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Please explain to me how free preschool sessions work in private nurseries!

(23 Posts)
lighteningmcmama Wed 02-Jul-14 17:47:44


I went to visit a private nursery today that my LA has listed as offering the free 3-4yo preschool hours. I know the rules are they aren't allowed to charge. But they said they only get paid by the LA for 'learning hours'and lunch and breakfast are not counted as learning hours by the LA. They have a ridiculously late breakfast between 9-10 (which would be a snack for dd by that time and then lunch at 12-1.

So even if I find a 3 hour timing within their morning, I will overlap a meal time, which they said they aren't paid for. I know I would need to pay for the food itself, but I was surprised they are charging the time. The only way to get it truly free would to have a2 hour session which doesn't seem worth it really. The fee per month would be about 250 for breakfast and lunch or around 150 for just breakfast. They weren't able to give me an accurate price because it seems must parents pay.

Does this sound normal for a private nursery offering the 15 free hours?

DoctorHfuhruhurr Wed 02-Jul-14 17:52:41

I don't know what's normal, but dd2 goes to a private nursery for her 15 hours a week, two full days of 9-3 and one half day of 9-12 (roughly, fitting around dd1's school hours). I don't pay anything extra to the nursery, not for food or anything.

painting2014 Wed 02-Jul-14 18:07:58

The private nursery we use receives £x per hour from the council to fund the free 15 hours. However as £x is not as much as they charge us we get a revised bill with the council amount knocked off.

I have been in touch with the council about this and I am told that is not how the system should be implemented and it should as I thought be free at the point of delivery.

It is certainly not allowed for a nursery to charge a penny for the 15 hours for topping up the funding. I don't know what profit margin there is - only the nursery knows the 'cost price'.

In any case they can request a voluntary payment for 'additional services' like food or it seems anything they like but this must be stated clearly as a voluntary payment and must not be a condition of entry to the free hours.

The nursery has decided that from September food (which was previously not billed for / described anywhere as a separate cost) will in fact be charged to us at £y for each 5 hour morning session. £y is an odd number just happens to be the exact difference between the normal cost and the council funding amount and way more than what we paid at the old nursery for snack plus lunch.

In reality although we can according to the council say our child does not need to be fed anything at all by the nursery and just literally get our free entitlement it will be quite impractical as we haven't seen any child at lunchtime with a packed lunch for instance, they all seem to have the hot meal.

minipie Wed 02-Jul-14 18:08:19

It's pretty common for private preschools to charge for "extras" on top of the 15 hours - they can get away with this if they are popular and enough parents will pay. (which they will esp in affluent areas)

Some do this by making their sessions a bit longer than 3 hours and the parents have to pay for the extra time. Some charge for "music lessons" saying they get a special teacher in so it's extra. Some charge for breakfast etc. Basically it's all just a way of being able to get some extra money from the parents of 3 year olds.

Your council ought to be able to tell you which nursery schools will offer just the free hours with no extras and therefore no extra fees.

melissa83 Wed 02-Jul-14 18:12:41

They arent allowed to do that

LIZS Wed 02-Jul-14 18:18:24

They are supposed to offer a 3 hour slot without extra charges. Call the Early Years department at your local council/LA and ask if this is compliant or for a list of alternatives. The setting may find themselves losing funding.

painting2014 Wed 02-Jul-14 18:19:21

You are entitled to up to 570 funded hours - there is the 'standard' offer of 15 hours per week over 38 weeks of the year and the 'stretched' offer over 51 weeks of the year.

In our private nursery situation it means a reduced bill for the year divided by 12 calendar months. This is because our child attends throughout the holidays rather than term-time only. We are only meant to pay for 14 weeks' worth of sessions plus the 'optional extras'.

The 38 weeks seems like term-time only to me but I think officially it is supposed to be described as 570 hours spread over three 'funding blocks' by date.

lighteningmcmama Wed 02-Jul-14 22:24:25

Thanks all

They did say that most people send their children all year round. But I only want to send dd term time. I don't think they get many/any parents requesting that as they were very confused about the cost to me they would charge.

I think I will phone the council as LIZS suggested. It does seem an odd way to structure the day and to structure their charges.

I know of a few places, and am visiting another private nursery offering the free hours tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what they do. I've also seen a community based preschool locally which has a voluntary top.up contribution of £5 per session which I got the impression everyone paid.

The system as a whole seems v strange indeed, it seems to be subsidizing childcare for more well off parents if I've understood it correctly...(But perhaps I'm missing something?)

BeatriceBean Wed 02-Jul-14 22:26:40

Wow - all free 15 hours around here.

lighteningmcmama Thu 03-Jul-14 13:48:37

Well the other private nursery we looked at today also charge, £15 per 5 hour session. I'm not v impressed with how.private nurseries are using the government funding to subsidize the cost of their places. Anyway it was a nice place and at least they had the clarity over their fee structure to just say 'this is the cost for these many hours' straight away, none of yesterday's 'oh it's all so complicated and we have to do a really complex calculation to work out the cost for you'.

These 2 places would be so convenient for me as they are closest, and when dd is in preschool I will have 3 school runs a day whilst ds is in full time school (for various reasons the preschool attached to his school is probably not an option for us)

micah Thu 03-Jul-14 13:58:13

Our private nursery you got 15 free hours, which they took off the bill. So weekly bill, divided by number of hours, x (number of hours -15).

Have you checked with the private nurseries if they do term time only? Not something I've come across. Means they have an empty place to fill for the holidays which is unlikely...

lighteningmcmama Thu 03-Jul-14 16:00:17

thanks. i made it clear that i was looking at term time only and they didn't say that makes me ineligible. i get the point about an empty space in holidays, but i think they would have serious problems complying with the government guidelines if they insisted you had to take a place all weeks of the year.

having said that i did phone my LA today about the first place mentioned in my OP and apparently they are complying with the guidelines. which i think doesn't make any sense given that they clearly state on their website that the setting has to offer a 3 hour session with no top up fees. anyway i'm not looking to start a fight with the nursery about it because clearly that wouldn't be the best footing on which to send my own child there. so basically i just have to decide to like it or lump it (and find somewhere else).

thanks for all your replies.

micah Thu 03-Jul-14 17:20:30

Hang on- are you looking to just send your child for the 15 hours per week? 3 hours per day? Rather than using a private nursery for full/part time childcare with the free hours as part of that?

If you just want the 15 hours a week you might be better looking at a school nursery. Private nurseries are full time businesses, so aren't likely to offer you a place just for the free hours if they have a paying customer in the queue who wants longer sessions.

Have you asked about afternoons?

BetterWithCheese Thu 03-Jul-14 17:27:20

My son's nursery offers daily 3 hour sessions either 9-12 or 1-4 term time only and if your child not attends five of those sessions then you pay nothing extra. Or if your child attends for full days they deduct a bit from the monthly cost.

lighteningmcmama Thu 03-Jul-14 19:06:38

I just want the 15 free hours yes. But I was hoping to do that over 3 days, as the private nurseries offer a bit more flexibility with timings. However if I can send her for just 3 hours without this being an issue then I will, as if she goes to a normal preschool that will be what I will have to do. Yesterday s nursery because of their ridiculously late breakfast between 9 and 10 do not make it possible to have a 3 hour slot with no mealtime and therefore no charge. But today's one had an earlier breakfast as well as being more reasonable overall in their approach so I think I will ask them if it is possible there.

A school nursery is not an option for me for various reasons

Thanks all

lighteningmcmama Thu 03-Jul-14 19:10:27

Also I understand a private nursery is a business and ultimately exists to make money. And that is why I don't see why the government is subsidizing the cost of childcare in some private nurseries! They are basically subsidizing the cost for better off parents who would probably pay full cost, if they didn't do this maybe that money could be better spent on the kids whose families aren't so well off.

Perissa Thu 03-Jul-14 19:19:54

At our nursery they are open from 7.30am until 6.30pm.

Funded sessions are 8.30 to 11.30am and 12.30 to 3.30pm.

If you use 1 funded session a day, that is it, no charges.

If you want to use 2 funded sessions in one day and have your child in from 8.30am to 3.30pm you will need to pay £8 for the lunch hour with food.

You can also pay for any other hours you want before 8.30am and after 3.30pm at £7 an hour.

Perissa Thu 03-Jul-14 19:22:58

Meant to say there is also a 50p charge if you want your child to have snack during their funded session.

A full day for the same age group without funding is £48.00

nurserychain Wed 09-Jul-14 13:41:47

Warning- rant alert!

The fact that different boroughs pay different amounts to the nurseries in their boroughs for the same 15hrs shows what a farce the whole implementation of the funded hours is.

The government looks great offering the free 15hrs to all 3 and 4 year olds but it is actually the private nurseries who are expected to subsidise places for children only attending the 15hrs. Some people claim it's the parents paying normal fees with funding credited to their fees subsidising it, but it's not, it's the nursery. Nurseries have their prices for a reason and if a space is taken up by a child on funding, that is one space the nursery is not getting the full fees for, from a paying child.

It would be absolutely wonderful if we were more like the Scandinavian countries or even France and more real help was given to working parents who needed to put children through nursery but the free hours as advertised by the government are a clever marketing ploy to make themselves look good.

As nursery fees increase so does the gap between what the government pays the nursery per hour and what it actually costs to supply childcare per hour. Because if you think the funding has increased over the last few years - it hasn't.

The 15hrs funding as paid for by the government only covers access to EYFS curriculum. It doesn't pay for food, it doesn't pay for rent, it doesn't pay for toys, it doesn't pay for art supplies, it doesn't pay for staff holidays, it doesn't pay for toilet paper for your little ones, it pays for nothing except access to the EYFS curriculum. Yet when a private nursery asks a parent of 1, who's full time nanny brings their child to nursery for their FREE 15hrs to help pay for some of the things their child is accessing that isn't included, they are accused of greed and illegal activities.

Many nurseries limit the number of places they have for funded only hours as they DO lose money compared to a private paying parent. I know that there will be church nurseries, charity nurseries who cry "But we offer all children their free hours!" Well that's all well and good if you have parents cooking, fund raising, scarce resources and pay little to no rent.

The reality is, nurseries have enormous overheads, they do pay huge amounts of money to French teachers, Spanish teachers, yoga teachers, dance teachers, daily cleaners, full time cooks. Staff ratios are high, you need to constantly replace broken toys and the rent? Don't even ask about the rent when you need a minimum of 2.5 square meters per child.

A little known fact is that nurseries are one of the few private businesses that have to pay 20% VAT on everything they buy (including building work and rent!) and yet can't claim back a penny. The government pays London nurseries between £16 and £17 per half day for term time only. Do we send our staff on unpaid holidays for 14 weeks of the year? Of course we don't. Please show me a nursery where you can get good child care for that price.

I don't blame the parents, they are the ignorant party in all this as the government advertises everywhere that you should be getting your 15hrs free and revels in the adoration. I do not mean to offend any parents who genuinely cannot afford but wish for their child to have access to nursey hours, but please bear in mind next time you report your nursery to the council for daring to ask you to contribute a little towards your child's care, that if they have less then 40 spaces they are barely breaking even.

Rant over - thank you for your time

Heels99 Wed 09-Jul-14 13:46:11

At our nursery if you only wanted free sessions they offered 8-11 or 3-6. I don't know anyone who only had the free sessions, most people choose a school nursery for that

lighteningmcmama Thu 10-Jul-14 09:37:09

Heels99 that sounds like a good arrangement. There are many non school preschool s that do just 15 hours as well.

Nurserychain I'm afraid I have very little sympathy for a private businessthat is not quite fulfilling the aims and objectives of this scheme albeit they ostensibly fulfill the requirements. I realise it is the government that is allowing this situation to occur since the nursery in my OP is apparently not breaking any rules.

If a private business is struggling to make money then maybe they're in the wrong business.

I know 2ppl who sent their kids to nurseries from age 1, the benefit they got from the scheme was simply a reduction in a bill they were paying anyway. As an economist, we would term this a deadweight loss-the government is funding activity that they don't to incentivise as it would happen anyway.

And a nursery is not one of the few businesses who pay vat but don't claim it. If a business is nut earning above a certain level they can also be in this situation.

nurserychain Sat 12-Jul-14 13:30:35

I'm not sure where you got the idea of a nursery struggling to make money lighteningmcmama, but I can assure you that isn't the case here. As an economist you must understand capitalism, so please tell me why, a nursery, a business like any other, doesn't have the right to be run for profit? It incentivises to improve, to provide the best care and the best facilities. Perhaps you don't think staff should be making as much as 13-14k, should the nursery industry lower that so the people who bring up your children earn even less and have less incentive to bring up well rounded individuals? Perhaps you should give all your excess money to nurseries so that they can pay staff more and give everyone their "free" 15hrs?

Put it this way, if the government funded all people with children so that they would be entitled to 50% off cots from bed companies because tbh the wood costs a fraction of what is charged on cots, would the bed companies offer them half price or just focus more on selling normal bed that they can get full price for?

And FYI, the threshold turnover for not claiming vat is £81k. The amount spent on vat in this instance is nothing compared to that spent by a nursery of even a modest size. But that's not even the point here, you will only see what you want to see as long as your sense of entitlement to your free 15hrs prevails.

lighteningmcmama Mon 14-Jul-14 21:44:11

Nursery chain in your post you said that a nursery with less than 40 places is barely breaking even. So you said that some nurseries are struggling.

A nursery has every right to be run for profit, that's my exact point!! If it's run for profit, offering services to paying customers, why does the government need to be involved and pay any of that, especially when the scheme of 15 free hours is not designed to be a subsidy yet private nurseries and the parents are using it a such. I repeat though, it's the government at fault for allowing this to happen. Parents and nurseries are using a loophole, can I blame them-probably not.

I'm well aware of the VAT threshold thank you. I'm also aware that the reason you can't claim back VAT is because you aren't allowed to charge it.

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