Preschool | When the school expect you to for-go your free childcare entitlement

April 3, 2019

There are certain aspects of life that really wind me up. No matter how much I try to not be affected by them, they always find a way. My children’s education and schooling are just one of those areas. This afternoon as I read the newsletter from Tigger’s primary school with an update about the school nursery admissions. I went from elated to furious within moments.

Let’s start with a little background info

When we moved to Norwich three years ago we were pleased to see that the local school was in fact a new build school (which last year celebrated being open for 10 years). We had hopes that it would be modern and forward thinking when it comes to the children’s education and activities etc.


There are various frustrations about the school which I could dedicate a whole series of posts about but I digress.

School nursery admissions

All children receive 15 hours of free childcare entitlement from the term after they turn three years old. With the recent update to allow working parents access 30 hours free childcare. As Piglet has November birthday she is entitled to these hours from January and should have started at the school nursery then. However, after a meeting with the headteacher and a school governor, it appears that they don’t offer in year admissions (unless you move to the area – putting us at a disadvantage).

30 hours of childcare entitlement

One of the other concerns I raised at the meeting was that the school do not offer the 30 hours childcare for working parents. However, it is something that they have been looking into and naively I had hoped that this backwards at coming forwards school was finally on the track to becoming the modern school I had hoped it would be.

Today’s newsletter brought news that they were going to pilot 30 hours of childcare from September 2019 for one year. Perfect! Piglet can finally attend the school nursery after missing out two terms of preschool education…


As you will be aware from the media, school budgets are being extremely stretched at the moment and therefore we do need the 30 hours to be self-funding. We will be doing a detailed cost analysis as the academic year progresses to know whether it is something that we will be able to offer from Autumn 2020. I am sure you will appreciate that ensuring there are enough teachers for the main school will need to always remain our priority.

So basically they are offering places, however, they would like working parents to for-go the 30 hours of free childcare that was a long time coming from the government in order to pay them for my child to attend their school nursery.

What the actual F#@k!

A seasoned parent

Now Piglet is my third child, I have been through this process twice before. I’m a seasoned parent and find this whole thing completely ridiculous.

Firstly, both Roo and Tigger moved from a day nursery to a school nursery in the January after their November birthdays. Starting in the middle of the school year, can you imagine??

Secondly, whilst they did not get 30 hours of free childcare they completed their 15 hours in morning sessions. With me topping up three-afternoon sessions per week on the days I was at work. So let’s ignore the fact that I paid for the afternoon session for a moment. They basically attended three full days. For this, I paid for them to eat their lunch at school (had to be a packed lunch from home) during the 30 min gap between morning and afternoon sessions. This money was used to pay for the additional lunchtime support needed from the dinner ladies (are you still allowed to call them dinner ladies? or should it be midday support assistant?).

However, it appears that the school is requesting full payment for all the hours which I find unacceptable and I’m not entirely convinced that they are allowed to do. They have the space available to offer additional nursery placements (56 children at 30 hours, 112 children at 15 hours or a mixture of the two – currently only offering 56 places for 15 hours), however, currently have a room standing empty as they believe that there is no demand for three and four year old childcare.

Not taking this lightly

Needless to say, I am not taking this lightly. She will not be attending the school nursery for 30 hours if I am asked to pay for the privilege. She will also not be attending the school nursery if she is only allowed to utilise 15 hours of free childcare, despite being entitled to 30 hours.

I will be liasing with the school in the morning to confirm that they are requesting full payment for the 30 hours. If so, I will be contacting Norfolk County Council to confirm that they are in fact allowed to charge parents who are entitled to the free hours of childcare. Before seeing where I go next.

  • Kara April 4, 2019 at 8:02 am

    I work in a pre-school and this does not sound right at all. None of our parents are expected to top up these fees if they are entitled to them (you need to be within a certain wage bracket). It does get more confusing if your school is open more than 38 weeks a year (runs outside the school term) – give me a shout if you need some help xx

  • Newcastle FamilyLife April 4, 2019 at 11:40 am

    This sounds a bit wrong, my children’s school offer the 30 hours like most school and you just pay the £5 for lunchtime cover. They do only take one intake a year though in September, they used to take a few when my eldest was younger (she is a teen now) x

  • Victoria April 4, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Our school had an onsite independent pre school where Freddie is currently going for 15 hours a week as we don’t qualify for the 30 hours. The school only runs the nursery in the mornings with no termly intake only a September intake. But the kids using the 30 hours go from the school into the preschool for the other 15 hours. I would much prefer him to be in the school nursery now as the morning drop offs are a nightmare

  • Anne Fraser April 4, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    I am just glad my children are grown up. They all attended free nursery school from age four.

  • Laura - Dear Bear and Beany April 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    This sounds ridiculous, I don’t see how they can be allowed to do this. I really hope that you can get it resolved x

  • Fiona jk42 April 4, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    you should definitely fight this. you are entitled to the free hours.

  • Laura Dove April 5, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Wow that’s crazy, I really do hope you get the issue resolved!! Mine only ever went from being 3 and just the minimum hours at the time.

  • Lauren Scrapbook Blog April 7, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Good luck! I am thankful that our preschool offers the hours for all 30hrs free funded kids to attend if they wish to for all 30 hours, with £6 a half term for snacks. That’s it! I actually split our 30 hours over preschool and a child minder!

  • Melanie williams April 7, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Wow I am shocked, I can’t believe that they think this is acceptable. xx

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