Every primary school pupil is obliged to spend 20 to 28 hours weekly in class. Classroom activities require concentration and classroom time may be a source of stress – children may be concerned about grades or afraid of being called up to the board. Any after-school leisure time should be used for effective rest, active and educational play, as well as catering for individual needs of each child. The right place to fulfil these functions is the afterschool club.
According to a ministerial regulation (2001), afterschool clubs are assumed to provide care to children who have to stay at school after lessons because of their parents’ work commitments, transport arrangements or other circumstances demanding afterschool care. The teacher in charge should provide such children with recreation activities, tuition or help with homework, opportunity to rest, as well as sports activities and games. As groups are usually very varied and numerous (the official upper limit being 25), completing all these tasks can be quite a challenge.
It is the job of each school to adjust the conditions at the club to the needs of its young users. The first step in doing so is to plan and organize the space. While some children need a quiet corner to do their homework, others need active play. To reconcile different needs and expectations – quite normal with different ages and characters – the priority is the right division and layout of the room. A good solution is to section off theme corners and arrange them appropriately so that a child can find all accessible aids and toys in one place. Such a safe and stable environment is bound to foster children’s individual interests.
Another organizational challenge is the compulsory education for 6-year-olds. Children at this age find themselves in a totally new environment and so they need special care, a friendly, predictable and safe space, as well as individualized approach. With several hours spent daily at the club, the place becomes an important element of a child’s everyday routine. It is each school’s duty to ensure that the conditions at the club are right for everybody e.g. by adjusting the height of tables and chairs to the height of children. The selection of equipment must take into account children’s developmental needs and differences in themes according to age. Lastly, when adjusting the furniture to the size and functions of room, one must reconcile functionality with safety requirements.
Although everyday practice can pose serious challenges, afterschool clubs should be friendly and safe places adjusted to children’s needs, places to return to with pleasure. They should ensure sensible and effective organization of leisure time, so important for a child’s healthy development.