We are coming up to the end of the term, and the beginning of another Vacation Care program, which will be able to accommodate our brand-new receptions as from the beginning of care in January as they are then officially enrolled in our school.
A little bit of history about our OSHC / Vacation Care program at Woodend School is worth sharing at this point. In 2017, we were advised that the program needed to close as it was financially not viable, and we cannot access school funds to operate either OSHC or Vacation Care. In other words, it needs to be totally self-sufficient.
As we viewed this as an important service for Woodend families, we chose to work very hard to turn this around and over the following years were successful. We did have a choice of outsourcing OSHC and Vacation Care as a strategy to maintain the program, however, that is run very much as a business and reduces the flexibility that we currently enjoy.
In 2022, we again came to a point where we were very close to having no program as we were unable to find the staff required. Thanks to the current Director, Emilie Rogers and Keely Benwell as Assistant Director, helped us to survive this critical period.
Both OSHC and Vacation Care function under the same system that our kindys, preschools and children centres do and have to meet strict licencing conditions in order to operate. This is why they are required to have a certain ratio of children to educators, and also why they are limited in the total number of children that they can care for.
Hence, we are guided by both DfE OSCH directives and ACECQA who implement the National Quality Framework that we are mandated to comply with. This includes appropriate award rates, requirements about giving notice to employees for rosters, including any changes that might happen and literally hundreds of policies/practices to adhere to. This is why some practices our OSHC service implement are different to practices in place in the school.
In setting fees and associated charges, we have examined what happens at other services in similar schools, as well as carried out extensive analysis of what we need in order to run our service as it is. Those fees are approved by Governing Council, which then provide the funding to ensure our service is viable. We are probably close to the middle of the road in regards to fees and charges.
We noted that there has been some concerns expressed about our cancellation policy. This policy is based on what we are legally required to do in relation to advanced notice given when we hire staff (minimum two weeks required), financial commitments to suppliers and to make it fairer for those needing care.
Once we reach our licenced threshold, or the maximum a third party will allow for excursions, we are unable to take any further children. If we provide a service over our threshold, OSHC and Vacation Care could lose their licence to provide a service to families. Some OSHC services certainly impose quite strict conditions on both OSHC and Vacation Care bookings, over and above what we expect.
A previous practice that made it hard to manage Vacation Care places and also limited quite a number of families from accessing the service, was where some people chose to book up all of the excursion days and then cancel those not wanted before the date of the excursion. This meant that we were often overstaffed and operated at a loss, leading to the 2017 audit recommendation to close the service altogether.
This has led to the current policy where notice of seven days must be given in order to avoid having to pay the full amount for that day in Vacation Care. Sometimes a place may be taken up by a family once a cancellation has been made, but often family arrangements have already been made, so this is not always the case.
There is an OSHC Committee which meets once per term. The meeting dates are advertised in the school calendar and as we have previously said in other communication, all are welcome. It is held in the school staffroom. If you would like to be a part of the committee and contribute to decision making, please contact either Emilie Rogers, Keely Benwell, Angela Burrows or myself via the school on 83226422. It is a great opportunity to be a part of the discussion connected to the OSHC and Vacation Care programs.