Bristol Standard Case Studies

Ashton Gate Out of School Care was founded in 1987 to provide wraparound out of school care to children aged four to eleven attending Ashton Gate Primary School or living in the local area. It was set up by a group of parents and continues to be run by a voluntary management committee, most of whom are parents of children at the scheme.  It started off very small, with just 24 places and only 1 child actually attending the breakfast club.  Over the years it has expanded and it is now the biggest out of school club in the whole of Bristol.  Its services include an after school club, breakfast club, holiday playscheme and a weekly lunch club.  350 families are registered and access one or more of these services.  Each after school club session can take up to 144 children, breakfast club can take up to 96 and holiday playschemes can take 64.

AGOSC is a registered charity and registered with Ofsted and it is currently rated as an ‘Outstanding’ setting.

The school and the clubs are on two sites.  KS1 children use the old caretaker’s house and KS2 children use a terrapin building on the site of an old chapel, across the road.  Both sites have access to outdoor space and the club is lucky enough to have sole use of each building, meaning they don’t have to set out and pack away each day.

The Manager of AGOSC is Bella, who started there over 10 years ago as a playworker.  As far as Bella can remember, they have always been doing the Bristol Standard and in this time they have completed 3 or 4 cycles.  Bella is extremely positive about it and feels they get so much out of ‘being on the journey’.  When asked, she couldn’t think of a single challenge or negative aspect and she oozes enthusiasm for it, saying they never get fed up of it.

So what does the team get from doing the Bristol Standard?

Well, as you can imagine, providing care for up to 144 children in 1 session requires a rather large staff team and there are 28 staff members in total. Bella said one of the best things about the process is that it provides the opportunity for the whole staff team to come together, which is vital for ensuring team cohesion and working towards a shared vision.  This in turn helps ensure the children are provided with the best possible experience and a happy team can mean happy children.

Coming together as a team is certainly how the Bristol Standard is approached at AGOSC and Bella realises they are lucky they have the time and space to have regular team meetings.  These take place weekly and the Bristol Standard is on the agenda every other week.  These meetings focus on a specific dimension and the team split into small groups to look at the questions.  Whole group discussions from this then help identify what targets need to be set.  The senior team is responsible for writing it up and monitoring progress, but the tasks that need doing in order to complete the targets are distributed to all staff.  Bella says the staff are very positive about it and giving them the responsibility for certain tasks or targets gives them ownership, gets them engaged with the process and helps them feel that they want to be a part of it.

Coming together as a team is only one of the great things about the Bristol Standard for AGOSC though. Bella elaborated on how the Bristol Standard helps:  It gives staff a solid framework for reflecting on what they do and it’s great that it focusses on the benefits to children. This helps staff think about why they do things and gives reason and purpose to everything.  Bella went on to say this has probably been the hardest part of their journey as staff might be aware of what the benefits are but it can be difficult to put this into words.  Putting it in words has been really beneficial though as it makes it more obvious to staff – they can actually see and understand the benefit of their hard work. 

Setting targets has helped AGOSC ensure they are continuously progressing and moving forward and has helped make the club more dynamic. Things have definitely been put in place that otherwise wouldn’t have been because the dimensions ensure that different areas of practice are looked at and reflected on.  The targets have also helped with Ofsted, by keeping things fresh and making staff more knowledgeable about the setting’s improvement plan.  It’s boosted their confidence over knowing what they need to know.  Even if Ofsted don’t look at the folder, staff are more confident in talking to them.

Bella said another great thing is the gathering of evidence, it makes the process of self-evaluation very visual and it’s great to have a record of what we have done.  Who doesn’t love looking back at old photos?

Many targets have been set since the beginning of AGOSC’s journey but Bella said those that have had the biggest impact were around managing the move when they started using 2 sites.  The targets helped ensure this went smoothly.  Targets around ensuring the older children in the club are provided with appropriate activities have also had a lot of impact and have resulted in workshops and trips to the park being planned.

So how is it several years on?  Is it harder to think up targets and new ways to improve?

Definitely not says Bella.  The school itself is changing, in terms of size, the families and the increasing need for childcare as well as meeting the changing needs of the school means the club is always evolving.  Having different staff over time, particularly students on childcare related courses, means fresh ideas are always being brought in and in Bella’s words ‘the Bristol Standard keeps us on our toes’.

To sum up, the Bristol Standard has been, and still is, an amazing and valuable journey for AGOSC.  Would Bella recommend it to other settings?  The answer to this is a most definite ‘YES’.