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Top up fees for 3 year old in private nursery? Please help!

(15 Posts)
MrsWuh Wed 07-Sep-11 11:41:03

I was thinking of putting my 3 year old in a private nursery for a term before he starts at the local school nursery. I thought that, since he is now entitled to 15 free hours, it would cost me little or nothing. But I went along this morning, and was told the "free provision" will only knock off about £3.60 an hour from the fees? (They normally charge £20 for a three hour session.) This didn't seem right to me, so I checked when I got home and as far as I can work out, we should get those 15 hours free and they are not allowed to charge top-up fees on those hours. Can anyone confirm that this is still the case?

LouRoucas Wed 07-Sep-11 11:43:46

Each local council have set a rate for the hours provided 'free'. So that could well be
right

Mandy21 Wed 07-Sep-11 12:51:50

Yes, I think it depends where you are although there have been some posts on here on other threads saying that private nurseries are not allowed to do that. Thats not my experience. In my area, there are a number of playschools / play groups that offer completely free 15 hours - they are usually run from community centres or similar and are 9.30-12 or 1-3.30 (each session is 2.5 hours). You sign your child up for mornings or afternoons to get the 5 free sessions. I can't use that type of setting as I work full days on the days that I work so we've always used private nurseries.

I've got school age children and a 2 yr old - have used 2 different nurseries in 2 different Local Authories albeit both in the North West but they've both dealt with the "entitlement to free child care" in the same way. They get an allowance for each session that the nursery uses to offset your fees. With my eldest, the rate per 2.5 hour session was about £7.50 or thereabouts (thats going back 3 yrs), so I was entitled to £37.50 each week towards fees (my child attended nursery for 3 days which was classed as 6 sessions, so I could have the maximum "grant").

I understand that nurseries manage this grant differently, depending on how they get it from the Local Authority. Some will reduce the daily rate accordingly - it sounds like this is what the nursery you've looked at is doing - a reduction of £3.60 per hour is probably about right if you multiply it by 2.5 - that is what the nursery will be getting from the LA.

In both nurseries I've used, the payments come in from the LA part way through each of the 3 terms per year. I still have to pay the normal daily nursery rate but when the nursery gets the payment from the LA, they give me a cheque - so for instance I think the 1st term (Sept to Xmas was 12 weeks so I got a cheque for 12 x £37.50).

Hope that helps

MrsWuh Wed 07-Sep-11 13:08:15

Thank you for your input. I'm in Hertfordshire, and I found this on the HertsDirect website:

"Hertfordshire County Council is required by law to deliver 15 hours a week of free early years provision for all three and four year olds. This provision must be free at the point of delivery therefore parents should not be charged additional or 'top-up' fees for these free hours.

This is supported by the new Government. On 26th July 2010 Ministers confirmed their intention to implement a statutory Code of Practice which clearly states that the free entitlement should be free at the point of delivery, prohibiting providers from charging additional fees for these free hours.

Every family, regardless of their income, is entitled to access free early years provision. The free place scheme was introduced to ensure all three and four year olds can access early years provision for a minimum of 15 hours a week. Any additional costs could prevent children from low income families benefiting from good quality early years provision which can have a lasting impact on their development.

While we expect most providers to continue offering the free entitlement, some providers may feel the money they receive from Hertfordshire County Council does not cover their costs and decide that they can no longer remain in the free place scheme.

After 1st April 2011, only providers who can confirm the 15 hours will be free to parents at the point of delivery will remain registered on the scheme."

Surely this means that if the private nursery is offering the "free 15 hours" and claiming the grant from the Council on my behalf, they should not be charging top up fees for those hours? Otherwise they should have withdrawn from the scheme altogether?

dribbleface Wed 07-Sep-11 14:28:16

they shouldn't charge top up but can limit the amount of hours in any one day, in Essex it's 6 per day, so if nursery open for 10 hrs then fee's payable on other 4. also bearing in mind it's only 38 weeks of year. again we can average this over 50 weeks as a nursery.

rushofbloodtothefeet Wed 07-Sep-11 14:33:54

Ours just knocked the £3.60 per hour off the total fees. I know this is not how it should be done, but I do have some sympathy for the nursery as their usual hourly rate is more like £6p/h. They have overheads and staff costs they have to pay. If their entire pre-school group only came in for free funded hours they would not be able to operate.

They probably wriggle around the rules by claiming all the additional payment is for the wrap-around sessions, as the day runs 7.30am to 6pm and includes lunch and tea.

Mandy21 Wed 07-Sep-11 15:21:38

Does anyone know why nurseries who do charge top up fees are not tackled then if everyone is doing it? From my own point of view, I'll put up with it because we love the nursery my DD attends and she loves it too, so we wouldn't change, but it does seem to be a big issue??

Byeckerslike Wed 07-Sep-11 15:36:33

My ds goes to a private nursery for 15 hours and my bill is £0 he also attends the local preschool, attached to the primary school and i pay for that as its much cheaper.
I am in n lancs

meditrina Wed 07-Sep-11 15:43:59

The reason they are not challenged is because otherwise they would have to operate at a loss - especially true in SE/London and anywhere where actual hourly costs exceed the amount the nursery receives through the scheme.

Running at a loss is not sustainable, so the nursery can either break the rules of the scheme and charge top ups, go bust or withdraw from the scheme.

The "no top ups" was meant to be implemented in April 2009, but was postponed for a year in the vague hope that more preparation time would somehow rid the new version of the scheme of this flaw. That hasn't worked, and I expect the situation will continue as an unsatisfactory mess for some time yet.

jems59 Mon 26-Sep-11 09:30:01

Hi the facts on this Nursery education funding is that each county alots an amount per hour , in worcs its £3.40. Nurseries are picked at random to be audited and can have funding taken off them if seen to be "topping up". However I think some counties are turning a blind eye. You should not be having an amount of money taken of your bill, just the hours, as effectively that is top up. It is making life extremely difficult in all parts of the country as no Nursery, unless its a committee run preschool with some volunteers can operate on this level of funding. Many parents only wish to use the 15 hours and basically nurseries will be closing soon. Nurseries can not insist on any payment for those 15 hours, however they can stipulate when you use them, and charge for extras. Nurseries have fantasic facilities with lots of training and health and safety,good staff ratios, wear and tear and now the minimum wage is about to increase. If parents book even a couple of private hours over the 15 it will help them to survive. If only the 15 hours are used many nurseries will close. If youve found a good nursery , please support it.

Tanith Mon 26-Sep-11 20:17:49

I wonder what would be the reaction from these same nurseries if a parent were to say "Terribly sorry and I really feel for your situation, but I can only afford to pay 60%."

Whether they like it or not, the free entitlement is FREE and charging top-ups is fraudulent. These are hard times for everyone: why should parents be denied their entitlement or pressured into attending extra hours?

The honest thing to do, if a nursery can't afford to offer the EYFE, is to withdraw from the scheme, not con parents into thinking they can claim their entitlement and then charge.

It makes me really angry to read about those who flout the rules. I offer the free entitlement and so do other settings, at a loss to ourselves. Why should we lose out to settings who are illegally charging?

jade80 Tue 11-Oct-11 01:59:50

If the government gave a fair price for the 'free' places there wouldn't be a problem. Sadly they fund them at a level which means it is only really financially viable to employ unqualified teenagers. Leaving setting with a choice- find the money somewhere else or go bust. Good way of driving standards down, hey? Well qualified, experienced staff? No, far too pricey! The setting may be losing hundreds of pounds per funded child, which has to be clawed back from paying parents.

Tanith Thu 13-Oct-11 20:27:41

No, Jade, you withdraw from the scheme. That sends a far stronger message to the Government.

Your argument is with the local authority and the Government. Telling parents they can claim free nursery hours, then charging them is dishonest.

I know the EYFE doesn't cover our costs. I don't lie to parents and con them out of their free entitlement, though.

jade80 Fri 14-Oct-11 00:08:39

A strong message to the government would be great. If they were listening. Which they aren't.

jems59 Thu 20-Oct-11 21:04:15

We dont charge parents top up or con our parents and would like to withdraw but in our area unless all nurseries pull out it will not work. we all have to do it to have an effect. we have contacted our MPs. I think parents should make the most of the grant now because who knows with all the cuts the govenment might cut it completely and then parents will have to pay themselves like we had to 15 yrs ago

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