To think increased child care hours will mean the end of playgroups?(51 Posts)
Just that really.
I think 30 hours of funded childcare is brilliant and will enable more people to go to work if they want/need to however having just discovered baby and toddler groups (and having them help me to feel less isolated) I'm not sure they will be viable with fewer children attending.
I'm in Scotland, so this isn't fully introduced till next year. Just wondered if anyone has seen the impact or has experience to share?
I think they'll still have their place for mums on maternity leave eg the first year or SAHMs. There will still be plenty of mothers for whom going back to work full time will be too expensive (i.e. their wages will be eaten up in childcare fees)
Well the impact is being felt already. If you are a sahp and you want to do playgroup type activites or meet other parents with similar aged children you’ll find that there are less children freely available. We are in London and earning so most of our friends get the free 15 hrs. This means that those that weren’t in nusery are now in nursery. Or like us ds did a couple of morning for socialisation can now spend more time at nursery as it costs less but also because there are less children around to play with.
I'm in worcestershire and our area is over run with playgroups still. The 30 hours sounds great in theory until you hit school holidays and then have to pay for them. It tends to be high earners that use the 30 hours free where I am. Low earners here tend end up worse off even with government helping to pay for the holiday clubs.
Moonbea, we live in a rural area and, like you say, high earners go back to work as it's worth it but if your wage is going to basically pay childcare and you'll be out of pocket for 13 weeks a year (school holidays) then you may as well take a break until the kids are older or do part time evening shifts etc
plus funded hours don't kick in til 3, so lots of under 3s still need play groups.
There's still loads of playgroups here. Annoyingly they are all on the same day/time.
It's up and running in our area and It's already killed the only three playgroups in our village. There's nothing left except the singing group for little babies. All the two year olds are in nursery now. There's just not enough 0-24 month olds to fill the spaces.
It used to be parents who took over the groups after the kids started school or turned 4 and started morning nursery. (Kids only had 15hrs opposed to the full time hours now so we're still available for playgroups)
These days no one is really there long enough to take over and run them because the kids are in nursery all day every day. It's a shame in a way. It's had knock on effects too. The local Community Centre is in danger of closing because they just aren't getting enough groups using it.
But it's only from the term after they're 3.
We're eligible but only use 15. We tried more hours and it didn't work for us. I missed having my DS around and he found it too much. I work part time.
Those who use the full 30 hours are usually working full time and so wouldn't be using the groups anyways.
I've not noticed any difference at all. There are always less older ones at these groups anyways.
Lots of toddler groups where I am, but almost all under 3s.
Lots of the groups are now kept going by childminders.
There's a massive uptake of the free hours here, particularly the 2yo ones. Since DD turned 2 I'm struggling to find groups where there are other 2+yos, though they are still busy.
Interesting replies. Here, most (not sure if it's all) groups run term time only. And it's definitely true that mums don't really run them, as kids quickly go to nursery. Its saved my sanity, being able to meet other mums and feel involved.
It's 30 free hours, from the term after the child turns 3. So ours was almost 3.5 by the time she got the funded hours, by which time she would have grown out of most playgroups anyway.
Lots if playgroups run term-time anyway as people are off on holiday in school holidays plus if anyone has older school age siblings they couldn't go.
It sounds great in theory but nurseries don't get paid the market rate so some make it difficult for example they say you get mornings free then you have to pay afternoons or take them out, and obviously you have to sort out school holidays.
Because you've still got to sort out childcare the rest of the time and it's not always convenient, I don't know anyone who has really made their decision on whether to work or how much to work based on the childcare. Most people I know have gone back at least 3 - 4 days anyway so they 30 hours are just a bonus. It's only made a difference to say one afternoon a week when they might have done a playgroup
So I don't think it will make much difference
2yos can be eligible for free hours as well depending on circumstances, if you live in an area that is a bit poorer you'll find a lot of 2yos are entitled to it (as is the case around here).
Funnily enough not many people use childminders around my way either, they all seem to prefer nurseries once the free hours kick in and hvs advise nursery over cms, so we don't even have many cms attending groups (not that we're welcome at many either!)
How do 30 hours funded childcare enable more people to go to work?
In my area to get a place for a 3 year old in a nursery you need to put their name down a year or so in advance. Unless you are already in a job, your chance of getting a job and then getting childcare sorted at relatively short notice is virtually none.
Its a subsidy for better off families. As it was always intended to be by the Tory government. If they really cared about getting people back into work they would have offered more help from 6 months - when you actually need it. Not 3+ when childcare is cheaper anyway because of ratios.
To answer the main point - I think like all voluntary groups some close because they can't get the volunteers. But I stopped going because there were so many kids running around without any supervision - or just coming up to me and expecting me to entertain them, which then became really awkward.
Wow 30 hours free is pretty good. We get 18 hrs free here when they hit 3. Daycare is bloody expensive and kindy is cheap or free. Once gain it benefits families who are well off and dont need to have two parents working. So usually they get free childcare 8.30-2.30 x5 days a week from 3 upwards. It’s bloody ridiculous.
All the two year olds are in nursery now.
2yos can be eligible for free hours as well depending on circumstances...
But eligible 2 year olds (where both parents aren't working/receive working tax credits/have a family income under £16,000/child is in receipt of DLA) will only receive 15 funded hours, not 30.
Playgroups are run by staff and are generally ofsted registered, they tend to run from 8 ish to three. They can run the 3 year old offer and the 2 year old offer ( families with 2 year old receiving certain benefits can get this) in exactly the same way as nurseries if they wish. Due to my job I am aware of all the playgroups in my city, I can't think of any that don't run for full sessions . Playgroups that run for under 2 hours are exempt from ofsted requirements, but very few of those exist anymore. Toddler groups are run by volunteers and obviously are being impacted not just by the 30 hour funding but by the working patterns of families where both work and need chikdcare. Toddler groups are definitely in decline.
It's a subsidy for better off families
This has been my experience too, most of my friends earn ok/pretty well, were always going to return to work so it's just a bonus for them really. It also seems to be having an effect on the cms I talk to, most parents want cms for 6-36 months then nursery for the funded hours. In my area this has led to nurseries opening up 'pre school' rooms and following on from then, after school clubs ,sone of the cms are worried as they're losing their mindees at 3 and don't get them back until they get too big for the after school clubs at nursery. Loads of groups rely on cms to keep going.
My dd is 3 and I feel like she's out growing play groups very quickly now but it's not really an issue for us as she's starting school in September .
Toddler groups are plentiful where I live, during mat leave I went to a different one every day! Most were run by churches. When we got the 30 hours funding I increased my work hours to full time (planned well in advance, I kept her in chosen nursery part time from the age of 10 months to garantee a place.
I think nursery is so beneficial for toddlers and preschoolers, much more than toddler groups (which are fun but there's no structured teaching and they don't get use to being away from mum). If toddler groups are on the way out that's a natural effect of better access to nursery.
The 2 year funding is aimed at families on very low incomes, who would be unable to afford nursery fees. The 30 hours is more to encourage mums back to work. Nowadays with the cost of living, it's hard to manage on a single income, and if women have to wait until the child starts school it's harder to get back into the workforce/progress your career.
It's a subsidy for better off families
I disagree as there's an upper limit for claiming 30 hour funding (I think if family income is in excess of 100k a year?)
We could afford full time fees but only just, it ate up most of my salary. I wouldn't have gone full time without funding as it's a bit pointless if your entire salary goes on nursery fees. The 30hours allows families to save, and to have a better standard of living, which is surely a positive?
I'm pretty sure the focus from the govt was always pre school education rather than childcare.
Studies have shown that to combat many problems we see in schools and the wider society, early intervention is needed. To boost literacy and numeracy skills to combat anti social behavioir and teach positive behaviour.
This is why it is term time only and this is why families who are defined as deprived ecomonically can get the hours from 2 years old. The hope is their will be better outcomes for the child.
Quite a few of them around here are as much attended by grandparents caring for grandchildren as they are parents, in some the balance has tipped significantly to more grandparents.
The 30 funded hours may harm playgroups in the short run, although it seems to have had little or no effect here. Playgroups in my area are usually oversubscribed and operate waiting lists.
Some have closed, but for very different reasons: lack of volunteers; closure or high cost of community centres (thanks to a combination of austerity and property developers); high insurance costs and additional conditions demanded by insurance companies, etc.
@OneStepSideways, the upper limit for claiming 30 free hours is one income over £100,000 not the family income.
But the cm can offer the funded hours too.
My DS will be eligible in the autumn and I plan to keep him with his lovely cm
I'm on the committee at my local community centre, we have a volunteer run toddler group one morning a week (run by parents). It used to be 2 mornings a week but we haven't been able to recruit volunteers. Definitely seeing the impact of more parents working when children are preschool age.
Seeing a switch to groups like baby singing, yoga etc. More expensive...
When mine were little, it was 15 free hours after they were 3, so we went to toddler groups in the afternoon.
Who is entitled to the 30 free hours? Is it only people who work over x amount of hours or earn x amount?
Its one earner of 100k per year.
That said in terms of subsidy it gives women the opportunity to keep up their workplace skills if they want to and evens out those with family support and without. This is good both for the individual and the future of the economy.
Furthermore it is the government that has put the rules in that make childcare (both nurseries and cm) so expensive. Back in the day many would have paid a sahm friend to look after their child but unless she registers with OFSTED etc she now can't.
My children are older and so I don't benefit but I really don't begrudge this at all.
"You, and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) at least £125 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage).
If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you're unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible.
You can't get 30 hours free childcare if either you, or your partner, each individually expect to earn £100,000 or more."
Chosen, I think it was Cameron who conflated the two, the 30 hours is definitely referred to as 'childcare' on posters etc where I live, always referred to as 'help with childcare' etc. I worry that it's forcing a reduction in standards too, it's never been adequately funded and childcare/early years providers are struggling. Friends with several dc all going through the same nursery over the last 6 years or so say they're noticing a difference. Or they're being charged one way or another, extras, food, visits, higher under 2 charges.
Here most of the preschools only offer the 15 hours early education. Those eligible for 30 hours often do the extra 15 hours with a childminder.
The playgroups have lots of under 3s attending plus 3 and 4 year olds with their childminder.
Not many 2 year olds qualify for the funding here.
We're average earners and definitely need the free hours. We did our calculations carefully and figured out that we could afford a second when our first qualified for the hours so we worked out the timing so that I'd take a year maternity and once they both went to nursery the older one would get some free hours. We would be worse off with me working otherwise. I'm late 30s so we didn't want to wait until the first was in school, which we would have had to do without the free hours.
I don't think it's going to significantly affect playgroups. For a start funded nursery hours only apply from the school term after the child's 3rd birthday, so under 3's generally don't get free funded hours (although you can get them from 2 onwards if your child is disabled / you are in receipt of certain benefits). Also a lot of parents won't be entitled to 30 hours anyway as you only get this if both parents are working, (otherwise you only get 15 hours), and so there will be plenty of opportunities for those children to still use playgroups.
I should say as well a lot of kids at the playgroups I go to go with their childminder too (who is paid for from the funded hours).
So my ds was in nursery 3 days a week, with dgp one day. On my day off we went to a playgroup together & met our friends & played with them. I don't really see playgroups as an alternative to childcare but if funded hours give more working parents the opportunity to work then surely that is a good thing in that it gives more options?
Compare that to when dm has me. No option of going back to work, no part-time work options, no real childcare solutions, totally dependant on df to pay for everything until age went back to work when my dsis was old enough and the impact that had on her work prospects etc.
Fwiw our playgroup is run by a group of mums who work p/t and do playgroup on their day off (I know because one of them works in our office).
We went to a lovely church run one for from about 3 months to 2 yrs. loads of great toys and equipment. I only stopped as I got sick of staying afterwards every time, to clear up for 30-40 minutes. It was 98% childminders which just leave and then no one else would help. I felt bad for the lady running it, but it was getting too much for me. My child was getting bored waiting. There were few parents. A few grandparents might stay to help on occasions, but the lady that run it was very particular and it put off people from helping. It was a nice group but she would put out so much furniture, so lots of lifting needed to tidy up and not suitable for pregnant ladies and some grandparents couldn't help due to health issues.
Another one we went to l, different church, it was often just 2-3 children so that stopped at Christmas. 2 children at the Christmas party 🥳
Just stopped going to one that started in September, just due to it being so boring. Very little equipment and now my DC year does preschool I felt he gets that sort of thing there. So I'm guilty.
It's already caused the end of the pre-school / playgroup which my children attended. It was such a fabulous wee place, in an old Victorian house with huge gardens, a real home from home. The old building where it was held was rented from a church, who used it for other groups and activities in the afternoon. So the pre-school were told in no uncertain terms that they wouldn't be able to use the building 9-3 term time. They are not able to find alternative accommodation and will be closing.
Another church hall based pre-school locally has exactly the same problem.
As for the "oh most pepole only get 15 hours" this is NOT the situation in Scotland. The Scottish government has proposed that as of next year, ALL 3 and 4 year olds will get 1,140 hours per year which equates to 30 hours a week. It is not income based. It is universal.
There are still not many details about what happens if you don't want your 3 year old to have 30 hours, and would prefer that they do perhaps a few hours a week to start, building up towards school age. Our pre-school used to be able to offer all sorts of flexible arrangements.
30 hours free childcare term time only really isn't very much if you consider full time hours are often 36 hrs + the time taken to get between nursery and work.
Even if I have my kids in nursery for 2 full days per week, I still need to top up hours over the course of the year which leaves plenty of time to go to playgroups.
hazey that is true re 15hrs for 2yos, but it has still had a massive impact on groups around here as a lot of childcare places will 'encourage' parents to take those up across 5 mornings, stopping them from attending groups as 99% are in the mornings. Obviously not going to be the case everywhere but it is definitely a contributing factor around here sadly.
Where I am most 2-year-olds qualify for extra childcare and yes a lot of playgroups have gone. But this had already started years ago when childcare hours were introduced for 3-year olds.
There used to be lots of volunteer-run groups. I agree that there are now more commercial groups running in better off areas as well.
I remember years ago a boss who said that with every improvement, you usually lose something as well. I think that is very true. I am all for improvements, but they almost always mean the loss of something else.
When DD was small we lived in an area with either p/t mums or child fully in nursery. Still, lots of playgroups and activities but you could see the numbers went down when the children hit 18 months or so.
We now live in a childminder area, lots of playgroups as they are attended by the childminders. Any attempt to open a nursery was voted down by residents. Children age 3 and older go to the pre schools, often only for 2 full days or 1/2 days only
I don’t think it will have a big impact locally on the playgroups. They’re mostly run by parents, and mostly attended by the under 3s because they tend to be held in the morning, and the majority of the kids attending nursery/preschool seemed to have morning sessions too.
You don’t have to use all the hours, you can even use a mix of childminder and nursery hours here, and you can use them spread out over 50 weeks in some places or use them only in term time. And, it’s from when they turn 3, not the term after they turn 3 (locally anyway. It used to be the term after, but they changed it).
The emphasis on childcare rather than just early learning has led to some early years teachers leaving their jobs, especially as the opening hours have changed in some school nurseries to being more wrap around care.
Groups here but more for parents with babies under one i.e. still on maternity leave. We are in an affluent area so a lot of retired grandparents or nannies attend with children age 1-3 whilst parents work.
Once a child is 3+ I think there is a bigger divide between playgroups and nursery. I took my eldest to playgroups whilst on maternity leave with my youngest and the toys and activities there were too babyish even then.
I agree with the poster above though. The point of free hours wasn't childcare but to ensure children across all socio economic groups were better prepared for school. To lessen the impact of parental wealth on development.
There’s every possibility the 30 hours scheme will eventually mean there is more need for playgroups, not less.
Research shows that, in the year before 30 hours was introduced, 49% of nurseries were operating at or below a financial break-even point, making them highly vulnerable to changing conditions. Iow, nurseries were never charging enough for childcare, even before so many "free" hours were claimed.
Since then, they have faced higher costs: chiefly rising commercial rents; national living wage; workplace pension; insurance premiums.
Funding rates for the "free" hours are even lower than the regular charges. Nurseries lose about £1000pa for every child on "free" hours. This is clearly unsustainable, and the likely outcome will be the loss of up to half of all Nursery places in the not too distant future.
To some degree, nurseries can offset some losses by charging more forunder 3s, but then they lose clients. They can choose not to offer "free" places, but then they lose business also. Many appear to be offering "free" hours so as not to lose business, whilst surviving on bank loans they may be unable to repay. It’s unsustainable.
The number of childminders has been in decline since shortly after coming under Ofsted. This decline has apparently been accelerated since 30 hours came in.
Most of our council funded pre school nurseries changed their hours to accommodate 30 hours per week in 2017/2018. Our local nursery used to offer 20 morning sessions and 20 afternoon but now they only take 20 kids 9 - 3. All the council nurseries are the same.
Working parents don't want these places because the hours don't fit around work, SAHP can't get places for their kids as nurseries are only taking half the kids they used to. We live in an area with very few school/council nurseries to start with.
I thinks it's the governments way of phasing out council run nursery so that everyone is forced to go private.
The original focus seemed to be on education, but there has been a move from that indicated by the schools changing the name of their provision from being preschools to now being called Early Learning and Childcare Centres. Obviously, the assistants and teachers don’t just stop educating, they continue to provide the education they did previously, but now there’s a bigger focus on the childcare element, and also the ELCCs in our area have cut the teachers. All but one ELCC have no teachers at all, but do have early years practitioners.
I thinks it's the governments way of phasing out council run nursery so that everyone is forced to go private.
No. The government aim is to work towards school nurseries from 3.
hazeyjane, what makes you think that? It would be an expensive move given how much more funding school nurseries get compared to other early education providers.
Its not just for the well off! We have a joint income of around 38k and it is a struggle every month to pay out childcare and all bills etc.... We will actually have some breathing room when the 30 hours kicks in for us next year.
I needed to work to pay the bills, but also thought of the longer game. I am now on a term time only contract that I love and longer term it will work with school holidays etc...
I hope that toddler groups will continue as it enables those with under 4's to get out of the house, meet others with similar aged children and for children to get to interact with others. In my area they are typically run by church. We have a children's centre outreach group which is anticipated to close in July but not due to 30 hours funding, it's due to reforms within children centre remit and funding.
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