Kids Like Us School Clubs
Published on 3rd January 2015
Three boys are playing with a toy farm in one corner, resisting the appeal of arts and craft activities including bauble painting. Others are busy with jigsaws, bead games, and imaginary tea parties, whilst one girl appears to be edging ahead as she challenges a grown-up to a game of Connect 4.
A couple more kids are helping to create a cardboard Father Christmas, whilst a few boys are using the absence of parents to get very messy!
They are all enjoying an after school club run by Kids Like Us, a local company launched in 2006. They provide breakfast and after school care for children at Southwater Infant Academy, Southwater Junior Academy and Holbrook Primary School in Horsham.
Having proved so successful, Kids Like Us is keen to expand into other schools around the Horsham district in the future. The sessions are run independently of the schools, with Kids Like Us renting the premises from the schools on licence.
The breakfast service operates from 7.45am, with the carers taking children across to the school after eating and some quiet games. This service has grown in popularity as the working week has expanded for many people.
The carers then collect the children from school and after registration it's free play until 6pm, although parents can pick up their children earlier if they wish. Children are given a snack and a drink in the afternoon and can enjoy a huge array of activities.
OUTSTANDING RATING FROM OFSTED
Kids Like Us was launched in 2006, when three Southwater parents came together to provide affordable, quality childcare.
Jenny Evans, who had extensive experience promoting out-of-school activities for the Department of Education, first discussed the idea in the school playground with Graham Richards, who had recently retired from banking, and Vicky Ledger, who also had a strong childcare background.
The first Kids Like Us club was launched at Southwater Infant Academy, and proved so popular that within a very short space of time, they were looking after 24 children, the maximum amount set by OFSTED. The service was then extended to the Junior Academy, and then in 2010 to Holbrook Primary.
Graham said: "We are OFSTED registered and inspected, so we operate our care to their welfare requirements.
"We have ladies who have worked in childcare for decades, whilst one member of staff has only recently gained childcare qualifications at Collyers. So we have a healthy range of carers, in terms of ages, and that is good as it provides children with a variety of role models.
"Up until September 2014, we were required by OFSTED to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage programme, in order to mark the progress of young children. We are no longer required to do this, but we have chosen to continue as we feel it gives an additional dimension to the work and the activities we provide.
"We know that it helps the children, and brings benefits to the school and parents too. The care that we provide is certainly of a high standard. Our last OFSTED inspection was in July, and we were graded as 'Outstanding'. However, it is the reaction of the children and the feedback from parents which is our best gauge. This is very much a business where people vote with their feet - if people are not happy, they would not use us."
CHANGING LIVES FOR THE BETTER
Kids Like Us clubs have had a positive impact upon many families for the convenience they offer. Parents can pick up their children up at any time up until 6pm, with the staff able to interact with parents about a child's progress.
Jenny Evans said: "What we aim to provide is guilt-free childcare. We've all been there where you have to prise your child off your leg when you drop them off somewhere, and it's an awful feeling for everybody involved! At Kids Like Us, you'll see that children walk through the door voluntarily and happily and they enjoy starting and ending their day with us.
"One of the reasons we started Kids Like Us was because we've all had to juggle childcare with work and other things, and you want to know that your children are safe but are also fulfilled and having fun!
"I think, if you speak to parents, they will say that sometimes their children are a bit disappointed when the time comes for them to go home, as they are enjoying playing with their friends and doing lots of different activities.
"We also know that there are instances when people have been able to improve their daily routines. One father worked night shifts because of a childcare problem, and wasn't able to spend much quality time with this
children. Our club meant he was able to stop working nights, and this has changed his life."
LIMITING TIME ON COMPUTERS
With so much reliance on hand-held devices these days, it's pleasing to hear that the children at Kids Like Us clubs are playing traditional games...including Tiddlywinks!
Jenny said: "We do have Kindle devices and a Nintendo Wii and such things, but they are time limited, so a child cannot spend all afternoon playing Minecraft. They might get to play for 10 minutes, and the rest of the time they will be playing games or taking part in activities with their friends.
"We go outdoors a lot, particularly in the summer months, for football, skipping rope and old-fashioned playground games such as 'What's the Time, Mr Wolf?'
"They are really good games to play, because they cater for children aged from 4 to 11 and the older ones will look after the younger ones, which is always good to see. We do our best to make sure that every afternoon is different, so we often have themes such as science week, music week and pirate week, and we host lots of activities within that.
"Sometimes we will just put on a DVD as it can be a long day for children, and they do get tired, particularly towards the end of term. There are children who come to us every morning and afternoon of the week, and if they are faced with the same box of Lego and the same colouring sheets every day, they will soon get bored. So we make sure they all have something different to look forward to.
"For example, the children recently created work for a 15 foot long special display board at Horsham Library, and many of them have taken their parents along to the library and see it."
SUPPORTING AFRICAN CHILDREN
Another aspect of Kids Like Us which has captured the imagination of the children, is the support for local charity, CoCo's Foundation. The CoCo's Foundation's aim is to make the world a better place for young people, with much of its work focused on impoverished parts of Africa.
Kids Like Us has raised nearly £2,000 in the last year alone, and children have sent messages to the children in Africa.
Graham said: "This gives the children in our club a really nice connection, as they can see where the money that they have raised is going to, and who it is helping. This is wonderful as they can see the results. We can put things related to the CoCo's Foundation on our display boards. Within each of the club rooms we have a board where children's work is pinned up, which helps give children ownership of the room.
"I know that calling it a 'home away from home' sounds unusual when we operate within a school, but Kids Like Us clubs do have that sort of atmosphere and environment. There are after school clubs that just put some crayons and a few colouring books out, but what we offer could not be more different."
For more details visit www.kidslikeusclubs.co.uk