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When your child starts primary school there are lots of things to think about – and one of these is childcare around the school day and in the holidays. Chances are their school day won’t neatly coincide with your working hours – so what are the options for childcare once your child has started school?

The good news is, there are lots of different childcare options open to parents on either side of the school day and in the holidays, from childminders, after school, holiday and activity clubs to help from friends and family, so it’s worth having a think about what will best suit your family.

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If you have willing family living nearby, would they be able to give you a hand with childcare, either on a regular or more one-off basis?

If you do have family happy to help, it’s a good idea to set out some ground rules early on, so everyone knows what’s expected of them. For example:

  • How long will your child spend with them?
  • Will they provide your child with any meals?
  • Depending on the child’s age, are they expected to encourage them to do their homework, or is time with granny time for play?
  • Will you expect them to enforce any rules you have, for example, around screen time?
  • Will you pay for things like food or toys?
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School age childcare

You may be able to sign your child up for a breakfast club and/or out of school club in your area. Some of these are run on school grounds, whilst others may be held nearby. The same providers may also offer clubs and other childcare during the holidays. 

You’ll probably need to book your child into these in advance, and there’s likely to be a charge – our page on paying for childcare explains how you can get help paying for registered school age childcare. Your child’s school or local council should be able to suggest clubs near you. 

Bear in mind that if you are using entitlements like Tax-Free Childcare, Universal Credit or Tax Credits for childcare to help with the costs of childcare, the club your child attends must be registered with the Scottish Care Inspectorate, so make sure you check before signing up. You can check on the Scottish Care Inspectorate website.

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School clubs and activities

Some schools run sports clubs and other activities after or before school – you can ask your child’s school for more information about this.

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You may be able to find a childminder in your area who can look after your children before or after school. Childminders offer a more flexible service. For example, they may be able to take your child to school or pick them up as part of this. Visit the Scottish Childminding Association website to find someone near you.

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Childcare in the holidays

While the kids can’t wait for the holidays to roll around, for parents they can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Most working parents don’t get enough annual leave to cover all the school holidays, and if you have a partner, splitting the holidays between you isn’t always possible. 

However, there are lots of other options available. As well as help from family or using registered childminders, you may be able to access a mix of the following:

  • holiday clubs held in your child’s school or other local schools – these are often run by charities or other community organisations.
  • holiday clubs or camps arranged by your local council, for example, at leisure centres or community centres – check your council’s website to see what’s on offer in your area.
  • clubs or camps run by local organisations – this could include Brownies or Cubs, youth groups or your local church.
  • activity  clubs or camps – if your child is interested in trying a new activity, like a sport, drama, art or music, check with local clubs to see if they’re running anything over the holidays. If your child is already a member of a club, ask if they are organising a holiday club.
  • sharing care with other parents in your area – could you leave your child with a friend for a day, in return for looking after their child on another day?

If you need to pay for these clubs, you can find out more about getting help to pay for childcare here

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you work you’re probably entitled to unpaid parental leave. In some cases (particularly if you have more than one child) it may work out more cost effective to take unpaid leave than to pay for holiday clubs. You can find out more about parental leave on the website.

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Help with costs of school age childcare

Depending on your personal circumstances, there may be  support available to help pay for childcare once your child starts school. Our page on getting to grips with childcare costs has more information.

You can also check out and use the childcare calculator to see if you are eligible for help with childcare costs.

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