Say "childcare" to most parents and they'll think nurseries, childminders, playgroups.

But that excludes the many and varied supervised activities taking place across the county for children.

Increasing numbers of schools run out-of-school-hours learning activities. On top of these there are clubs run by the Youth Service, scouts, guides, sea cadets and so on.

All these offer scope to inter-react, broaden interests and develop skills. But, they generally run once a week. For a working parent, this does not fill the gap between school and a realistic collection time.

This is where out-of-school clubs serve a useful function.

And, crucially, they are mostly regulated. If they operate for more than two hours a week for children under eight, they must register with the Inspection Unit and meet basic criteria: all staff are checked by the police; most are trained; all are experienced.

These clubs combine childcare and education in the sense that they complement what's happening at school. Most provide the opportunity to read, do homework or get involved in sports. Some, like breakfast clubs, are useful drop-off points before school for working parents, which also provide a meal.

The good news is, thanks to increased Government funding directly to the 150 Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership nationwide, of which East Sussex EYDCP is one, the number of places is increasing and the level of training, and so quality, is constantly rising. Wider availability also means that it is more than possible to ensure that you never leave your school-age child alone at home.

Ring Kites Childcare Information for details of kids' clubs near you.

If there isn't one, then, if you have an entrepreneurial streak and appropriate experience, you could consider starting one yourself. There's possible financial support available from the Lottery-financed New Opportunities Fund.

Similarly, if you are an employer and would benefit from providing out-of-school care for your staff, you can also apply for funding.