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Preschool committee - best structure of hours

(5 Posts)
Inlovewithlife Sun 21-Aug-11 11:35:16

I have just joined a preschool committee as treasurer. I have been looking at their finances in some depth - and playing with different combination of hours/staff/children etc.

The preschool is already in some serious financial trouble and has already been given the £5000 grant from the council which has just been absorbed! I reckon I have a year to get it at least start to break even.

I would like some advice from other committee treasurers and chairs which combination of opening hours work best for them financially.

The more options you have for opening and closing the more funding you get in the 15 hours free session hourly rate, but it seems that offering lots of opening and closing options - we have 6 combinations with the max being for 5 hours doesn't seem to work out as it greats a peak time for only 1.5 hours in the middle of sessional day.

Also we have 2-3yrs which the parents pay for, but the 1:4 ratio means that they dont' really pay for themselves, but we like the idea of having these 2 year olds because they are stay on at teh preschool when they are 3. We are one of very few preschools to provide care for 2 year old in the area (apart from private nurseries), so are reluctant to cancel them - but maybe there is a reason why no other schools have spaces for 2 year olds! Has anyone got any thoughts on taking 2 year olds in.

Any thoughts and experiences welcome.

camdancer Sun 21-Aug-11 19:44:20

Our preschool had to think about flexible hours for the same reasons you have had to. We don't get the full amount for flexibility so we had to decide if we wanted to be fully flexible (parents pick their hours) but we decide against it for a few reasons.
1. We felt that core hours were better for the children. Less disruptive and also more of a school type experience
2. Depending on what hours parents chose it could give us uneven numbers in the day and therefore would be a nightmare to staff it.
3. It could cut down the numbers of children we had and we wanted to be available to as many children as we could.

So we have core hours. We do have some flexibility around those hours but children have to be there for either the morning and/or the afternoon session. We know we miss out on some funding because of this but it is worth it.

We take children from 2 years 9 months, so they are only under 3 for a maximum of 3 months.

ExpectoPatronum Sun 21-Aug-11 22:15:56

This is a brief answer because I'm tired and it's late smile. Happy to expand on this tomorrow if it helps in anyway.

1) We used to run one session per week for 2 y.o but we canned it for the reasons that you describe: cost of staffing too high, plus in our case uptake was pretty low. Furthermore, we were turning funded 3 y.o away, so by stopping taking 2 y.o and opening these sessions up to funded 3 y.o, we managed to make more money. In your case, you say that a) it's important to keep the 2 y.o so you hook them in for when they turn 3, but that b) not many other preschools in your area take 2 y.o. Therefore, is there a real risk to you that they will go elsewhere?

2) I'd absolutely endorse setting up some sort of core-hour offer. I work across 2 preschools (administrator) and one of them just offers 3 hour or 5 hour sessions. 3 hours are morning or afternoon sessions, 5 hours is morning until early afternoon. That's it. Nothing else. No 6 hour blocks, no 2.5 hours, no lunch clubs, nada. There's another preschool in our area that used to offer all-singing all-dancing combinations of hours, and they've made the decision to scale it right back to be simpler for parents and less disruptive to staff / children.

3) I'm sure you've already run through this sort of stuff, but we reined in spending by a significant amount last year by doing 2 things. One was capping staff overtime, and the other was by devising a funding formula for things like petty cash, paints, paper etc. This was based on a per capita amount and so it increased through the year in line with increased numbers on roll.

HTH, let me know if you need any more information.

Inlovewithlife Wed 24-Aug-11 13:59:22

Thank you camdancer and ExpectoPatronum. Your comments have been very helpful and interesting. I am taking away from both of you that the flexible hours don't really pay and only end up disrupting the sessions already running. I will talk to my Chairperson tomorrow and run through all my numbers and also your comments.

Also I like ExpectoPatronum's comment about limiting the cash for activity materials pro rata for the number of children registered. I haven't been able to look at what the manager has been spending her petty cash on yet, but I suspect I will be able to rein that in slightly.

Thank you, if my meeting tomorrow raises any more questions or thoughts I will get back to you.

DorisIsAPinkDragon Wed 24-Aug-11 14:25:23

I used to be on a preschool committee although not currently.

We don't have anywhere near the flexibilty you seem to describe we run /ran morning or afternoon sessions with the opportunity to stay for lunch. (9-11.30 am 11.30-12.30 lunch/ 12.30-3 pm)

Session were allocated by age i.e. thse children nearest to school starting age got first 'dibs' to have all of their 15 hours (lunch could be included in this). They also started 2 sessions a week for the 2.5 year olds but these were charged at a slightly higher rate to allow something towards the additional staffing costs tbh I think that was a good decsion otherwise next term the preschool would be looking pretty empty due to all the school starters leaving (have left for sept and jan starts previously).

Sadly we had to lose the afterschool club (which also used to take older children) as it was not breaking even. we broke every single session down to look at where we were losing money and sadly had to let a member of staff go and cut hours for others. It wasn't easy but it did but the preschool in a better place.

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