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question about 'top up fees' for my son's pre-school- help please anyone?

(18 Posts)
honeydew Fri 16-Oct-09 00:39:59

My son attends our local pre-school. He is 4 now and has been going there for over 6 months.

The business recently changed hands due to the owner becoming very ill.

My son goes 4 mornings a week from 9.15am-12.15pm.

We have always paid a 'top up fee' of £50 per half term. Now that the new business has taken over, we have received a bill for £100 for the term.

This works out at about £11.50 per session. The Gov funding pays about £8.25 and we have to make up the difference.

Our bill is as follows:
£594.00 for 4 3 hr sessions per week:9.15am-12.15pm

Government pay £484.92

so we have been billed £109.08

My question is, can the nursery demand this fee in advance? I paid half -termly before and didn't question it. But since seeing an article which said I shouldn't have to pay anything, I am confused.

1.Is it legal for nurseries to charge an extra fee for 'free' childcare?
2. Can I request that my son goes later in the mornings at 9.45a, and misses the first half hour of pre-school so that I don't have to pay the excess? Can they refuse, even if I just want to claim my son's basic entitlement?

I've read lots of info saying different things about what Pre-school can and can't charge for.

I am just so cross to have to pay this fee which adds up to over £300 per year.For one thing I've up my career to be at home as we can't afford childcare for 3 5 and under. Therefor I don't claim childcare nursery vouchers from any employer. My DS only does 4 out of the 5 sessions due to other commitments I have, so I don't claim my full quota but find I can't transfer the spare grant in any way.

How unfair is this pre-school system? In effect, I'm paying 3 times! Once through my DH's taxes for the grant,once because having to given up to up my career, I loose out on wages as a stay at home parent and then having to pay the fee.

Is anyone else in a similar position and what should I do? I haven't approached the nursery yet as I want to know what my entitlement is before speaking to the owner.

many thanks for help and advice smile

mummyofprincesses Fri 16-Oct-09 00:44:30

If you cut down to 3 sessions would you have to pay anything?

honeydew Fri 16-Oct-09 00:45:44

sorry, I should have made it clear:- the nursery run 3 hourly sessions at a time , 9.15-12.15 and the Government will pay only 2 and a half hours of the session, not the full 3 hours.

So can I just take him a half hour later in the morning, thus I wouldn't have to pay the extra and just claim the Government grant?

honeydew Fri 16-Oct-09 00:49:50

Yes, I think so because they charge for each session which is 3 hours, not 2 and half. So although the bill would be less, it would be by about £30, or there abouts. So I'd still have to pay £70.

I'm in London so is this just here or local to the South East or in other regions?

AllGoneSouth Fri 16-Oct-09 00:56:21

You don't have to take up the 3 hours if you don't want to. For the setting to qualify for the funding they must be able to offer the 2.5 hours free at the point of delivery -anything over that has to be by mutual agreement.

The only downside to knocking 1/2 hour off either the start or end of your ds's session is that he will either miss the settling in routines or will have to leave whilst the other children are still playing.

I'd say then that your options are:

1. Leave him there for 3 hours and pay for the extra 1/2 hour.

2. Discuss this with the manager and try to agree on the reduced session (bearing in mind the problems that will cause your DS and/or the chance that they will say no, especially if they have a waiting list).

3. Look for another setting that just offers the free sessions.

Hope it works out for you.

1dilemma Fri 16-Oct-09 00:59:36

At the risk of sounding harsh you choose to send him there so why shouldn't you pay? I work so £100 pays for about 2 days of my childcare (and lucky old me gets to pay for everyone else's preschool as well!!)

However to answer your question properly yes they can charge you up front (if it says so in your contract) the extra fee is for the extra time IYSWIM
If it is a private nursery then thay can charge what they like, you can request fewer hours but they will probably ask you to leave.

I'd say this is pretty routine, I'm in a well nurseried area of London and only know of one nursery that doesn't have a top-up (though that may have changed) some of my friends pay over £1,000 per term for their (morning only) nursery

Foxy800 Fri 16-Oct-09 11:07:47

HI there,

My lo goes to a pre school too which has also changed hands, although staff are the same, and we also pay a to pup fee for that 30 minutes but it is only £4.30 which we happily pay, although we did have a little problem at the beginning of term where like you we have always paid half terly, no issue at all but te new owner with no warning at all sent us a bill for the whoe term so we spoke to her and she agreed to half termly again.
In answer to your questions I dont see why they would say no to your child going 30 minutes a day, (we considered it but decide it wasnt fair on lo).

My advice would be to go and speak to them.Hth

honeydew Fri 16-Oct-09 13:31:27

Thanks very much to all for all the advice - I will speak to the owner and take it from there.

Just for the record, the pre-school I send my son to is the only one in my local area I can get to as I can't drive. But all nurseries are the same in my borough. All the pre-schools charge a top up fee in this vacinity so there really is no choice.

The Government guidelines say that childcare for 3 and 4 year olds is supposed to be free at the point if delivery and that it is wrong for nurseries to charge extra. I read that legislation which came into effect in 2006 was supposed to stop pre-schools charging more but it clearly hasn't happened.

nurseryvoice Fri 16-Oct-09 13:43:25

When it says that you cant charge a top up it means for the 2 1/2 hour session.

So say it is free but worth approx £8.25 to the nursery. if they cannot afford to run at that price they might charge a top up to £9 ie £1.25 for you to pay for eg so they can meet their overheads. This is what they are not supposed to do.

Lizzielooo Mon 26-Oct-09 12:58:41

Government guidlines state that all children aged 3-4 ARE entitled to free childcare up to the amount of 12.5 hours per week. If a nursery is listed with the local council as having the available 3-4 sessions this means that they recieve a govenment fund in order to maintain this service.
THis entitlement comes into effect from the start of the term after the childs third birthday. They are not allowed to charge these so called top up fees and are required to work with the parent so that the sessions are most suitable for the individual child and parent. Most nurseries run 5 - 6 hour sessions, so in theory ur child should be able to do 2 full sessions without going over their free entitlement.
I recently wrote to my local councillers regarding the matter after being disgusted with the way my local nursery tried to inforce these charges on me. they claimed that this was the only way they could do it, that i would have to HAVE TO attend my child for a minumum of 2 and a half days, thats 15 hours a week and that this would somehow work out at a whopping £51 a WEEK, £51 puns for the pleasure of an exrta half a day session!!!
Unfortunatley even though this is a govenment enforced allowance there appears to be no monitoring in place whatsoever, unlike school nurseries which are governer run nurseries seem to run themselves and seem determind to milk as much money out of parents as they can by making the rules up to suit them best.
Nothing is going to happen unless we all take action against this. I would urge you all to contact your local Mp's and councillers highlighting the situation which is continuing to harm the chances of some of the less well off families who without their free entitlement simply cannot afford the childcare that all children deserve and are by law entitled to!!!
If you all shout at once it will be heard!

Sam100 Mon 26-Oct-09 13:17:25

I think the real problem is that the funding provided does not really cover the true costs of running the sessions. I used to help out with the accounts for a not for profit pre school that was run by a committee of parents and held in a local community centre. The key workers were paid barely over the minimum wage (I did the payroll), the rent for the hall was exceptionally cheap and toys etc were borrowed from the toy library, donated or acquired from car boot sales and the committee who did all the admin were all volunteers doing it for no pay. The pre school took children from 2.5 and only charged for those children not in receipt of the full funding from the term after their 3rd birthday. Despite the fact that it was at full capacity in terms of child to carer ratio it was extremely difficult to make the numbers work and this was for an organisation not trying to run it as a business. We regularly ran fundraising days so that we would have some extra cash to invest in equipment for the children as the funds received from the local authority barely covered wages and rent let alone consumables like paints, paper etc.

We are all entitled to free childcare but that does not mean to say that it is out there. Councils have abdicated their responsibilty to provide free childcare to private sector providers.

Lizzielooo Wed 28-Oct-09 11:23:57

yes i do fully understand all that you're saying and can see it from both sides, my sister works at a nursery as does my step mother and both have openly addmitted that they know that the nursery shouldnt be doing things they way they are but know thats its out of desperation to find funding.
This is exactly why i have written to my councillors and local MP. Because the nursery should have addressed this situation sooner and spoken to the council regarding funding, they have not and as a result so many parents are out of pocket and worse sum children are completely missing out on valuable nursery experience because parents cant afford the top ups!
The nurseries i have had problems with are all registered with my local government as being fully funded to accomodate 3-4 year olds on their free child places.
the problems seemt arise from two things.
A) the nurseries seem intent to run longer and longer sessions, 6 hours a day i was told by one nursery, starting at 8 am!
firstly this makes the funded amount of 12.5 hours in sessions of 2 hours a day impossible and secondly i dont want my children there for their breakfast and wud quite like the option to take them a little later.
B) they simply dont have the funding they need for the amount of things they intend to do yet have done nothing to raise the issue and as such we the parents are suffering.
I am happy to donate to my nursery, and have already in the past given toys and clothing. i would happily pay for trips and help to fund any new equiptment the require
what i object to is being informed that i MUST pay a massive amount of £51 a week when all i want to do is give my child a valuable experience, one which according to my government he is clearly entitled to for FREE!
its not much to ask as far as i can see but yes it requires the co operation of both the government and the nurseries working toegther to uphold the rights that have been put in place.
i hope that others out there feel the same as i do and are prepared for our childrens sakes to fight for their right to a great start in the educational system,

MGMidget Mon 02-Nov-09 23:41:15

In my area private nurseries charge top up fees of typically £1000+ per term for a three hour morning place 5 days a week. This is on top of the nursery grant (i.e. total fees are £1,500+ per term). The reality is that nurseries cannot survive on the amount of the government grant - well not in London anyway and probably not in many of the more expensive parts of the UK. However, parents want to take advantage of the reduction in fees provided by the nursery grant so it has become the norm to charge a ridiculous amount of money for the extra half hour per day on top of the 'free' 2.5 hour session. The real problem seems to be that the amount of the grant is completely unrealistic. If nurseries were forced to provide a free 2.5 hour place and not charge top up fees many would have to close. After all, why should the nursery owners operate at a loss? And if many of them close there would not be anywhere near enough pre-school nurseries places available. That is probably why local councils have not forced nurseries to stop this practice.

So, personally I wouldn't force the issue because I doubt the nursery can afford to back down on the charge since everyone else will also want a refund!

M1SSUNDERSTOOD Wed 04-Nov-09 21:55:43

I remember asking my nursery this and discovered the free session is embedded in the am or pm session. I has wanted run 2 free sessions back to back to constitute a morning or afternoon. However I was told by law you have to have a break in between so can't do this. Reality is if you want wraparound care which is outwith the free sessions nurseries have to make a profit and they charge extra. My nursery don't offer option of 2 1/2 hours only so it's not really free at all. They also insisted you attend for minimum 3 sessions to maximise profit. It's a business first and foremost.

glowbug Fri 06-Nov-09 12:10:10

Our preschool charges 8 pounds 50 if you can't do mums help which is doubled if you let them down at short notice. They say this is to cover additional help if you can't do it. Also they say they would have to increase the charges if we didn't have that fee.

Is this legal?...

bobbysmum07 Sun 08-Nov-09 13:26:22

The numbers don't add up though, do they? I mean you must be able to see that.

If, for example, your nursery takes 24 funded 3 and 4 year olds, it brings in 24 x £484.92 = £11638.08 per term. There are 3 terms per year. So the total income per year is £11638.08 x 3 = £34914.24.

BUT, 24 children require a minimum of 3 staff, of whom 2 must be qualified, 1 ideally with EYPS (equivalent to Qualified Teacher Status at a going rate of £24 grand plus per year for full time). On average, those 3 staff would cost £9000 (for the unqualified) + £11000 (for the NVQ 2 or 3) + £14000 (for the EYPS) = £34000.

Factor in rent at an average cost (in London) of £20000 per annum, and then rates, utilities, etc, and the nursery is running at a loss of about £30000 per annum.

Think about that before you go putting in an official complaint about the nursery owner, potentially ruining someone's life.

nurseryvoice Sun 08-Nov-09 13:54:01

then you get the children who dont do the full 12.5 hours some do 7 or 10 for example so the payment is less but you still need the same staff.

bobbysmum07 Sun 08-Nov-09 20:16:35

No wonder the owner of this place became very ill.

Who wouldn't with worries like that hanging over their head?

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