“So what’s our first House Rule?” “Respect!” chanted the group of children at Super Camps Dunraven, in Lambeth, south London. I was visiting at the end of a week of summer holiday childcare. The sessions had proven popular, with both my six- and eight-year old asking to go back. I was about to find out more about Dunraven’s facilities, and Super Camps themselves, on a guided tour with Becky, from the Super Camps head office.
About Super Camps
Super Camps have been running kids’ holiday clubs for over twenty years, at more than eighty venues across the UK, from York in the north to Truro down in the south-west. The OFSTED-registered school holiday camps are often held in independent schools, which Super Camps choose for their facilities. These vary widely. Some are set in rural areas, with wide expanses of outdoor space, like Malvern College in Worcestershire. Others, like our Dunraven, are inner city camps. Around a third have swimming pools, which the children can visit as part of the activity programme. One even has a small zoo.
I dropped Austin and Gwen off at Dunraven between 9 and 9.30am each morning. The cheery Hayley was always there to greet us, then another member of staff escorted the children indoors, for a play on the bouncy castle before everyone filtered off for their activities. Security was tight. Nobody was given access to the drop-off area without a member of staff letting them in. All the activities took place in an enclosed central space, which you couldn’t see from the front of the school. For a central London location, it felt very safe.
Pick-up was at 5pm, but if I’d needed to, I could have paid a little extra, and gone for the 8am-to-6pm extended hours. Astonishingly, both my children were begging me to do this. They’re usually pretty good at settling into kids’ clubs, but I never normally see this much enthusiasm for childcare. Super Camps were clearly doing something right.
Choosing the activities: where does the input come from?
Austin and Gwen were signed up to the Multi-Activities programme at Dunraven. Each week followed a different theme. The week before ours had been Spy Week, the week after was STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and ours was Once Upon A Time – so the sessions had a storybook element. Wand-making, muggle quidditch, cartoon-drawing and clay castle-building all featured. So did storybook yoga, which was something that the staff had adapted with the help of a local parent. The younger children read books given to Super Camps via a partnership with CBeebies’ Bing.
Children between the ages of four and twelve were welcome at Dunraven’s Multi Activities camp, and they were split up into three different crews, according to their age. The sessions were flexible, taking on board feedback from the kids. They enjoyed the Just Dance session so much that the staff decided to run it again, later in the week. Wednesday was ‘Super Soak’ day, and the staff asked all the parents to send towels and spare clothes in with the kids. It sounds as though they had a riot, running around trying to get each other wet using sponges and buckets. But my daughter, and a few other children, didn’t want to get soaked, so they played elsewhere. Gwen was quite excited about this special time she spent with her fellow non-soakees.
Specialist courses at Super Camps
On certain weeks over the school summer holidays, Super Camps run specialist courses. Super Camps worked in partnership with the global engagement team at LEGO® to develop a new week-long course, A Passion for LEGO® Play, which is full of building challenges. Children on the course fill in souvenir books, so they can remember their builds even after they’ve taken them apart. Everyone gets to take home a LEGO® set at the end of the week.
Even kids who haven’t signed up to the specialist course benefit from the partnership with LEGO®. Super Camps Dunraven ran a building contest, and one child was awarded a LEGO® set to keep at the end of the week.
The other Super Camps specialist courses sound mega-exciting. They include older kids, up to the age of fourteen. I can imagine my two being quite happy to go along to these, even in a few years’ time. RAW Outdoor Adventure features tomahawk throwing and laser tag, which takes place in woodland rather than in the usual dark indoor space. And A Passion for Cookery sees 8-14-year olds creating party rings, pasta, summer puddings, and an end-of-week ‘showstopper’ bake, with decorations that they can bring in from home.
Super Camps Dunraven
Judging by the kids’ reactions, our week at Super Camps Dunraven was the best summer holiday childcare we’ve tried. Dunraven’s facilities weren’t enormous, but the staff turned them into a fun environment. Most of the children’s time was spent outdoors, where music played in the background, and a MUGA astro pitch gave plenty of scope for fun.
Apart from the Early Years crew, who had a separate room, indoor activities took place in a large hall, with a bouncy castle as well as basketball hoops and benches for ball games.
The children ate their lunch and snacks in another large hall, all together. ‘No nuts’ was one of Dunraven’s House Rules. The staff enforced this strictly, checking through everyone’s lunchboxes for snacks that might contain trace elements of allergens.
Staff at Super Camps
I visited on a quiet day, but at its peak, the Dunraven camp saw about eighty children pass through its doors. The staff ratio was one to twelve for the 4-5-year olds, one to 16 for children aged 6-7, and the 8-14-year olds have one staff member for every 20 children.
Over the week, the staff circulated among the three different crews, so the children got to know them all. Most of the workers were either trainee teachers or had a teaching background, and they all went through enhanced DBS checks. The staff looking after the Early Years crew were trained to level two – and everyone I met there was positive, friendly and warm. My children are a little older now, but I know I’d have had no qualms about leaving them with the staff at Dunraven when they were very little.
How much does Super Camps cost?
Super Camps is money well spent. We didn’t pay for these sessions, but we’re planning on signing our two up to attend next summer, or in one of the other school holidays when Super Camps run sessions near us. Our week of Multi Activities at Dunraven in August 2018 would have cost us £199 per child, and A Passion for Cookery would have cost £249. Super Camps accept childcare vouchers.
Do you use childcare over the school holidays?
I’m working with Super Camps and BritMums to promote the #SuperCampsKids campaign sponsored by Super Camps. I was compensated for my time. Visit https://www.SuperCamps.co.uk to find a camp near you.
Check out our post on free play in London, for other suggestions of fun things to do in the UK capital.
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