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Breakfast clubs struggle in Fife

Financial and staffing difficulties pose a question mark over the future viability of out-of-school childcare, according to a review by Fife Council of its 49 clubs.

It found "fluctuating demand for provision, resulting in inconsistent attendance at clubs with peaks and troughs which can cause significant cashflow and resource planning difficulties".

Clubs are caught between having little control over costs, which can depend on staffing ratios, and little leeway to increase fees because of fears that parents could not afford them. The report adds that where this was tested, the concern has proved unfounded.

The review also found that staffing difficulties were becoming "a serious issue which is impacting on the ability to develop clubs in some areas".

This is attributed to lack of labour in some places and lack of appeal in out-of-school childcare as a career or job. Clubs run by volunteers, representing around half of the Fife total, are said to feel there is unfair competition from council-operated clubs which are able to offer better wages.

The report also expresses concern at the effectiveness of breakfast clubs.

They are said to be "struggling" with very low uptake in many areas, with use as low as two or three pupils per session (against a registered capacity 10 times this). The poor attendance is despite evidence of latent demand for before-school provision.

The cost of breakfast clubs may be one factor, the report says, "as there is evidence in some schools of children being dropped off in the playground as early as 8am".

The council's children's services committee will check on progress in a year's time.

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