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Support Organisation for School Age Childcare



Playboard Northern Ireland

7 Crescent Gardens



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PlayBoard Northern Ireland is the main advocating body supporting the Out of School Childcare sector in Northern Ireland.  


PlayBoard NI is an independent charity and the lead organisation for the development and promotion of children and young people’s play in Northern Ireland. Since its establishment in 1985, the organisation has been committed to supporting children and young people’s play through a combination of:

  • Service delivery and development;  

  • Campaigning and lobbying;

  • Research, evaluation and awareness raising;

  • Working in partnership with others to put play on the agenda of policy makers and resource providers, and

  • Promoting best practice in Play and Playwork.


We work closely with local government, associated regulatory bodies and other organisations for the long-term advancement of the sector.

PlayBoard NI is registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC104724, company limited byguarantee no. NI30225, charity no. XR86639.


About Out of School Childcare In Northern Ireland

There are approximately 400 providers of Out of School Childcare in Northern Ireland – made up of stand-alone settings and provision for children of school age which forms part of larger Day Care services.  These settings are managed by both private and community/voluntary practitioners and they offer a range of Breakfast Club, After School and Holiday Club provision.

Out of School Childcare Registration, Regulation & Inspection


Out of School Childcare services (2 hours and above per session) are required to register with the Health and Social Care Trust in their area.  (Currently there are 5 Trusts). There are three categories of childcare setting that are required to register with HSC Trusts – childminders, full day care and sessional day care. 


Sessional day care is defined as day care for children which covers less than a continuous period of four hours in any day and covers stand-alone Out of School Childcare clubs.


Health and Social Care Trusts are responsible for registering and inspecting these services against the requirements laid down in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. 


Out of School Childcare services must operate with a minimum of 2 staff and on a ratio of 1 adult: 8 children.


The premises need to be safe, secure and suitable for their purpose and meet relevant statutory requirements with a minimum space requirement per child set forth.  (Dependent on whether the care is sessional, full day care).


Under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order, registration is not required when providing supervised activities such as those offered by;


  • Uniformed organisations, i.e., Scouts

  • Religious activities

  • Leisure and recreational activities

  • Activities occurring in schools designed to enhance a child’s skills or attainments

  • Education tuition

Registered settings are inspected by HSC Trust Early Years Teams (Social Workers) against the Minimum Standards for Childminding and Day Care for Children Under Age 12.

Out of School Childcare Workforce Registration & Regulation Requirements

Individual requirements for those working in Out of School Childcare are established as part of the registration process – e.g qualifications, experience, etc.  Staff must be over the age of 18 years old.  


Within the Minimum Standards for Childminding and Day Care for Children under Age 12, and the associated Implementation Guidance Version 3 sets out the minimum qualification requirements for staff working within the early years and childcare sector.

• Level 5 qualifications are now established as the minimum attainment levels for leaders i.e. the person in charge/manager and deputy leaders in full day care, crèche and sessional care (Children’s Care Learning and Development (CCLD) and Playwork at level 5).


Individuals working within registered provision are not required to register with any other body.

Government Policy and Initiatives for Out of School Care in Northern Ireland

Unfortunately, in NI no such framework exists.  In 1999 the Children First Childcare Strategy was published.  This was 5 year strategy which helped to establish the need for SAC services and contributed to the provision of approximately 200 services at that time.  However, since the completion of that policy’s timeframe in 2005, despite interim policy statements (Programme for Government) by the NI Executive wherein the commitment to establishing a new Childcare Strategy was made, Northern Ireland has been without a Childcare Strategy.


NB: Other short-term, limited funding programmes have been introduced including:

Playcare Initiative 1995

Children & Young People’s Funding Package 2006 – 2008

Bright Start SAC Grant Scheme 2014 – 2023


The COVID-19 pandemic has redirected the attention of policy makers as the sustainability and recovery of the sector has required considerable focus and effort.  A commitment to engage with key stake holders to develop a Childcare Strategy has been given but is unlikely to be delivered until 2023.

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