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Paying a Retainer at Preschool?

(10 Posts)
goingwiththeflow Wed 15-Dec-10 12:17:28

Be gentle if this is regular practice ..but just doesn't seem to make sense to me confused
My DS goes to a local Pre School in the village where we live , he has a funded place and attends three hours a day five days a week.

The Preschool isn't part of a day nursery and only operates during school terms from the VIllage Hall ... today I was asked to pay a retainer which when I queried it they state it is 'to keep his place open over the Christmas Holidays..' eventhough they are not open ..is this normal? (£4 per week they are off)

Also is it normal for the staff at a Preschool to receive a cheque each from the committee (handed out this morning by teh treasuere presumbably from funds raised by parents etc from the very regular fundraising activities for new equipment) for their Christmas Bonus?

Just all seems a bit dodgy to me ... but maybe it is my suspicious mind !!

bumpybecky Wed 15-Dec-10 12:27:34

I've never heard of a retainer to keep your place open. In fact if you're getting the nursery funding for 15 hours (and that's all you're using) then you shouldn't have to pay at all.

I was going to add that it might be that the preschool's funding is very tight, and that they need to ask for the retainer in order to be able to break even this year. Sometimes the nursery funding doesn't cover all the of the staffing and running costs, especially in smaller settings or those that aren't full.

However, if they are short of money it makes no sense to give all the staff a Christmas bonus! are you sure this wasn't just their normal wages?

If you are suspicious then I suggest you ask the Treasurer some questions, maybe ask about going to the next committee meeting to find out more. I wouldn't be the first time the people on the committee running a pre-school made some illogical decisions regarding paying money out (speaking as the ex-treasurer of a preschool!)

goingwiththeflow Wed 15-Dec-10 12:36:00

Thanks for replying .. would ask the Treasurer but the committee is very clicky and not particularly open to 'ideas from others' but think I will just have to be brave and try and go to the next meeting and ask some questions ..

It was definately a bonus there was lots of squealing going on and it was clearly stated 'Happy Christmas its Bonus Time!' obviously it may only be a small amount ...but it kind of make the fundraising fever (a least once a month asking for donations to buy things teh kids have made etc etc .. I have absolutely no idea how staff pay works with preschools , do they receive funding into an account and then use that to pay wages, hall hire etc from?

bumpybecky Wed 15-Dec-10 12:49:11

I can only answer from my experience at a community based preschool. We hired a church hall and were open 4 sessions a week. It was a fairly simple business model...

Income = nursery grant (paid for spaces for over 3s), fees from younger children (paid for by parents) and any fundraising

Outgoings = wages, employer's NI contributions, rent, insurance, professional fees (NCMA, Ofsted etc), food for snack, consumables (craft material etc), toys, training for staff (first aid courses etc), advertising etc etc

It was a very fine balancing act - some times of year we ran at a loss, but we picked up more children towards the end of the academic year and made a profit then.

Ultimately though in a committee based setting, the business is only a success if the committee understand what they are doing. Previous chair / treasurer combo at out preschool gave all the staff a £1 an hour pay rise and let 4 staff work each morning (only needed 3 to cover ratios). They then left without realising the impact on finances. When the new committee took over it took several months for the position to become clear, by then it was too late to change things in that year, so there was a HUGE loss that year. Preschool only survived due to funds in the bank made over the previous 3 years

Committees are only as good as the members that run them. Often that's the SAHMs who might have little or no business experience and it can cause big problems. It can work fine, it can be a total disaster!

goingwiththeflow Wed 15-Dec-10 12:53:57

thats brill ..thanks for taking the time to explain all that.. makes a bit more sense now and maybe I will get to that meeting grin

tinselistooaddictive Wed 15-Dec-10 12:58:53

SAHMs who have little or no experience of business. - a little judgey Becky. Plenty of SAHM have business experience and use it to support preschools.

bumpybecky Wed 15-Dec-10 12:59:21

I only know this as at the time I was on child 3 at preschool and this was the second preschool committee I ended up on! it is all a but of a mystery when you start. I don' think most parents realise what's involved, even the committee members when they first volunteer / get volunteered!

If nothing else your treasurer has been very tactless - you can't be hassling parents for more money for retainers they weren't expecting while having staff squealing about bonuses! Was the retainer mentioned in the information pack you were given when you started?

bumpybecky Wed 15-Dec-10 13:03:35

tinsel I didn't say all committee members were SAHMs with little or no experience, I said often.

I don't mean to sound judgy, but it's my experience based on three years on committees at two preschools. There's nothing wrong with being a SAHM with no business experience - I am one! grin

IAmRubyLennox Wed 15-Dec-10 23:12:06

If you're using the 15 hours funded provision then they are on very shaky ground indeed in asking you for a 'retainer'. When I was a parent of preschool children I would have been very uncomfortable about paying it, and as a preschool manager, I would certainly never charge it. Definitely challenge it, and consider phoning your local Sure Start office or even the Pre-School Learning Alliance for more advice and information.

If they are in such dire financial straits as to require this money, then they shouldn't be paying staff bonuses.

As for fundraising, it's a basic fact of life that the nursery education grant barely covers the cost of running a preschool. Sometimes we do fundraising events and make it very clear to parents what the funds are for, e.g. 'Sponsored walk to raise money for new outdoor play equipment'. Sometimes we just do general fundraising in aid of preschool funds, and it goes into the bank and pays the bills. Staff reward and remuneration is one of these bills, because happy staff tend to stay and continue doing a good job.

Not very comfortable though with bonus cheques being handed out in public. It's a bit tacky.

5ofus Thu 16-Dec-10 16:56:30

Also on behalf of pre-school committees, I'm on my third (same pre-school third year of service) and to say we're cliquey would be a large misunderstanding and would probably also apply to most other committee run pre-schools. Usually we'll gladly and happily want new parents to join in!

Retainer sounds a bit dodgy to me, especially with the squealing members of staff at the same time! Not smart business practise.

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