Trial to improve after-school care

Nowhere to send kids after school ...
Nowhere to send kids after school ... Photo: Getty Images

After-school care that is open until 7pm and places reserved for children in an emergency situation are just two of the ideas that could be trialled as the federal government looks at creative ways to increase access to out of school hours care.

Fairfax Media revealed this week some areas of Sydney are facing a critical shortage in after-school care, with significant waiting lists at some schools.

The government will begin a series of 12-month trials this month, with 60 providers across Australia being offered support to trial innovative approaches to out of school care.

Meanwhile, the Coalition has pledged to establish a Productivity Commission inquiry into childcare that would include after-school care, if elected.

The organisations picked for the trial will gather results, with the assistance of researchers, and share their findings with the government and the sector.

National Out of School Hours Services Association chairwoman Robyn Monro Miller said the initiative would be more effective than a consultant's report could be.

''Nobody ever picks up a report but they learn from concrete examples and that's what drives innovation,'' she said.

''This system is about planning for local needs and really targeting individual communities so people will get what their community needs and not just a standard model.''

For example, she said, if a community had a high number of commuting workers, the service could extend its operating hours. Or if a rural community struggled to sustain a five-day service, it could try opening two or three days each week. ''It might mean making the service more inclusive for children with additional needs or negotiating with schools to access additional space.''


Early Childhood and Childcare Minister Kate Ellis said the initiative was about making out of school hours care more responsive to the needs of modern families.

"Parents regularly tell me how difficult it is to manage the 3pm pick-up, so outside school hours care is a vital part of giving parents the flexibility they need to stay in the workforce," she said.

The project is part of a $5.5 million initiative by the federal government to trial models of flexible childcare. Providers would receive training from leaders in the field and support from 12 new community co-ordinators.

The opposition spokeswoman for childcare, Sussan Ley, said if the Coalition was elected it would sit down with the states to look at how regulations could be restricting providers' ability to expand.

"Schools and OOSH services are not only struggling to find qualified staff, there's also the issue of enough on-site space and a suitable environment to meet numerous national quality framework rules,'' she said.