Start An Out Of School Hours Care In Australia - A Complete Guide
Start an Out of School Hours Care in Australia: Introduction
Starting your own out of school hours care (OOSH/OSHC) program in Australia can be an immensely satisfying endeavor. The demand for OOSH programs is high due to the prevalence of working families across Australia.
Before establishing your OOSH program, you must create a robust business plan. This plan should factor in your operational expenses, marketing tactics, and compliance with Australian legal requisites.
By maintaining a secure environment for youth and adhering to Australia's legal guidelines, your OOSH program can substantially contribute to the welfare of children of diverse ages.
OOSH Program Legal Requirements in Australia
Before you launch an OOSH program in Australia, you must comprehend the legal necessities. Primarily these include:
- Licensing requirements
- Child-to-staff ratio prerequisites
- Staff qualifications
Do OOSH Programs Need Licensing in Australia?
OOSH programs in Australia necessitate licensing by the relevant state or territory regulatory authority. These authorities ensure that the program meets minimum safety and health guidelines and requirements stipulated by the government. To initiate a childcare licensing application, you must complete a registration form, provide documentation of your program's health and safety protocols, and pay a fee. Visit the appropriate regulatory authority website for your state or territory to learn more about obtaining a childcare license in Australia. The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is a national body that oversees the implementation of the National Quality Framework (NQF) and works with the state and territory regulatory authorities to provide guidance and resources. You may also find their website useful for more general information.
What is the Child-to-Staff Ratio for OOSH Programs in Australia?
Australia maintains specific regulations regarding the number of staff members that must be present in a high-quality OOSH program, based on the number of children enrolled. Depending on the children’s age, there are different child-to-staff ratios.
- For children <24 months of age: 1:4 adult/children ratio
- For children between 24 months and 36 months of age: 1:5 adult/children ratio
- For children over 36 months of age but below preschool age: 1:11 adult/children ratio
- For children over preschool age: 1:15 adult/children ratio.
These (maximum) ratios are considered the most effective in delivering high-quality child care, encompassing the necessary attention and supervision required by children of these age ranges.
Learn more about these Regulations on the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) website.
What are the Qualification Requirements for OOSH Program Staff Members?
Australia has specific staff qualification requirements for OOSH programs. These requirements ensure that staff members have the necessary training and expertise to provide a safe and engaging environment for youth.
OOSH Director Qualifications
There are no national qualification requirements for educators at centre-based services educating and caring for school age children in OSHC services. State and territory specific qualification requirements apply in:
- Australian Capital Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
The approved OSHC qualifications list for these jurisdictions is available here.
Aides and Staff Qualifications
At least half of the educators required to meet the relevant child-to-staff ratios in an OOSH program must hold, or be actively working towards, an approved diploma level education and care qualification. The remaining educators required to meet the ratios need to have, or be actively working towards, at least an approved Certificate III level education and care qualification.
These qualifications ensure that OOSH staff members are adequately equipped to manage and engage with children in an out-of-school-hours care setting.
New staff members who aim to work with children will undergo a background check as part of the legal requirements in Australia, ensuring they are suitable for working closely with children.
Staff members working in OOSH programs in Australia are also required to complete training in first aid, anaphylaxis management, and emergency asthma management, which provides essential skills in ensuring the safety and well-being of children in their care.
How to Start an Out of School Hours Care in Australia: A Step-by-Step Business Plan
After solidifying your understanding of Australia’s legal requirements for opening an OOSH program, the next stage is generating a business plan. This business plan will ascertain the demand for your program and your target demographic, evaluate potential sources of government funding, set your fees, and contain a marketing strategy.
Identify Local Demand and Existing Competition
The first step: understand the demand! When developing your business plan, investigate the local demand for OOSH programs. You can research this demand by determining the number of employed parents in your local area and the number of schools already offering OOSH programs. You should also take into account the demand for after school hours or during school holidays as they could be different depending on the local demographics.
Consider Government Funding and Subsidies
There are several government funding options and subsidies available for OOSH programs in Australia, such as the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). This subsidy helps reduce the cost of childcare for eligible families. As a provider, you would need to be approved for CCS to attract more parents to your program. You can find more details about grants and subsidies in the latter part of the article.
Calculate Costs and Set Fees
Once you understand your expenses and potential funding, you can set your fees. Your costs may include rent, utilities, salaries, activity expenses, food, cleaning, licensing fees, and insurance. You need to ensure that your fees are competitive, yet still allow you to operate profitably.
Your marketing strategy should be tailored to your target demographic. This could involve digital marketing strategies like a user-friendly website and social media engagement, along with traditional methods such as leaflets, brochures, and word-of-mouth referrals. Collaborating with local schools can be beneficial too.
You can check out our digital marketing series to learn more about digital marketing for our of school hours care.
Select an Appropriate Location and Equipment
Choosing a suitable location and equipment for your Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) service is a crucial step in your business plan.
Evaluate the safety and accessibility of the venue, and consider the availability of resources such as computers, books, and sporting equipment. Its proximity to nearby schools is also important. Can the children walk to your OSHC venue, or will they require transportation?
Creating a Safe Environment
Before you can open your doors, you need to ensure that your physical environment is safe and engaging for children. It should include indoor and outdoor spaces for play and learning, safety measures like fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and any required security measures.
Once your business plan is complete and you've taken the necessary steps to meet the legal requirements, you can begin the process of licensing and registering your OOSH program. Remember that running a successful OOSH program requires ongoing effort and attention to the changing needs of the families and children you serve.
It's also worth noting that regulations and requirements can change, so it's important to stay informed and regularly check with your state's licensing department and the ACECQA for updates.
Handling Reservations and Fee Collection
Efficiently managing reservations and fee collection is a key operational aspect of your business plan. This can be done using a reservation system, a spreadsheet, or a traditional pen-and-paper method. However, we recommend employing an online booking system, such as Pembee. This will allow parents and guardians to book services online without the need to phone or email, automate the registration process, generate a live activity attendance register, and ensure that your OSHC service is functioning effectively.
Recruiting Staff Members
It is crucial to recruit staff members who are qualified, experienced, and passionate about working with children to ensure that your OSHC service provides high-quality care. Depending on your needs and budget, consider hiring a combination of full-time and part-time staff members while complying with the legislated child-to-staff ratios for quality childcare.
When recruiting new staff members, define the role, qualifications, and experience required clearly, and advertise through effective channels to attract the right candidates.
Importance of Partnerships between OSHC and Schools
Establishing robust partnerships between Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) programs and schools is an invaluable component of successful child care and education. These partnerships can significantly enhance the learning experiences and wellbeing of children while providing numerous benefits to both OSHC providers and schools.
Consistency in Learning and Development
When OSHC programs and school councils align their educational philosophies, practices, and policies, children benefit from a consistent learning environment. This alignment can help reinforce learning concepts and values, thereby strengthening children's overall educational development.
Ease of Transition
A close partnership can ease children's transition between school and OSHC. When children move seamlessly between these two environments, they are likely to feel more secure, enhancing their engagement and willingness to participate in various activities.
Partnerships often allow for the sharing of resources, ranging from physical assets, like school premises, community centres and playgrounds, to human resources and expertise. This can lead to cost savings and a more diverse range of experiences for the children.
Partnerships facilitate communication and collaboration. When challenges arise, such as behavioural issues or learning difficulties, OSHC staff and school teachers can work together to find solutions that are consistent and supportive.
Strong partnerships between OSHC programs and schools can foster a sense of community. They can help build relationships among staff, children, and families across both settings, contributing to a supportive environment where children can thrive.
Assistance for Children with Additional Needs and Disabilities
Australia's commitment to inclusive education and care ensures that Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) programs cater to the needs of all children, including those with additional needs and disabilities. Here's an overview of the various forms of assistance available to these children.
Inclusion Support Programme (ISP)
This government initiative is designed to assist OSHC providers in including children with additional needs in their mainstream services. The ISP offers expert advice and resources, as well as funding for additional staffing or specialised equipment if required. Providers can access the ISP via Inclusion Agencies that operate in each state and territory. More information is available on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
The NDIS funds support for people with a significant and permanent disability. For eligible children, this can include funding for therapeutic support, assistive technology, or personal care assistance during OSHC hours. More details are available on the NDIS website.
OSHC programs can strive to provide individualised support that is tailored to each child's unique needs. This can involve modifying activities or the environment, providing additional supervision, or using targeted strategies to support communication and participation.
Collaboration with Families and Professionals
OSHC programs can work closely with families and other professionals involved in the child's care, such as therapists, psychologists, and school staff. This collaboration can help ensure a coordinated approach that supports the child's participation and wellbeing in the OSHC setting.
OSHC staff are encouraged to undertake professional development in inclusive practices and disability awareness. This training helps them to better understand and meet the needs of all children in their care.
Grants and Subsidies in Australia for OOSH Programs
Setting up an OOSH program in Australia can be financially challenging, but numerous grants and subsidies can help offset the initial costs. Here are a few options to consider:
- Community Child Care Fund (CCCF): Part of the Australian Government’s Child Care Safety Net, the CCCF supports child care services in disadvantaged communities to address barriers to child care participation. The fund aims to improve early childhood education and care services across Australia. You can find more information and application details on the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment's website.
- Inclusion Support Programme (ISP): The ISP provides support to early childhood and child care (ECCC) services to build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs. If your OOSH program has a focus on inclusivity, especially for children with additional needs, this could be an ideal program to look into. More details about the ISP are available on the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment's website.
- Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS): ACCS provides extra support to families and children facing barriers in accessing affordable child care. The subsidy is designed to assist children at risk of serious abuse or neglect, families experiencing temporary financial hardship, and those transitioning from income support to work. More information on the ACCS is available on the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment's website.
These are just a few of the financial support options available to potential OOSH providers in Australia. It's recommended to research and stay up-to-date with any potential funding opportunities at both the local and national levels.
Other Useful Resources
Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA): ACECQA is an independent statutory authority that assists governments in administering the National Quality Framework (NQF) for children's education and care. The website provides a wealth of resources and information about the NQF, including the National Quality Standard (NQS) and the approved learning frameworks.
Network of Community Activities: Network of Community Activities is an organization that supports OSHC in New South Wales. They offer a wide range of resources, professional development opportunities, and guidance for OSHC services.
Outside School Hours Care Quality Development Program (OSHC QDP): OSHC QDP supports quality improvements in Outside School Hours Care services in Queensland. They provide resources, training, and support for OSHC providers.
Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA): ACA is a national body that advocates for the future of Australia's children. They provide a wealth of resources for providers of early childhood education and care, including OSHC.
Early Childhood Australia (ECA): ECA is a national organization that advocates for the rights of children to access quality early childhood education and care. They provide resources, publications, and professional development opportunities for early childhood educators and care providers, including those in OSHC.
Conclusion: Starting an Out of School Hours Care in Australia
Starting an Out of School Hours Care program in Australia is an undertaking filled with opportunities and responsibilities. These programs play a vital role in supporting children's learning, development, wellbeing and enjoyment outside the regular school hours.
From understanding licensing and staff qualifications to recognising the value of partnerships and inclusivity, each aspect contributes to the delivery of quality care. Recognising and adhering to the requirements set by Australian Government can not only ensure the smooth operation of your OSHC, but also its capacity to serve the needs of diverse families within your community.