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Holiday playschemes are usually available mainly to children of school age, although in some cases when they are registered on the appropriate Ofsted register, they may take children who are slightly younger. As the name suggests, they provide childcare during school holiday periods, sometimes activity-based, sometimes more general.
Holiday schemes often run at schools, daycare settings or on local authority premises. Staff will be suitable to look after children, and schemes will be risk-assessed and covered by insurance.
Where they cater for children under the age of eight, there are strict staffing ratios of one adult carer to four children. The staffing ratios for older children are more relaxed. At least some of the staff should have suitable qualifications, for example in playwork. In the case of specialised schemes, staff may have additional qualifications, for example in dance or football coaching.
Some holiday schemes operate as part of an out of school club. These are often open during the Easter and Summer holidays. Others operate only for specified weeks during the school holidays. Few open during the Christmas holiday period.
Schemes open for variable hours. Some, particularly activity-based schemes such as football coaching, operate for sessions rather than full days. Others will operate for full days, or for the equivalent of a normal school day.
Holiday schemes cost about £25 to £30 per day on average.
What to look for
Holiday playschemes can be suitable for children of school age whose parents work during school holidays. However, it is important for parents to check the opening period as some schemes only run for a week or two. Most schemes run through the summer holiday, and some operate also during the Easter holiday.
(a) Some schools operate their own holiday schemes (in these cases, the scheme may be open only to pupils at that particular school);
(b) Some providers, such as nurseries and out of school clubs, offer holiday childcare as an additional service. In the case of nurseries, this care is usually for children up to the age of 8;
(c) Some local authorities run holiday playschemes, often based at leisure centres or similar venues, for part or all of the school holiday;
(d) Some providers run schemes of a fixed duration, often based on school premises which they rent for the period of the course. These can be activity-based and in many cases cater for older children.
Finding out about holiday playschemes
You can search for childcare providers using the childcare map facility. Please note that not all childcare providers advertise their services on the internet, for a full list please contact the Families Information Service.