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Waiting lists - how do they work please???

(17 Posts)
FrauRumpelpumpel Mon 14-Oct-13 10:01:48

I have recently joined a committee for a local village playgroup, and been put 'in charge' of the waiting list. Apparently, they have never really needed a waiting list, as demand has never been high enough to warrant one, but an increase in demand has meant that for the first time we are 'overbooked'.

So, for example, one mum whose DS already attends has stated last year that she wishes her DD to start attending in April when her DD turns 2, so her two children attend together. Does that mean we have to keep that place open, so we are effectively one child short, until April? That is revenue that we definitely could be getting in between now and April, and as a small charity playgroup we are highly dependent on this revenue.

Yet it seems to me to be not right to not keep this place available. How do nurseries deal with this?

Thank you!

3birthdaybunnies Mon 14-Oct-13 10:25:10

But what would you do if it means depriving a child who has just come to the area and is 3 and a half and his mother has baby twins, is his need greater than the need of the other mother who would like both children in nursery?

Mine have been to two different nurseries. One is LEA, they use the same criteria as the school, special needs, siblings, distance. They are fairly empty in Sept, each term they fill up according to these criteria but they don't 'save' a space for e.g. a child with special needs who might not start until April.

The other one sounds more like yours - it is a first come first served waiting list, as soon as the child is old enough and there is a space then they will be offered a space. I think sometimes they might be a but flexible - e.g. if health visitor refers a child who needs extra help due to family circumstances.

If I were you I would publish clear guidance - have an option for special needs, then maybe a sibling CURRENTLY in the preschool when the younger one starts, then either time on waiting list or distance (though would be a pain to administer without the accurate measuring tools), although you could put living in the village above time on waiting list if you wanted to. Use these criteria for each admission term until you are full.

I understand that the mother wants her child to go but your school will loose lots of funding - was about 200-300 pounds for a term when I had to pay for ds, and what if she moved anyway. I'm not entirely convinced that it helps the younger sibling anyway if the older one goes to school in Sept. They have been used to going together and then it all changes. If she has already been promised then I guess you could say that any existing agreements will be honoured (assuming she is the only one) but anyone from now on will be subject to these criteria. It is fairer in the long run.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 14-Oct-13 10:27:22

And don't think of it as the 2yr old not getting a place - they will in the Sept, and still probably have two whole years at preschool.

titchy Mon 14-Oct-13 10:48:06

Can you not simply keep the list in age order, so the oldest, who arguably need the place more, get in first, (maybe subject to them actually being able to take up the place the next term, so if you only had 2 x two year olds on the list, and one place, you'd offer the oldest two year old a place, but they say they don't want it for a year, you offer to the next oldest two year old. The remaining one then has to wait for another vacancy).

That's how Brownies and Cubs lists are generally done, and a nursery is the same sort of thing in terms of age dependent and non-compulsory.

FrauRumpelpumpel Mon 14-Oct-13 11:00:42

It seems a bit unfair, though, titchy, that someone who has been saying for 18 months that they want a place in April 2014, and been told yes, can then just suddenly be pushed off the list if a 3 year old moves into the village....

It's not the mother's fault our minimum age is 2, so if a child who turns 2 in March phones up in February, do we then just push her down the list, and keep doing so until September?? I want to do the best for the Playgroup but it just doesn't seem fair.

However, I can see that we can't keep 7 spaces open for June born children that could be taken in January, losing 6 months revenue...

Arggggg <tears hear out>

You're right, 3birthdaybunnies, we need some very clear rules now, it's just trying to get them right..

meditrina Mon 14-Oct-13 11:09:43

If they have been told they can have a start place at a particular time, then yes, I think you have to find a way to honour that. Then go an murder the person who told them that. And make sure nobody else makes undertakings about joining without checking with you.

I suggest you keep a list, with the potential joiners 'ranked' against whatever criteria you and the group choose. You can then annotate each on the priority list with their preferred start date. Then, whenever you have a vacancy, you can check the list and put the highest priority child whose start date matches vacancy date into the place. You'll need to check the list frequently, so if there are children who cannot start before the preferred date, you can let the parents know in good time what is going on.

And it might be worth putting the word out locally that you are now oversubscribed, a waiting list is in operation and joining dates can no longer be guaranteed months in advance.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 14-Oct-13 11:22:05

What done is done and you probably will need to honour existing promises, however you need water tight procedures for the future. Maybe send out a questionnaire to the parents in the preschool to consult with them - do they prefer a villagers first, siblings first, time on waiting list first etc approach, then go with the majority.

I think though you need to stop seeing it from the parent perspective but think in terms of the child - who needs the space more, the child with the super organised mother or the child who is starting school in 6 months and the closest they have come to sitting still and listening is when they watch cbeebies all day. In terms of priority the older child probably needs it more as they are closer to school age.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 14-Oct-13 11:25:19

Oh and tell people that places will be allocated x months before the start of each term, any applications must be in by this date and if there isn't space this term they will be assessed against the criteria next term - no promises until the letter comes out.

HSMMaCM Mon 14-Oct-13 19:37:28

Our pre school used to be oldest children first

HSMMaCM Mon 14-Oct-13 19:38:43

Our pre school used to be oldest children first

fasterthanthewind Mon 14-Oct-13 19:45:54

You MUST approach the problem at least partly commercially, otherwise the nursery will go bust.

At the community nursery I used to help run, when a place came up it was offered in order to people on the waiting list, with a child of the right age. Places were never ever held open, waiting for a child to turn 2 - you just can't do that.

On how the waiting list works, which is sep issue, we had a complicated system, as w wanted to make the nursery as diverse as poss, so we didn't want to prioritise time on waiting list, or distance necessarily. If you were a referred or vuln child, you'd automatically top the list. Then it would depend which fee band place had come free, and it would be offered to parents in that band, w sib priority, then time on waiting list. Sib priority applied even if older sib had left.

FrauRumpelpumpel Mon 14-Oct-13 22:12:25

Thanks for these answers. I think of greatest concern is the sibling issue, as obviously it just seems wrong if people whose other 1 or 2 children have already passed through playgroup are pushed aside by new people, as a small village everyone with children knows everyone else and the playgroup is opposite the school, so from a practical point of view I can't see how it would work for parents if we tell them we haven't got a place for their youngest.

Given that there are only going to be roughly 3 or 4 siblings per year, my feeling is we ought to make an allowance for this...

I think that the problem as I see it is that all the places become available in September, when the older children go up to school. Then they start to fill up in this current term. There won't be many at all leavingleaving, if any, as not many people move out (there are about 21 children on the register, BTW) so it seems to me that by accident of when your child is born, you're either lucky, or you have to wait til the following September. If the younger ones have to wait til Sept, they will only get 1 year at playgroup, while sept - Dec births will get almost 2 years. That doesn't feel just.

3birthdaybunnies Mon 14-Oct-13 22:49:44

It is due to the changes in when children start school - it used to be that summer borns were offered Jan start date, so stayed in preschool until Christmas, so more places became available then. Now they have to be offered a Sept start date and most take it up. Preschools therefore loose a term of their funding and it forces them all to a Sept start. Also the issue is with the funding which only kicks in after they turn 3, but people can choose to send their child earlier as the mother with the not yet 2 yr old wants to do - even if she has to wait until Sept she will still get 2yrs at preschool but less of it is paid for.

I agree it makes sense to prioritise siblings and maybe of anyone who has a child in that school even if the older one didn't attend your preschool, however I still don't think that you can keep that place open for two terms. This will lose the preschool around £200 per session reserved. Also although the village might be close knit it doesn't help new people to integrate if they can't access local services because they haven't lived there long enough. There is a balance to be found.

There is also a baby boom to contend with - I was talking to someone who put her son's name down when he was 5 months, and as he doesn't turn 3 until March and they can't afford the extra to put him in at Christmas, he will need to wait until he is 3.5 if they want him to go there. It is happening everywhere and maybe if there aren't more places then preschools will have to admit slightly older children. I still think that is preferable for the children than excluding newcomers and those less organised - then all children get a chance to practice for when they can start school.

titchy Tue 15-Oct-13 11:22:05

Actually maybe newcomers OUGHT to be able to push the others aside - how else are they going to get to know people in the village? You should be welcoming people to your community not pushing them aside because they're new.

And yes Autumn borns will always have two year of nursery compered to summer borns. That's just the way education works in this country.

I really think you should offer in age order though - the 2 year old will get a place at some point, but the 3 year old with the August birthday NEEDS that place now.

FrauRumpelpumpel Tue 15-Oct-13 12:57:00

Hmm I can see what you mean, Titchy, but the thing is as a charity-run playgroup, we ask parents for an awful lot of help, staying for a session as a parent-helper, lots of fundraising events that we kind of hassle people to come to, donate to, etc., giving up a lot of free time to be on the committee, etc., so the people who have been around for a long time have usually put a huge amount of time/money/effort into helping to actually run the playgroup. Turning to them when the time comes for one of their children to attend and basically telling them to get lost for 6 months is something that several parents have told me they would consider outrageous... and I have to say, I agree.

If a 'new' parent who has just moved somewhere can't get a place for a few months they might find they are disappointed, but people generally expect that when they move they might have a bit of disruption for a few months because they may have to wait for a nursery place to become available.

I don't think I was really suggesting pushing anyone aside because they're new.... !

Snowflakepie Tue 15-Oct-13 13:09:04

Just to throw into the mix... We are a charity run preschool and NEF children take priority, regardless of age, although obviously the scheme is run on age. So a 3.5 year old moving in would HAVE to trump the 2 year old on the waiting list. Some sessions are already full, others (afternoons mainly) are still able to take children right through to the summer. The waiting list is maintained by preferred start date, but then age group order based on which school year they will fall into. Not sure if that makes sense but there has never been an issue so far. No sibling conversation has ever come up.

That said, this September is the fullest we have ever been at the start of a school year. Lots more people choosing 'state' preschool perhaps? Also a lot of the private nurseries around here have bonkers rules about how you can use your funded hours and for many people they can't be doing with that, it ends up costing £££.

The policy for admissions does state how things work though, and that no place is guaranteed until the term before they are due to start. If someone has something in writing to the contrary then you may have to honour it, but those NEF children do need priority in whatever way you want to work it.

ProudAS Fri 18-Oct-13 09:35:00

I don't think there's any way to avoid favouring autumn born children but it might be possible to minimize.

For example: No 1 priority is children who were 3yo at end of previous academic year

No 2 priority: children who were 2yo at end of previous academic year. Older ones will get NEF funding sooner but you probably can't afford to hold places.

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