OSCAR stands for Out of School Care and Recreation.  OSCAR programmes aim to meet the needs of children during out of school hours in a safe and fun way.

What is OSCAR?

You may be a parent who works or studies full time or for some other reason needs for your child to be cared for before or after school or during the holidays.

OSCAR programmes are designed to do this. OSCAR stands for ‘Out of School Care and Recreation’ and these programmes cater for children between the ages of 5 and 14 years.  OSCAR programmes are recreation based and aim to meet the needs of children during out of school hours in a safe and fun way – and they are much more than a child-minding service.

Currently 80,000 children aged between 5 to 14 years are attending OSCAR programmes throughout New Zealand.

At OSCAR programmes the care of the child has formally been handed over from the child’s parent to the OSCAR provider. Many OSCAR programmes are run by community organisations – schools, community centres, parent groups and  churches. Some are run by private providers such as stand alone businesses and early childhood centres.

OSCAR programmes provide a number of benefits to children, their families and communities at large. A good OSCAR programme will assist and enhance a child’s social, emotional, physical, creative, cultural and academic development. It will provide a variety of age appropriate child-centered activities that will ensure the child has a relaxed and enjoyable time in a safe and caring environment.

OSCAR programmes enable parents to participate in the workforce, in training and in community activities with peace of mind, knowing that their children are being cared for in a safe environment and are receiving a positive out of school experience. In order to work or study, parents need quality, affordable out of school care.

What happens at an OSCAR programme?

The aim of an OSCAR programme is to provide leisure and recreation activities that not only help children develop but enhance learning done at school.

A well balanced programme includes both individual and group activities. Children can be encouraged to join group activities but should not feel unduly pressured; if a choice can be offered then everyone will usually be happy. Activities and equipment should be appropriate for the age range of the children involved.

A typical session may run as follows:
Before School After School Holiday Prog
7:00amAttendance check and breakfast7:20amQuiet activities indoors


Group game


Clean up


Children go to school

Programme closes

3:00pmAttendance check and snack time3:20pmFree play in the playground


Group game


Homework time, art and crafts, free play with board games, etc.


Clean up


Programme closes

8:30amAttendance check and run down of days activities9:00amGroup activity


Morning tea


Group activity


Clean up


Lunchtime and free play


Attendance check and bus ride


Activity e.g. movies


Attendance check and bus back


Free play


Programme closes

What about homework?

Some OSCAR programmes provide opportunities for homework to be completed, but it is important for OSCAR programmes to recognise the need for recreation and time out from strict organised schedules. Providing homework time is up to individual OSCAR programmes.

Most OSCAR programmes consult with parents to determine their wants and needs as many busy working parents appreciate their children having assistance with their homework, while others prefer to spend this time with their children after work.

What does my child need to take along?

It’s a good idea to ask your OSCAR programme what activities they provide for the children so you know what kind of clothes and footwear your child will be most comfortable in. You should also ask whether any food is provided i.e. breakfast at before school care, afternoon tea at after school care, and morning and afternoon tea at holiday programmes. You will then know whether your child has to take any food along.

Remember your child will need a sun hat during the warmer summer months to help avoid the damaging effects of the sun when playing outdoors.

What ages do OSCAR programmes cater for?

OSCAR programmes generally cater for children aged between 5 to 14 years. However, there is no set age and some OSCAR programmes will focus on specific ages.

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

There are no mandatory legal requirements for OSCAR programmes to meet any childcare regulations or standards of care.

Many OSCAR programmes, however, have undertaken an Approval Assessment by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYF). 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, recordkeeping, finance, and camps (if applicable). They are assessed by CYF every two years to ensure they continue to meet the Standards.

It is important that parents check that a programme has ‘CYF Approval for OSCAR services’ to ensure they are getting a good level of care.

Choosing a CYF Approved progamme allows you as a parent to apply for an OSCAR subsidy for the cost of the programme.  Read about this in the Are There Subsidies section below.

Who works at an OSCAR programme?

The type of people who work at OSCAR programme vary greatly and offer different levels of maturity, experience and training. This creates a unique environment for children to experience and learn from. There is currently no required qualification for people to work in an OSCAR programme but recently The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand launched a new OSCAR Certificate which gives graduates the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary to provide quality care and learning experiences in an OSCAR programme.

How will I know if the programme is right for my child?

When making any choice about the care and education of your child, it is always a good idea to visit the service before you enrol your child. 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 being dealt with in a calm and firm manner?

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.

What else should I know about?

The same information you may have sought out before choosing an ECE or a School the sort of information you should be seeking from an OSCAR programme.

Before you enrolling your child you may want to check their policies covering:

Enrolment of children

You should be asked to fill in a separate enrolment form that is individual to your child. The form should require relevant personal details, including emergency contact numbers and any special information affecting the child’s care e.g. medical conditions. Parents must give consent for their child to receive emergency medical treatment.

Staff selection

All staff, both paid and unpaid, should have been interviewed and screened for their suitability to work with children and should be police vetted.


Should be managed in a calm, firm, positive manner. Children should not be physically punished or disciplined.

Accidents and emergencies 

The programme should be able to provide you with clear instructions including what happens if a child does not arrive or goes missing. There should be regular fire drills. A record of all accidents should be kept.


Parental permission must be obtained for each trip.

Medications administered to children

Any medications staff are expected to administer must be clearly recorded in accordance with the parent’s instructions.

Collecting and transporting children from school (if applicable)

There should be a clear routine with a pre-arranged pick-up area and a plan in place if a child does not turn up. There must be supervision to ensure the children’s safety at all times. Children need to know what to expect each day.

What will it cost me?

OSCAR programmes rely on fees to cover most of their costs. The cost to attend programmes varies considerably both nationally and within communities.

If you are looking around for a suitable OSCAR programme be sure to directly ask about programmes fees. It is also important to ask questions about the value for money you will be getting at the programme.

Check whether the fee is inclusive of things such as afternoon tea, trips that may occur, and transport to and from school. It is possible that there might be additional charges for these services.

Are there subsidies?

There is a Work and Income OSCAR Subsidy which helps with the costs of before and after school care, and care during school holiday programmes for school children aged between 5 to13 years.

The subsidy is part of the Working for Families package which is delivered by Work and Income and Inland Revenue. It pays extra money to many thousands of New Zealand families in a bid to make it easier to work and raise a family. The subsidy is only available if your child is attending a service that has CYF Approval for OSCAR Services.

Parents and caregivers can apply for the OSCAR Subsidy if they are in paid work (part time, full time, casual or short term), work night shifts, are training, are doing another work-related activity, are seriously ill or disabled, or have a child with a disability.

The amount of assistance you can get depends on the number of children in your family and the amount of income you receive. Greater financial support is available for almost all families (with children) earning under $45,000 a year and many families (with children) earning between $45,000 and $70,000 a year.

For more information about these subsidies or your entitlement visit Work and Income 

The OSCAR Foundation

The OSCAR Foundation, an Incorporated Society established in 1995, has a simple and clear vision of ‘enriching childhood’.

The OSCAR Foundation grew out of a recognised need for a national body to provide coordinated support and advice to the OSCAR sector, and with the aim of ensuring that all New Zealand children have access to quality, affordable after school, before school and holiday programmes.

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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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Stefania Julia Anstey

Hi there
is there anyway to find a list of OSCAR Approved providers?


Hi Stefania, there’s a couple of different directories. But one good one is the MSD website: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/children/childcare-providers.html — Jarrod


Where can I find a copy of your behaviour management procedures please?

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Darran- you will need to contact Oscar directly- http://www.oscar.org.nz/



Carey King


What certain qualities do you look for in the staff you hirer at OSCAR? And what activities are the children encouraged to take part in?


Rochelle Gribble

Hi Carey, 

OSCAR provides advice and support for organised running OSCAR approved programmes so you’d need to contact the organisation directly. You can read more about OSCAR on their website: http://www.oscar.org.nz/ 

Kind regards, 


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