In the ever-changing landscape of education and childcare, 2024 brings with it a series of changes that are set to reshape the way we approach before and after-school care. Building upon the foundation laid out in the 2023 guidelines, the forthcoming modifications aim to enhance the quality, accessibility, and flexibility of wraparound care services for children across the country.
Understanding Wraparound Care
Wraparound care is a form of childcare that takes place in schools, but beyond school hours. Breakfast clubs and after-school clubs bridge the gap between home and school life and provides a seamless continuum of care. It encompasses a range of activities, from homework support to extra-curricular programs, with healthy food and snacks often available, offering children an enriching experience.
The government are planning for all parents to have access to wraparound care either from the school their child attends, or another provider in the local area, by September 2026. Currently just 60% of primary schools in England offer care before and after school.
Key Changes on the Horizon
- Childcare Support Expansion
Beginning in April 2024, the existing childcare support will be expanded in phases. By the start of September 2024, the government plans for most working families with children under 5 to be entitled to 30 hours of childcare support per week. This doubles the previous figure of 15 hours per week.
- Increased Accessibility
Efforts are underway to make wraparound care more accessible to a broader spectrum of families. This includes considerations for different socio-economic backgrounds and the implementation of targeted support where needed.
- Enhanced Quality Standards
The updated guidelines emphasize the importance of maintaining high quality standards in wraparound care. This involves continuous training for staff, rigorous safety protocols, and a commitment to providing developmentally appropriate activities.
- Flexible Options
Recognising the diverse needs of families, the changes in 2024 encourage schools and childcare providers to offer more flexible options. This could involve varied session lengths, drop-in services, and a more tailored approach to suit the individual requirements of each child and family.
Childcare vouchers, government tax free scheme, employee benefits and universal credit can all contribute to the overall affordability and accessibility of wraparound care by providing direct financial support to families. These alleviate the financial strain on parents, making it easier to access these services.
What Does This Mean for Families?
For families, these changes herald a more dynamic and personalised approach to wraparound care. The increased flexibility not only make these services more convenient, but also promise an enriched experience for children outside regular school hours.
The expansion of childcare cost support from £4 billion to £8 billion per year is also a vital step toward creating a more inclusive, supportive, and economically empowered society. It recognises the importance of early childhood education and care, acknowledging that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive.
As we step into 2024, the evolving landscape of wraparound care presents an exciting opportunity for schools, childcare providers, and families alike. By embracing these changes, we pave the way for a more inclusive, high-quality, and adaptable system that supports the holistic development of every child.
The future of wraparound care promises to be brighter and more supportive of the unique needs of each child and their family.