Childcare or activity club?
Clubs which provide childcare before and after the school day, and during school holidays, usually have to be registered with Ofsted and therefore need to meet the requirements of the appropriate register (ie Early Years Register, and/or Childcare Register) depending on the ages of the children. If you are planning to set up an out of school club for the purpose of providing childcare for more than two hours per day, please see our section on Setting up your club for full details.
However, clubs which provide tuition or coaching in a particular activity (eg football club, drama club, nature club, French club, etc) do not usually need to be registered with Ofsted. This article explains the areas that you need to cover in order to open an activity club.
Exemption from Ofsted registration
The exemptions from Ofsted registration are set out on GOV.UK in Exemptions from registration which replaces the former guidance Annex A: Registration not required. There are three exemptions which are usually relevant to activity clubs:
- exemption 11: Providing no more than two activities out of the following list:
- school study support or homework support
- performing arts
- arts and crafts
- religious, cultural or language study
- exemption 2: Providing care where no child attends for more than two hours per day, even if the childcare is open for longer than two hours
- exemption 1: Providing childcare for children over the age of eight
Most activity clubs come under exemption 11, but exemptions 2 and 1 may also apply depending on the nature of your club.
Note that in order to qualify for exemption 11 you must deliver coached, or adult-led activities in one (or two) of the listed areas; just providing a room full of paper and paints and letting the children get on with it would not count as an eligible arts and crafts activity. Also, if you are claiming exemption 11, you can't take any children under three, and no children under the age of five can attend for more than four hours per day.
If your activity club falls under one of the above exemptions you do not need to notify Ofsted that you are running the club, and do not need to register.
Because your activity club does not need to register with Ofsted, there are no statutory requirements that you need to meet regarding staffing ratios.
As the manager of the club it is therefore up to you to decide on safe staffing levels, however you should also check with your insurance policy to see whether the cover is conditional upon having a certain number of staff present. Typical staffing levels for activity clubs range from around 1:10 up to 1:15, but you should consider the age-range and maturity of the children attending, the nature of the activity you will be providing, and the layout of your premises, when deciding on numbers of staff.
No specific childcare, teaching or sport qualifications are required to run your activity club because it is not Ofsted-registered. However for many activities, especially for sports, there are often national membership organisations or governing bodies which may well have guidance on desirable qualifications or training for practitioners in their field.
First aid training
There is no statutory requirement to have a qualified first aider present at your club, but it is clearly a Very Good Idea. It may also be a condition of your insurance cover.
There is no statutory requirement for you or your staff to have specific safeguarding training, but you and all of your staff need to be aware of your responsibilities for safeguarding children, how to respond to safeguarding concerns and how to make a referral to Social Care if necessary. This should be covered in your club's Safeguarding policy, and the necessary training can be given in-house to your staff if you wish. Alternatively, basic safeguarding training can be completed cheaply and quite quickly online. In addition, ideally you, or one of your staff members, should undertake training for a designated safeguarding lead. See our Training providers page for some suggestions.
If you provide any kind of food at your club, the staff preparing or serving the food should have received suitable food handling training. For more information, see our article Providing food at your club. Our Training providers page lists some suitable online courses.
It is essential that you have appropriate insurance cover. You need at least public liability insurance, as well as employer's insurance if you have staff. If your activity has a national governing body or membership association you may be able to obtain tailored insurance through them. Alternatively, Morton Michel provides high quality insurance cover for a wide range of childcare settings and children's clubs.
If you, or any member of your staff, will ever be unsupervised with a child, then you need to obtain an enhanced DBS check for that person. Volunteer helpers also require DBS checks if they help out at your club frequently (ie four times per month or more). See our article on DBS checks for more information.
You can request enhanced DBS checks on your staff, but you can't obtain a full DBS check on yourself. In order to resolve this problem you have a couple of options:
- If your activity has a membership association or governing body, you may be able to get an enhanced DBS check through them. For example, members of the Out of School Alliance can apply to join our OOSA Vetting Scheme.
- If you have had a recent DBS check for a similar role in a different setting, you could just use that (but it must be recent and it must be the same level of check, ie an enhanced DBS disclosure)
- Apply for a 'basic' disclosure on yourself from the Disclosure and Barring Service if you are in England or Wales, or from Disclosure Scotland if you are based there. The downside is that it is only a basic level disclosure, not an enhanced one, however it is better than not having any kind of check at all.
Policies and paperwork
Ofsted's list of required policies does not apply because your activity club is not Ofsted-registered, however it would still be a good idea to have a minimum set of policies so that you are prepared for certain issues if they arise. We recommend that you have at least:
- Safeguarding policy
- Uncollected child policy
- Missing child policy
- Administering medication policy
- Health and safety policy
If you will be supervising the children entirely on your own, you might find a Lone Working risk assessment useful. If you employ staff or use regular volunteer helpers, ensure that you have full contact and employment records for them.
It is essential that you capture full details for each child on your Registration form. You need to know the parent/guardian's contact details as well as emergency contact details if you can't reach the parents, together with medical information for the child. Don't forget to also keep a clear record of what dates each child has attended your club.
You can create your own policies, procedures and forms, or you may find the template documents in our Activity Club pack helpful.
Department for Education: Keeping Children Safe in Out of School Settings - Code of Practice
During 2021 the DfE introduced a Keeping Children Safe Code of Practice for out of school settings. This Code of Practice only applies to settings which are not regulated by Ofsted, and is guidance only. During 2023 Out of School Alliance has worked with the DfE to update this guidance. The latest version is dated September 2023.
It sets out the steps that unregulated settings (DfE refers to them as Out of School Settings or OOSS) should be working to keep children safe. The DfE's definition of an 'out of school setting' is very broad, so the Code of Practice needs to encompass every possible kind of setting and age range. As a result, not all parts of it will be applicable to your club.
There is no legal requirement for unregistered clubs to follow its recommendations however Out of School Alliance has worked with the DfE to update this Code of Practice for 2023, to ensure that it encompasses safe standards of practice that mirror the expectations of regulated provision..
Download: Keeping children safe during community activities, after-school clubs and tuition (UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2023).
There is also a parents' guide which you might wish to share with parents via your newsletter or have within your setting. This is designed to help parents understand what to look for in a setting that is working hard to keep children safe.
Download The Parents' Guide
Tax, National Insurance etc
Tax, National Insurance, employment legislation etc, all apply to activity clubs just as to any other business, but are outside the remit of this article. The .GOV.UK website has some basic information to get you started.