Navigating New Horizons: An Overview of the Wraparound Childcare Pathfinder Scheme from the perspective of Schools & MATs

Effective leaders in the education sector will be aware that reacting to major government initiatives is key to driving their organisation forward. The Wraparound Childcare Pathfinder Scheme (announced by the UK government during its 2023 spring budget) represents exactly this; holding the potential to revolutionise the relationship between traditional education and wraparound childcare. This blog aims to help you understand the scheme, ensuring that your organisation is well-equipped to skilfully navigate this progressive development and fully capitalise on the opportunities available.

What is the Wraparound Childcare Pathfinder Scheme?

The Wraparound Childcare Pathfinder Scheme is an innovative initiative designed to revolutionise the way childcare is provided alongside standard school hours. Recognising the changing dynamics of modern family life and work commitments, this scheme aims to provide more flexible, accessible, and quality childcare options for parents of school-aged children. To this end, the government have allocated funding of £289m for the creation of new wraparound childcare places; to be distributed (via Local Authorities) to prospective providers including schools and MATs.

What are The Key Objectives?

1. Extended hours: Central to the scheme is expanding the provision of extended childcare services beyond traditional school hours. This focuses on ensuring the availability of before and after school childcare (with lesser reference to care during the school holidays).

2. Accessibility and inclusivity: The scheme emphasises making childcare accessible to a broader range of families, including those with varied income levels and differing needs.

3. Quality and consistency: There is a focus on maintaining high standards of care, ensuring that children benefit from a consistent, nurturing, and enriching environment.

What Should Schools and MATs be Considering Now?

1. Maximising school budgets: With school finances more stretched than ever, offering ‘in-house’ wraparound childcare is proving an increasingly common practice for schools hping to bolster their budgets. As well as increasing enrolment schools are able to collect fees (for ‘in-house’ care) or charge a rent (for ‘outsourced’ care).  Pathfinder funding, available from the Local Authority, represents a huge opportunity for schools to offset the costs of delivering their own wraparound childcare; whilst generating crucial revenue by doing so.

2. Operational adjustments: In order to run (or host 3rd party) wraparound care, schools may need to assess and potentially adjust their operational capacities to accommodate extended childcare hours. This could involve staffing, space utilisation, and administrative systems.

3. Community engagement: This scheme offers an opportunity to strengthen ties with the community by addressing a fundamental need. Effective communication and engagement strategies will be vital in assessing demand (initially) and promoting any new services.

4. Recruitment and development: Ensuring that any wraparound provision is fully staffed with an experienced and/or adequately trained workforce should be a priority. This may involve fresh recruitment, or professional development for existing school staff members (to establish relevant knowledge in areas specific to early years and childcare).

5. Compliance and quality assurance: Adhering to the standards set by the scheme will require ongoing monitoring and quality assurance processes to maintain excellence in service delivery.

Conclusion

The Wraparound Childcare Pathfinder Scheme represents a significant opportunity for schools to enhance their budgets whilst expanding the ways in which they support their community (acknowledging the wider, evolving needs of families across the UK). The £289m funding allocated by the government offers the opportunity for schools and MATs to explore running wraparound care in-house, without having to consider the immediate financial pressures that would normally be in play. For school and MAT leaders, embracing this scheme means not only expanding services but also playing a pivotal role in shaping a supportive, inclusive, and nurturing educational landscape.

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About Childcare Bookings

Childcare Bookings provide our school partners with a fully outsourced booking, payment and admin service, together with a booking system that is taking bookings for you 24/7 – and even your own dedicated administrator to support parents.

In addition, we provide an Operations Pack, including template T’s & C’s, a best-practice Club Operations Manual, policies and childcare-specific forms and procedures.

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About the Author

Dan McCaffrey is the Managing Director of Childcare Bookings for Schools, the only outsourced payment, bookings and administration service for school-run childcare in the UK. A former primary teacher, he is also the owner of Pioneer Childcare, the 5th largest wraparound provider in the country, where he learned (the hard way!) everything he shares in these blogs. Dan lives in Sussex with his family.

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