New regulator for childcare groups

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The Independent Online

Childcare for those aged eight to 14 is to be regulated by the Government for the first time to ensure quality provision for the growing number of young people with working parents who attend after-school and holiday clubs.

Childcare for those aged eight to 14 is to be regulated by the Government for the first time to ensure quality provision for the growing number of young people with working parents who attend after-school and holiday clubs.

Margaret Hodge, minister for Employment and Equal Opportunities, will announce the government-accredited scheme at a national conference on childcare today. It will ensure staff are trained properly and children are encouraged to do activities including homework and sports.

In future, families with children aged eight to 14 who are claiming childcare tax credit will have to choose clubs that are registered with the new scheme. The project, called Kids' Clubs Network Aiming High, is being organised by Kids' Network UK, the firstgovernment-accredited UK-wide organisation of its kind.

It aims to regulate quality in 16 areas of childcare, including activities, food and staffing.

After-school and holiday clubs that want to be accredited will have to employ one trained staff member for every ten children, ensure there are opportunities to do homework, and plan weekly activitiessuch as sports and arts, while also allowing children time to "hang out" with their friends.

When the Government announced its National Childcare Strategy in November 1997 it said childcare would be available for all children up to the age of 14. One of the greatest needs identified was for childcare for older children, who need supervision but also increased independence.

A spokesman for Kids' Club Network said: "These children are starting to acquire minds of their own and many do not want to be looked after, but would like things to do after school and somewhere safe to hang out with friends."

The after-school club at Stanney High School in Elles-mere Port, Cheshire, charges 50p a day. Activities range from cooking and outings to computer games and tennis. It also has a quiet area for homework. Stephen Roden, an artist trained in childcare who jointly runs the club, said: "The kids need to let off steam rather than sit and work."

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