Over the past decade, the trend has been clear: the demands on after-school club activities have increased while the number of children has grown – without there being a corresponding increase in staffing levels. In other words, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the requirements.
Linnea Lindquist, initiator of the School Leader Campaign (Skolledarupproret) and headteacher at Hammarkull School in Gothenburg, is of the opinion that “the situation in after-school clubs is now catastrophic after many years of underinvestment”. At the same time, she notes that the fault does not lie primarily with the school management: “No headteacher wants to cut back on after-school clubs, but they are given no choice if they have to achieve a balanced budget.”
Potential for improvement
For this reason, while waiting for the situation to improve, it is important to make the changes and efficiency improvements that are possible – as long as they do not negatively affect the organizations and their activities. The best thing, of course, would be if we could make efficiency gains and bring about positive change.
Tietoevry has looked at where there is potential to make such improvements in the organizations and their activities. One area we have identified is activity planning.
With a new digital solution, it is possible to make the everyday working life of educators and management run more smoothly, and at the same time put in place the conditions for increased parental involvement.
Flexibility is important
What we consider to be important in such a solution, above all, is that you should be able to set up a number of activities and easily specify how often they should recur, for example daily, weekly or a few times a month. In other words, it should be just as simple as with one-off activities, which do not have any planned regularity.
That is a basic requirement. The solution also has to be flexible in other ways. For example, it should be usable – no matter what type of activity. It should be possible to use it to plan all the activities that the different units may do, ranging from sport and creative activities to forest walks and free play.
With all the activities in the system, it is possible to get an easily accessible overview of what is happening, both in the short term and long term.
At the same time, we all know that conditions can change quickly, so it must be just as easy to make changes to the planning. Here too, flexibility is an important factor.
Cooperation with the home
We also believe that such a solution can generate improvements in both the day-to-day and long-term work. By integrating the activity planning into the existing Edlevo app, there will be completely new opportunities for better communication with parents about the activities at the after-school club.
The value of this is clear to anyone who works at after-school clubs, but it is worth noting that cooperation with the home is also highlighted by the authorities. The Swedish National Agency for Education’s general advice on after-school clubs emphasizes the importance of cooperation with the home. “This cooperation emphasizes communication between the stakeholders,” according to the Agency.
The Norwegian equivalent, Utdanningsdirektoratet, states that “good cooperation lays the foundation for parents having a positive view of the SFO [after-school club].” It also points out that “good information and dialogue help the SFO and the home to support each other and focus on the needs of the child.”
In a digital solution integrated into the app that is already used, it is then possible to send information on activity planning to parents. Parents can look at this, perhaps together with their children, and note which activities the children will be doing.
For activities that have a limit on the number of participants, confirmation from the staff may be required before the child is booked to do the activity. The parent can then easily see which activities the child will be attending the next day or further ahead.
The vast majority of parents say they want to be more involved in their children’s after-school club activities, and this gives them a great opportunity to do that.
Everything in one place
Of course, it is also much easier for the staff to manage communication about activities in a digital environment, compared to sending papers home and hoping that they will actually reach the parents and then also be returned to the after-school club. A digital solution also makes it easy to send out reminders, either as required or as scheduled notifications.
The people working at the after-school club also have all the information in one place. It is possible to see which children will be present and if any of them are away ill when it is time for the activity. Children are checked in using the same solution, so it is easy to know when everyone has arrived.
It is certainly the case that staff have had to take on more responsibility and more administration, and been given more goals to achieve. At the same time, every educator wants to give their children the greatest possible attention. This is where modern digital solutions are of great use.