Can you talk to a clueless mum about pre school free hours and the age to start primary school?

(16 Posts)

I'm not from the UK and I'm feeling completely lost as to what to do with DS1 now.

He is 2 years and 7 months and goes to nursery 2 afternoons a week. I suppose he will be entitled to 15 free hours of childcare a week when he turns 3, but how does it work? Can I use these hours in his private nursery? Or does he have to go to a local school? Where can I find information about that?

And then in the future, when is he supposed to go to school? At what age? Do I have to register him now? (we're probably moving in the next year and I don't know to which borough we're going...). Does it mean he won't go to nursery and will spend every day from 9am to 3pm in a school?

We're in London (borough of Camden), if it makes any difference.

I know these are very stupid basic questions, but I feel so clueless I don't even know who I should ask...

Thanks!

charliejess22 Fri 14-Dec-12 20:02:16

Hi, He gets his 15 hours of free childcare in the term after her turns 3. So, if his birthday is in May (?), he wont get funding until the 1st September after that. You can use your hours at most private Nurserys, you will need to ask them if you can use them there, or some child minders. My son was using his at his private nursery for 2 terms and is now at a pre-school attached to a primary school and he uses them there instead. There are some rules about how many hours you can use a day, think it was a maximum of 6 but that might have just changed. Private nurserys will have their own rules about them - mine took 6 hours a day from the vouchers and I had to pay the rest. My friend still had to pay for meals for her son. He will start school in the September after he turns 4, and then will go 9-3 Monday to Friday. So if he is 3 in May 2013, he will start getting vouchers in September 2013 and start school in September 2014. The closing date for applying for his school will be in Januart 2014.
Does that help?
J x

I thought they started school the September after they turned 5? I'm confused!

jennimoo Fri 14-Dec-12 21:18:20

The law says they have to start school the term after they're 5 but most start the September after they're 4 (I think, DD is only 2!)

Oh...I did not know that! So if they're born in September do they go in the January? DD was born mid September, but presumably she wouldn't go aged 3yrs 11.5mo?

jennimoo Fri 14-Dec-12 21:32:16

My DD is also a September birthday and the earliest she can go will be a few weeks before her 5th birthday.

An August birthday child usually starts when 4 and a tiny but but could wait til the following Easter if you want them to. I think! Hoping someone will confirm!

nextphase Fri 14-Dec-12 21:36:31

Agree with the 15 hrs comments above.

School - Most September babies go to school in the Sept, a couple of weeks before they turn 5. Your May boy will go aged 4.4, in the sept, unless you choose to defer.

If you use your 15 hrs at a school nursery, round here they will post out the primary school application forms November time (we've just sent filled outs in for May 09 child), and find out what school in April.
If you use the hours at the private nursery, you will need to contact the council (probably about the time you start receiving the free hours), and let them know your details.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 14-Dec-12 21:36:40

Yes, you start school the September after you turn four - so you could be nearly 5 (sept birthday) or only just 4 (aug birthday). You can defer entry by a term or two if not yet 5, but you stay within the same year group,

Tgger Fri 14-Dec-12 21:44:41

Ok, think you've got quite a lot of the info. It's a bit of a confusing system. From the term after they are 3 you can claim the 15 free hours at whatever setting suits you. You can use the hours at most nurseries, but as pp has said you may have to pay for extras like meals and often if your child is at a day nursery you will still have a big bill! (we did...)

Children start school in the September after they have turned 4. Even the littleys (August birthdays) in most (all?) areas will now be offered full time places from the September. However... drum roll... it is not a legal requirment to be in school full time in this country until the term after you turn 5. The discrepancy comes with how councils allocate places, and whilst you can ask to defer a place often they are not keen on you doing so, your child may be the only one starting later etc etc (this differs according to school and area)...so most children will start in the September after they after have turned 4, whether they are just 4 or nearly 5.

You don't have to apply for a School place until about a year before your child starts, unless you are looking at the private schools when you may need to register them from birth! I have just applied for DD's school place for next September to give you an idea.

There is one more complication.... nurseries attached to primary schools that often offer children places for the September-July year before they are due to start school (so 3-4).You apply for these via the local authority website the spring before the September they are due to go- or at least that's how it is in our area. There is no advantage to having these places over other settings other than your child may know a few children when starting YR, or if the setting is better than the day-care. Some day care nurseries are excellent up to school, others seem better for the younger ones and then the kids might be better off in the school nursery (if you can fit childcare around it, some childminders pick up from the school nursery).

Clear as mud?!

Thank you all very much for the info! I'm sorry I couldn't come back here earlier, but I'd like to thank you. It is a lot clearer now. Now I can start planning for the next few years (and worrying about full time school. It seems too much time for such young children...)

I'm looking forward for the 15 free hours, as I can't afford more sessions for DS in nursery, but I think he (and I) would enjoy a few more hours a week.

Just two questions: what is the advantage of deferring his going to school until he is 5? Will he be a year 'late'? Or in the following year he would be placed in the same year he would be, had he started at 4?

If I decide to do it, can I use the 15 free hours for this extra year?

Tgger Mon 17-Dec-12 14:34:58

He'd go straight into Y1 if he starts the September after he turns 5. I think the problem can be finding a school place at that point, the school may be full with those who accepted YR places but it's best to contact your local authority about it. Also YR is generally thought of as a gentle introduction to the routines of school, still with lots of play, so he might miss out on that if he misses out YR.

Some schools will let younger children go part time, or defer starting YR until January/April, I think it depends on area, it's a bit of a grey area. Also what you are told by the LA is not written in stone, ie there are posts always on MN from parents of younger children who find that the school day is just too long for them, and then make an informal arrangement with the school to go part-time/to pick them up at lunch some days. Legally the school can't enforce attendance until the term after they are 5 anyway, but it seems most schools seem to have a one size fits all approach to 4 year olds going full time.

I think you can continue to use the free hours if he doesn't go to school, think it is for 3 and 4 year olds, so he will still be 4 so entitled. A tip for you- go to a pre-school for the free hours as then they will be free and you can go each morning or afternoon (normally something like 9-12). If you try to get them at private day-care places they sometimes say things like you have to take 6 hours in a go and pay for top ups and all sorts- ie watch out!

Snowflakepie Mon 17-Dec-12 17:24:37

I would hesitate to defer unless your child had some significant learning or developmental concern, purely because (I have been told anyway) they then move to the bottom of the next intake according to the criteria that the local authority use. Effectively they get slotted in wherever there is a space, which might not be what you want. So to exercise your choice as much as possible, stick to the year they are 4 if you can. That may not be true everywhere of course, as places do differ. Funding to schools is calculated based on the number of children attending on a date in November, which is why they like one intake and that's that. Having said that, you can make local arrangements if your child is just exhausted, but they do adapt quickly when they are with their friends. My nephew started school this September and hasn't actually started full time until November, because of the way they staggered it all. Drove my SiL up the wall trying to organise work etc, he was used to longer days from preschool so it was a bit unnecessary. But full time attendance isn't compulsory until the term are they are 5 which does at least give leeway with holidays and taking time off if you need to smile

As you are in a London borough and you plan on moving, I would suggest you research where you live with specific regard to your school place.
All London boroughs have a squeeze on primary school places.
Immigration, peak birth rate etc.

You are lucky to be flexible now so make sure you move and are in situ for a school you like before Jan 2014 when you need to apply. Some schools admit their last child just meters from the school gate.
Religion can play a large factor as well.

Search on here about admissions to primary and you will become an expert grin

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 17-Dec-12 18:19:18

As a child with a May birthday (if my sums are right) there will be plenty in the class younger than him. You do not have the choice to put him into reception a year later, as Tger says.

That's why I love MN. I feel much more knowledgeable now smile

Thanks for explaining to me the details and factors of waiting one year. It seems going for Reception is the best option. DS is very outgoing and confident, I'm sure he won't have any problem starting school. I admit: I am the one worried about it... (I still have time to prepare myself for that, hopefully)

Jasbro Fri 25-Jan-13 07:48:08

In case you might consider moving to the London Borough of Richmond, I would warn you that not all children get 15 hours of free pre-school education, and it is completely arbitrary who does manage to get any free pre-school education. So please check with the local council where you are thinking of moving what the situation is with the 15 hours free pre-school entitlement, and don't take it for granted!.
Like you, both myself and my four year old daughter would really benefit from 15 hours at nursery, but I am only able to send her 6 hours a week. I have taken this up with our local MP who happens to be Vincent Cable, but this could be a long saga.

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