Ever thought about setting up an afterschool club for the children in your community? Here are the steps you need to take.
22 June 2015| Last updated on 13 July 2017
1. Set goals that reflect the needs of the children and families in your community
The very first step in planning a new afterschool program, or perhaps you're enhancing an existing one, is to look closely at the needs of the families in your community and then establish goals for your program based on those needs. Understandably, this will vary from area to area. After all, a good program should foster a sense of identity in children! It must respond to their cultural and educational needs in the community it will serve. And remember, every after school club should aim to nurture everything about a child; their academic, social, emotional and physical developments must all be addressed.
Begin by doing a little research; assess the strengths and weaknesses of your community before you design your program. You can do this by asking afterschool teachers, parents and even the children themselves! Send out surveys to find out exactly what kind of activities families would like. Hold meetings to discuss your program further with all potential stakeholders; parents, children, schools, community leaders etc.
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2. Build strong leadership and an organised structure
Along with clear goals and values, an afterschool program must always have a solid organisational structure that will allow room for effective communication between all involved, for flexibility and for accountability.
While you may be the founder of the program, and strong leadership is, of course essential, it doesn't mean that it has to be a one woman job! Strive to incorporate other leaders and management roles. A good leader of an afterschool program will establish a system wherein staff members feel ownership of the program, and thus will make room for exchanging ideas, offering suggestions and discussing problems, as well as sharing success stories.
3. Develop a budget and financial plan that provides for long-term sustainability
Every after school program needs to establish an annual operating budget, accurate book-keeping systems and affordable fee structures. One of the big challenges for any afterschool program is securing funding that will keep the program viable for the long term. This is also very important so that clubs can hire and keep good and trained staff, and so that materials, facilities and activities can all be kept at a high quality.
Why not contact the local schools in the area, and see if they'll support your club both with funding and by providing a safe and secure venue for the children? You could also check out your government's website to check out their out-of-school time program resources and funding to find out about funds and grants available for you to apply for.
4. Understand the legal requirements and liability issues for your program and ensure your plan addresses them
Licensing: legal requirements for afterschool programs will vary in different places and countries, and will also depend on the age group you wish to serve. If you run a club exclusively for older children, or if the club is church or school-run, you may be exempt from certain licensing. Otherwise, your program will be required to demonstrate compliance with a set of requirements.
For school-age programs, these will include aspects such as food-handling, child sign-in and child sign-out procedures, venue cleanliness, child-to-staff ratios, space requirements and requirements about the types of activities offered.
Liability: All successful programs have procedures and policies that protect children and staff, first by meeting licensing requirements, and then by addressing liability issues. Because you will be legally accountable for the safety and welfare of the children in your program, so it's advisable to carry liability insurance in case a child is injured in your care.
SEE ALSO: See the full list of Afterschool Activities in Dubai on ExpatWoman.com here!
5. Address the safety, health and nutritional issues that face children in your program
This is an obvious one: basic health and safety must be addressed in the planning stages and monitored continuously. You'll need to consider how to get children to your site safely that isn't on their school grounds or is too far away from home. You'll need to consider staff escorts, crossing guards, or transport like vans and buses. Your venue and facilities must always be clean and have adequate space and lighting indoors and outdoors. Indoor areas must be kept at a suitable room temperature, have adequate storage and be equipped with interesting materials to keep the space entertaining and enhance learning opportunities.
Bear in mind that after school, kids will want to eat, relax and run around to let off some steam. Without addressing these physical needs, you won't be able to keep your kids focused on other activities, academic or other. If outdoor space is limited, get creative! Ensure to schedule adequate food and drink breaks, too!
6. Hiring and retaining skilled, qualified and caring staff
It is believed that a positive relationship with adults is one of the most important variables affecting how much children learn. Thus, quality afterschool clubs must start with a consistent, stable, core staff: the same people on site everyday, taking care of children in predictable, thoughtful and professional ways. Seek a combination of volunteers, paraprofessionals and professionals who will best serve their needs - and remember! All staff must be adequately trained and experienced and qualified to work with children of particular ages.