23.02.21 11:56 AM By Tracy

Today, school wraparound childcare, after school clubs and out-of-school club booking systems are being implemented to take payments, communicate with parents, manage paperwork and much more. There are two main approaches. The first is to hire a software development company to build a bespoke booking system to meet your specifications, and the second is to subscribe to an existing cloud-based solution. Each option has its advantages and issues, read on to find out more:

Bespoke booking systems

A bespoke booking system is built from the ground up specifically for your setting.  After signing a contract with a software development company, you will need to put together a list of capabilities that you want your system to be able to do.  This will be accomplished in consultation with the developers, who will advise you on what is possible, how long it will take and any other aspects you need to be aware of.  The developers then get to work designing, building and testing the system and once it is complete, integrate it with your setting.  The process is very similar to having an architect design your house; you hire a set of professionals to build you something to your specifications.


  • Bespoke: Whatever specifications you request, providing they are achievable, should be met by the developers.  This means that if you have a particular way of doing things, then your system will be able to match that.
  • Integrated: If your system is built for you, then it will be designed with your existing infrastructure in mind.  This can include integration with SIMs or any other MIS that you use.
  • Hidden: A big advantage of a bespoke system is the ability to appear seamless with other systems, like the website.  This is something that schools and clubs request to avoid confusing parents with different brand names.


  • Expensive: Software development is very costly because of the highly skilled nature of the work.  Often development companies will have teams of developers which drives up the cost of getting things done dramatically.  These issues combine to make the cost of a bespoke online booking system often prohibitively expensive, typically running into the tens of thousands of pounds.
  • Slow:  Development is a slow process, often requiring many hours of work, testing and iterations.  This means the time between signing a contract and going live is typically measured in months rather than in days or weeks.
  • Limited: Most bespoke booking systems are built around a core set of systems that the development company will have built already.  These foundational systems are then adapted and built upon to make the system seem a lot more bespoke than it is.  This has the disadvantages of inflating the already high cost, but also limiting your options when it comes to designing systems to match how you operate. The costs of pushing past those limitations then become even higher.

Subscription booking systems

Cloud-based subscription booking systems are similar to bespoke systems but differ in a few key aspects.  These are systems that have been built and are managed by a company devoted to that system.  The school or club pays a regular fee and then has a profile set up on the system.  With this, the school or club can then use the system as though it was a bespoke system.


  • Quick: Subscribing to a cloud-based booking system will be ready to go, right out of the box.  Bar any initial set-up and training, the system can be up and running in 24 hours or less.
  • Cheap: The cost of development is shared over many clients, rather than concentrated on one.  This has distinct advantages since it means the cost that you pay is low.  It also means that more time can be spent adding features and testing to make sure everything works.
  • Supported: Because subscription systems rely on having many clients, they also by necessity must have an efficient support system active.  This will include tools and personnel ready and able to help you when things go wrong.  This is further helped by a large number of clients finding and reporting issues regularly.  As a consequence, a subscription system is constantly improved and polished, rather than built and delivered, with further improvements costing more.

  • Little Customisation: Typically, a subscription system will be limited when it comes to customisation.  This means that while some cosmetic options may be available, customising more fundamental parts of the system won’t be possible.  This does not mean that subscription systems are set in stone, because of the large number of clients.  When many clients ask for something then it becomes highly probable that features may be implemented, but it will be slower than if you asked for it as a development client.
  • Bloat: Subscription services are often designed to work for as many different clients as possible.  As a consequence, these systems can have features and systems that may not be very useful for your organisation.  These could make a subscription service a little bit clunky for you to use.
  • Fragmented: Many subscription booking systems are fragmented which means that each system only does a small scope of tasks.  Systems like ParentPay are designed to handle a single task, such as processing payments.  To cover the full gambit of tasks, schools and clubs often have to purchase several solutions.

    booking can make running your school, wraparound childcare or extra-curricular club a lot easier, to see how, book a demo now!