Decide if you need a service

A best practice approach to setting up an outside school hours care service.

Step 1: Form a working group

Forming a working group enables your school council to delegate the initial scoping work for an OSHC services to a dedicated group that reports back to your school council for decision making.

The working group members may include parents, school councillors and teachers.

Setting up a working group may be a short-term alternative to a school council sub-committee. Short-term working parties may oversee the implementation of tasks while allowing school councils to keep the number of sub-committees to a practical size. The working group coordinates the task of collecting information and assists with addressing the interests and concerns of all stakeholders.

The scope of work and the reporting expectations of the working group should be agreed with the school council before any work is undertaken.

If a working group is not established, the principal, or a school council nominee such as a parent volunteer, may be responsible to research whether or not to establish an outside school hours care (OSHC) service.

Step 2: Conduct a needs analysis

It’s important to understand the level of demand for an OSHC service. Look at the estimated enrolments of the service by surveying families at the school (and possibly neighbouring schools) to see:

  • if the service is needed
  • the preferred hours and days of operation to give families access to give families access to care for their children when they need it most.

Determine the target population

To determine the number of families who may need an OSHC service, you may do the following:

  • analyse school enrolment data (current school enrolments, past enrolment trends and projected enrolments)
  • identify any services currently operating locally that are providing an OSHC service or alternative for school-age children
  • determine the current capacity and waiting lists of any nearby existing OSHC services
  • enquire if other schools within close proximity have a need for an OSHC service
  • survey the target population.

To identify services operating locally that are providing an OSHC service or alternative education and care service for school-age children, you can contact:

  • the local government council
  • nearby kindergartens
  • sporting/leisure facilities.

This may present opportunities for you to collaborate with existing services, where schools can share services or facilities to meet community needs.

You can also use the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) national register to identify existing nearby education and care services and view their quality rating. You can view the Victorian register online or export it to a CSV file, which you can filter by suburb, contact details, capacity, and recent quality ratings.  

Note: the type of operating model is not explicitly listed in the register, however the service name often provides an indication as to whether the service is school council managed or third-party operated. 

Surveying parents and carers

You can establish the number of potential users of the service to inform service viability by surveying parents and carers of the target population.

Information gathered through a survey may include:

  • families' current before care, after care and holiday arrangements
  • current age of each child
  • likelihood that a family will use each component of care (before school care, after school care, vacation care)
  • days in the week that families are likely to use each component of care
  • preferred operating times (open and close times of each component of care).
    Note: this contributes to key operational information required when applying to establish an OSHC service
  • information regarding each child’s interests, preferred experiences and activities
  • information about individual children with disabilities and additional needs
  • parent and carer interest in joining an OSHC sub-committee (if appropriate)
  • demographic information such as languages spoken at home.

Analyse the data

Through analysing this data you will be able gauge the demand for an OSHC service and prepare a report outlining your findings and recommendations to the school council.

When you are analysing the demand for hours of a potential OSHC service, be aware that OSHC services must meet certain operational requirements to be approved for the child care subsidy.

Your service must:

  • operate on each school day if it provides before or after school care
  • operate on each normal working day in at least seven weeks of school holidays in a year if it provides vacation care and remain available to provide care for any particular child for at least eight continuous hours on each normal working day it operates.
  • provide care mostly for children attending school.

For more information on the child care subsidy, refer to the child care subsidy website

Information is also available from the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training's transition fact sheet

Insufficient demand and other options

If your needs analysis concludes that the demand for a service is less than five days a week, this has implications for whether the child care subsidy will be approved, which will affect the fees families would be expected to pay for attending the service. A service may not be viable without the child care subsidy. 

If your needs analysis identifies that there is not sufficient demand for an OSHC service, your report to the school council should include the reasons for this finding.

In this situation, you could arrange to share services with an existing local OSHC service or consider establishing an OSHC service in partnership with a nearby school.

Alternatively, if you have found that there is demand for a service, your report to the school council should include a summary of the data upon which you have relied to make that finding, including identifying the components of care that are in demand (before school care, after school care, vacation care or any combination of these).

Step 3: Requirements for suitable venues

The National Quality Standardsset out ‘physical environment’ requirements for the operation of a service. If there is more than one suitable venue option, the pros and cons of each venue can be reported to the school council against the requirements in the national regulations.   

The national regulations include specifications relevant to the venue that must be in place, including:

  • three and a quarter square metres of unencumbered indoor space per child (r.107)
  • seven square metres of unencumbered outdoor space per child (or additional unencumbered indoor space with written approval of the Victorian regulatory authority) (r.108)
  • outdoor spaces must provide adequate shade and allow children to explore the natural environment (r.113­—4)
  • areas in which children can rest, if needed (r.81)
  • accessible toilets (r.109)
  • adequate heating, cooling, ventilation and natural light (r.110)
  • administration space, and space for conducting private conversations (r.111)
  • whether the area promotes visibility and facilitates effective supervision (r.115)
  • the cleanliness and safety of the premises, furniture and equipment (r.103).

The NQS quality area three: ‘physical environment’ requires a physical environment that:

  • is safe
  • is suitable
  • provides a rich and diverse range of experiences promoting children’s learning and development.

In addition to complying with the National Law and National Regulations, any venue must comply with the building code of Australia and applicable Australian standards. For example, a venue must also comply with the food safety standards in areas where food is being prepared.
An assessment of the venue’s compliance with the building code of Australia may be required prior to making an application, depending on the choice of venue. For building surveyor information, visit the Victorian School Building Authority.

Use of school facilities—buildings and grounds

School councils must comply with the information set out in the Victorian School Building Authority’s school infrastructure policy portal, which includes information on:

  • school councils’ financial delegation to enter into contracts to carry out self-funded building works or improvements, including minor capital works
  • requirements at each stage of the school assets lifecycle, including the planning stage
  • delivering co-located facilities in established schools.

Schools must comply with this information irrespective of:

  • if the school council is considering a licence agreement for the non-exclusive use of an area of the school by a third party, or
  • planning to use, modify or build a facility for a school council managed OSHC service.

For more information visit the Victorian School Building Authority’s school infrastructure policy portal.

Examples of policies maintained in the school infrastructure policy portal that provide relevant information for the use of school facilities for an OSHC service include:

Schools must ensure facilities comply with:

Two or more schools may work together to deliver joint services on-site or at a local community venue. If you have an off-site venue you must consider child transportation to and from the service.

Step 4: Operating models for running a OSHC

Selecting an operating model is a decision for your school council, as opposed to your principal alone. An OSHC service is a school trading operation for which school council approval is required.

There are two possible operating models for Victorian government schools seeking to establish an OSHC service:

  1. school council managed
  2. third-party provider managed.

  This means that your school council may:

  • operate the service, or
  • enter into a licence agreement with an approved provider to operate the the service.

The service may be either on:

  • the school premises, or
  • premises under the control of the Minister.

Your school council is responsible for regulating and facilitating the after-hours use of your school’s premises and grounds.

For more information see:

Regardless of which option you pursue, your school council is responsible for choosing an operating model that:

  • is sustainable and efficient
  • is suited to the community’s needs
  • is reflective of the needs analysis
  • has an appropriate governance structure and management arrangements that provide for ongoing and regular review.

Governance structure and financial management

Regardless of the operating model of the OSHC service, your school council still retains governance and financial management responsibilities for the running of your service:

  • Your school council has governance and financial oversight in relation to their key functions outlined in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 
  • Your school council’s role includes monitoring the service’s performance under the National Quality Framework to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children who are enrolled to attend the service.
  • In a third-party managed service, your school council’s management’s responsibilities will vary according to the licence agreement in place with the third party provider.

School council managed service

If your school council decides to become the approved provider of an OSHC service, they are responsible for all aspects of the service. Your school council can:

  • assume direct management of the service, or
  • use an OSHC  sub-committee.

School councils may form a sub-committee to assist the council for a particular purpose, such as overseeing the implementation of the OSHC at the school:

  • School councils must decide the purpose and terms of reference of sub-committees, which will vary for school council and of an OSHC subcommittee.
  • As with all sub-committees, the sub-committee must consist of at least one member of the school council and be at least three members overall.
  • The sub-committee meets as directed by the school council and reports in writing to school council.
  • The OSHC sub-committee cannot make decisions on behalf of your school council. In schools where there is no OSHC sub-committee, the school principal or assistant principal may take on the management of the service together with the OSHC coordinator.
  • The OSHC coordinator usually has responsibility for the day-to-day management of the service.

Sample terms of reference for a school council managed sub-committee (docx - 56.19kb)

School councils have legal responsibilities when running an OSHC service as the approved provider. The school council (as an entity), person with management and control, nominated supervisor and certified supervisor may be liable for offences under the national law.

Where the school council manages the service as the approved provider, its key responsibilities include:

  • quality and compliance of the service as required by the NQF, including the development and implementation of the quality improvement plan for the service
  • all financial management (revenue sits within school budget)
  • determining fee structure, which includes setting and adjusting fees and imposing fines (for example, a fine for late pick up by parents and carers)
  • all management responsibilities, which may involve an OSHC sub-committee
  • record keeping
  • policy development and review
  • developing and upholding a vision and goals for the service
  • staff recruitment, retention and backfill
  • staff professional development, support and supervision
  • sharing of resources and facilities between the school and the OSHC service as required.

These responsibilities may be shared between school council, an OSHC sub-committee, the OSHC co-ordinator and OSHC staff. This will vary depending on the school context, as will the involvement of the school leadership and administration teams. Regular meetings may assist in ensuring these key responsibilities are met.

Meeting agenda templates for school council managed services (docx - 51.84kb)

Third-party managed service

Where school council decides to engage a third-party provider to operate the OSHC service, the third-party is the approved provider with the relevant legal responsibilities for the service. However, the school council is responsible for:

  • selecting and engaging a third party provider via an EOI process and the use of the OSHC licence agreement
  • accessing the Department’s schools procurement advice on the use of the EOI template
  • accessing the Department’s legal services  for advice on the terms of the licence agreement, including additions to the special conditions section around quality and value for money service delivery
  • negotiating the terms of the licence agreement, including fees and any special conditions
  • providing the third party with written permission to use suitable indoor and outdoor areas
  • ongoing management of the licence agreement with the third party provider, including:
    • monitoring compliance with the national law
    • compliance with the terms of the licence agreement
    • how the provider engages with children and families and responds to the needs of the community
  • monitoring the service provision and determining a change of third-party provider or operating model as appropriate.

Even if a third party is managing the service, the functions of a school council detailed in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 still apply:

  • to regulate and facilitate the after-hours use of the school premises and grounds
  • to exercise a general oversight of the school buildings and grounds and ensure that they are kept in good order and condition.

To assist your school council to meet their ongoing responsibilities with the third party-provider, there are templates for:

These templates support you to work together with the third-party provider to benefit children’s wellbeing, learning and development. For example, the process for sharing children’s transition learning and development statements with the OSHC service can be overseen by the OSHC sub-committee to support a positive start to school for children and their families.

Types of third-party providers

Third party providers can operate under various ownership structures such as community-based, not-for-profit or private-for-profit:

  • Not-for-profit organisations: when a profit is made under this ownership structure, the provider reinvests all profits back into the service. The approved provider may be a local government, parent incorporated body or another community or charitable organisation as outlined below:
    • Incorporated body: in this ownership structure, a group of volunteers (typically parents who will use the service) become an incorporated body. The incorporated body is the approved provider and is legally responsible for the OSHC service. Members are usually voted in annually and oversee the governance of the service. Day-to-day operations are generally managed by an OSHC coordinator employed by the incorporated body. For more information about incorporated associations see Consumer Affairs Victoria.
    • Local government: the service is managed by local government as the approved provider. This ownership structure is commonly used for vacation care services, and there may be a number of local council managed OSHC services in the municipality. In this model, a team leader is often employed, with responsibilities including budget management, recruitment and policy development. Coordinators are often also employed for each service to manage staff and the day-to-day operations.
    • Community-based organisation: these range from small to large organisations with an interest in charity, youth work, or community development. Examples include churches and community health organisations.
  • Private-for-profit providers: in this ownership structure, OSHC services are owned and managed privately. The approved provider takes on legal responsibility of the service and manages all aspects of the business. The approved provider (typically a corporation) may be a small owner-operated business with one service, or a large provider with multiple services in Victoria or nationally.

Choosing third-party providers

School councils are strongly encouraged to approach multiple third-party providers through an EOI process based on the school’s service requirements and preferences before putting the OSHC licence agreement in place.
Before choosing a third-party provider, school council should consider the third-party provider’s:

  • experience
  • quality ratings
  • size (number of existing services under their management)
  • fees.

Quality ratings are available at: starting blocks website—for quality ratings of existing services
Large providers (managing and operating multiple OSHC services) may:

  • offer efficiencies through economies of scale such as professional development and career progression opportunities for staff
  • be less able to tailor the service to a specific school and their community.

Engagement of a third party OSHC provider is not a departmental procurement activity.

Licence agreements enable the shared use of school facilities and are not subject to the purchasing thresholds that apply to departmental service delivery contracts.

Step 5: Fees and costs

Costs for establishing an OSHC service will vary for each school according to the operating model, and in the case of a third party managed service, are subject to specifications in the licence agreement.

It is recommended that you, as the working group, undertake a cost-benefit analysis of both operating models when deciding the model you will choose. This analysis should consider any in-kind contributions. For example, the time it takes for school staff, including the principal, to manage issues and follow up complaints, concerns and fee payments from families.

Cost considerations include:

  • establishment
    • application fees for provider approval (a third party provider usually already has provider approval)
    • application fees for service approval (to be submitted by the approved provider)
    • business establishment fees (ABN/ACN, bank account)
  • venue preparation
    • rent (if using an off-site facility)
    • maintenance and modification
    • utilities
    • ICT equipment
    • materials for program set up
  • staffing
    • wages
    • casual relief educators
    • professional development
    • WorkCover insurance
  • administration costs
    • book-keeper
    • public liability insurance
    • annual regulatory fees 
    • auditing accounts
    • advertising – for staff or for the service.

Third-party provider service costs

Your school council should review and agree to the third-party costs before finalising the licence agreement and engaging the provider. Third-party providers have different cost structures:

  • Service costs may change over the life of the licence agreement.
  • Third party providers’ approaches to service delivery will vary, including how fees for parents and carers are revised, complaints and grievances processes and how agreements are terminated.

School councils should use the OSHC licence agreement rather than a third party provider’s own contract to manage the risk of school council bearing additional costs.
For example, the OSHC licence agreement prevents schools bearing the cost of low enrolment numbers or any legal proceedings.
For a copy of the agreement see: OSHC licence agreement
If a third party insists on using its own contract or would like to change a clause or add special conditions to the OSHC licence agreement, it is recommended that the principal contacts Legal Services for advice.
Note: higher income for schools in some areas (e.g. through the receipt of rent from a third party provider) may be offset by higher fees being passed on to parents.

Commonwealth support for OSHC services

Commonwealth support is available for eligible services, and may offset some of the service costs, particularly for parents and carers. For further information on this support visit:

Step 6: Recommendations from the working group report to school council

When deciding whether to establish an OSHC service and its operating model your working group should present a report to school council. It should include:

  • data on the demand for the OSHC service as determined by the needs analysis
  • options for a venue (and any improvement or ongoing maintenance works that may be required to ensure the venue is suitable)
  • an analysis of operating models
  • associated costs of the operating models, including a cost-benefit analysis of each model
  • recommendations about establishing an OSHC service and the preferred operating model.

After the working group presents their recommendations, your school council will need to decide if they will establish a service.

In accordance with the Department's school council guidance, the school council by law is a unit, a body corporate. This means decisions made by the council must be those of the group rather than of an individual.

As a school councillor, you must adhere to the school council code of conduct in their decision making regarding OSHC, including:

  • acting in good faith in the best interests of the school
  • acting fairly and impartially
  • using information appropriately.

Your overriding commitment must be to a shared vision and plan reflecting the broad values of the school community.

For more information read the:

Documenting the decision

You must document the decision of your school council in meeting minutes. The minutes must include a summary of the reasons for the final decision.

If the school council decides not to establish an OSHC service, no further action is required. The school council may wish to re-visit this decision if the needs of the school community change or new information becomes available.

If the school council decides to establish an OSHC service, the school council should also record the decision. Information that should be captured includes:

  • the preferred operating model
  • the location/venue for the service
  • care components to be offered
  • the budget available to deliver the service.

If your school council is planning to establish a service they may include this decision in their school strategic plan and annual implementation plan, including identifying links to the FISO improvement model, showing how the service contributes to improving student outcomes.

The table below details the statewide priorities and the improvement initiatives that may be relevant to planning to set up a service or improving service quality.

FISO state-wide priority Improvement Initiatives Other dimensions
Professional leadership  N/A
  • Vision, values and culture
  • Strategic resource management
Positive climate for learning 
  • Empowering students and building school pride
  • Setting expectations and promoting inclusion
Health and wellbeing
Community engagement in learning  Building communities
  • Parents and carers as partners
  • Networks with schools, services and agencies

The extent to which establishing an OSHC service authentically links to the FISO dimensions will depend on the school’s unique context, circumstances and needs.