Is nursery swindling DC2's 15 free hours allocation?

(16 Posts)
IllMetByMoonlight Thu 21-Jul-16 13:06:27

Looking for some advice from someone who knows about nursery funding, please. I've name changed (regular user) in case the manager is a MNer.

We have used the same nursery for 2 DCs, the youngest of which is still there. DC2 attends 9 hours a week over 3 mornings.

I was so looking forward to September when DC2 will be eligible for her 15 free hours a week, following her 3rd birthday this month. Nursery has now decided to change its policy and is no longer giving free hours to individual children, but rather (as far as I can gather, they're being infuriatingly vague) pooling all eligible children's free hours funding in order to lower the hourly rate for those who use nursery the most.

As a result, instead of DC2 attending 9 hours a week for free, as was the case with DC1 last year, we will instead have to pay a session fee of approximately £14, which will amount to around £170 per month. So, we are looking at another year of an unexpected expense. I know it is tiny by comparison to what a lot of people pay for nursery education, but it's a significant outlay for us.

Despite the change taking effect from September this year, they have not formally announced the details yet. I was told informally during a routine drop-off and shown the figures. I was so dumbfounded that I only nodded and feel I was made to feel a little bit guilty about the parents who have a higher bill than us, who stand to benefit from my DC2 not getting any free hours.

I thought funding was applied for on a child by child basis and that the money 'belongs' to the child. It just doesn't sit right with me, so would appreciate some advice as to what I can do in terms of arguing for DC2's free hours, if at all possible.

TheGirlOnTheLanding Thu 21-Jul-16 13:10:21

That doesn't sound right at all. I'd be contacting the education dept of the local council and asking for advice (the funding used to come via that dept but I don't know if that is still the case.)

dementedpixie Thu 21-Jul-16 13:11:22

Doesn't sound right or legal to me. The 15 hours are supposed to be for the child and should be free with no top ups or session fees. Maybe speak to the council/local authority.

PhloppysFonics Thu 21-Jul-16 13:15:39

Definitely get advice. It might be worth voicing your opinion to the nursery that 15 hours free should mean exactly what it says and if that's going to change then you will be finding another nursery.

fuzzyfozzy Thu 21-Jul-16 13:19:31

No not right, presuming you are England you should be able to receive free 15 hours. Speak to your council early years department.

Marcipex Thu 21-Jul-16 13:19:53

They can't do that, the 15 free hours is allocated for each child.

Floggingmolly Thu 21-Jul-16 13:20:46

They absolutely cannot do this.

MustStopAndThinkBeforePosting Thu 21-Jul-16 13:26:20

I usually sympathise with nurseries' attempts to break even with the ridiculous terms and conditions imposed on them by the government in connection with the "free hours". The nurseries are massively exploited because they are expected to provide a service that they normally charge £5-£6 per hour for and only get paid £3.50 an hour, hence making a massive loss.

A lot of nurseries do therefore take steps to minimise the loss they make, and normally I say that if it's a good nursery then so long as these steps don't breach the letter of the law then parents should just suck it up, and if it's not a good nursery then they should vote with their feet.

However, this case is different. The funding that the nursery receives is per child not per hour of usage and a child who is in nursery 50 hours a week is not remotely entitled to more of a benefit from the government funding than a child who is only in for 25 hours a week. You certainly should object to this proposal, report the proposal to the authorities and be prepared to remove your child of all else fails.

IllMetByMoonlight Thu 21-Jul-16 14:06:13

Thank you everyone for your replies!

I am really gutted, as we adore this nursery! The staff are gorgeous, they're really flexible and accommodating and the facilities are great. So I'm loathed to walk away. I totally understand that they are trying to bridge a funding gap (although they're not at all cheap; DD2's hourly rate just dropped a smidgen below £7 now she's turned 3). The last thing I want is to have any kind of conflict with them or get them into any kind of trouble, which is why I am reluctant to contact the LA for advice. But I feel I have to at least know if it's "on" or not, before I decide whether or not to pull my child out. Even though it is just a small number of hours a week, we both totally depend on those hours to work.

Thanks again!

SocksRock Thu 21-Jul-16 15:45:30

Also, if your child is only attending for 9 hours, they can only claim 9 hours funding. They cannot have the extra hours.

Dlah Thu 21-Jul-16 15:48:26

Ditto to all the above. Ring your local council - this is completely against the rules. You can ask to remain anonymous.

Bang out of order

SocksRock Thu 21-Jul-16 16:03:06

Our LA would let you use the other 6 hours at another setting. I did this for my eldest, due to complixat s childcare she was at one preschool 2 days a week and another preschool 3 days a week. I split the funding between them.

As an aside, I used to be chair of one of the preschools. We had an issue where a child was with us for 6 hours a week, Mum had filled in the split funding form to give us 6 hours and another setting 9 hours. The other one tried to claim the full 15, we had to send in the signed forms. There was a Big Fuss from the council about the whole thing... Both us and the other setting had a full audit of our funding, which involved all the forms, attendance registers, registrations forms, interview for me and the chair of the other setting and sacrifice of my first born child

They should investigate if you inform them anonymously, and also, if this is due to start in September then you should have had a formal notification from the setting. If you don't, just feign surprise and refuse to pay the bill.

SocksRock Thu 21-Jul-16 16:05:28

The current nursery I'm using get round it by saying the free hours are only available from 7.30am until 10.30am and from 2.30pm until 5.30pm. So you could attend for your 15 free hours and nothing more, but it would be a right ballache. They are a full daycare nursery though, not a preschool

insancerre Thu 21-Jul-16 17:58:43

That doesn't sound right
They can't claim more than 9 hours if your child doesn't attend for more than 9 hours
The funding is per child per hour attended
They can decide which of their hours they provide are the funded hours

I think this does need bringing to the attention of the Local council
Could you email the nursery asking for an explanation and then email the Early years team at the local council?
I manage a nursery and there would be a riot in our setting if we tried to do this

MustStopAndThinkBeforePosting Thu 21-Jul-16 18:29:08

They would be perfectly at liberty to declare that the free hours can only be taken 3pm-6pm five days a week - that would probably have the effect of making the free hours only accessible for full-time attendees as it would be very unusual for any parent who only wants part time hours to really need that time slot.

underneaththeash Fri 22-Jul-16 21:44:02

No, they're not allowed to do that - I'm saying that the the ex-treasurer (up until last year) of our local pre-school. The funding is for a specific child and can't be pooled.
I'd write a very nice letter stating how much you like the nursery and its your 3rd child etc, but you're unsure how they can apply the funding in the way they are suggesting given the rigid rules governing early years funding.

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