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Can someone explain free childcare at aged 3?

(27 Posts)
Writerwannabe83 Tue 08-Sep-15 21:45:30

This may make me seem ridiculously stupid but I'm finding things a bit overwhelming, I can't get any straight answers and people I talk to all have different a thoughts and opinions.

Can the 15 hours be used up in any which way a parent chooses? For example, my DS has childcare two days a week, 10 hours each day, so in a nursery setting would I just be charged for the outstanding two hours?

Am I even able to take all 15 hours in the course of two days? One friend told me that the 15 hours have to be spread out over a minimum of three days? This would mean though that I would have to send DS into childcare when he actually doesn't need it.

DS is currently with a childminder, do they also provide the free 15 hours?

All this isn't an issue yet but me and DH are looking ahead and musing about childcare options when DS is a bit older and I just feel a bit confused by it all confused

mabythesea Tue 08-Sep-15 21:54:32

It depends how the nursery chooses to offer it. Some might only offer 5x mornings or afternoons, some might do 2.5 days, some might let you take a long day.

Participating nurseries/childminders are supposed to to offer the 15 hours free, but some private nurseries try to get round the rules by charging top ups fees or for extras.

Remember it's only term times too, so 38 weeks a year.

silverstreak Tue 08-Sep-15 21:57:25

From my understanding it's not exactly 15hrs free childcare but 15x??3.43 over term time (36wks???) so the rest is down to the individual nursery/childminders (Childminders can be used it offsted reg).... So if your chosen nursery is ??5 pH you'd have to make up the difference in cash iyswim. Also the 3 days thing is probably due to most places insisting on A minimum of 3 mornings or "sessions" (which are often in 4/5 hour increments, hence the arrival at 15hrs) as any less can be unsettling for the child - so 2x10hr days would def qualify!

Finally, it might be that your chosen nursery/childminder will let you split your 15hrs of term time over the year, which usually works out as around 10hrs per week over 50wks - some folk prefer that idea as may have work commitments through the year, or feel that the long holidays around term time are disruptive to their dc.... Many variations!

Hth - although pretty much guarantee my slow typing will mean I have been pipped by others! smile

Littlefish Tue 08-Sep-15 22:02:35

The reason you can't get a straight answer is because there isn't really one! smile

mabythesea is right in all her/his comments.

You need to contact the nurseries or childminders you are interested in using and find out how they apply the 15 hours. It is up to each setting to set their own rules generally.

Some childminders offer the 15 hours but many choose not to because the amount they are able to claim does not meet their normal fees, so it just doesn't make sense to do it.

School pre-schools are less likely to charge top-ups, but may not be as flexible or offer the hours that you need. However, it's always worth asking.

The nursery where I work is a school nursery, but is open 7.30-6pm, 5 days a week. We choose to offer funded hours for 9.00 - 3.00pm only. Wrap-around hours outside this are paid for separately.

The school nursery down the road offers 9am -12 midday, 5 days a week only.

silverstreak Tue 08-Sep-15 22:03:21

Oops for some reason my tablet has changed pound signs for wisdom marks!? But hopefully you get the gist.... BTW it 3.43 per he outside London (not sure what in) so depending on your nursery/cm for 20hrs (your 2x10hr days) you would get 15x3.43, and you would have to pay for the extra 5hrs plus the difference in the 15, or the same x 10 over the year....

Good grief, I have made that sound waaaay too convoluted but hopefully it makes a little sense!! confused

Littlefish Tue 08-Sep-15 22:07:44

Silverstreak - no one should be charging a top up. Under the terms of the funding agreement, parents should be able to claim 15 hours completely free of charge. That means, no deposit, no compulsory uniform, no compulsory additional activities etc. The only thing you can charge for is lunch, as long as you also offer parents to opportunity to provide a packed lunch if they want to.

However, in practice, things are often different. Private nurseries often have a shortfall between the funding and their actual costs and use a variety of often slightly dubious methods of forcing parents to pay a top-up.

Also, Childminders should all be Ofsted registered, but still have to choose whether to take the funding or not. In our area they have to be Good or Outstanding if they want to offer the funded hours, but that may not be a national requirement.

My slow typing meant I cross posted with you last time! smile

mandy214 Tue 08-Sep-15 22:14:40

Nurseries / childminders (OFSTED registered) Can offer the hours however they want. So it might be in 5 x 3 hour sessions. Might be only between say 10 and 2, some might allow it over 2 days. Some will only be term time, some will spread it over the year. And your child is only entitled to it from the September / January or April after their 3rd birthday - the start of term. So my D was 3 at the end of April and started the following September.

It is supposed to be free but in my experience (having only used private nurseries) it rarely is. Council run play schools / pre - schools are likely to be free but they tend to be 5 morning or 5 afternoon sessions.

Private nurseries can charge for food / activities / additional hours. They're not supposed to ask for a top up on the 15 hours. Few can operate on that basis, so for me (my children did 3 full days throughout the year so potentially 30 hours) I saved about ??120 a month over 12 months. So my fees went down from about ??830 a month to just over ??700. Not quite free!!!!

silverstreak Tue 08-Sep-15 22:51:31

Oo thanks Littlefish - my understanding is clearly more muddled than I'd thought! Tbh my DD's not yet 3 so I've not got round to researching of yet but that totally helps - good to have insider info! smile

Thurlow Wed 09-Sep-15 13:05:22

Around our way (down south) there are very few childminders who do the funded hours, as the money they get from the council/government is much less than their standard fee.

We have a mix of school-attached nurseries and private nurseries.

The school-attached nurseries do a 3 hour session a day, most of them in the morning but the odd one does afternoon sessions. You apply through the council and are allotted a place. There is no option with these school-attached nurseries to do anything other than 3 hours, 5 days a week. (Though it gets a bit confusing as some of them offer wraparound care from 8am-6pm which you pay separately)

Some of our private nurseries also offer 3 hour, 5 day a week morning sessions that are "free" in the same way as a school-attached nursery places are.

Other private nurseries allow the use of the 15 free hours in different ways. Some will let the parents have two full days, say two 8 hour days, and the parents top up the extra fees for that extra hour and for lunches and dinners.

However, if you're only using funded hours then you only get that funding during term time, and if you want your DC to attend during holidays you have to pay for those sessions.

Otherwise, if your DC is pretty much in full-time private nursery anyway, nurseries just take the 15 hours a week (term-time) off your final bill. Though there is extra confusion as some charge less during the term-time and more during the holidays, and others average it out and you pay the same amount term-time and holidays...

Basically, when your DC turns 2 start emailing nurseries, school nurseries and childminders and see what they offer. It's radically different everywhere!

youplusaupair Thu 10-Sep-15 10:27:31

I read yesterday an article where one nursery said that they get ??5 per child per hour from government and then the parents have to pay ??3 top up to meet the nursery costs. If nurseries in London are getting the same amount as the rest of England, then parents in London are more likely to pay top-ups, so I guess in London, it will never be pure free 15 hours per week...

mandy214 Thu 10-Sep-15 11:07:43

It may have changed but the rate varies from borough to borough and I think the rate (going back a couple of years) used to be less than ??8 a session (and a session was 2.5 hours). So what, ??3.30/??.40 an hour?! For 15 hours, over 38 weeks that amounted to funding of about ??1700-1800 which the nursery deducted from the "normal" fees over the year (12 months).

That's in the NW by the way, not London! I think the problem is nationwide.

SaltySeaBird Thu 10-Sep-15 11:41:48

At my nursery you can only claim 3 hours out of a 5 hour session as funded, so to claim the 15 hours you need 5 sessions and have to pay the additional 10 hours - at present DD does 3 sessions which is 15 hours a week but we would only get 9 hours of those for free.

Writerwannabe83 Thu 10-Sep-15 12:30:15

I only work 2 days between Mon-Fri so only need to use a nursery on those days, so DS definitely won't be needing 5 separate day sessions.

Unless their day is split into morning and afternoon sessions (two sessions a day) so he will there for 4 sessions each week.

Thurlow Thu 10-Sep-15 13:02:08

I don't think that the school-attached type nurseries let you have a morning and afternoon session - at least, those around our way that do offer morning and afternoon sessions would not let you use both.

I saw you on the other thread that prompted you to ask about this. I'd say in your situation, you can either take the 5 daily sessions and use a CM to do wraparound on the days that you need full time childcare, or investigate whether any private nurseries will let you use the 15 hours funding to essentially just pay for the 2 full days care you need.

It is a long way off yet for your DS. Personally I wouldn't immediately rule out the option of him wanting, needing or using the 5 morning sessions. You might not need them from a childcare point of view, but it will depend where your DS is developmentally at the age of 3. We were very happy with our DC at a CM at that age and didn't really think about her needing that 'education' side of it at all, but as we approached 3 it became glaringly obvious that she actually did, and as much as she loved being with a CM she wasn't just ready to mix in larger groups and start being taught things, she actively wanted it.

mandy214 Thu 10-Sep-15 13:09:14

OP - I agree with Thurlow - I can't think of any 'pre-school' provisions that mix mornings and afternoons. Its one or the other.

Writerwannabe83 Thu 10-Sep-15 13:39:16

My worry is that I don't want to send him to a nursery on days he doesn't need to go.

Because of my awful shifts, for three days a week I only spend 20 minutes with him a day and sometimes I go about 48 hours without seeing him at all sad As a result I so value the time we do have together that I would hate to send him to nursery for no reason which would mean I will miss out on even more time with him sad

I feel like I don't see him enough already never mind sending him to unnecessary childcare sad

Thurlow Thu 10-Sep-15 13:52:44

I totally get that - DP works shifts too, I work f/t, it is a juggling act entirely.

I know you have a lovely CM but it is worth just looking, over the next year-18 months, at the other provisions and understanding what's out there and what other choices you might have when he gets to that age, so you can try and work out what is best for him and for you as a family. Having them at home is lovely, of course, but as wonderful as like to think that we are (grin) some children will prefer or want to be in mixed childcare.

But you've got AGES to think about it so don't get het up - it's very easy to do, I'm already in a panic myself over school next year and possible future DC hmm - just have a look at what else is out there just in case.

mabythesea Thu 10-Sep-15 14:13:37

Lots of school nurseries here offer 2.5 days instead of (or as well as) 5 sessions.

My oldest went Monday, Tuesday 8.45-3.15 and Wednesday 8.45am-11.45am as his free hours, then went to tea club 3.15-5.30pm which we had to pay for.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Thu 10-Sep-15 14:36:45

Lots of school pre schools round here offer full days too. Though a full day is 9.15-3 and term time only. Not much use for childcare!

mandy214 Thu 10-Sep-15 14:41:25

But you don't have to send him when you're not working! You just won't get 15 free hours.

Writerwannabe83 Thu 10-Sep-15 14:45:48

I suppose on those two days he is working he could attend a 'free session' each morning and then go to a childminder in the afternoon...

I'm trying not to get myself in a tizz over it because he's not 3 for AGES but I'm obsessed with planning ahead.

My husband is taking DS to an open day this Saturday at one of out local nurseries so I will get him to ask how they accommodate the free hours.

TeamBacon Thu 10-Sep-15 14:56:07

Just another possibility to add - our nursery averages out the hours over the year, which equates to one full day per week, all year round. Private nursery though, but means that one full day of fees is covered by the funded hours.

Our local pre-school does full days, and you don't have to use your full entitlement, so if you wanted four sessions, you could just send him for those, assuming they have availability.

Basically, find out what your options are locally, and get on waiting lists for the days that you need if appropriate.

Writerwannabe83 Thu 10-Sep-15 15:20:22

"Set Days" - my other issue confused

I do shift patterns so I work different days every week. I don't even know if Nurseries can accommodate this? That's why my CM is brilliant, as long as I give her a month's notice she can have him any day I need her.

Childcare is just a total nightmare!!

Thurlow Thu 10-Sep-15 15:29:35

Childcare is a total nightmare. We've never found anything that quite suits, as we don't have set days either. There was lots of juggling with a CM and trying not to be too annoying, what with DP doing a 10-day rota, not a weekly one, and then maybe having to stay late after work...

I have to be honest and say we never found a nursery who could accommodate that flexibility, they needed to know set days. You don't have to use those days but you do have to pay for them.

Now we get our 15 funded hours, we can finally afford f/t nursery as it works out the same as juggling hours with a a CM. And it's actually made life much easier - no more panicking about whether we have childcare suddenly when a shift has been changed.

Nurseries just can't do flexibility of days on a regular basis. Some may be able to do it in practice, but most won't agree to it up front as they need a reliable income.

mabythesea Thu 10-Sep-15 15:35:49

Yes, unlikely to find a nursery that will accommodate shifts.

I would forget about the free hours actually being childcare - think of it as early education for your son. Get him a morning/afternoon place at a pre-school because it is beneficial for him rather than to save money.

Then you can still continue the same arrangement with your childminder, she can drop him off and pick him up on her days. She will probably still charge you for the time he is at nursery as she won't be able to fill that slot.

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