10/01/2013 11:59 GMT | Updated 12/03/2013 05:12 GMT

A Parent's Guide to After School Clubs

When work commitments mean you are tied to the office beyond the end of the school day, an after school club can be a real god send. Of course, after school clubs can vary widely and you need to be confident that your child is getting the very best care at all times. If you are thinking of arranging a place for your child at an after school club, here are a few hints and tips to ensure you are choosing the right one.

Meet the Staff

You will most likely meet with the setting manager ahead of your child's first day, but it is also a wise idea to meet the rest of the team. The chances are that whilst the manager will always be onsite, they may not play as active a role as the other team members, so getting to know them as well as the manager will help to put you at ease. Do not be afraid to ask them about their qualifications and experience; should you run into any form of resistance be sure to raise your concerns with the manager.

Check the Facilities

When you attend your appointment to meet the team, be sure to request a tour of the building and check out the facilities such as toilets (are they clean and safe), toys (are they varied and in good condition?) and outside space (is it secure, with safe and varied activities?). If you are unhappy with anything you see, be sure to question this before committing to anything.

Ask for a Snack Plan

At an after school club there will normally be a snack offered to your child; make sure this is in line with any dietary requirements and that you are happy with the nutritional values of the snack provided by requesting a printed snack plan. If you are unhappy with what is offered, consider taking your own snacks at the start of each week to be given out daily to your child.

Request an Activity Rota

You need to know that your child is happy and stimulated by the activities offered by the after school club; it should not be an extension of their school life and they should be given a selection of activities both inside and out to choose from. An example of a good activity rota would be an outdoor sport of some kind (with an indoor alternative for cold and wet weather), a craft area with plenty of materials and a structured activity such as painting, a book corner with a variety of age appropriate books and a soft play area. Be sure that the staff members are encouraging your child to try out different activities each day so that they don't wind up doing the same thing each day.

Discuss It With Your Child

Taking the decision to enrol your child in an after school club is something that should be discussed with your child whatever their age; by signing them up without talking to them about it you could find they become distressed by the change to the routine. Sit down and talk to them about why they will be attending and explain the activities they can get involved in after you have initially visited the club premises. Take your child to meet the team ahead of the start date so that they are familiar with the surroundings and the people and make a concerted effort to find out if other children in their class attend the club as this will help encourage them to become excited about going each day.

Request Regular Updates

When you, your partner or another trusted adult arrive to pick up your child each day, it is not unreasonable to expect an update on aspects such as what they have eaten, the activities they have taken part in and their general behaviour. This could either be given verbally or written down in a diary each day. Regular updates such as this will be vital in order to understand how your child is coping with after school club, so if they are not offered to you then be sure to request a progress report.

If your child does not enjoy after school club, you are likely to feel guilty about your work commitments, therefore taking these initial steps will help you to feel relaxed safe in the knowledge that your child is enjoying after school club and that they are in safe hands.

Sophie works alongside education charity HTI. Together, they are committed to developing schools, colleges and academies so that they can provide the very best for their students.