Care after school should be safe, structured, stimulating and socially enriching. And fun too! Driven by this conviction, CRAIG FORTUNE founded My After School Headquarters.
At MASH, we understand children’s needs and developmental stages; we understand that children need routines and boundaries; and the importance of establishing trusting, respectful relationships. Our professional, dedicated staff members are there for the children at all times, backed by our customer support staff.
Today, parents work long hours, and they don’t often have the time to do arts and crafts or baking in the afternoons, or the energy and composure to deal with the inevitable mess! But we do.
Embedded in the philosophy behind MASH is the idea of adding value. We achieve this by offering a structured programme, where each of our Programme Managers plans different activities and new experiences. As part of this, we regularly engage with community groups. We have had, for example, the Deaf Association show our children some of the basics of sign language, and visits from the local Fire and Police Departments.
That after-school slot – from 3pm till whenever the workday finishes – needn’t be characterised by lax supervision, chaos and noise.
Most of our sessions run from 3-6pm. Children arrive just after 3pm, and then have afternoon tea – a time for coming together and eating and interacting politely and respectfully. Then we offer homework assistance. For those kids who don’t have homework, there is actively supervised ‘free play’ time. Around 4pm, we gather together and staff introduce the planned activity, which usually runs for about 45 minutes, until around 5pm when most children are picked up.
There is incredible social value in out-of-school programmes, especially where there is a mixed-aged dynamic: the younger children learn by observing their older peers, and the older children assume leadership roles and practise their communication skills. The friendships our children establish transfer to the playground and into the community.
Enjoyable and enriching, the programme is not expensive. In fact, many families are eligible for funding, and some pay as little as $2 per day, per child. Often parents do not know what subsidies they are eligible for, and our customer support staff are there to guide them.
We started our first centre in 2012 because we wanted to offer an after-school alternative that would add value to children’s lives. With this same motivation, we are now looking to franchise. We are seeking likeminded people who wish to help us bring MASH into their communities, and bring in some income for their families.