Getting children to school as a working parent

(54 Posts)
Lildot Mon 15-Jul-13 17:56:45

I am hoping someone has any ideas. We have been given a place at an out of catchment school with no before or after provision, the nursery that both daughters attend 11 months and 4.5 years) is attached to a differing out of catchment school and we were not offered an in catchment school.. The school offered also has no nursery and nurseries who would deliver cannot support our working hours (we commute to London) or else would not support my self-employment, insisting we place both in for full week whether or not working which is too costly. We cannot transfer our jobs as specialist area, we are not from the area we live in currently so no family and the only community we have in terms of other parents is at the nursery and no parents have children going anywhere near the school offered to be able to help. Our current nursery does not deliver to the school either due to distance. We have appealed with no luck as we do not fit the criteria for admittance. We have been in touch with councillors, sure start, family services, the education liaison team all of whom suggest we have been down every avenue possible and obviously cannot be lenient on absence. The school are not interested in sharing any expertise and child minders are either too expensive or cannot be flexible which I can understand. The education department is suggesting we change our circumstances. We cannot afford to live on one wage and having contacted the welfare department they have suggested that we cannot become unemployed and due to our specialism would be sending us to London to look for work and we have looked at moving nearer to my parents but the train fare alone is three grand more and on our current rent we would be swapping a two bed for a bedsit. Sure start tonight suggested we place a note on here in the hope that another set of working parents might have any suggestions as at present our only circumstance change is to split the family, myself and school daughter living in herts for schooling and my youngest staying with dad in Essex, I do not want to do this but we seem to be at an impasse with an impotent appeals scheme, a council with no ideas and another borough education dept who just cannot believe that we are not being assisted as a family as working parents. It seems the education department are only looking at the circumstance of the child starting school and not the fact that we have another child in nursery so are forgetting the sibling discount etc that we get.

One positive outcome so far....I have asked the local MP to raise question with the government who are asking parents to work and then really doing nothing to alter admission policy to give out of catchment consideration to not only mileage but those parents who work and have genuine need, not having family or support and assistance in getting an older siing to school whilst having a younger in nursery, or else other real need. I hope this starts a debate about working parents and assistance with schools attached to nursery schools, as sure start has just told me that more and more nursery schools are closing at 6....a London only problem perhaps but a real nightmare for a commute.

I have to admit that it is now that you realise just how important family networks can be for support....

Any ideas welcome from those finding themselves in the same position. I know people will suggest that we should have considered staying at home and one of us is self-employed to be flexibke to an extent, it is just that some days when we need to work will be difficult with little or no support. We are lucky we know as our nursery and the staff there are amazing and very much part of our family and community which has made work possible....

turkeyboots Mon 15-Jul-13 18:05:40

Ask the school for details of child minders? There are loads of before and after school childminders at my DC school. Only problem is many don't do holiday cover, so there is that to source as well.

I find school harder to work round than nursery, so you have my sympathies.

UnderwaterBasketWeaving Mon 15-Jul-13 18:09:23

We'll be relying on our (legendary) cm to do wrap around care & school run for the next 10 years!

We couldn't do it any other way.

LIZS Mon 15-Jul-13 18:11:32

If you are currently paying ft nursery fees for your eldest I'm not sure how a CM or even a nanny share might work out any dearer. If she is not yet 5 then you could wait a term before she has to start school, and maybe a space at the closer school would come up.

missmapp Mon 15-Jul-13 18:15:09

cm here too- it is the only way if you cant be around for the school run.

When ds1 first started school, we dropped him at the cm and then took ds2 to the nursery he had always attended.

However, for ds2's last year at nursery, we moved him to a closer nursery ( that really fed the school,, but not officially) and our fab cm did both drop off's and pick ups. She kept doing this as ds2 started school .

It also means they can go to after school club aswell as the cm can generally pick up from those .

WeAllHaveWings Mon 15-Jul-13 18:16:04

It is hard. My dh is self employed and he drops ds(9) at school and I pickup from after school.

We are struggling as dhs earning potential has dropped drastically due to his reduced hours/availability and he brings home a pitiful wage, but that's the only way we could make it work.

No holidays abroad or as a family for years now and living very frugally at the moment.

kernowal Mon 15-Jul-13 18:16:35

I can sympathise. My 11 year old is about to go to an out of catchment school. Until now we have relied completely on after school clubs which shut at 6pm. There's no secondary school equivalent and I'm reluctant to let DD make her own way home from school to an empty house. At the same time, our careers make it very difficult to work around a standard school day.

Have you broadened your search to see if anywhere like a hospital, local to the school, has a nursery & after school club? Sometimes they can provide longer hours than a commercial nursery.

Is there any scope to find a part-time nanny who could do the drop off and pick ups for you, leaving her free during the day to do something else, then look after one or both children in the evening? Sometimes people who work in pre-schools want to top up their wages or you may be able to find someone like a college student who is interested in childcare. That might also give you some scope for holiday cover, which is another problem you're about to encounter. Good luck with your search.

VegasIsBest Mon 15-Jul-13 18:17:08

How about an au pair?

morethanpotatoprints Mon 15-Jul-13 18:18:24

Hi OP, I have never used childcare but my friends who work rely on nannies and child minders. The alternative is to contact your child's school and ask about after school facilities and fit work around your children. I know it may seem tough, but the authority can't really do anything to help you in terms of childcare.

HeadFairy Mon 15-Jul-13 18:22:14

Have you tried Gumtree/Craigslist to find someone? I ask because my sister had really odd childcare needs due to her working pattern (super early starts, really unpredictable etc) and she found a lovely young woman who was studying nannying at college and was prepared to get to her house at 5am to sit with the kids and take them to school, and then she went to college, she then collected the kids and took them home and went home at 6pm.

You might feel this isn't appropriate given the ages of your children (my sister's girls were a bit older, both at primary school by then) but it's worth a shot.

Alanna1 Mon 15-Jul-13 18:26:17

Ask at the nursery to see if any of the staff could help you out?

PowderMum Mon 15-Jul-13 18:31:27

This is a really common problem, you will need to find child are, it can't be up to the government to provide this for you. From the details you have posted you mus be in my area and we have a good provision of child minders. When mine were of this age I used a nanny/nanny share as it was a cheaper alternative. Both my DP and I worked hours non compatible with school runs, we didn't complain or expect the government to help.

YoToast Mon 15-Jul-13 18:32:45

The 4.5 year old doesn't have to start school until the term after 5th birthday which I guess will be January or April?

Defer school place until later in the school year, keep 4.5 year old in nursery. Get on waiting lists for nearer or more convenient schools and hope one comes up. At worst, the problem will be deferred for a few months while you try to sort something out.

BettyandDon Mon 15-Jul-13 18:34:03

If I were in your unfortunate circumstances I would either :

- ask your and DP's employer for flexi-time - put in a formal request for either early / late starts or reduced hours

- start to look for a better paid job to be able to better afford the childcare (CM, Nanny, au pair) or a job that is closer to where you live

- keep yourself on waiting lists for nearer schools and hope that there is movement soon

There are a lot of variables working against your family, you are working, living and kids going to school/nursery just too far apart IMO

NonnoMum Mon 15-Jul-13 18:41:04

Childminder or au pair or advertise for a Mother's Help...

I think your only options are to keep looking for a suitable childminder, a nanny share or a day-time only au pair. It's a shame you have been given an out-of-catchment school, and I agree that the school placement system is an utter joke. But beyond building more schools and having more sensible placement policies, it's not remotely the government's responsibility to organise your childcare for you.

Lildot Mon 15-Jul-13 18:42:38

Hello, I'm not paying full time, I have a brilliant nursery and pay for the days I need each month. They are really supportive as I do free workshops and sing for the ceremonies so we have grown together really hence it is cheap but others need me to pay full time for the same flexibility I currently have. So it is a nightmare really...the cost would be another third on top of what I earn which means I could just about afford it if I went full time...sorry, my lack of explanation to blame here....enjoy the days I have off with the girls too much to go full-time....

Also, get your child on the waiting list for your nearest school.

intheshed Mon 15-Jul-13 18:46:05

Can't you keep your 11 month old in the current nursery and then arrange a before and after school childminder for your reception child?

LIZS Mon 15-Jul-13 18:46:06

enjoy the days I have off with the girls too much to go full-time something's got to give , sorry. Sounds like you've had it relatively easy for a few years but I'm afraid you'll now have to juggle childcare/school for a while like everyone else.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Mon 15-Jul-13 18:47:59

Well, you cannot have it all ways. It isn't up to the government, the school, the local authority or anyone else to change their policies to suit your personal requirements.

Other people make sacrifices, alter their working patterns, take a drop in income to ensure that their childcare and school slot together well. I'm not sure why you feel you are any different?

Lildot Mon 15-Jul-13 18:49:39

Some fabulous ideas....will keep looking....I have to say though I was never expecting help from the government, sorry if it came over as that as I expect to be responsible but it would be good to consider the out of catchment criteria as looking at some of these posts it would make life a considerable amount easier....

LIZS Mon 15-Jul-13 18:51:16

That's a red herring , many areas don't operate catchments and same issue arises. Transition times are always tricky.

Tigresswoods Mon 15-Jul-13 18:54:25

Childminders and/or one of you does early, one does late?

creamteas Mon 15-Jul-13 19:30:25

Nothing to add really except, welcome to the precarious world of working with school-age children. It is so much harder than pre-school care...

missmapp Mon 15-Jul-13 19:36:29

I agree cream teas- and to think, I used to moan about getting to nursery on time for pick ups- life was so much easier then!!

CointreauVersial Mon 15-Jul-13 20:07:07

Keep the little one at current nursery. Find a childminder (you only pay for before /after school, so you must be able to afford it).

Or do what DH and I did - I went to work early, and finished early, he went late (did the school dropoff), then came home late. So we managed with just afterschool care.

You have to face up to the likelyhood that for a while your childcare cost will eat up a lot of your income, but.....that's life. If you are playing the long game it will be worth holding onto your career.

The LA will not be interested in how you get your children to and from school - it's up to you to sort out.

AlienAttack Mon 15-Jul-13 20:33:07

I would echo other posters. School-age childcare is tricky and does require more juggling than full day-care nurseries. I'm a single parent who works part time with a DD in year 1 and I have juggled my working pattern a couple of times in these past 2 years to find a reasonable solution which allows me to take/collect my DD from school as often as possible and still ensures my work feels they re getting the contribution from me to which they are entitled. I'm very lucky to be able to work part-time but DD's father is not in the picture at all so it isn't easy. I do a mixture of childminder, after school clubs, favours from friends (which I try to reciprocate) and flexible working hours (which see me working some evenings from home).

redskyatnight Mon 15-Jul-13 20:40:31

So it sounds like your issue is that your current nursery allows you to only pay for the days you use (due partly to your supporting the nursery in other ways) - and these vary week by week due to your being self employed.

I'm sorry, but I think you've been very lucky to have such an accommodating nursery - such flexible childcare doesn't normally exist. I think you need to look at a more stable working pattern. You might find a childminder that has spaces that will allow you to pay on an adhoc basis - but it would most likely be on the proviso that they wouldn't prioritise you over more stable income.

Talkinpeace Mon 15-Jul-13 23:17:15

If you choose not to send your kids to school near your house
and choose to work when they are small
that is your choice
therefore it is your responsibility to sort the logistics

I too have to get my kids to and from school
and spent ten years fitting around them - now they have door keys and the bus
its life

bico Mon 15-Jul-13 23:27:18

Have you checked that there is no after school club that collects from the school? Quite a few areas have that even if they have no asc on site at the school.

Or get a CM. Or look at private schools (most will offer good wraparound care, ds's old school did 7.30am to 6.30pm). Or change your working hourse, working from home etc.

Lots of working parents have to juggle childcare on a daily basis. Working part time is great if you can afford it but not everyone can.

If I were you I would aim for a permanent solution as life only gets harder the older they get (at least in primary school). When they are first at school is is still pretty easy but then as they grow older you have to deal with after school clubs and homework and the parental demands are greater than with pre-school dcs.

blueshoes Tue 16-Jul-13 00:02:19

Go back ft. Earn more.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Tue 16-Jul-13 09:04:17

I won't repeat what other posters have said, but want to pick up the point about the appeal system being "impotent".

The school admissions process and the appeal system gave to work with the admissions criteria as they are. The appeal panel can't substitute admissions criteria of its own. There is no admissions priority for working parents and (as a working parent myself and a chair of appeal panels) nor do I think there should be. It would be unreasonable and unworkable - parents not in paid employment may have strong reasons for needing places at those schools too and why should they go to the back of the queue?

The problem here is (presumably) that all your catchment schools were full and you were allocated a school out of catchment. That's unfortunate but it happens to a lot of people and you have to find a way of making it work. My experience and that of friends is that a long commute and a long day out of the house is hard to manage when you have a child at primary school. An au pair or nanny-share might be the most workable option - I have never before heard of a nursery that permits ad hoc usage.

Talkinpeace - the OP needs to work to support her family, not just because she wants to (though that is also a valid choice) and the LA allocated her a school far from her home. I think you're assigning her more choices in this than she actually had.

Needmoresleep Tue 16-Jul-13 13:14:32

Au pair. Ask every bright young Pole or Hungarian (etc) you meet whether they know anyone prepared to do drop off and pick up in return for accommodation plus pocket money. Allow them time to find other employment or attend classes.

We had a couple of great and bright Slovak girls who fulfilled their own ambitions in terms of learning English whilst we enjoyed hosting nice and interesting young people.

JackNoneReacher Tue 16-Jul-13 13:20:22

Does the school have a notice board, perhaps in the playground. Put something up there. Just start her. Hang around the playground, talk to other parents and look for people who look like childminders (ie 5 children the same age in tow). Presumably you don't know people at this school, yet but when you do you may be able to arrange something with someone. If your area is oversubscribed maybe there are people near you going to the school too and you could arrange a share with them.

moonbells Tue 16-Jul-13 13:39:57

I really sympathise. I was in a similar boat: no way to get DS to local school (in-catchment) and then get to work on time, unless I found a CM who would start at 7am, drop him off, pick up and then keep him till 6pm. Work was way out of catchment and I am also in a specialist field with few jobs coming up per year, mostly in London. Nightmare.

Good luck!

chauffeurmummy Tue 16-Jul-13 13:56:42

I'm in a similar situation and am currently trying to sort out a workable solution. I was wondering if anyone would be kind enough to share what sort of cost I would be looking at for a CM/pt nanny to do the drop off in the morning? The school is a 20 minute drive from my house? Thanks!

Blu Wed 17-Jul-13 14:21:24

I would advise both you and your DH make a formal request for flexible hours, maybe one doing late and one early to cover both ends of the day.

Advertise everywhere local for before school care - the schools, surestart centre, nurseries, etc.

Would you be in a position to consider an au pair?

camptownraces Wed 17-Jul-13 18:28:41

I'd echo JackNoneReacher.

Find out as much as you can about other parents' childcare arrangements by talking to as many as you can in the playground.

Two mums I knew of swapped days - so if A got a day's work, then B looked after the children. And if B got a day's work A looked after the children. Didn't cost either of them anything, and since no money changed hands didn't have to be registered as childminders.

Schmedz Wed 17-Jul-13 19:47:52

If you can accommodate one, a live in au pair is a great solution. Much MUCH less expensive than a nanny, and you can meet some wonderful people through the experience. I would hazard a guess that the weekly wage for an au pair is comparable or less than your nursery fees and they can help make the children's meals/ bath time etc...

We had au pairs for about 4 years until the children were older (and also moved to a school which fitted in better with work). If you get the right person, it is like gaining a big sister (or brother if you want a male au pair) but if you have any issues with who you've chosen, don't hesitate to find another! We still keep in touch with all our previous au pairs, except one who frankly wasn't fit to work with children and she did not last long in our home.

Use a reputable website or word of mouth recommendation...Gumtree wouldn't be my choice for finding a suitable person.

my2bundles Wed 17-Jul-13 19:47:59

The thing that jumped out at me is that you are asking for special treatment because you work. Local children deserve to go to local schools, that is all children not just those with parents who work. The LEA have provided a school place, that is theitr job done, granted its a pain having to travel out of catchment, many people do but your work commitments quite rightly dont give you priority, there would be an uproar if it did.

Xenia Wed 17-Jul-13 20:21:36

We had a full time daily nanny for 3 children under 4 and then under 5 so when the oldest went to school she helped with that. We sent our oldest to a private school at 4+)Haberdashers) which had a school coach which left around 7.45am so I would take that oldest one on the train 2 stops to the school coach stop and then get bak on the train into London for a while. That worked. The children's father was at home with the other two until the nanny arrived around 8am.

Another option we advertised for a before and after school person later. We also had the last 2 children (we have 5 children and both of us have always worked full time) before school club and after school to 6pm - agan private school expensive but meant we could maintain careers with increasing income for 30+ years so worth a few years of difficult times.

Never had a live in au pair but that is another option.
Make sure as a woman you don't get lumbered with being the one who has to rush home. Share it equally with your other half and maintain an equal marriage and equal earnings.

Phineyj Wed 17-Jul-13 20:58:56

I think you have been really lucky with finding childcare you can use as and when. I'm a teacher with an 80% timetable over 5 days and a two week timetable, so I'm paying for a morning and several afternoons each week I don't need, plus all the holidays of course (this is my choice, however, so as to get all planning and marking done during the week/holidays).

I don't know what you freelance at or what your skills are, obviously, but could you think about taking on different work specifically to get done on the weeks you don't normally use the childcare? When I freelanced I used to do web editing when other projects were slack. Now I do online tutoring and exam paper marking.

I hope you can find a solution without splitting your family up.

Phineyj Wed 17-Jul-13 21:01:44

I do think it is rubbish btw that councils don't take before and after school provision into account when allocating places or at least require all schools to provide it (even if on a consortium basis). It seems to be so random which schools offer it.

didireallysaythat Wed 17-Jul-13 21:22:25

Probably not the solution for you but I use a CRB taxi company to get DC from school to after school childcare at a nursery as the nursery can't pick up.

my2bundles Wed 17-Jul-13 21:28:16

Phineyi, LEAs have so much to take into consideration already, children with sibs in school, those with special needs, cared for children, children in catchment. The childcare and travel due to a parents work is not a good enough reason to jump the queue of all these other children.

my2bundles Wed 17-Jul-13 21:31:17

Just to add LEAs cannot be expected to take the work commitments and travel of every single working parent into consideration when allocating school places.

If the lea have allocated you an out of catchment school that is a certain distance from your home ( possibly 2 miles?) I believe they are obliged to privide transport, often a taxi that picks up several children. Would that help at all?

titchy Wed 17-Jul-13 21:43:25

Given that most kids have both parents that work not sure how LEAs would be able to prioritise parents' work commitments - does the kid whose parents are FT doctors get higher priority than the one from a single parent who works PT in Maccy Ds? What if the parent gets made redundant? Does the kid move down the waiting list? What about the unemployed parent who gets a job to move their dc up the priority order, then leaves the job when the child gets a place - did they ever intend to make the job their permanent one? What about the kid with a parent whose disability or caring responsibility means they cannot work?

I really don't think school admissions should deal with all that!

greenfolder Thu 18-Jul-13 05:53:23

what you have described is not impossible- you will have to pay a childminder- like lots of people.

Xenia Thu 18-Jul-13 15:54:31

It may even be worth working at a loss although of course child care is paid 50% by each parent in equal marriages so would not be quite a loss, just to keep two good careers going which you both might be working full time in for the next 40 years to age 70 and beyond,.

teacherwith2kids Thu 18-Jul-13 20:24:56


We have used a childminder for before school only (7.30 am to 8.45, breakfast and transport to school included) for years, ever since i retrained and started work as a teacher.

Works brilliantly. Because she doesn't have any other 'breakfast' children (her full timers arrive a bit later) she is totally flexible anout which days she has them, so e.g. while I was doiing my PGCE she varied each term and during placements etc to accommodate different timetables.

The benefit that I hadn't expected is the 'surrogate family' effect. Sge is very like my family now - she'll pick my children up from school if they are ill and hold them till I get there, do emergency dashes if I'm held up in the evening, have them for the odd day in the holidays if I need to work, does odd things like pantomime performance drop-offswhen DD is dancing int he local panto, gives them birthday presents etc etc. It's been brilliant.

Threewindmills Mon 22-Jul-13 22:30:34

Have you thought about an older person - maybe someone retired doing the drop off/pick up?

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