Having decided on your business structure, the next issue to sort out is where the club will be located. It is important to consider the following questions when assessing the suitability of premises for housing an out of school club.
- Does the school have somewhere suitable?
If you use a room on the school site, such as a spare classroom, you should customize it for your club's use as much as possible, for example through the use of posters, rugs, decorative table coverings, photographs, etc. It is important that the children see the club as separate from the school and not as a continuation of the school day. Transforming the appearance of the classroom will help to distinguish club time from school time.
- Will you have to look elsewhere in the locality?
Village halls, church halls, youth clubs, Scout huts, sports centres, even empty shops, are all possibilities.
- Can you buy a property?
- Do you need to apply for planning consents eg, for change of use?
- Who is responsible for repairs, maintenance and cleaning?
- Location and access: is access suitable for people with disabilities?
- How will you get children to the club?
If you will need to walk the children from the school to the club, is there a safe route? If you will need to drive the children you need to factor in the additional transport costs to your business plan.
- Is there adequate parking for parents?
- What facilities are available: is there adequate storage, use of kitchen, outdoor play area?
If your club will be registered on the Early Years Register, it must have access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, you must ensure that outdoor activities (eg a trip to a local park) are planned and taken on a daily basis (weather permitting).
There must also be an area where staff can talk confidentially to parents or carers. This does not necessarily need to be a separate room: a quiet corner where you will not be disturbed or overheard would suffice.
- Is there sufficient space for indoor play to comply with Ofsted requirements?
For children aged three to five years the space requirements are 2.3m2 per child. There are no statutory space requirements for older children.
- Are there sufficient toilet and hand-washing facilities?
Clubs on the Early Years Register must have an 'adequate number' of toilet and hand basins. Clubs on the Childcare Register must have 'a sufficient number of toilet and handwashing facilities suitable for the use of children'. Neither register specifies what constitutes an adequate or sufficient number; it is up to you as a provider to decide and potentially justify to your Ofsted inspector. In addition there should normally be separate toilet facilities for adults.
- Can the premises and outdoor area be secured to prevent unwanted visitors and ensure that children can't wander off?
- Will your equipment and records be safe and secure? Also, check that your insurance will cover the premises. For example some insurers won't cover equipment stored in wooden sheds or will require certain types of hasps and padlocks.
- Can you afford it?
If you will be renting the premises, try to get a written agreement on any future rent increases. Some clubs renting community halls or rooms in schools have been hit by sudden and dramatic rent increases as local councils and schools attempt to make up for cuts to funding elsewhere.
- Can you secure it for the long term?
- Is it suitable for an out of school club?
For clubs on the Early Years Register, the premises you select will have to meet the welfare requirements set out in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (2017).
The premises should be warm and welcoming and accessible for children, staff and parents. The environment should be safe and secure, with space organised to promote children's development. It is essential that you choose your premises well, as Ofsted will inspect your premises as part of the registration process if your club is applying to join the Early Years Register and will approve them only if suitable for purpose.