opening during strike action

Thinking about offering out of school childcare on education strike days?

In this blog we cover the key things you’ll need to consider…

Out of school providers (whether on a school site or not) have been weighing up what to do when education colleagues are engaged in strike action in the spring term.

Members of the National Education Union will strike over pay in England and Wales on seven dates in February and March.

Action will take place - either nationally or regionally - on these dates:

- February 1st: All schools in England and Wales

- February 14th: All schools in Wales

- February 28th: North and North West England, Yorkshire and Humber

- March 1st: East Midlands, West Midlands, and the NEU's eastern region

- March 2nd: South East and South West England and London

- March 15th and 16th: Two-day strike of all schools in England and Wales


There is a lot to consider before opening additional services and we’ve collated below some thinking points, advice and tips to help you though.

Let’s tackle what you can and can’t do from an Ofsted regulation perspective first.

If your setting is currently registered with Ofsted to provide after-school care, you do not need to register with them separately in order to provide care during the school holidays (or occasional INSET cover) so long as your holiday club is running on the same premises.

You do, however, need to contact them in writing (by email) to let them know that you will be increasing the number of hours and number of weeks that you will be open. You do not need to wait to receive approval or acknowledgement of such changes; you can begin operating for the additional hours or weeks straightaway.

Tip: Be careful about how many weeks you will be open in total over the year. If you are on the Early Years Register and open for 45 weeks or more in the year you will become liable for the higher Ofsted registration fee (£220 per year as opposed to £35 per year).

Tip: If you’re operating without registering with Ofsted because you’re exempt, make sure that the additional provision you’re offering remains within the exemptions, or you will be required to register.

If you’ve decided to open on a day of industrial action and offer extra childcare that you wouldn’t normally (such as a holiday club where you wouldn’t usually offer this, or additional breakfast club provision), you must contact your insurance provider to check that you will be covered on your existing policy. You may need to amend your insurance policy and there may be an extra charge for this.

Policies and procedures come next. Make sure that you’ve reviewed whether your existing policies and procedures will be adequate for the additional services you’re running. Some providers might find that they’re operating from slightly different spaces within a school for example, and will need to make sure that things like risk assessments are updated to reflect these changes. Consider if your Designated Safeguarding Lead and nominated First Aiders will be on site during the additional opening days as your staffing availability changes. 

Thinking more on staffing, your staff team will need additional consideration during this time. Some staff may not be able to attend work as their children’s childcare arrangements may not be available. Staff whose children are of school age may ask to bring their children to work on that day, and others may not be able to do because they’re younger than the age of children that you care for. You may also need to be flexible to consider those staff who have older children who may remain at home whilst they are not in school. You may wish to support these staff members with extended breaks to return home to check in on their children. You shouldn’t put staff under pressure to leave their children at home alone.

It is also worth speaking to your team about how they may feel attending work in school premises on a day of industrial action where they may be required to cross a picket line. If this is the case you should seek to support them and ensure that they feel as safe and supported as possible. Staff may ask to take a day’s annual leave, and this is at your discretion and in line with your contracts of employment. Staff with children may ask to take dependents leave or work flexibly on these days.  

Speak to our HR partners Reding Solutions if you’re not sure how to best support your staff during this time:

Whether or not you decide to open on a day of industrial action you should always have open and honest conversations with your education colleagues. You may be hosted by a school where the entire staff are engaged in industrial action, or you might be working with a school where they are remaining open either as usual or just for the most vulnerable children. Regardless, discuss with your partners what you are considering doing and why first. 

Some schools may be happy for you to open so that children have a fun and safe place to be cared for during time they’re not in school. Others may feel that you aren’t supportive of their action and that they ask you not to open at all, or just to stick to your usual hours. Whatever their response and your decision is, you need to consider the impact of any decision to open or close on your relationships with your education colleagues and try to work together. 

Whilst we are talking about communication, keep talking with parents. Your charging policy will determine what charges to make if parents are cancelling their usual before or after school sessions and making it really clear to them as early as you can what your intentions are will help them to plan too.