OUTSIDE SCHOOL HOURS CARE SERVICES ON SCHOOL SITES
INFORMATION FOR PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOL COMMUNITIES
Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) services on school sites provide a continuum of support for children and their families. The OSHC programs have an education, care and recreation focus and are an integral part of the school community.
OSHC is an education and care service for children who are school aged. These services may operate before school, after school, during school holidays, on student free days or a combination of these. An OSHC service may operate from a school site to provide maximum support to children and their families, however they may also operate in stand-alone buildings or in conjunction with a centre-based long day care service that provides education and care for children under school age.
OSHC is generally provided by a third party provider (approved provider), as a government school is neither a legal ‘person’ nor an incorporated body and cannot directly provide the service. Most approved providers currently operating services have experience in the education and care sector.
It is also possible for the School Association to provide the service as a third party provider. The Association would need to have the capacity and capability to undertake the responsibilities associated with this role, which includes being the employer and operating a business. Other issues such as insurance also need to be considered.
Services are approved under the Tasmanian Education and Care Services National Law (Application) Act 2011. The Education and Care Unit (ECU) within DoE, is the Regulatory Authority under this Act. The approved provider of the service is responsible for meeting the legislative requirements under the Education and Care Services National Law (Tasmania). Authorised Officers, within the ECU, monitor services including assessing and rating against nationally agreed Standards (National Quality Standard – NQS).
Services must comply with a number of other relevant Commonwealth, State, or Local Government legislation associated with the legalities of the organisation (e.g. Corporations Act), the building (e.g. Workplace Health and Safety, Fire Regulations, Building Code of Australia) and its practices (e.g. Disability Discrimination, Food Act, Workplace Health and Safety, Family Violence Act, Children, Young People and their Families Act, Awards, insurances). The school, as the landlord, may also have other legal responsibilities.
The school should consider:
· consulting with families to identify the level of need (current and long term);
· the broader context of OSHC service provision occurring within the community and the impact a new service may have;
· determining whether the school can provide access to appropriate buildings and resources for an education and care service;
· the future enrolment numbers in the school and the impact of this on the space being considered for an education and care service;
· seeking a third party provider (further information regarding this is available on the ACECQA website);
· consulting with the Education and Care Unit for support and advice as required;
· consulting with Facilities Services to determine whether the school is required to establish a licence agreement with the approved provider; and
· seeking the services of a building surveyor or to determine what changes may need to be made to the chosen site to meet the requirements of the Tasmania Appendix of the Building Code.
The approved provider is required to:
· apply for Child Care Benefit approval through the Commonwealth (fee subsidy for parents);
· submit a Service Approval Application to the ECU, which includes providing plans of the premises prepared by a building practitioner. Assistance to obtain this information may be required from Facilities Services, DoE;
· in collaboration with the School Principal, establish marketing and communication strategies and determine responsibilities.
You may also find it very beneficial to speak with a Principal who already has an OSHC service operating within their school site.
This can vary depending on a number of factors including:
· the level of consultation and planning the school may need to complete prior to making a decision to seek the establishment of a service;
· the nature of the school space, (e.g. the service moving into existing space within the school or into a purpose built building on school grounds);
· whether the building meets the requirements of the Building Code of Australia, including the Tasmanian Appendix;
· whether the approved provider is familiar with the legal and functional requirements in operating an OSHC service.
It may take several months for a service to be approved, taking into account the work to be completed by the approved provider, the school and within the assessment process.
There are many positive benefits for the children, the school and the wider community, including:
- the continuation of quality programs that are respectful to children and provide the opportunity to share strategies to assist in earlier identification and additional support for children;
- increasing children’s sense of self and belonging within the school and wider community;
- the opportunity to combine approaches to monitor and support children’s development;
- sustaining and potentially increasing and/or maintaining school enrolments;
- increasing the school’s reputation as being child-focused and family friendly;
- supporting workforce participation;
· aligning with the National Education Reform agenda particularly the development of partnerships between schools, parents and the community.
These benefits will be maximised where there is effective collaboration, partnership and the development of respectful relationships by all stakeholders. Principals have a vital role in this.
This may involve liaising over children’s needs and wellbeing, a joint approach to events, being understanding of the needs of each stakeholder when sharing facilities, shared professional development opportunities, ensuring appropriate space and facilities are available on a consistent basis, and fair and reasonable rental costs.
OSHC services may be in a purpose built building, or in a specific area of the school that is only used by the education and care service, or in a room that is used by both the school and the OSHC service, (e.g. the multi-purpose room may also be used by the after school care program). Although the address of the premises appearing on a service approval certificate will be the address of the school, there will be a defined area of the school that is the actual approved area for the provision of the OSHC education and care service.
As the approved provider of an OSHC service located on a school site does not own the buildings/grounds, the approved provider requires the support of the school in a number of ways:
· the licence agreement between the school and the service needs to be clear in relation to who has responsibility for minor maintenance and more significant upgrades;
· the service needs to have ongoing access to suitable storage space, including adequate space for conducting the administrative functions of the service, space for consultation with parents and conducting private conversations;
· the service may be required to upgrade an area to meet the requirements of the National Law or regulations. This cannot occur without the permission of the school, so it would be helpful for the service to have a school contact to discuss the matter with, who also has an understanding of the requirements the service has to meet;
· recognition from the school that it is not a simple matter for an OSHC service to be suddenly moved from one area of the school to another. The service needs to seek approval from the ECU for an amendment to its service approval. Such an approval will only be granted if the new area proposed complies with the requirements of the National legislation. Consideration also needs to be given to whether this new area is the best environment for the children. Therefore, clear communication strategies and collaboration are required between the school and the service to ensure access to and the provision of an appropriate environment.
It is understood that from time to time, needs within the school change, and it may be necessary to move the OSHC service from one area to another. As part of making this decision, disruption and impact to the service, the families and children using the service need to be considered.
It is crucial that the school talk with the OSHC approved provider as soon as possible before the move commences. This gives the maximum lead in time:
· for considering suitable premises elsewhere in the school;
· to make any physical changes necessary to upgrade the new area to meet National Quality Standard and legislative requirements;
· for the service to adjust any of its management plans in order to suit the new environment;
· for the service to communicate effectively with the families and children about the changes; and
· for ECU Authorised Officers to schedule a new assessment within their existing workload and for arrangements to be made to issue a new service approval, if required.
If a service moves into different premises without being approved by the ECU to amend the service approval, it will be in breach of the National Law which will also impact on the validity of the service’s insurance and potentially have other legal ramifications.
In the first instance it is beneficial to speak with the staff and/or the approved provider of the OSHC program.
If you have further issues you may wish to contact:
· Facilities Services within DoE if the issue is about the use of the facilities themselves or licence agreements;
· the ECU if you have concerns about the quality of the education and care being provided or if you are unsure of who to contact, as the ECU may be able to suggest suitable referrals.
Education and Care Unit
Phone: (03) 6165 5425 or 1300 135 513
Phone: (03) 6165 6326
· My Time Our Place – Promoting Collaborative Partnerships Between School Age Care Services and Schools (available on the ACECQA website)
Tasmanian Department of Education, Making Connections – Schools and Child Care Services, Partners in Early Learning
Education and care is the term now used for child care services, in particular services that are regulated under the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and School Aged Care.