Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Out-of-School Time Services (PA-OST) 19: Supervision

The agency ensures the safety of children and youth by providing sufficient and appropriate supervision at all times, including on field trips away from the program site.
2020 Edition




Children and youth who participate in Out-of-School Time programs gain the personal, social, emotional, and educational assets needed to support healthy development, increase well-being, and facilitate a successful transition through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Program ratio
  • Procedures for providing adequate supervision, including for coverage during breaks, absences, emergencies, etc.
  • Policy governing one-on-one interactions between personnel and children/youth
  • Procedures governing one-on-one interactions between personnel and children/youth
  • Procedures for arrivals and dismissals
  • Staffing chart for the previous six months
  • Attendance records showing daily totals and weekly averages
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Children, youth, and families
  • Observe supervision at different times of day and during different activities
  • Observe arrivals and dismissals
  • Review files of children and youth

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.01

The ratio of personnel to children and youth in the program is based on the ages and abilities of children and youth, and is: 
  1. between 1:10 and 1:15 when all children and youth are age six and older; and
  2. between 1:8 and 1:12 when the program includes children under age six.


This standard is intended to address the ratio of personnel to children and youth in a program as a whole, rather than for a particular room or group of children and youth. In other words, a program with 60 participants age six and over would need at least four staff members to meet the program ratio specified in the standard. However, the agency would not need to ensure that there was at least one adult present in every group of 15 children and youth. For example, while one adult might be supervising a group of 19 youth doing line dancing, another adult might be helping a group of 11 youth with their homework.

To be included in the program ratio, staff must be present with, and directly supervising, children and youth. It is also important to note that the ratio must be maintained at all times – if certain staff will periodically leave the organization (e.g., to pick up more children), they should not be counted in the ratio. Non-teaching staff (e.g., front desk staff, custodians, food service personnel, and bus drivers) should also not be counted in the ratio. Volunteers should not be included in this ratio unless they meet personnel qualifications and have a regular, ongoing role at the program.

It may be appropriate for there to be more personnel, and higher ratios of personnel to children and youth, when personnel work with children and youth with special needs, or with groups that consist entirely of kindergarteners.

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.02

Personnel plan for and provide different levels of supervision according to: 
  1. the type, complexity, and level of risk or difficulty of activities; and
  2. the ages, abilities, developmental levels, and needs of children and youth.


Ratios of personnel to children/youth should be higher when projects involve potentially dangerous activities or equipment (e.g., cooking, carpentry, leatherworking, swimming, gymnastics, biking, sledding, or skating), or when children and youth are learning a new or difficult skill. In some cases it may be necessary for personnel who supervise potentially risky activities to receive specialized training, as determined by industry safety standards. Extra adults should also be present on field trips that are difficult to supervise (e.g., trips to amusement parks, beaches, ski areas, or campgrounds). Ratios should not typically exceed 1:25, for any type of activity.  
Similarly, group sizes should typically be smaller when projects involve potentially dangerous activities or equipment, or when children and youth are learning a new or difficult skill. Groups may be larger for activities such as sports, art, reading, or board games, but should not typically exceed 30 children/youth, except for activities such as outdoor play, performances, or assemblies (as long as adequate supervision is provided).

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.03

The agency implements a supervision system that: 
  1. enables personnel to know where children and youth are, and what they are doing, at all times;
  2. allows personnel to see and/or hear all the children and youth they are supervising;
  3. includes special provisions for monitoring children and youth who have permission to be out of sight;
  4. protects younger children when they move from place to place or use the restroom;
  5. enables children and youth to access help at all times; and
  6. makes communication possible between different areas within the program site.
Examples: Agencies can use low barriers between designated spaces to promote visibility, and install convex mirrors to supplement line-of-sight supervision.
Systems for supervision, and the level of supervision provided, may vary based on the developmental stages and needs of the children and youth served. For example, agencies serving younger children might monitor which children are in the restroom, and how long they have been there, by having children put a clothespin by their name and set an egg timer when they leave the room. Conversely, the level of supervision should also respect older youths’ need for independence. Accordingly, an agency serving older youth might develop a policy allowing more independence that is worked out with youth, their families, and personnel.

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.04

The agency ensures safety during arrivals and dismissals by: 
  1. working with parents or other appropriate family members to obtain instructions for arrival and dismissal, including when children and youth are supposed to arrive and how, and with whom, they are allowed to depart;
  2. establishing a system for monitoring when children and youth arrive, when they leave, and with whom they leave;
  3. developing a system to keep unauthorized people from taking children and youth;
  4. establishing protocols for families or schools to contact the agency if children and youth will be arriving late, leaving early, or absent;
  5. developing procedures that address how to respond if a child or youth is not picked up in a timely manner at dismissal; and
  6. contacting a responsible adult listed on the emergency form, or the school, if questions arise.
NA The agency only serves older youth who can come and go independently.

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.05

There is a plan to provide adequate staff coverage: 
  1. when personnel are absent (i.e. due to illness, personal reasons, or professional development);
  2. when personnel leave the room to take a break or retrieve supplies; and
  3. when emergencies or special circumstances arise during program time.


Even if one staff member is sufficient to meet the program ratio specified in PA-OST 19.01, a second adult should be on hand to assist in case an emergency or special circumstance arises.
Examples: Emergencies or special circumstances include situations where a child becomes ill, requires separation from the group, needs special supervision or care, or has an emergency, as well as situations where a staff member becomes ill or has an emergency. The agency can support implementation of this standard by keeping an up-to-date list of adults who are qualified to serve as substitutes.

Fundamental Practice

PA-OST 19.06

One-on-one interactions between personnel and children and youth are in public areas visible by at least one other adult.


It is acceptable for a staff member to be alone with a child or youth during brief periods of transition (e.g., while escorting a child from the cafeteria to the computer lab), as long as their whereabouts are communicated to other personnel.