Study charts the growth of the school runner business

Man and women running


The ‘school-runner’ business accounts for one in five start-ups today as parents struggle to match their work hours to school hours, according to a new study by AXA Business Insurance.

The Good Life Report on self employment in the UK says one in five new businesses in the UK are started by parents whose primary motivation is to fit their work hours to school hours. Typically these involve parents working five to six hours per day, sandwiched between the two school runs. The report says the average earnings are £750 per month, but for most it means eliminating childcare fees.

AXA says Scotland leads the trend: it estimates ‘school-runner businesses’ now make up a quarter of new Scottish businesses. This finding is linked to the rapid rise in childcare costs in Scotland in recent years combined with an insufficiency of provision in many areas.

“The number of families where both parents work has increased by a third in the past 20 years. While family economics change, schools continue to follow a schedule that evolved over a century ago,” comments Gareth Howell, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance. “Even though rights to flexible hours have strengthened in recent years, most jobs advertised today still follow a strict 9-5 model, and schools are not compromising either. Self-employment is one solution to this contradiction at the heart of many families today.”

The study found that the school run is a point of stress for many parents, adding up to almost four hours of stress per working day, or almost 24 hours per week. Six in 10 of those who had made the switch to self employment said they felt it had helped improve their mental wellbeing. Three in 10 believed the nature of the stress had just changed rather than reduced, while just one in 10 ‘school-runners’ said self-employment had led to a deterioration in their mental health.

Getting more time to enjoy with children was a common expectation of self-employment among parents, but few felt they had achieved it. Just over a third of ‘school runner’ business owners said they had more time for their kids after starting their business. However, a common health benefit, noted by almost half of school-runners, was that their days involved more physical activity and less desk-time. School-runner entrepreneurs spend an average of 30 per cent of their day punctuated by physical exertion as they combine household, parenting and work. This compares to 15 per cent for a typical full-time office worker.

The report says school-runners report BMIs lower than the UK average (just 25 per cent had BMIs in the overweight category compared to a 62 per cent of the general population). A downside for many was highly impoverished diets:  four in ten ‘school-runners’ say they skip both breakfast and lunch on a regular basis in the rush to complete their work before 3pm.

The most common occupations for school-runner businesses are: accountants, business consultants, caterers, copywriters, private tutors, textile designers and makers, as well as photographers, graphic designers, as well as those in the film and digital media industries.

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