Does your local authority provide 15 hours of pre-school FREE to all 3 and 4 year olds?

(7 Posts)
Jasbro Fri 25-Jan-13 07:58:06

Just wanted to know if any other areas are the same. Here in the London Borough of Richmond, the entitlement to a FREE 15 hours of pre-school education is such that unless you live close enough (or follow the right religion) to get into one of the approx 50% of primary schools that have a nursery class, you cannot find a free place in any other pre-school, so have to pay top-up fees for every hour your child attends. So if I wanted to send my daughter to her pre-school (one of the cheapest I could find locally) for 15 hours a week I would still be paying over £400 a term. Apparently there is between one and three free places offered at each pre-school, but these are not advertised and have no eligibility criteria so how the pre-schools allocate I do not know.
Also, this information often comes as a complete surprise to many first-time parents so if you know anyone who has a toddler and lives in this area, please warn them.

NickNacks Fri 25-Jan-13 08:00:43

It is illegal to charge top up fees.

15 hours must be free at the point of access do unless you are using more, then your bill should be zero and I would report them.

TheMightyLois Fri 25-Jan-13 08:04:13

Yes, every child is entitled to 15 hours from the term starting after their child turns 3. As NickNacks says, they are not allowed to charge top-up fees.

Have you tried private nurseries? They use the top up hours too, and while many of them only take fee-paying customers, plenty do offer preschool sessions.

NickNacks Fri 25-Jan-13 08:06:32

Also accredited childminders can provide the 15 hours.

Jasbro Fri 25-Jan-13 08:19:20

It is not strictly illegal but the local authority are breaking the government's code of practice. I have taken it up with our local MP, who is Vincent Cable. Shockingly he was not aware of the situation but is now pursuing with the Head of Education at the council.
I am a childminder myself, although currently on maternity leave, so I thought I was pretty clued-up about things but it was all news to me when I came to enrol my daughter in pre-school.

Littlefish Sat 26-Jan-13 17:02:36

I agree with NickNacks.

BackforGood Fri 01-Feb-13 20:21:34

I agree with NickNacks too.
If a Nursery (orCM) is found to be charging top up fees, then they will lose their right to claim the NEF/FEF. It's not allowed.

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