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Funded nursery places

I realise this is a bit BT but i know most people on OT have slightly older kids so thought you guys might be better placed to answer for me. 

Was chatting to friend at work today about nursery funding and free hours from 3 onwards. Her son is in nursery and P isn't (mum has her) so she's more up on these things than me. She said that at her sons nursery you can only have a place using free hours if you do additional paid ones on top. SO you can't just send you kid for 15 hours per week and nothing else. Is this right? Does it apply everywhere?? 

Seems odd to me as surely everyone is entitled to the 15 ours, i didn't know they came with conditions. Is this down to individual nurserys and is it common place do you know? 


  • i think it depends on the nursery tbh, i think private ones will adhere to the guidelines re teh 15 hours but the 15 hours is only term time so they may have different stipulations

    fwiw, L went to a preschool from 2.5 i paid for 2 sessions, the 15 hours are only valid from the term AFTER they are 3 so in Ps case from the easter.  i increased Ls sessions to 3 morning when he was entitled to his free hours, but they couldnt accommodate him anymore than that and the cm wouldnt make up the hours with her as basically it was too much work to just be having one child doing it.  he then started preschool properly the september after he was 3.  so i think it very much depends on the nursery.  school run nurserys are fine but i think private ones do have their own rules

  • I've never heard of that at all! AFAIK you send your child to any preschool you wish as long as they have a place. L goes to the same private nursery he's always attended, they just pro rata the funded hours out over the year as you don't get them for school holidays. A friend of mine sends her child to a private nursery for 2 days then the 15hrs at another pre school. I think the nursery your friend's child attends are being rather cheeky!

  • I think what CP says is right, if it's a school-run/council-run nursery then you can just use your 15hrs, they'll give you a morning or afternoon session, but if it's a private nursery they take the level of funding off your total fee so you'd need to put your child in for a half/full day and pay the difference.  

    Worth asking around though, but that's how M's nursery will work when she gets funding from August.

  • Thanks ladies. That's interesting. Hers is a private nursery so perhaps they have their own rules....i just assumed you could use them as  you wish. Given the nursery is being paid for them by government, it's not just free!

    The school i work in has a prep-school with nursery attached and P will go there from Easter after her 3rd birthday. She'll stay at mums until then. I'm a teacher so not getting them in the school holidays is no issue. I can obviously ask admin at work but i just wondered really as i'd never thought of it before.

  • As others say they can make up their own rules if private. One pre school (so school term time only) near us won't accept children who go to nursery at another setting. But will accept children who are looked after by a child minder. My friend wanted her daughter to go there as its a feeder pre school for their state primary school and she thought it would be good socially for her. But she also worked so needed coverage from a full time nursery.  They wouldn't offer her a place on that basis. Said she had to stop going to the nursery.

  • You really need to check with your school. I think some of the private schools round here accept free hours but only if they are used between 4pm - 7pm each day which obviously isn't ideal for you. I know some don't offer it. I am also guessing that they may operate different rules for teachers who I'm guessing (if one of my friends is anything to go by) get substantial discounts on fees anyway. Most of the nurserys round here do as your friend mentioned so it ends up pro-rated across the no of days you attend so you basically can't just send them for the free days! Good nursery and preschool places are so oversubscribed round here that they could really do what they like!!

  • That's the trouble around here isn't it, not enough places for nurserys and/or primary schools so places can do what they like. I do get a substantial discount on fees yes, 50%. Although that would be pro rata as i work part time. I also know from speaking to someone else who has sent their LO to our nursery that they do take funded hours into account. Not sure on the exact details though. I'll pop into the bursary and ask when i get the chance. I know colleague said he was paying a tiny amount per term after funded hours and our discount is taken into account. Not to mention the added convenience of pick up/drop off etc all being at work! Do you use a nursery near you?

  • That is really lucky then AR!! Will P go to school there too? We use a pre-school near us - it is wonderful and literally a minute's walk from our house. I had A's name on the waiting list as soon as she was born! Praying that the school gods will go in our favour next year for primary schools (we've been in catchment every year to date including this one). We briefly considered private but for three kids that is getting uber expensive and means we won't have the cash for life experiences for them (exciting holidays, days out etc) so are seeing where we end up with the state system. Makes me feel a bit sad though as I always hoped I would earn enough to send my children to private school but the bonus child we got spelled the end to that plan!!!!

  • No she'll go to the village primary in the village we are moving too. I would consider sending her private if there wasn't a suitable primary nearby but, like you, it comes down to numbers as we'd like 3 and that adds up. Even with a discount!! Plus if we have a boy next i won't get the nursery discount let alone school fees off. Hopefully we'll be able to afford to move back into grammar catchment by the time she goes to secondary school, at least you are perfectly placed for that! I went to the girls grammar near you ;-)

  • Actually private nurseries can't make up their own rules as my kids nursery have just found out!  They only offered 3 hours on a Monday/Friday morning and afternoon.  Any other days you wanted they were making you pay for extra hours to make up to a full half a day.  The Department for Educations statutory Guidance for local authorities on the delivery of free early education for three and four year old states that

    1.4 Ensure that providers who charge for any goods or services, for example meals, optional extras or additional hours of provision outside of the free entitlement, do not do so as a condition of children accessing their free entitlement.

    I called my local authority that the nursery comes under and lo and behold their policy has now changed!  The nursery can opt out of the free funding but if they are getting the funding from their local authority they have to abide by the rules.  A phone call to your local authority may be in order.

  • Interesting stuff Emma!

  • And under section 2.3 They also have to offer as a minimum childcare either in 3 hour sessions over 5 days or 5 hour sessions over 3 days though they can charge you for lunch but must give you the option of taking in a packed lunch.  I must be the bane of the nursery's life!

  • What seems to be being overlooked in the discussions is that childcare providers are most often a private business who pay wages, pensions, holiday pay and all the other associated costs as per statutory requirements.  They also provide the premises, which can be in very many cases £1m +.  The law sets the hourly rate to be paid to the providers, staff child ratios and how many hours are to be funded.  One of the problems is that the financials do not add up.  To resolve this the provider has to look at other ways of making up the shortfall and cut costs.  At present I am, as a provider, doing the maths to establish what I can legitimately charge extra for.  This will include lunches, maybe snacks too. I am also looking at ‘extra curriculum activities, such as forest school, music, sports and so on.  We currently provide book bags, outdoor clothing, wellies, messy play aprons and all craft consumables.  It is not reasonable to presume extra charges will not be added, a setting costs a certain amount to remain open and that figure has to be achieved come what may.

    Private businesses are being given statutory parameters to meet and inadequate payment to cover the costs.  Highly qualified and experienced professional staff of private childcare providers are frequently paid the national minimum wage with none of the advantages of civil servants salaries, pensions, holidays.

    The childcare providers who may thrive in this environment are those who offer cost cut service and if this is what parents really want that will be fine. However, the providers offering more than this will charge for their services and create an egalitarian system, which is a very disappointing outcome for the children, society and the childcare providers who do actually care.

    There is a further complication which can not be overlooked, and that is childcare providers may not actually have sufficient places to offer 30 hours per week.  I have to be honest and say this is an equal worry to me as the lack of funding of it.  Do I really have to look at offering funded hours between 7:30am to 10:30am and 3:00pm to 6:00pm?  Do I really have to consider only accepting full time children 51 weeks per year with no term time option?  Am I going to charge a higher rate for the hours of 10:30am to 3:00pm.  I’m afraid all these and more options are on the table, one thing is for sure, the parents our very dear friends, will have to make up the shortfall and this is hurtful all round.

    I would like parents in general to be less cynical about childcare providers having conditions to the provision of funded places, we are not a public funded service and we do wish to provide quality care and development opportunities for your very precious children and give them the best start in life.

    This is a complex issue with much wider ramifications than the simplistic brief above.  I don’t log on to this forum very often, so, whilst I will help and advise anyone, it may not be possible for me to carry through the discussion, but I hope this gives an insight.

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