Is after school care being looked after?
Back-end administration of After School Care is an inconvenience for schools and providers, with multiple platforms that also make life inconvenient for parents. LookedAfter Executive Director Darren Stevenson has a ready-to-use alternative solution for providers and parents.
Busy parents using outside school hours care are time-poor. Managing bookings needs to be easy and available 24/7. Looking elsewhere for a holiday program or school-run activity shouldn’t mean having to register and enrol on a different platform.
Likewise, schools and care service providers focus on designing and staffing great programs while remaining compliant to regulations. Time spent on administration is time that could be spent on growing the service.
Recognising the need for a service to align and match the needs of parents, providers and schools, the team behind Extend After School Care launched LookedAfter in November 2017.
LookedAfter Executive Director and Head of Partnerships Darren Stevenson said the online platform is used at more than 100 schools where Extend delivers a program, and will soon launch to the wider outside school hours care sector.
The integrated system provides flexibility and reliability for parents, while also simplifying administration for care providers and schools and allowing them to access more customers.
“It’s like no other product in the market,” Mr Stevenson said, “and it gives a wonderful user experience for families who can now book and pay within the same platform whichever school they book at. We have built a marketplace for schools to offer additional programs and choice for parents, with control and visibility to remain compliant.
“Parents sign up at lookedafter.com and use their account as a one-stop-shop to book care sessions at any available service. There is no enrolment or membership fee – you only pay for usage – and there is one consolidated invoice with a choice of payment methods that take advantage of improvements to internet banking.”
Schools that run their own outside school hours care can tailor the design and pricing of their programs, and generate reports on operation, hours, fees, staff number or other administrative matters.
“Adding your school to LookedAfter is easy, and it doesn’t matter whether you run or own program or offer self-run programs together with programs delivered by an outside provider. You will increase bookings, have happier parents, and save yourself administrative pain.
“The whole backend administration – enrolling and booking and paying, government fee relief, – it’s seamless,” Mr Stevenson said.
Extend After School Care, of which Mr Stevenson is Managing Director, has delivered outside school hours care for 15 years, and is the first provider to embrace the platform.
“In our 15 years, we’ve been unable to find a platform that is efficient, reduces manual intervention and is flexible enough to support the wide variety of services we deliver. That’s why we made our own investment in LookedAfter.com as a separate entity to build the best possible platform for families and schools.”
Schools and providers have freedom to set operating hours, prices and associated policies, and take responsibility for designing and staffing programs.
“Transparency is at the heart of LookedAfter, and providers and coordinators can check enrolments, bookings, revenue and other metrics at any time”, Mr Stevenson said. “It’s priced on a usage basis, which enables schools of any size and in any location to sign up”.
“It removes the administrative grief out of running a program, which is often the most difficult component to get right,” he said. “And it must be right – quality and compliance are non-negotiable. It’s right for Extend, and we’re offering the same advantage to other schools and providers.”
LookedAfter has been a long time in the making. “It’s been an idea of mine for years,” Mr Stevenson said. “After a hectic day at the office overseeing administration of bookings, cancellations, invoices, payments, refunds and records compliance, I would drive home thinking about how we could make life better for not just our business but schools and services across Australia.
“It was the last thing I thought about before I put my head on the pillow at night and the first thing I thought about when I woke the next morning.”
Those years and countless hours of planning resulted in a unique platform for families, schools and educators, which delivers numerous easy-to-understand reports at the touch of a button, alongside full transparency and control with better value and better quality.
The feedback from school communities and families has been wonderful. Mr Stevenson said there has been positive feedback from families who are much happier with the flexibility and control they now have over their accounts and bookings.
“Parents, in particular, love the ease and convenience of booking when its suits them. They can do this online and by mobile device at any time night or day. And with virtually everybody having a mobile phone, access to LookedAfter is always there when it’s needed.
“With LookedAfter no school community is left behind.” Said Mr Stevenson. “Small schools, big schools, old services, new services, metropolitan or rural – LookedAfter never discriminates and all communities are welcome.”
“We make sure all stakeholders have the confidence they deserve and are comprehensively looked after.”
Which, said Mr Stevenson, is how LookedAfter got its name.