. Some used childminders.

Then I got made redundant which solved the problem nicely hmmgrin.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Mon 18-Jan-16 17:55:01

Grandparents!
They took and collected dd from school throughout primary and brought her home, where they waited with her until I arrived at 4.30.
Now she's at secondary it's easy- she comes home on the bus and is home alone until 5pm. On the days we have a quick turnaround because of after school dance classes she makes her own dinner and gets ready so I can pick her up at 5 and drive her to wherever she needs to be.

No help if you don't have the luxury of retired, local or supportive family, I know.

Jengaaddict Mon 18-Jan-16 18:42:46

I am utterly amazed at the number of schools in London that don't have after school care. I had a friend round the other day and she was saying that she was having sleepless nights because of the restricted numbers at the schools breakfast club. She has one child in but the other starts in September and she has no idea if they will get in. They only have places for 20% of year. No after school club at our inner London school. We knew this when we applied - loved the school but had to think hard about how to make it work. I work part time and we cope with a childminder, my husband reducing his hours and pay and one day a week grandparents. Our childcare costs have gone up compared to 2 x nursery! I am going to go full time soon and will have to find an after school nanny

Inkymess Mon 18-Jan-16 23:14:30

Our school wrap round care is 8- 6 which is the norm for the 8 - 10 city primary schools in our area. At most you can pay for longer. We are not London. Ours haS 90-100 kids in every day. There are also private after school providers and lots of CM

Millionprammiles Tue 19-Jan-16 12:04:56

I've said it before on similar threads but DfE needs to get its head out of its 1950s arse and re-think the schooling system.
Either that or flexible working needs to be made mandatory cause lets face it, even public sector employers aren't flexible enough to let you work 10am-2pm with 12 weeks leave.

Its pathetic that parents have to cobble together a mish mash of wrap around and holiday care. Children from more disadvantaged backgrounds inevitably lose out, stretching divisions even further.

Its simply a divisive, blinkered approach, completely out of step with the modern world.

Recently we had friends over from Sweden, when I described the hotch potch of ad hoc, variable childcare options for school age kids they were utterly bemused. Its like 'oh these eccentric English with their quaint customs'.

Inkymess Tue 19-Jan-16 12:58:33

I totally agree. We are blessed to be in an area where all the school have really good wrap round care and it's available for all. We have school holiday clubs at them all too - some run by external people. I really don't know how people work otherwise.

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