The Importance of After School Clubs & What Makes a Good One

Dec 2, 2022
The Importance of After School Clubs & What Makes a Good One

In today’s current climate, it has never been more important to find affordable and reliable childcare options. 

Many working parents choose after school clubs to help juggle work and childcare but these clubs come in many different forms; from vocational to educational, so it’s crucial to understand why after school clubs are important and what makes a great session.

After school clubs are, without a doubt, one of the best ways for your children to learn new skills and make friends, whilst also being looked after in a safe environment. 

You might be asking yourself how after school clubs are any different from school? Or a childminder… The main difference is that after school clubs focus strongly on making sure the children are playing and having fun while also learning new things; almost a hybrid of the two!

There isn’t always a pressure to teach new concepts and the majority of learning comes through play or creativity. Children can still complete homework tasks and learn new concepts but the environment is different from that of a traditional classroom.

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That’s not all that an after school club can do for your children! Read on to find out more about the benefits of after school clubs.

Importance of after school clubs

After school clubs are beneficial for children of all ages. Whether they’re making new friends and burning off energy or they’re getting through some difficult maths homework, there is a place for every child in an after school club. 

For young children, it is an opportunity to play with friends and socialise with children who have similar interests to them. And for older children they can make new friends or just be in a safe environment where they are not alone after school. 

It’s also important to note that after school clubs can play an important role in enhancing educational attainment in children. 

Giving children extra time to work on homework or to learn a new skill that they did not have time for during school hours can enhance their overall development and improve their school performance. Being around other children who are keen to learn a new skill can also motivate them to take part in new activities or learn something different. 

Orange bar graph showing effects of attainment at end of primary school
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So we’ve established that after school clubs can enhance academic attainment for children, but what about the benefits for you as a parent?

Knowing there is a reliable, affordable childcare solution for their child is a weight off of any parent’s shoulders. And it’s an added bonus knowing their child will have fun and learn during the sessions as well. Gone are the days of trying to balance working from home with your children running around in the background!

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But you’ve probably got a few questions around after school clubs - how they work, when they run, types of activities they include… we’ve got you covered…

Do after school clubs need to be Ofsted registered?

The short answer is that yes, after school clubs need to be Ofsted registered. The criteria differs according to the ages of the children but Ofsted registration gives peace of mind that the after school club is accredited by a trustworthy and professional body that regulates educational and childcare activities.

There are two different ways after school clubs can be registered:

Early years register 

If the after school club looks after children aged from birth to five years old for more than two hours per day then look out for ‘Early Years Register’. 

Compulsory childcare register

If an after school club looks after children from the 1st of September after their 5th birthday up to the age of eight for more than two hours per day, look out for the ‘Compulsory Childcare Register’.

There are some situations in which after school clubs might not need to be registered, such as if they are only teaching a skill to children and not providing childcare, but in most cases it is best practice to be registered so definitely check this out with any after school provider you’re considering for your child.

The only scenario in which an after school club definitely does not need to register is when it is directly run by a school and at least one child from that school attends the club, so no need to worry if your child is staying behind at their school for revision sessions or enrichment activities. 

It’s important to note that after school club regulations in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales are slightly different. This article provides more in-depth information about the requirements.

Can you get help with after school club fees?

In the current economic climate it is becoming increasingly difficult to find childcare options that are within budget. A recent study found that after school club costs have risen by more than £800 a year since 2010. 

However, it is possible for parents to get help with after school club fees, particularly if they are experiencing specific circumstances. 

If you receive Universal Credit payments, you can get up to 85% of childcare costs paid back. You will have to pay the cost upfront and then submit for a refund, but if you cannot pay the upfront cost there are other options in place to help; Flexible support fund or an advance from Universal Credit.  

What makes a good after school club? 

Are you looking to sign your children up for an after school club but you’re unsure where to start? Here are some important criteria to consider when making your decision:

Educational but engaging

Children should come to an after school club feeling excited and enthusiastic about what they are going to learn. 

After a long school day they will need to burn some energy and do some activities which give their brain a rest. That’s why it’s important that the after school club provides activities that are educational but engaging. 

Your children should return home feeling inspired and motivated with a desire to keep coming to the club. Look out for clubs that offer a diverse range of activities.

Caring staff members

In an after school club environment the relationship between the children and the teachers and teaching assistants is slightly different than in a classroom environment. 

The adults in charge will make sure to create a special bond with the children and accommodate their needs individually, much more so than in a traditional classroom. Ask around in the local community for reviews from other parents, or check out their website and social media channels. If they have positive client reviews and if other parents can recommend them to you then you can be sure you’re making a good choice. 

Breaks in sessions

A four year old child has an attention span of around 8 to 12 minutes. And a 14 year old child can focus for around 28 to 42 minutes. This is important to consider when choosing sessions at after school clubs. 

Take into account the age of your children and make sure the club is offering lots of options to keep them engaged and occupied. 

Taking breaks between activities no matter how old the children are is important for them to run off some energy (like doing some jumping jacks or playing a quick game of snap or uno to give them a brain break) and then they can return to an activity with a fresh mind.

two girls jumping in the playground
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Low cost or free

After school clubs are not only beneficial for children but also for parents, particularly those from less privileged families who struggle to afford the costs of private childcare. 

There are a whole host of free after school clubs - if you’re not sure how to find out about them, you could try one of the following:

  1. Ask your child’s school if there are any options to stay behind and participate in more activities 
  2. Contact your local library as they often run initiatives
  3. Get in touch with a local sports club as participation tends to be free (minus the cost of kit)

Bespoke resources

You should consider what resources the after school club can provide to help make your decision about where to send your child. Some resources that will ensure children have an enriching learning experience are: 

  • Quality time with teaching assistants where they take time to explain concepts and work through tasks on a one-to-one basis. 
  • Arts and crafts - materials that allow children to be creative and partake in safe fun with supervision of scissors and all things sharp! 
  • Homework help - having expert tutors on hand to explain difficult concepts to children is useful and will have a positive impact on academic achievements. 
  • Group work where children get a chance to interact and socialise with each other will develop social skills. 
  • Provide additional resources like links to videos, worksheets and websites that can enhance children’s experiences. This can help parents know what they can do to support their children back home.

Participation in these clubs means that children will achieve more at school and manage to keep up with the rest of their class, relieving the worry for parents whose children are struggling in school.

Enriched curriculum

After school clubs today can offer a range of extra-curricular activities. Some skills that they can teach children which may not be part of their traditional school curriculum are:

  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Mixed sports
  • Coding
  • Cooking
  • Board games

Because children learn through play, each of these activities allows them to learn new skills and enhances their traditional curriculum as a result. If they become confident at a board game, their counting skills will improve. Or if they learn about gardening they will also gain an awareness of the planet and the environment around them. 

When choosing a club, consider the range of activities that they offer. 

Encourages inclusivity 

After school clubs should include all children no matter their background. This in turn creates an inclusive environment for children to be involved in. Extra-curricular activities provide an opportunity to meet lots of different children with varied interests, something which may be different in their classroom environment. 

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Opportunities to socialise

After school clubs are extremely social environments. Putting children in groups with others who also like doing the same activities provides multiple opportunities for socialising and interacting with each other. 

The soft skills that children can learn from being in social situations can benefit them in all areas of their lives. They will become confident when working in a team and they will gain an awareness of other people’s feelings, improving their emotional intelligence as a result. 

After school club ideas

If you’re a parent who is looking to find an after school club in your local area, here are some ideas of what to look for:

  • Arts and crafts club - where students can get as creative as they like with different art materials. 
  • Photography club - typically for older students who have interest in cameras and photography. This would allow them to work on something they’re passionate about whilst socialising with others. 
  • Mixed sports clubs - where children get used to playing sports with other genders can also open their minds to different ways of playing sports which they may originally perceive as girls-only or boys-only. 
  • Homework club - a fun way to encourage children to view homework from a different perspective; a fun, collaborative task and it could encourage them to ask for help when they need it. 
  • Computer club - a great one for older students where they learn vital IT skills or even some basic coding classes. If students can see how this skill will help them in their future careers then they will be even more motivated to learn. 
  • Breakfast club - let’s not forget that after school clubs aren’t just for the end of the school day. Many schools offer breakfast clubs that bring childcare and nutritional meals before school, typically running from 7:30 or 8am, giving parents the option of dropping children off on the way to work.  

You could even consider setting up a club yourself with some more unusual options such as: video animation, drama, debating or even Disney themed! Be sure to register your club though, where required.

group of kids playing outside together
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Encouraging students to participate in extracurricular activities

After school clubs are an excellent way to encourage children to participate in extracurricular activities. Sometimes students don’t enjoy classes because of a lack of confidence. There are several different ways both parents and teachers can help to build this confidence in them.

Icebreaker sessions

Welcoming everyone to the class with a game; students are paired up randomly and they get to know each other and report back to the class 5 things they learned about one another. 

Incentives and rewards

Parents could offer incentives for attending after school activities - perhaps sticker charts, pocket money or screen time allowances - these are all great ‘carrots’ to dangle!

Teacher recommendations

Teachers should make an effort to listen to students’ hobbies and interests and recommend some clubs to join and encourage them to take part in after school activities and classes to further their skills in these areas.

Learning Cubs’ after school clubs

Here at Learning Cubs we offer after school clubs of different styles where the children can work in small groups and have focused one to one support, homework support and exam preparation, helping them feel at ease with school requirements. 

We also offer prizes and competitions for the children to try and encourage engagement and motivation amongst them. 

a student at learning cubs receives a reward from her tutor

Our breakout rooms with table tennis, reading zones and games create a fun way for children to learn patience and problem solving skills, whilst allowing them to take a break from schoolwork. Our centres are local so you can find one nearby and your children can meet students from other schools in the area.

If you are interested in introducing your child to an after school club in your area then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We have centres in Blackburn, Keighley, Nelson and Bolton - more coming soon so keep your eyes peeled!

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