The use of child care, both informal and formal arrangements, has increased substantially over the past few decades, concurrent to maternal labour force participation.
While Long Day Care (LDC) places increased by 39 per cent between 2004 and 2009; Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) places also increased substantially - 25 per cent in the same period (Productivity Commission 2011). Further, the number of children attending OSHC is predicted to rise by 40 per cent over the next 20 years – faster than growth in LDC (Productivity Commission 2011).
The ‘middle years’ of childhood is often overlooked in favour of early childhood, however these years are emerging as an important focus of policy within Australia and globally, including being recently flagged by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2011 report (UNICEF 2011) as years of childhood that should not be forgotten. Outside school hours care is generally used by children aged between 5 and 12 years, and includes portions of two important developmental stages – early childhood (5-8 years) and the middle years (9-14 years).
These developmental stages will often require a differentiated approach to the provision of care. With an increasing proportion of school-age children attending formal and informal care settings and the value of these arrangements in terms of facilitating parental (and particularly mothers’) labour force participation; as well as the potential for these care arrangements to influence child and family wellbeing, it is important that we gain an understanding of care patterns and transitions for school-age children in Australia.