FAQ about OSHC (in government schools)
What is Outside of School Hours Care (OSHC)?
OSHC is an education and care service for children who are school aged. OSHC services may operate:
- before school
- after school
- during school holidays
- on student free days
OSHC services may operate any combination of the above sessions. An OSHC service may operate from a school site to provide maximum support to children and their families.
These services may also operate:
- in stand-alone premises or venues
- in conjunction with centre-based long day care services, where suitable facilities are provided for school aged children
What are the benefits of an OSHC service operating in a school?
There are many positive benefits for the children, the school and the wider community, including:
- the continuation of quality programs that are respectful to children and provide the opportunity to share strategies to assist in earlier identification and additional support for children;
- increasing children's sense of self and belonging within the school and wider community;
- the opportunity to combine approaches to monitor and support children's development;
- sustaining and potentially increasing and/or maintaining school enrolments;
- supporting the needs of families within the community;
- increasing the school's reputation as being child-focused and family friendly;
- supporting workforce participation.
These benefits will be maximised where there is effective collaboration, partnership and the development of respectful relationships by all stakeholders. Principals have a vital role in this.
How is OSHC provided in schools?
OSHC is often provided by a third party provider (approved provider), as a government school is neither a legal 'person' nor an incorporated body and cannot directly provide the service.
Most approved providers currently operating services have experience in the education and care sector.
It may be possible for a school association to provide the service as a third party provider. The association would need to have the capacity and capability to undertake the responsibilities associated with the role of approved provider, which includes being the employer and operating a business.
Other issues such as insurance also need to be considered.
What do principals need to be aware of regarding OSHC services?
Support and collaboration:
The school led by the principal and senior staff may need to support the OSHC service in the following ways:
- liaise with the OSHC over children's needs and wellbeing
- support OSHC events and experiences or undertake joint activities, as appropriate
- be understanding of the needs of each stakeholder when sharing facilities
- share professional development opportunities
- ensure appropriate space and facilities are available on a consistent basis
- offer fair and reasonable rental costs
Location and facilities:
The address of the OSHC premises on the service approval certificate will be the address of the school. However, it is actually a defined area of the school that is assessed for its suitability in order for approval to be given.
OSHC services may be in a purpose built building, or in a specific area of the school that is only used by the education and care service, or in a room that is used by both the school and the OSHC service (e.g. the multi-purpose room may also be used by the after school care program).
The service needs to have ongoing access to suitable space, including adequate space for storage, conducting the administrative functions of the service, and space for consultation with parents and conducting private conversations.
The licence agreement between the school and the service needs to be clear in relation to who has responsibility for minor maintenance and more significant upgrades.
The service may be required to upgrade an area to meet the requirements of the National Law or regulations. This cannot occur without the permission of the school, so it would be helpful for the service to have a school contact to discuss the matter with, who also has an understanding of the requirements the service has to meet.
Can the OSHC service be moved from one part of the
school to another?
It is understood that from time to time, needs within the school change, and it may be necessary to move the OSHC service from one area to another. As part of making this decision, disruption and impact to the service, the families and children using the service need to be considered.
It is not a simple matter for an OSHC service to be suddenly moved from one area of the school to another. The service needs to seek approval from the ECU for an amendment to its service approval. Such an approval will only be granted if the new area proposed complies with the requirements of the National legislation.
Consideration also needs to be given to whether this new area is the best environment for the children. Therefore, clear communication strategies and collaboration are required between the school and the service to ensure access to and the provision of an appropriate environment.
It is crucial that the school talk with the OSHC approved provider as soon as possible before the move is to occur.
Adequate planning and consultation should be taken:
- for considering suitable premises elsewhere in the school
- to make any physical changes necessary to upgrade the new area to meet National Quality Standard and legislative requirements
- for the service to adjust any of its management plans in order to suit the new environment
- for the service to communicate effectively with the families and children about the changes; and
- for ECU Authorised Officers to schedule a new assessment within their existing workload and for arrangements to be made to issue a new service approval, if required.
If a service moves into different premises without being approved by the ECU to amend the service approval, it will be in breach of the National Law which will also impact on the validity of the service's insurance and potentially have other legal ramifications.
Are there any legal responsibilities in providing an OSHC service?
Services are approved under the Tasmanian Education and Care Services National Law (Application) Act 2011.
The approved provider of the service is responsible for meeting the legislative requirements under the Education and Care Services National Law (Tasmania).
Services are monitored to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and are assessed and rated against nationally agreed standards - the National Quality Standards (NQS).
The Education and Care Unit (ECU), within the Department of Education, is the Regulatory Authority under this Act. The ECU's authorised officers monitor education and care services and assess and rate approved services.
Service must comply with other relevant Commonwealth, State and/or Local Government legislation such as:
- the Corporations Act
- Workplace health and safety legislation
- the Building Code of Australia
- Disability and discrimination legislation
- Food safety and handling requirements
- the Poisons Act and relevant regulations
- the Family Violence Act and the Children, Young People and their Families Act 2013
- Insurance and liability responsibilities
- Industrial Awards and employment conditions
- Legal responsibilities that may relate to the school as a landlord
What should a school consider before establishing an OSHC service?
The school should consider:
- speaking with the Principal of a school who already has an OSHC service operating within their school site
- consulting with families to identify the level of need for a service to be established (both current and future needs)
- the broader impacts of the OSHC service on the commmunity if the service was to be set up
- the availability of a suitable space for the school to run the OSHC service
- the potential impacts of using a space that may be a classroom or shared space (on the OSHC service and the school)
- whether a third party is available to be the approved provider
- making contact with the Education and Care Unit (ECU) for support and advice, as required
- contacting Facilities Services (Department of Education) regarding whether a licence agreement is required with the approved provider
- asking Facilities Services for plans of the school site, which the approved provider may need for the service approval application
- contacting a building surveyor to ensure the chosen facility meets the requirements of the Building Code of Australia - Tasmanian appendix
Note that the approved provider is responsible for:
- applying for Child Care Benefit through the Commonwealth Government to ensure that fee subsidies are available to families
- submitting a service approval application to the ECU, including plans of the premises prepared by a building practitioner
- establish effective communication and collaboration with the school
- establish marketing and communication strategies for the service, in collaboration with the school Principal.
How long does it take to establish an OSHC service?
The time taken to establish an OSHC service can vary as it depends on the following factors:
- the level of consultation and planning the school may need to complete prior to making a decision to establish an OSHC service
- the nature of the physical space considered suitable for the operation of the OSHC (is it an existing space? does it need to be purpose-built or adapted?)
- whether the building meets the requirements of the Building Code
- the capability and the knowledge of the approved provider regarding the operation of an OSHC service
It may take several months for a service to be approved, taking into account the work to be completed by the approved provider, the school and the service approval process.
Who do I contact if there are concerns about the OSHC service?
In the first instance, it is beneficial to speak with the staff and/or the approved provider of the OSHC program.
If you have further issues, you may wish to contact:
- Facilities Services (Department of Education) if the issue is about the use of school facilities or licence agreements
- the Education and Care Unit (ECU) if you have concerns about the quality of the education and care being provided, or if you are unsure about who to contact, the ECU may be able to suggest certain referrals.