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Are the "free" 15 hours a week of government funding truly free?? Please help!!!

(51 Posts)
SakuraM Sat 05-Mar-16 10:29:35

I am all mixed up and I'd really appreciate any help you could provide me with to make an important decision!
My hubby and I were thinking about enrolling our daughter at a local nursery after she turns 3 to benefit from the Early Years Education Funding as in our case she'll be eligible only when she turns 3.
We were really happy to learn that the Funding would provide up to 15 hours of free childcare a week regardless of the fees charged by the chosen nursery. So we chose one local independent nursery that we liked and that accepts the Funding scheme and decided to enrol my daughter there for 5 morning sessions (8.30-11.45) a week and asked for what we would have to pay for the additional 15 minutes a day on top of the supposedly "free" 15 hours a week (3 hours a day/ 8.30-11.30). We thought that the amount would be very acceptable since we'd have to pay for only a quarter of an hour a day. Boy! what was our surprise when we saw the amount we'd pay per term excluding lunch and after deducting the Funding!
The supposedly "free" 15 hours a week are not free after all? I doubt that if I'd choose another nursery for 5 morning sessions starting at 8.30 and ending at 11.30, I'd pay nothing??
I hope this does not seem stupid and that there are other parents out there that were as mixed up as we currently are because of this complicated situation.
Can anyone please explain to me how that works? any tips?

Thanks a lot for helping a very anxious mum who has had her heart all set on one nursery sad !!!

80sMum Sat 05-Mar-16 10:34:17

Nurseries are not allowed to charge for the funded hours, so they are forced to recoup their losses by charging silly amounts for the remaining (unfunded) hours.
The hourly rate of funding that nurseries receive is far too low. Nurseries would go bankrupt if they weren't able to charge for the extra hours to make up for the losses from the free hours.

MrsJayy Sat 05-Mar-16 10:34:45

Get a break down question the price your 3,yr old is entitled to 15hrs free preschool so perhaps the nursery had hiked the price to make a profit

MrsJayy Sat 05-Mar-16 10:38:32

A lot of children will go to a preschool run by the Local authority where as kids who are in private day nurseries get their hours there the nurseries would run at a loss if they didn't change for the extra hours

80sMum Sat 05-Mar-16 10:38:40

Look at it from the nursery's point of view. In order to be a viable business you need to charge £x per hour. The funding you receive for the free hours is £x/2. So in order to stay in business you have to recoup the remaining 50% somehow.

MrsJayy Sat 05-Mar-16 10:39:38

Yeah that ^^

80sMum Sat 05-Mar-16 10:41:30

God knows what will happen if/when the free hours are extended from 15 to 30! If there isn't a massive hike in the funding then many nurseries will either have to pull out of the scheme or be forced into closure.

originalmavis Sat 05-Mar-16 10:42:23

The nursery gets a grant per child. I'm not sure where the '15 hrs free' comes from as the nursery won't be recouping the money from the grant - especially if it's in a city centre or somewhere with high overheads.

God knows how they will cope with 30 free hours.

AndNowItsSeven Sat 05-Mar-16 10:43:20

The 15 hours are totally free, you need to just send your dd in for 15 hours only. The nursery local to me does school days 8-3.30 two days a week plus £2 a day for lunch or you can take a pack lunch for free.

AndNowItsSeven Sat 05-Mar-16 10:44:00

Just enrol your dd for four days then it will be free.

Tuiles Sat 05-Mar-16 10:44:07

There are some settings that offer the 15 hours entirely free, but you have to hunt around. They tend to be preschools or nurseries attached to schools (not implying these are a worse option though)

rollonthesummer Sat 05-Mar-16 10:46:10

How much are they charging for the 15 minutes out of interest?

thenewaveragebear1983 Sat 05-Mar-16 10:50:33

My ds does 1 day of 7.5 hours (9-4.30) at nursery and the same at a child minder. I pay 2.10 for a hot dinner to nursery and cm provides sandwich lunch. No other charges .

dementedpixie Sat 05-Mar-16 10:52:55

Don't use the extra 15 minutes each day? Find somewhere that offers just the funded hours? Both mine just went for the free hours with no extras so no extra money required.

Twiceover Sat 05-Mar-16 10:56:11

Also, the free hours are only in term time so, if the nursery is open in school holiday time, then you pay full price then. Our nursery used to spread this cost out monthly so we paid more each month but didn't then suddenly have to pay lots more in the holidays ifyswim.

Viviennemary Sat 05-Mar-16 10:56:50

You haven't said how much extra you would have to pay. But yes I have heard that the amount given to the private nurseries per 'free' child doesn't cover their costs. Why should private nurseries be oblgiged to take funded hours if they make a loss on them. I agree it's all a bit of a con though in more ways than one!

dementedpixie Sat 05-Mar-16 10:58:04

But they chose to offer the free hours so should play by the rules.

OddBoots Sat 05-Mar-16 10:59:09

The nursery wants to be able to use the funding to reduce the costs to parents of a full time place but if they just offered the funded hours to a child they would make a huge loss so they need to find a balance that is allowable by law.

I suggest you look for a pre-school on school grounds or in a hired hall as that is more likely to be set up in a way that lets them absorb the cost and contact your MP to object to the derisory hourly rate paid for funding.

Jesabel Sat 05-Mar-16 10:59:54

You should be able to access the 15 hours free - tell them you don't need the extra 15 minutes and will collect her at 11.30.

Tatie3 Sat 05-Mar-16 11:01:15

It's common practice in nurseries I'm afraid as the funding rates are so low. I'm a childminder and the rate we are paid by the local authority is around £1 per hour less than the going rate, considering nurseries usually charge more than childminders they'll be losing out on more.

Regarding the funding not covering school holidays; most local authorities will allow you to spread the hours over the whole year (12 hours per week), however some childcare providers will be reluctant to accept this as there is potential to make a lot of extra money in the holidays.

80sMum Sat 05-Mar-16 11:07:04

"You should be able to access the 15 hours free - tell them you don't need the extra 15 minutes and will collect her at 11.30."

I doubt that the OP's nursery will permit that jesebel. If they charge for the 15 minutes it's because they need to in order to recoup a loss on the 3 free hours.

ComelyHunt Sat 05-Mar-16 11:08:47

I run a private nursery and we offer a very similar model of funding. It is entirely allowed - I drew up the model in conjunction with someone from the Local Authortity, so it isn't underhand.

I make it very clear to prospective parents that there are some nurseries where they can access the 15 hours completely free of charge but that we don't offer it that way. I think it's important to let parents know before they've signed up as it's not fair to spring it on them once their child is settled.

The funding we get from the government doesn't cover our costs and we have a higher staff to child ratio than is mandatory so the majority of parents are happy to sign up, although some do choose to go elsewhere, as is their right.

MrsJayy Sat 05-Mar-16 11:42:03

Oh I don't think it's underhanded to do the cost as they need to but if a private setting is used then of course the parents need to understand the funding and off setting

Marzipants Sat 05-Mar-16 11:50:05

Nurseries round here don't do free hours even with the 15 hours. I worked out that they take off about £2 an hour. With the childcare vouchers I'm getting on my mat leave it means I can afford to send DS2 to nursery the mornings a week. Roll on Easter when he'll be getting the free hours.

I would recommend nursery if you can afford it. Is your DH getting childcare vouchers with his salary? They're a tax efficient way of getting extra money specifically for childcare. You get £243 a month for about £200 off your salary (dependent on his income). If you're planning on going back to work at some point it'll be handy to have some banked.

Good luck. My DS has come on leaps and bounds since starting nursery, and it's brilliant for me too.

Marzipants Sat 05-Mar-16 11:52:36

Adding: it really pisses me off that the government insist on calling it free hours. It's not bloody free, it's subsidised, and not by that much. I was devastated when I worked that out with DS1. It's just mean to keep up the lie.

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