educationmattersmag.com.au | 01 May 2018
Sherpa Kids is an international company headquartered in Australia which runs before and after school care services and holiday care in schools and other community facilities. The organisation, which has some 100 franchises worldwide, looks after around 5,400 primary school-aged children every day.
Whilst the name Sherpa Kids may not be as synonymous within the Outside of School Hours Care (OSHC) industry in Australia as some of the bigger providers, it is their intent to change this over the coming years. It is a goal to ensure school leaders know the name Sherpa Kids and connect it with an understanding of commitment and quality.
Sherpa Kids Australia is in over 30 schools across the country, which are owned and operated by more than a dozen franchisees. The fact that Sherpa Kids services are delivered by the business owners is important; the service is being provided by someone with a significant investment in the business and the incentive to make sure it is being done right and being done well.
Sherpa services deliver a highly structured, engaging environment designed specifically to achieve a positive social and educational outcome. It is this that differentiates them clearly from their competitors. Activities include arts and crafts, music and drama, sport and games, cooking and technology. Many are based on specific themes, and tailored to fit in with the individual requirements of schools, their cultures and ultimately their communities.
Sherpa Kids Australia recently went through significant change with new ownership and a new direction. New Managing Director, Michael Rasmussen, comes to this role with a lot of experience in business as well as education, being a qualified teacher as well as having operated several large OSHC services in NSW.
When asked his opinion on modern OSHC services in primary schools, Mr Rasmussen says in his experience as a classroom teacher, School Sports Manager and now an OSHC operator, he has been exposed to many different OSHC programs operated by a variety of providers.
“Many of these services, on the surface, appeared to be well run,” he says. “The children were happy, there were lots of activities, the staff looked as though they were enjoying their work and the physical environment was clean and tidy. Is this what it means to have a good OSHC service at your school? In part, yes, however there is a lot that goes into ensuring a service is able to look like the one previously mentioned. Factors such as, staffing – in particular managers, the school relationships, review and discussion, and parent communication. These aspects can so easily change and subsequently the service dynamics goes with it. My experience allows me to ensure these ingredients go into the services we provide and the support is there to ensure the stability of these key factors and the continued success of the service.”
Mr Rasmussen says that when speaking to principals and school leaders that they often ask what makes Sherpa Kids different to other providers.
His answer refers to the Sherpa Kids business model and its franchisees. Many large providers, he says, such as those controlling more than 50 services, find it difficult to ensure the factors mentioned above remain strong in each and every service. Sherpa Kids provides the only franchised OSHC service in the country. This means the schools deal directly with the business owner, not a manager or regional manager but the Managing Director. This holds many benefits for the school and their families. Their franchisees generally do not control more than five or six services each, which ensures the business owners remain very close to their services. Their connections with the school and its families is intimate and it enables them to be more effective and efficient in all that they do. An ideal franchisee understands the school systems and the needs of a modern primary school. The franchisees are essentially running a small school, as they control educational budgets, deal with such aspects as staffing, programming, assessment and reviews, so experience in these areas is important.
In explaining Sherpa Kids Australia’s role, Michael says: “Our job as the franchisor is to oversee each operation and provide operational support with our team of highly experienced OSHC professionals. This allows me to personally take the successes of what we do in our existing services to new, potential school sites and discuss with the principals the possibility of engaging in a long-term relationship to provide the same level of quality care at their school.”
As Sherpa Kids continues to work towards building awareness of its name within the network of primary schools throughout Australia, it guarantees that schools that engage with Sherpa Kids will enjoy professional working partnerships. Mr Rasmussen concludes: “We ensure we are always willing to work in with the needs of the school and to integrate what we do into the life of each school. I acknowledge there are many good providers in the marketplace but we want to put ourselves out there as a leader in what we provide rather than how many services we have.”
Sherpa Kids is available to talk to you about the out of school hours care needs at your school today.