Choosing the Right Summer Camp For Your Child

Author: Richard Bernstein
Published: October 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm


You’re thinking of booking your child or teen onto a summer residential camp. You’ve seen the ads, brochures and websites. The pictures look lovely. It’s hard to distinguish between pages of smiling, sunny photos. The dates work. Prices seem reasonable. The words are bullish (“we’re experienced, qualified, popular and, frankly, we’re pretty wonderful”).

Then reality dawns. Your child’s life may soon be in the hands of a sunny, smiley company. Suddenly you want reassurances about their safety and health. The serious stuff. But you’re not sure what to ask.

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with parents in your position. And just as many with others who have been through it before. The latter are easy to spot. They ask many more questions. Particularly if they’ve had a bad experience.

Safety, security & staff
A reputable provider should be regulated by OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills). OFSTED conducts inspections of each camp. Its last report may include recommended improvements. It’s worth asking what they were and what the company has done about them. You should ask what rating OFSTED gave the provider at the last inspection. At present the ratings are ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’.

More detail will be available in the camp’s policies and procedures. These should provide information from staff recruitment to health policies. They must be available to you. Their clarity and level of detail are excellent gauges of the company’s attitude to safety.

Staffing is a key issue. Residential staff live in close proximity to children (sometimes, though not usually in the UK, in the same room). Ascertain whether the company meets and interviews them all before employing them. And that they are not accepted onto camp before having CRB & List 99 checks.

It’s worth asking about their staff training. Many will not be qualified teachers and require specific training in pastoral care and basic First Aid. And you should check that a matron or nurse lives onsite. A nurse who only pops in during the day is useless at midnight if and when there is a child with a stomach upset or asthma attack.

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Article Author: Richard Bernstein

Richard Bernstein is the Managing Director of XKeys Ltd (, a company running day and residential camps for children and teens. These camps are run through different holidays in the calendar year. …

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