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Help Wanted For Essential Childcare Programmes

October 09, 2008

Help Wanted For Essential Childcare Programmes

Potentially up to 20,000 job opportunities.

The OSCAR Foundation is looking for people or organisations nationwide interested in providing “out of school care” programmes for 5-14 year olds.

OSCAR Foundation Chief Executive Murray Upton says New Zealand falls well behind other O.E.C.D countries in providing out of school services.

OSCAR stands for Out of School Care and Recreation, a term that describes services that regularly care for school age children before and after school and during school holidays.

Programmes in New Zealand cater for only 12 percent of five to fourteen year-olds, compared to up to eighty percent of children in Europe. New Zealand’s pre-school sector fares better with 77 percent participation.

“Even if we double the number of after school programmes, we’re still only catering for 24 percent of young school children,” Mr Upton says. “That’s not meeting the needs of an increasing number of families whose parents both work.”

“Outside of school, there is not enough to help our children develop a ‘winning’ Kiwi mindset for the future.”

“They’re not challenged to rise above the mediocre or become leaders. And that will adversely affect their academic achievement, social and cultural skills and contribute to future juvenile crime rates.”

Earlier this year, the Harvard Family Research Project found that children who participate in after-school programmes perform better academically, have better conduct and work habits, and are emotionally better adjusted than children in other informal care arrangements.

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OSCAR programmes help children establish lifelong patterns of physical activity which in turn improve their health and fitness, and reduce the risk of teenage parenthood, substance abuse and eating problems.

Mr Upton points out that OSCAR programmes contribute substantially to preventing youth crime by ‘Keeping young people off the streets'. During afternoon hours, when children and young people are not at school, rates of juvenile crime go up.

OSCAR participation means children also spend less time watching television and are less likely to watch unsuitable television.

The first Out of School programme networks in New Zealand were established in the early 1990s, and government funding was made available in the mid 1990s.

Programmes vary with the type of community in which they operate but all are largely recreational and the “care” factor is very important – hence programme providers supported by the Foundation must be CYF approved.

The OSCAR Foundation provides advice and support to over 1200 government funded and CYF approved programmes. But an estimated thousand other programmes operate without government funding or approval and are not subject to checks.

This greatly concerns Mr Upton who believes all providers should have to meet minimum industry standards in the interests of child welfare.

According to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research in 2006, most programme providers are small businesses employing 2-3 staff and offering between 16 and 35 childcare places.

If the number of OSCAR programmes grew to meet demand, there could be up to twenty thousand job opportunities in the sector, Mr. Upton says.

The work usually attracts people experienced with children, although they may not necessarily have a childcare qualification.

That has recently been addressed with the establishment of two NZQA approved OSCAR Certificate education programmes with Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

People interested should visit: www.oscar.org.nz


Image: Oscar CEO Murray Upton.


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