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Would you change your child's nursery?

(32 Posts)
12missafew Tue 29-Oct-13 16:33:33

Would you change your child's nursery if there was another nursery which was the same as their current one in every material respect (i.e. quality of care, quality of early education, quality of food, safety and happiness of children, cost) BUT offered much more flexible hours?

By flexible hours I mean you would be able to choose exactly the days and hours you needed between 5am and 11pm, Monday to Friday, charged at an hourly rate. You could be up to two hours late on any day without any late fees (any extra hours would just be charged at the standard rate). You could also drop off your children up to an hour early if you let the nursery know the night before. For a slightly higher fee (about 10% more) you could sign up for a plan which would let you change the days and hours you needed on a weekly basis

As you might be able to tell I am considering opening a nursery (in London) which would offer the flexibility I've described above, but I don't know how much parents would really value it. What do you think? Crucially, 1) would you change from your existing nursery / childcare provider, and 2) would you have picked the more flexible nursery if it had been available when you were choosing your nursery / childcare provider? I know it's hard to imagine a nursery which is the same as yours in every other way, but please try!

I want to try and help parents if this is a real problem, but I am not sure if it is.

If you could let me know if you live in London, and how old your children are, and what sort of hours you / you and your partner work that would be really useful.


PrincessYoni Tue 29-Oct-13 21:59:52

Yes. I suggest you site yourself near a MOD Main Building or near Northwood. You'd be quids in then smile I ended up with a childminder who offered me that flexibility but also could do overnights.

applebread Tue 29-Oct-13 22:08:24

I'd jump at the chance for that flexibility.

gintastic Tue 29-Oct-13 22:12:49

My last childminder sort of did this - we had a contracted minimum number of hours per week and just paid per hour for anything over. They minded as a couple so could have up to 12 children at a time (massive house and garden), it worked really well. I loved being able to finish work an hour early if I had a local site visit and not have to pay for their care that I didn't need. I also often have meetings that overrun (I only work until 2pm) and it was fab just to excuse myself, send a quick text that I was running an hour late) and for it to be no problem whatsoever. I was so so sad when they decided to retire :-(

My current childminder sort of does this but not to the same extent and to be honest, a nursery that offered that kind of flexibility would be fab!

Staff that start at 5am and work until 11pm will be hard to come by though, maybe?

Sadly I don't live in London.

LucyLui25 Tue 29-Oct-13 22:13:06

The main problem you would have is managing the staffing of this. You would need extra staff just in case a parent decided to leave their child for an extra 2 hours, but you would already be full therefore by keeping that child extra you would be running illegally and thus your insurance would be void should something go wrong. Then there would be the paying of the staff also, you would have them on flexible working weeks, just in case 10 of your parents decide next week they would want to change and do until 11pm every night, but actually you only normally have 2 staff members working this shift. I know this is the boring logistical side of things but it is this that makes and breaks nurseries. I think child minders should be offer this kind of option and are generally missing a trick by not doing it. If you can get this to work for you, I wish you evey success. I definitely think that there is a market for longer/ over night care, however the flexible part is the difficulty. You rates would need to be much higher to cope with empty spaces, or over subscribed slots. We do try to be as flexible as possible (well I do) but at the end of the day it needs to make good business sense, and keep staff morale up to maintain high standards

elspethmcgillicuddy Tue 29-Oct-13 22:14:14

Just to give you a more balanced view... I probably wouldn't change tbh. Working times are pretty consistent and those sorts of hours aren't an issue for me. I'm not in London though.
Good luck!

BrianTheMole Tue 29-Oct-13 22:14:50

Sounds amazing. Don't know how it would work in reality, but if it could I'm sure it would be popular.

Sirzy Tue 29-Oct-13 22:17:51

If you allow 2 hours 'extra' for free then people will take the Piss and book in shorter hours just to get the free time!

Flexibility in a nursery is a nice idea but very hard to implement. What if you only have enough staff for 8 children but 10 want to attend at the same time?

lilyloo Tue 29-Oct-13 22:20:40

Not sure how you would get good quality staff prepared to work those hours on an ad hoc basis. And good staff make a good nursery.

Waggamamma Tue 29-Oct-13 22:24:34

Yes I would love this option in a nursery! my partner has turned down a few job offers recently as we cannot work childcare round a shift rota (he's fixed shifts in his current job).

But I don't think it would actually be viable as a business for the staffing and ratio issues mentioned by previous poster.

I also struggle to think any nursery could be as fabulous as the one my ds is at currently smile . it's in a charming converted farmhouse and no more than 6 children in each room with three staff. huge garden and good variety of external classes: ballet, music, football, french. the staff are warm and cheerful and go above and beyond the call of duty. No other nursery we've visited has come close.

We're in central Scotland.

hettienne Tue 29-Oct-13 22:37:04

My concern would be whether this model was viable long term - I wouldn't risk changing nursery if I was worried the new nursery might fail. How would you manage staffing?

HappyAsASandboy Tue 29-Oct-13 23:24:24

I work in London but my nursery is outside of London.

My nursery manages to offer flexible days and flexible hours to a degree. We have to state which days and sessions we need for a particular month before the 20th (ish) of the month before. It is set up the way to accommodate nursing shifts at a nearby hospital.

Although the days and sessions can be changed for each week, subject to booking them by the 20th of the preceding month, we do have to stick to set sessions (7am - 6pm, 9am - 1pm, 2pm - 6pm I think) and have to book a minimum of 2 sessions per week. They also offer a discount for paying for a set amount of sessions per month by direct debit, to encourage you to always use at least a certain number of sessions.

I have no idea how they staff the nursery! It is always the same people working the early morning and the same people (but different to the morning people!) that work the evening. I can only assume they are over staffed for some part of the middle of the day (though thinking about it, the over staffing would cover lunch breaks?).

However they do it, I love the flexibility. It allows me to take annual leave to be with my kids at reasonably short notice without paying for care I don't need. I think it's great smile

If you think you can make it work (and in London I bet you can), then go for it. I think you could charge a premium for the flexibility, though you'd need to be carefull not to end up costing more than a regular FT nursery place ....

Tanith Wed 30-Oct-13 07:49:09

We offer similar as childminders. It's easier for us because we're on the premises at all times.

You will need to be careful because the odd parent will take advantage. The way we do it is to book set core hours that are charged for, then no late or overtime charge at all, with overnight care (charged) or drop off service (free) if required.
We also have a minimum number of hours a day that must be booked, otherwise we'd find a place was blocked for the day by a child just needing a couple of hours.

A parent who books minimal hours and persistently over-runs them is asked to change their contracted hours. We round hours down to the nearest full hour anyway, so no excuse.
Shift work hours are averaged over the month.

I'm not sure how you'll do this with nursery staffing levels, though. Are you planning zero contracts or something?

Tanith Wed 30-Oct-13 07:55:35

Zero hours contracts, I should say!

12missafew Wed 30-Oct-13 13:53:08

Many thanks all for your replies and honesty - I really need to hear what people really think!

As some of you point out there are significant practical obstacles, which I think (from reading the industry press and talking to people who've worked in nurseries) is why this sort of service isn't usually offered at the moment. Flexible (and good) staff would be key - I've built a computer model which simulates various demand patterns and staffing requirements though, and I'm fairly confident that as long as staff were prepared to be given a different set of shifts each week (with potential extensions on each shift of up to 2 hours, to mirror that flexibility given to parents) I think I would be able to pay a fixed salary, promise a [I]maximum[/I] shift duration of 10 hours, and a 4/5 day working week. The computer model I mentioned also automatically generates a rota, which hopefully help manage the potential difficulties some of you mention. It sounds like I would have to convince parents of this as well.

My revenue model gives about 65% of all turnover going to staff, which would see them paid about 10% above average for the area. My main tactic for staff retention and motivation though be treating them extremely well. I think if you have a manager who doesn't just treat you as a number of hours on their rota, but values you for who you are, what you want to achieve, knows what makes you tick (and what doesn't!) and builds how they manage you around the person you are, it can motivate far more than money (provided pay is not actually bad). A flexible staffing model can also have advantages for staff (ever needed a morning off for something last minute?) which would hopefully mean I could offer some further tangible benefits.

Re parents taking advantage, I would charge for any extra hours used (within the flexibility allowed) - so hopefully this would just be extra demand.

If anyone else has any other views or comments (or wants to second views and comments from above), please do reply.


DialsMavis Wed 30-Oct-13 15:04:57

I live in London and would love a nursery with extended hours and some flexibility. I have had to turn down jobs as all nurseries around here close at 6pm and I need care til 6.30pm. DPs hours and days of work are quite changeable and we have found ourselves paying £69 for day of nursery while DP has a day off!

insancerre Wed 30-Oct-13 18:15:52

sounds all well and good but what if the staff nneded childcare themselves?
Having different shift patterns every week and also maybe having to stay 2 hours beyond shift finish would be hard if they had children at school or used another nursery or childminder
Also have you ever spent anytime in a nursery?
A 10 hour shift would be a killer.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 30-Oct-13 18:21:53

Would you be offering the late 2 hour pick up to everyone? Because somebody 2 hours late for an 11pm would be 1.00am.
Is this allowed? and also you may have staffing issues for the very late nights.

insancerre Wed 30-Oct-13 18:42:51

The more I think about this the more I really disl;ike the idea.
Sorry, but where do the children's needs come in all of this?
Most children are fed, bathed and in bed by 7 ish.
They are going to suffer if they are woken up to be taken home in the middle of the night.
I know I would be bloody furious if someone woke me up 4 hours in to my nights sleep and made me put a coat on and then have to travel home and then go back to bed.
Children are not commodities that can be made to fit in with their parent's busy lives.
I know that all families have to compromise and find what works best for them, but leaving them in a nursery till 11pm seems really harsh to me.

Waggamamma Wed 30-Oct-13 19:39:53

I think I agree insancerre most young children need routine and stability. Not knowing whether they are coming or going with different days and times at nursery here and there can't be good for them.

My DP works back shifts and finishes at 11pm, but we work around it by making sure I'm always home in the evening. It would be unfair for a small child to be in a childcare setting so long. If these hours are required I think most parents would prefer it to be in their own home so children don't need to be disturbed.

It would also be very difficult for staff I think they need some kind of fixed hours. Ten hours is far too long a day for nursery staff, it's exhausting, plus commute and if they have their own children what are they meant to do?

There were some 24 hour nurseries (I think Glasgow and one near one of the London airports) but they went bust pretty quickly.

I agree childcare needs to be more flexible to accommodate shift workers but it also has to be child centred. In the flexibility it seems you would lose some quality of care.

12missafew Thu 31-Oct-13 13:25:24

I certainly take the points about waking up children who have gone to sleep. But I would usually assume if parents were doing this (as the child's primary carer), it would be because they saw it as the best option they could give the child - I've heard horror stories (though all second hand) about children being left in the backs of cars for three hours while parents finish shifts. If that was the alternative, surely providing nursery care would be better?

If 11pm is too late for children's wellbeing, what do you think would be the latest time that would be reasonable. 9pm? Earlier, Later?

The other difference in what I would be providing would not just be the extent of opening hours, but the discretion parents would have to choose the hours they'd need. If you finished work at 2pm on Thursday, or didn't start until 10 am on Wednesday, that would be fine, and you wouldn't pay for the hours you didn't use.

Regarding children's need for routine, I also take this point very strongly. However, I think in many families that don't work the same hours every day of the week, this simply isn't possible, and I wouldn't have thought that having nursery opening times fixed really gives much fundamental continuity. On the contrary, I would have thought having parents rushed on some days, maybe still trying to do some work from home and not able to concentrate on their child, would be just as bad or worse for the child. I would aim to try and replicate a pattern of home life throughout the day in the nursery - busy active group activities during the social central phase of the day, with softer, more intimate activities during the late / early phases of the day - but with the child's wellbeing always the focus, not sending one more email for work. By mirroring a child's "home routine" in the nursery I would hopefully limit disruption to the child of going home at different times, on different days. Would this ease your concerns at all, or not?

Re staff members' own childcare concerns, I would aim to provide free or steeply discounted childcare to staff on the hours they were working.

I agree that traditionally flexibility and quality have been traded off - my whole business plan would be built around trying not to do that.

Alanna1 Thu 31-Oct-13 20:17:18

My nursery offers a "home" option - a member of staff will take your kids home and then move on to a "babysitting" rate. They can't guarantee the home time as it depends on when the ratios are such that someone can leave, but it's in the 1 hour window between (5-6). Nursery shuts at 6. You have to pay extra for 5-6, and then an hourly rate after 6pm. Sometimes they can be flexible if you aren't sure when you'll get home. My friend who uses it 2 times a week says that the staff do dinner bath bed etc. And obv stay until she's home. That might be a better model for you.

Alanna1 Thu 31-Oct-13 20:18:29

I should add that not all staff can do this - essentially only the longer standing and most experienced ones.

nextphase Thu 31-Oct-13 20:26:51

I think you need to look at who would want the extended hours round you, and have your hours to suit e.g. if there was a very big employer who had a 6am shift start, you might need to open before then, but if everyone commutes to an 8am start, 6am is probably sufficient.

Personally, we'd love an earlier starting nursery (7.30 here), as DH can't drop the kids off and be at work for his fixed working start of 8. i had kittens when he said they were thinking of making it 7.30 - if I travel, he turns up late occasionally, but 7.30 starts would be impossible. The staff comment on the early starts required to be open that early.

I can't see a model when you would need nursery care as late as you propose - that sounds more like evening babysitting.

Would there be any demand for shorter week days, but some Sat/sun availability? You could limit weekend places to those who booked well in advance - ie shift workers?

DontCallMeDaughter Thu 31-Oct-13 20:29:39

I wouldn't move dd to a nursery like this. I like the fact that her nursery closes at 6 and my employer knows that so there is never a question of me having to stay late. The time I get with her in the evening is the best part of my day and I wouldn't want the opportunity to allow other things to get in the way.

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