There are things you need to know about school holiday programmes.  Read about different holiday programmes, how they work, and other care options in our article.

School holidays are just around the corner…again!  It feels like the kids have only just gone back to school and already it’s time to think about what’s going to happen over the next school holiday break.

So it’s time to get the thinking cap on and organise some cunning plans to make these holidays the best ones yet for you and your family.

There are some things you need to think about when planning for school holidays; the implications of leaving older children at home, what care is available if you are a working parent, and what options you have if your child is keen as mustard to be occupied by someone else for a day or two during the holidays.

There are a whole host of school holiday programmes and activities available for children in New Zealand. There are programmes that are age restrictive or encompass all ages, are activity specific, available full or part time…. the list goes on.

What are your reasons for choosing a school holiday programme?

The type of holiday programme you choose will depend on your reason for wanting your child to attend.

You may choose to have your child/children attend a programme or you may have no choice, be a working family and need for your children to be cared for over the holiday break.

Holiday programme as a choice

If you are exploring the school holiday options out of choice then you may be looking for:

  • A couple of days for your child to attend to prevent boredom
  • An intensive sports training programme – soccer, swimming, horse riding etc
  • A chance to try something new like arts and crafts classes.

Check in the school notices that your child brings home as the holidays draw nearer. There are often many activities and programmes advertised in the lead-up to the holidays.

There is also the option of enrolling your child in a day or two of a school holiday programme run at the school.  These programmes often allow students to attend on a casual basis during the holidays if there is the space.  A good programme will organise fun, themed days for your child.

Check out the Classes, courses and extra-curricula section of our directory for local programme providers.

Holiday programme out of necessity

There are several options for you here. Most schools will have an after school and holiday programme affiliated to them. The chances are that if your child already attends an after school programme then that service provider will provide a similar sort of programme during the holidays.  Watch out for school notices, ask the after school care coordinator or ask at the school office for details about these.

There will also be community organisations and/or church groups in your area that offer full time holiday programmes.

For a working parent the choice of programme is particularly important as your child will be there for an extended period of time and the people running the programme are ultimately responsible for your child.

Things to consider when choosing a holiday programme

When making any choice about the care and education of your child it is always a good idea to visit the programme and meet with their coordinators before you enrol your child.  If it’s an after school programme that is already running, visit during open hours, watch how the other children play, their behaviour and what types of activities they are busy doing.

Things to take note of are:

  • The interactions between the adults and children in the programme.
    Are they responding well to one another and do they all seem happy and relaxed in one another’s company?
  • The children at play.
    Are they all happily occupied and being catered for?
  • The supervision of the children.
    Does the number of staff mean children are all able to be supervised? There should be no more than 10 children per adult.
  • Behaviour issues.
    Are any behaviour issues dealt with in a calm and firm manner? What forms of discipline are used when a child misbehaves?

You’ll know if something seems amiss. Try to envisage your child in that environment doing those activities and you’ll soon be able to gauge whether or not it’s the place for them.

It is also your right to know and understand other policies the programme is governed by – things like how discipline is dealt with, emergency procedures, staff selection and so on.  For more information on these aspects read the OSCAR article in our Education section.

OSCAR Programmes

What is OSCAR?

OSCAR stands for Out of School Care and Recreation.

The OSCAR Foundation grew out of a recognised need for a national body to provide coordinated support and advice to the OSCAR sector, with the aim of ensuring that all New Zealand children have access to quality, affordable after school, before school and holiday programmes.  It now represents, promotes and provides quality support to OSCAR programmes nationwide by providing a range of services including advice, resources, training, newsletters, conferences and events.

OSCAR progammes are operated independently of the OSCAR Foundation.

What does it mean for a holiday programme to be an OSCAR?

Not all school holiday programmes are OSCAR programmes. Those that are have undertaken an Approval Assessment by the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. This means they have met a series of minimum operating standards which cover the areas of programme environment, programme operation, health and safety, child protection, supervision, emergencies, staff, buildings and facilities, record keeping, finance, and camps (if applicable). They are assessed by the Ministry every 2 years to ensure they continue to meet the Standards. However, there are no legal requirements for OSCAR programmes to meet any childcare regulations or standards of care.

It’s important that you check a programme has ‘Ministry Approval for OSCAR Services’ to ensure that your children are getting a good level of care.

Choosing an OSCAR programme allows you as a parent to apply for an OSCAR subsidy for the cost of the programme. Have a look at this OSCAR page for more information

What is a holiday programme likely to cost?

This is not an easy question to answer. Programmes vary so greatly. If you are choosing an intensive sporting or art/craft type programme that requires specialist teaching or coaching you may be paying anywhere from $25 – $30 a session, and up to $100-150 a day. This will depend on the region you are in and the programme you choose.

The full-time holiday programmes will also vary depending on who is providing the service, and whether you are able to apply for the OSCAR subsidy. A ball park figure for full time holiday programmes is between $25 – $75 a day. Again this is dependent on the region in which you live, the service provider and activities undertaken.

Other school holiday options

School holiday programmes are not the only option for your child. If there is a need for you to have your child cared for over the break you may choose to have another adult care for them, or an older child.

Leaving your child with another adult

You may have a regular arrangement with a friend or family member. Spending time with other adults who love and care for them can help your children develop confidence and security. It is a viable option during school holidays.

You need to feel confident about the care they receive from other adults. You are entrusting your beloved child to the care of another person. It is your responsibility to choose that person wisely.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I trust this person to take good care of my child?
  • Will my child be happy in the care of this person?
  • Is this person used to caring for children of this age?
  • Will there be things for my child to do at this place?
  • Does this person have any problems – like health problems, other commitments, or abuse of drugs and alcohol – that might get in the way of their giving the care that my child needs?
  • Is this a safe place for my child?

Leaving older children at home alone

Leaving children at home alone during the holidays is illegal until your child is at least 14 years of age.  Most children are not sufficiently mature to be left alone without adult supervision before this age. They are also not old enough to be left alone on a regular basis.

Leaving an older child at home alone after school for a couple of hours a day is a far cry from them being home alone for full days, two weeks in a row over the holidays.

Leaving your child at home alone over the age of fourteen is a decision only you as a parent/caregiver can make. Here’s some points to consider when trying to make this decision:

  • Is my child sufficiently mature and responsible to be left alone at this time?
  • Does my child feel happy and confident about being left?
  • Is the situation reasonably safe?
  • Can my child handle any problems that might arise?
  • Is there a situation that could possibly arise that they might be unable to handle?
  • Is there someone reasonably close by who could help them if the need arises?
  • Does he/she know how to contact that person, and in a hurry if need be?

If you do make the decision to leave your older child home alone make sure they know where you are and how to contact you. Talk to them about possible emergencies and check that they know what to do. Make sure that they feel confident about being left alone. Making the right decision about this is one of the most serious responsibilities that a parent faces.

Don’t forget to check out the Classes, courses and extra-curricula section of our directory for local programme providers.

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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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