Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

What the Children Say – SAC

By: DEIRDRE HORGAN

Tuesday 12 May 2020

‘I like to chillax’ and ‘go outside and play’: What children want from school age care and it’s not a Schoolification model.

The whole landscape of children’s participation in Ireland has evolved since our ratification of the UNCRC in the early 1990’s. I have spent the last twenty years teaching, writing about and conducting participatory research with children. Some of this has involved documenting government consultations with children on a range of policy issues. One such issue – school age childcare - is having a moment! In many ways the ‘Cinderella’ of our childcare services, school age childcare (SAC), is an important and growing cohort of the childcare system representing 20.5% or 40, 588 of all children enrolled in childcare in 2018/19 (Pobal, 2019). There has been recent attention and action from government with the publication of the Action Plan on School Age Childcare, the introduction of the National Childcare scheme, the implementation of systems of registration, as well as the publication of Draft National Quality Standards developed by the National Working Group on SAC in the past two years.


So, it is timely to consider the experiences and views of children in all of this. There have been consultations with a range of SAC stakeholders on issues of access, cost, delivery etc., but no voices are more important than those using the service – the children. There is a consensus that inclusion of children’s perspectives improves decision-making, creates better policy and services, and enhances democratic processes. Simply put, children can tell us things that no other stakeholder can – namely what it is like to be a child using a school age childcare service. No adult can give us this particular insight.

 

Myself and colleagues Jacqui O’Riordan, Shirley Martin, and Jane O’Sullivan reported on Consultations with Children on SAC commissioned for the Action Plan on SAC (DYCA, 2017). These consultations were held in eight counties with 81 five to seven year olds and 96 eight to twelve year olds. The aims were to identify what children like and dislike about their current afterschool care arrangements and the places where children would most like to be cared for after school. The methods included a variety of child-centred group and individual activities including ice-breaker games, post-it activities, place mats, timelines, and voting.

 

So what did we find? Unsurprisingly, play dominated. For both cohorts of children involved in the consultations the issue of play, in particular outdoor play, was a priority and by far the most frequently mentioned activity to emerge when asked to design their ideal or imagined after-school care. A home-like environment was preferred by children of all ages with the findings indicating that children want to be able to relax and feel comfortable after school. Relationships with family, extended family, friends, childminders and other carers were noted as being very important to children. Eating and cooking were also identified as important activities for children after-school.

 

Children in group SAC settings mentioned a larger number of issues which they disliked compared to the children in other SAC environments. They expressed a dislike of being in structured environments with rules, of not being treated appropriately for their age along with lack of food choice. Children were critical of being in settings that they felt they had outgrown and of the limited range of activities and equipment available to them in some SAC settings. Examples they gave included seats that were too small for them, inappropriate and broken toys and equipment, being with children who were younger than them, being unable to play outside, and having to follow similar and very predictable patterns of activities. Some also disliked the ways they were treated by some of the staff in these settings. They were critical of staff who they perceived as being ‘bossy’ or ‘not nice’ and who they felt did not listen to them.

 

In a voting exercise with the younger children, homework was the thing they liked least about their SAC experience. While children seemed resigned to the fact that homework had to be done, it was referred to mostly in a negative light as boring and an inconvenience, with children indicating that they like to get homework out of the way. For some older children in group SAC settings, help with homework was identified as a positive factor. While others disliked having to do their homework because they did not get appropriate help or the setting was too loud. Finally, the older children voted for ‘where would you like to be cared for after school?’ from a list identified by themselves. Overwhelmingly the children voted for home as the place they would most like to be cared for after school (57%). This was followed by friends’ houses, relatives, an afterschool club, childminder and crèche.

 

The Programme for Government 2016 and First Five Implementation Plan 2019-2021 commits to support and expand quality after-school care based broadly on utilising existing primary school buildings and other existing facilities. However, children are telling us they want something very different from school age childcare. How can we resolve these tensions? The Action Plan on School Age Childcare notes that if it is not possible to facilitate children’s preference for SAC at home, ‘then the system of SAC must seek to reproduce their preferences in a variety of settings, other than their home’ (DCYA & DES, 2017, p. 62). One measure is attending to the quality of group SAC provision ensuring quality standards in the physical environment, adult/child ratios, the provision of appropriate food and nutrition, access to outdoor play, inclusion, and the health, well-being and protection of the child in all settings used.

 

A detailed consultation on the development of regulations and a quality framework for school-age childcare took place during 2019, and the final report on the consultation is due to be published shortly. I would argue that any such framework must act on the views and concerns of children - on issues such as transitions from school, the physical space, choice in terms of eating (what and when), activities, and homework. SAC services which forefront play and ‘home from home’ environments must become the norm. Let us see!!!


References:

Pobal (2019) 2018/2019 Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report.

 

Bio:

Dr Deirdre Horgan is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork. She is Deputy Director of the BA Early Years and Childhood Studies at UCC. Deirdre’s research interests include children and young people’s participation, children’s rights and citizenship, child welfare and protection and childhood migration. She has conducted and reported on a number of consultations with children for the DCYA, and other government departments. Deirdre has presented at international conferences and published widely in international peer-reviewed journal in these areas. She is currently co-editing a book on children’s participation with the Children’s Research Network.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

early years research(3) Maria Montessori(1) Fee Play(1) Workplace Relations(3) listen(1) Return to Work Training(1) partnership(1) eating(1) Síolta(138) STEM(3) Death(2) National Childcare Scheme(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Anxiety(2) worries(1) UD(1) Well-Being(10) education(2) reopening(1) science(3) communication(4) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Academic Skills(1) Inclusion(3) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Settling in(4) TOY Programme(1) Quality(4) Margy Whalley(1) Leaders in Practice(1) dogs(1) Training(2) Vertical grouping(1) HR(1) Engineering(3) conference(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Study Trip(1) children development(1) experience(1) National Holiday(1) primary education(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Proceedings Journal(1) Inspired Practice Award(6) Elders(1) partnership with families(1) Sleep(1) Twitter(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Universal Design(2) Participation(2) risky play(2) Wendy Lee(3) SPICE Framework(1) development(8) Oireachtas(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Awards 2018(3) Awards 2019(1) feisty(1) PIP(1) christmas(9) Performing(1) interacting(2) Leprechauns(1) Recycle(1) Winter(1) Looking Forward(1) overhear(1) Frustrations(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Line-ups(1) Mealtimes(1) Arts(1) Fabric(1) Design(1) staying connected(1) movement behaviours(1) Patterns(1) social media policy(1) Reflective Practice(1) Breathing(2) World Health Organisation(1) Confident(1) Adoption(1) Recycling(2) Budget 2019(2) Research Conference 2019(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) curiosity(3) Inspections(1) keezy(1) multi-generational community(1) Interaction(1) Awards(2) Biting(1) InspireMe.ie(1) Decision Making(1) blog(54) playleader(1) Inter-generational(2) Primary School(3) risk(2) routine(2) under 3's(3) art of the relationship(1) Learning Stories Award(3) ELC(1) Scéalta Blog(104) Music(3) National Awards 2018(2) Wesco(1) man up(1) Pobal(1) Learning through Storytelling(2) National Awards 2019(1) early year’s classrooms(1) Aistear(130) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Policy(2) IGL(1) Learning Stories(9) Iraq(1) Montessori(3) grandchild(1) UN(1) Sequins(1) Home Corner(1) Whole Group(1) Interactions(3) Research Seminar(1) GoToMeeting app(1) Inspiring Practice(1) preschool settings(1) Summer(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Syria(1) Touch(1) Síolta QAP(1) Plants(1) early childhood educator(2) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Identity(5) Learning Story Awards(2) Maths(6) Valerie Gaynor(1) Albert Einstein(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) The Jelly King(1) Giraffe(2) Maths Week(1) trust(4) Cognitive development(1) COVID-19(15) Party(1) science week(2) Capable(1) Children(5) Rising to the Challenge(2) Exit interview(1) outdoors(4) Early Years Educators(3) CCTV(1) Sustainable(1) Brain(1) Playschool(1) education system(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Italy(1) Irish guidelines(1) iOS(1) ears(1) Mixed age groups(3) Engagement(1) Pre-School Services(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) homeschool(1) Academics(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Trade Unions(1) annual conference(1) Storytelling(8) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Nutrition(1) Affordability(1) Window(1) Behaviour(3) Thanks(1) relationships(18) Kerry(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Appreciation(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) supportive environments(2) Human Resources(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) animals(2) outdoor space(3) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Mud kitchens(1) Stress(2) emotional environment(2) mushrooms(1) play pods(2) Online Research Symposium(2) food(1) European Project(1) Qualifications(1) social science(1) Infectious diseases(1) Buddy Bench(1) emotions(2) Inspirational(2) maternity health(1) Celebrations(4) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Leadership(1) Mount Everest(1) Early Childhood Education(1) Sustainability(3) Diversity(1) Reopening Childcare(1) learning hub(1) inspiring interactions(1) Covid pandemic(3) gender bias(1) Valentine's Day(3) INTO(1) Reggio(1) child-centred approach(1) awards 2020(1) continual professional development(1) early childhood ireland research(1) Rituals(1) Event Guide(1) story time(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) quarantine(1) Arlene Forster(1) Through the looking glass(1) Easter(1) Graduation(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) MA(1) refugees(1) life long learning(1) Mantra(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Seas Suas(1) Snakes(1) Kids Own(1) Tuscan Approach(2) creche(1) community(5) The Lullaby Book(1) Change(1) Investment(2) Infection Control(1) Motor neuron disease(1) early life(1) play stories(2) AsIAm(2) Imagination(3) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) bloom app(1) Children's Book Club(1) EM Standing(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Kindness Challenge(1) Wilenski(1) Care routines(1) Kindness(1) Buddies(1) Orla Kenny(1) children’s learning(1) ECCE(7) Horizon 2020(1) Time(1) Creativity(6) Christmas Creativity(2) Educator of the Year Award(3) Art(6) Meal time(1) Sessional service(1) Children and families(2) Children's Voice(1) documentation(4) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Running(1) Favouritism(1) Care-giving routines(1) Positivity(1) United Nations(1) Covid response(2) RIE philosphy(1) Teamwork(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) child-centric(1) worldbookday(1) racism(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) International Narratives(1) Irish(1) Staff Motivation(1) early childhood(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Eritrea(1) Cork(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Graduate(1) Limerick(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) DCYA(6) respect(5) Relaxation(1) Autism(4) coronavirus(1) Gratitude(1) Reading Time(2) Celebrate(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Blocks(1) NCCA(3) Photographs(1) Mental Health(4) Impact(1) preschool(4) Communications(1) Your place(1) meals(3) Maynooth University(2) Obesity(1) Awards Night(1) Degree(1) Weather(1) risk assessment(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) online training(1) research submissions(1) Children's Rights(3) collaboration(1) Environment(2) Counting(1) Potential(1) EECERA(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Yoga(1) Light table(1) scéalta(57) Intention(1) Challenges(1) Love(3) imotion(1) Professionalisation(5) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) reopening ireland(1) Creative(1) planning(1) apps for children(1) Magic(1) Grief(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Learning Journal(2) Mayo(1) toddlers(3) journey(1) budget(1) College(1) Budget 2020(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Document Learning(1) Magda Gerber(1) SAC(1) Smiles(1) RTE Investigates(1) Trigonometry(1) Bereavement(2) listening(1) Santa(2) Family(1) Certificate(1) purpose(1) annual awards(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Building Resilience(1) Lego(2) Workforce(1) outdoor environment(1) Wonder(1) democracy(1) Plastic(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(2) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Magnavacchi(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Child Care(1) Shoes(1) play(35) Treasure Chest(1) childcare services(1) Exploratory Play(1) Looking Back(1) value(1) educating(1) Routines(2) Painting(1) early years settings(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Masterclass(2) Xbox(1) Funding(1) responsive relationships(1) CIT(1) babies(7) Administrative Burden(1) Builders(1) books(5) Educators(2) Super Shed Stories(2) Malaguzzi(1) Visual Impairment(1) show and tell(1) reading(6) Technology(3) Digital Devices(1) Leargas(1) Family wall(1) early years learning(1) School Age Childcare(1) National Pyjama Day(1) healthy eating policies(1) ReCreate(2) learners(1) Growing up Outdoors(2) COVID-19 landscape(1) Spiders(1) ERASMUS+(3) Communicating(1) pets(1) Loving Relationships(2) Reggio Emilia(2) Exploring(1) Body Language(1) Belonging(3) structure(1) Dance(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Snacks(1) Book Review(1) New Appointments(1) Maternity Leave(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) keep in touch(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Craft(1) research(6) Siolta blog(8) Online(1) Games(1) World book day(1) stories(3) parents(6) Covid19 crisis(1) Trade union(1) pablo(1) First 5(1) memories(1) Interests(1) Pretend Play(1) Seanchaí(1) Queues(1) ECEC(3) Effect of Lockdown(1) Glitter(2) Liz Kerrins(1) an post(1) Confidence(1) Self Help Skills(1) Supernanny(1) E.coli(1) natural environment(1) Kilkenny(1) Employee(1) Sculptures(1) San Miniato(4) educarer(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) Ceremony(1) mental health problems(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) behavioural science(1) UNICEF report(1) Self-Esteem(1) Names(1) Youtube Series(1) ECIAwards20(1) Norway(2) Drawing(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) lockdown(1) Scents(1) aistear blog(3) Jenga(1) dining(1) Little Buddies(1) Laugh(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Budget 2018(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Early Years(1) ICBN(1) Nonverbal(1) transitions(10) curriculum(5) Early Childhood Ireland(10) Vietnam(1) Shapes(2) Trick or treat(1) Social Skills(1) Mindfulness(3) Map(1) Treasure(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Loss(1) Pedagogy(2) Annual Conference 2017(2) Story(2) Pen green(1) developing motor skills(1) democratic citizens(1) UNCRC(2) Early Years Education(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Afghanistan(1) Traffic Lights(1) GDPR(1) Sweets(1) Empathy(1) Learning journals(1) University(1) AIM(2) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Performance Management(1) Self-regulation(1) Opportunities(1) Laughter(1) Meet the Members(1) gender stereotype(1) Facebook(1) built environments(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Health(2) NAEYC(1) outdoor play(7) learning(19) STEAM(1) Competent(1) Engineers Week(2) june29(1) Childhood(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Childcare(3) Ariana Pucci(1) dublin(2) Mathematicians(1) Independence(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Small World Play(1) Feeding(1) code of ethics(1) Traditions(2) First 5 strategy(1) Consent(1) DES Inspection(1) Wrapping paper(1) Book Club(2) role playing(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Iceland(1) Child mental health(1) Gardening(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) Prexit(1) learning bias(1) Japan(1) Penguins(1) Flowers(1) Exercise(1) social media(2) conversations(1) EECERA 2016(1) peer group(1) ECEC Setting(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) Our Little Seed(1) Equality(1) Covid-19 lockdown(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Rich Documentation(1) Culture(2) Playdough(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) CPD(1) linc(1) Socioemotional development(1) baby room(1) Sport(1) Support(1) Halloween(2) Advocacy(1) Fantasy play(1) family time(1) youdoodle(1) Community involvement(1) Thank you(1) Mark Twain(1) friendships(1) Exclusion(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Thinking(1) MECPI(1) Workplace well-being(1) Children's Research Network(2) Arithmetic(1) Time Out(1) Large Doll Play(1) bonds(1) Decisions(1) emotional well-being(1) play therapy(1) Anthony Semann(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Role play(1) dining experiences(1) TRAP(1) Digital(1) Maynooth(1) environments(1) Upcycling(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Titles(1) Mo Scéal(1) scientific and artistic processes(1) Visitors(1) Snack Time(1) Learning Story(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) play pod(1) phone apps(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine