This article provides information about some of the issues that you need to consider if you are setting up a holiday club or playscheme from scratch. If you are already running an out of school club and just want to extend your existing provision to cover the school holidays, see Adding a holiday club to your existing provision.
If you are not already running an Ofsted-registered childcare setting, you may need to register your holiday club or playscheme with Ofsted. You do not need to register your club with Ofsted if:
- The club will operate for 14 days or less per year; or
- All the children are over 8 years of age; or
- The club is an activity-based setting offering not more than two types of activities. These types of activities could be very broad, eg: 'sport' and 'arts and crafts'. This exemption is aimed at clubs which are focused on a particular activity (eg: a football camp or a drama workshop) as opposed to those which are basically offering childcare with some activities thrown in.
For more information about whether your holiday club needs to register with Ofsted, see the section on registration exemptions on the GOV.UK website. (This used to be in the handy Registration not required guide (Annex A of the Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook) but has now been merged with other guidance online.)
More about running an activity-based club >
If your holiday club does not fall within any of the exemptions listed above, you will need to register with Ofsted before you can open. Registration on Ofsted's Early Years Register can take up to 25 weeks, so this step cannot be left to the last minute.
More about registering with Ofsted >
Operating for 14 days or less
If the only reason that your club does not need to register with Ofsted is that it will be operating for 14 days or less per year, you still need to notify them that you will be running the activity by completing the exemption notification form. You must notify Ofsted at least 14 days before the start of the holiday club.
Ofsted can still visit
Even if your club is exempt from Ofsted registration, they still have the legal right to make an unannounced visit if they believe that you are providing childcare that should be registered. In practice, they are more likely to contact you to ask for more information about your provision if they suspect that it should be registered.
Holiday clubs run by a school
If your holiday club is run directly by the school (ie the club staff are paid by the school) and at least one pupil of the school attends the club, you cannot register the club separately with Ofsted: the club will come under the school's existing Ofsted registration. Note that the club will still need to meet the requirements of the Early Years Register or Childcare Register as appropriate, just as if it were registered separately.
If your holiday club is registered with Ofsted on the Early Years Register or Compulsory Childcare Register, you must adhere to the same staffing requirements—staff ratios, qualifications and safe recruitment practices—as after-school clubs.
More on staffing ratios >
More on qualifications >
If your holiday club does not need to be registered with Ofsted, there are no legal standards regarding staff qualifications or staffing ratios that you have to meet. However, it is a good idea to use the standards outlined in the links above as guidelines for best practice.
Any staff and volunteers who work unsupervised with the children at your club must have an enhanced DBS check whether you are registered with Ofsted or not and you should follow safe recruitment practices.
You may be able to obtain subsidised DBS checks via a relevant umbrella body (for example, through your church if you are setting up a church holiday club, or through a sports body if your club is sport based). Unpaid volunteers are usually exempt from the DBS charge. If you have teenagers helping at your holiday club, note that you cannot obtain DBS checks for anyone under 16.
If a potential staff member or volunteer has obtained a DBS check since 17 June 2013 and has subscribed to the DBS Update Service, you do not need to obtain a completely new DBS check for them. Instead you can verify online that their previous DBS check is still clear, free of charge.
More about DBS checks >
More about safe recruitment >
Policies and procedures
If your holiday club is registered with Ofsted you must have at least the Ofsted minimum set of policies and forms in place.
Even if your club is not registered with Ofsted you will still find it useful to have defined policies and procedures in place to help you deal with common situations (eg managing behaviour, complaints, uncollected children etc).
More about paperwork required by Ofsted >
Buy template documentation for holiday clubs >
Insurance, marketing and activity planning
For more information about running your holiday club, including insurance, ideas for marketing and tips for activity planning, see the Holiday club tips page.