An overview of out of school hours (OOSH) and vacation care

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Wednesday, 11 November 2020

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What do you do when the school day has finished, but your working day hasn't? How do you keep your child busy during the holidays? The answer for many working parents of school aged children is Out of School Hours Care (OOSH). 

OOSH is supervised care and recreation for primary school-age children:

  • Before and after school
  • On pupil-free days
  • During school holidays (vacation care)

OOSH care is usually associated with schools and caters to primary school children. Most OOSH services are operated by community and private organisations and the government's program is known as Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) or Vacation Care (VC).

Typical hours for OOSH services are:

  • Before school commencing from 6:30am till 9:00am
  • After school 3:00pm till 6:00pm
  • Vacation from 7:00am till 6:00pm each week day

How much does before and after school care cost?

Costs of OOSH care vary, but typical fees range from $20 to $40 per session for before and after school care and anything from $60 plus for vacation care programs. There may also be additional charges such as fees for:

  • Annual membership for the centre or organisation
  • Late collection
  • Excursions and special outings during holidays

Child care subsidies to reduce the cost of OOSH care are available for eligible families using approved centres. Read more about The Single Child Care Subsidy here.

What will my child do at OOSH care?

Out Of School Hours care emphasises play, social interaction and recreation. Activities are organised in small and large groups, or children may choose quiet time by themselves (eg to read and do homework).

Some typical activities include:

  • Art and craft
  • Cooking
  • Drama
  • Dance
  • Games
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Sport

How do I choose the right service for my child?

When you are choosing OOSH services, think about:

  • Location: How will my child travel to and from school to the OOSH service?
  • Cost: What are the fees charged, and what do they include?
  • Availability: How far ahead do I need to book? Are places available when I need them?
  • Staff/Accreditation: What qualifications do the staff have? Has the centre got an NQS rating?

You should also consider your child's needs and interests:

  • Are the children made to feel welcome by the staff and other children?
  • Can I talk to staff about my child's needs and activities offered?
  • Do the activities suit my child's interests? If my child doesn't want to join in organised activities, is there supervised free play?
  • Is the environment suitable and interesting?
  • Is homework supervised?
  • Are any meals provided? Do they cater to special dietary needs (eg allergies)?
  • Other considerations. Do they administer medication? Do they have a television and is it supervised?

Other options for OOSH care:

If you missed out in a spot in your school’s OOSH service then you may like to consider these options:

  • Arrange a routine with your employer and partner for days when your child has sport and music activities. For example, you may need to start work early so you can leave earlier to take your child to their after school activity.
  • Hire a student. High school and university students could look after your child to earn some extra cash, especially during holidays. Find out if your regular student babysitter can help with after school or vacation care. Ask around among your friends and colleagues, or see if you can advertise at a local campus.
  • ‘Time share' with other parents during school holidays. Arrange a roster for care, with each parent taking turns to look after the children for a day. If you can't manage a whole day then organise a series of ‘play dates' for a few hours.
  • Enrol your child in a holiday program. There are many holiday programs available, ranging from daily activities run by council and community centres to week-long camps. Libraries, museums and sporting organisations also run holiday activities. Investigate and book early as vacation care places are limited.

Out of School Hours care lets your child have fun in a relaxed and safe environment. Many school-aged children enjoy having time to hang out with their friends after hours and most enjoy the range of activities on offer.

Use our before and after school care search to find OOSH services and our vacation care search to find care in your local area.

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