Welcome to our blog! It is extremely exciting to be launching our new Play Explorer initiative which is being supported by new social media channels, and… a blog! Since I joined my sister and co-director, Sam Thomson, at Class Of Their Own in 2006, we have altered very little about our marketing or the service that we deliver…that is all about to change!
Let me start by explaining a little about why, after all these years, we felt the need to change. The environment we work in is very different to when Class Of Their Own was founded, by Sam, in 2001. At that time, we had, what we now realise, was unparalleled level of Government support – we received grants to help us cover start-up costs, were able to access heavily subsidised training for our team of playworkers, received free CRB (now DBS) checks for all our employees and many schools were compelled by their Local Authority to only charge rent which covered their costs – all with the aim of enabling providers of Breakfast, After School and Holiday Clubs to offer affordable childcare to predominantly working parents.
Fast forward to 2017, and all of this support has been completely withdrawn. Regulation has been relaxed – we no longer have to work to high adult to child ratios and the requirement for the team to be qualified Playworkers has been withdrawn. The problem with this? We liked the old way – the higher ratios and requirement for Playwork qualifications both put children at the centre of what we did – so even though we were providing a service for working parents, children were put first and meeting their needs was a top priority. It’s hard to step back from this. We understand that the availability of affordable childcare is hugely important to families but we just don’t feel that providing affordable childcare, at the cost of children’s physical, emotional or social wellbeing is right. Access to freely chosen play develops a child’s uniqueness and contributes to a happy and healthy childhood.
As a business we only have one source of income – parent fees and we have to balance what comes in with what goes out. Ratios could be changed, but that would make us run a business that we were not proud of. We love what our teams do every day, and how passionate they are about the children that they work with. But, the only way that the Government is currently supporting us in reducing costs is the ability to fundamentally change ratios. We have decided that we do not want to do that, we want to provide children with excellent play opportunities when they come to our clubs – above all, we want to remain proud of the business we have built.
We embarked on a project to transform our already great holiday provision into absolutely fantastic places for children. By doing this, we hope that every clubs runs with fewer empty spaces; and so…our Play Explorer initiative was born! An initiative where all children who attend our Holiday Clubs become Play Explorers. What do Play Explorers do? They play! Either in one of our 7 Play Explorer Zones – areas of child-led freely chosen play, or, in one of our 10 Play Explorer Activities – a planned programme of adult-led activities. When free play is combined with stimulating activities, it creates the ultimate child-centred environment.
Play Explorer Zones
Play Explorer Zones are where children engage in free play – play which is freely chosen and child-led – where children learn not only about themselves, but also about the world around them. Children can play in our Play Explorer Zones all day every day. With their experience and knowledge, our teams will make the Play Explorer Zones inviting and varied throughout the week.
- Creative Zone
- Quiet Zone
- Role Play Zone
- Small World Zone
- Construction Zone
- Games Zone
- Outdoor Zone
- OwnZone (for over 8’s)
Play Explorer Activities
Through our adult-led Play Explorer Activities children are supported at age and skill appropriate level to develop new skills and expertise – four different activities are provided every day and all children will be encouraged to join in – with the aim of providing children with a sense of achievement and purpose.
The activity categories are shown below:
- Science Explorer
- Art Explorer
- Craft Explorer
- Cooking Explorer
- Games and Sports Explorer
- Challenge Explorer
- Music Explorer
- Construction Explorer
- Words Explorer
- Dance and Movement Explorer
The great thing about our Play Explorer Activities is that children can all benefit from an adult-led activity four times a day to complement the free play. They will enjoy the additional conversation and comradery that this brings, as well as new opportunities for learning and challenges.
These ideas have gone from conception (just after the Easter Holiday) to implementation in an incredibly short amount of time. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with our team on it – we have created a project team who have been responsible for working out what exactly it is that we will be offering in the clubs, and for updating all our promotion (hence this blog!). The idea was further developed when we discussed it with club supervisors it was welcomed with enthusiasm at our training day.
Our team will continue to draw on their diverse skills, energy and enthusiasm to make our holiday club Play Explorer Zones inspire children’s play and spark their imaginations. They will lead our Play Explorer Activities and engage children so that they want to participate and therefore benefit fully. Now our summer holiday flyers are out, we are really ramping up our attempts to let people know all about our exciting new initiative!
As you can see, there is loads more I could say, but I’ve been told that a blog should not be too long, so at this point, I will say, if you want to know more, visit our microsite which contains everything you could want to know about Play Explorers (and more!) at www.playexplorers.co.uk
Director and First Time Blogger!