Schoolfriend etc, a charity that provides after-school clubs across the country, launched a training division, Schoolfriend tec, at the start of the year. It will deliver a number of short courses, as well as National Vocational Qualifications in Playwork, to more than 500 staff nationwide.
The charity faced significant staff shortages because of Ofsted requirements that meant only qualified staff were able to work in after-school clubs, regardless of practical experience. After the Government's announcement last year that every school must provide care from 8am to 6pm by 2010, it became apparent that the shortage would only get worse without action.
Schoolfriend etc made a number of unsuccessful attempts to persuade local authorities to provide training. "We required more staff, and nobody else was providing the right training, so we took matters into our own hands," says Fiona Mortlock, head of services at Schoolfriend etc.
Schoolfriend tec was launched after a pilot scheme involving 30 trainees last year proved a success. The training is offered to all employees so they can combine studying with work.
Staff can work their way up from play assistants to play leaders running after-school clubs. The training programme is recognised by Ofsted and focuses on the skills required by the charity.
"One of the greatest advantages is that we can tailor this to our own settings," Mortlock says.
All the courses provided by Schoolfriend tec are accredited by the Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education (known as Cache). "It's worth looking around before you decide which body to apply to for accreditation, because they are all quite different," says Mortlock. "We found that Cache fitted in best with our systems, and it allows people to become assessors after one year."
"Providing training for our staff has improved recruitment and retention," says Mortlock. "There has been and will, we hope, continue to be a noticeable increase in the quality of the care our staff offer children."