A small child playing with STEM toy

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.

A small child playing with STEM toy

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.

Nope!

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).

A young boy sitting on a motorcycle

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…

Nope!

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 small child sitting on a table

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.

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