When choosing a nursery for your child, cost is a major consideration factor, if not the deciding factor.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Core standards must be met by all nurseries (though that is not to say that they always are), but beyond that, it is not straight forward to identify the added value in paying higher fees.
Generally, better nurseries charge more because they need to – skilled staff, correctly managed ratios, and well-equipped settings all come at a cost. However, in no way does that mean that the cheapest nurseries are the worst and the most expensive ones the best. Cost is only an indicator of quality, not a guarantee.
As well as there being legitimate reasons for higher costs, some nurseries may simply be inefficient in how they operate; others might offer gimmicks to justify the extra cost; some might want to give the impression of being a prestige brand or they may just be taking a gamble that parents won’t compare, won’t care or won’t have a choice
Consider you are only comparing cost and not quality of care.
At William Elliott Nursery School, we are genuinely passionate about what we do, and why we do it. We will never be the cheapest, but will always be competitively priced against the best nurseries out there. Whilst we aspire to be ‘the best’ and are always looking at ways to achieve this, we also know that we cannot be every parent’s first choice and other nurseries may occasionally do things better.
Ultimately, parents should be able to make an informed decision about childcare, rather than be sold a product.
All nurseries claim to be great – your best response is to get prepared and challenge the claims. A good nursery will welcome the interest and will happily bore you senseless with procedures, practice and protocols to demonstrate exactly what they mean by “we meet staff ratios” or “we assure you of your child’s safety”.
Every nursery will make the same claim – how this is achieved or implemented will vary wildly. If your questions get fobbed off or dismissed, or the answers given are incomplete or confused, persist with your questions or walk away. There should be no excuse for a lack of honesty or clarity.
William Elliott Nursery School (WENS) is registered on the London Borough of Islington’s Family Service Directory and offers the ‘Free‘ Early Education Entitlement (FEEE)” for all 3 and 4 year olds. We also offer funding for eligible 2 year olds.
However, it’s not as straightforward as you may have been led to believe, so take a deep breath….!
‘Universal’ 15 hours entitlement for 3- and 4-year olds
The inverted commas around ‘FREE’ in the title above are intended to convey that, as with lunches, there is no such thing as ‘free childcare’.
Someone has to pay for it and, if the government decrees that this should not be the parents, and then pays the childcare provider less than the going rate, the entitlement ends up being subsidised by the childcare provider.
All 3- and 4-year old children are currently entitled to a ‘universal’ funding of a ‘free’ childcare place for 570 hours a year over 38 weeks (term time) – equivalent to ’15 hours’ of free childcare a week (e.g. 570 hours divided by 38 weeks equals 15 hours, to be spread over at least three days, e.g. 5 hours per day).
However, settings like William Elliott Nursery School (WENS) that are open all year spread their funding.
Let’s look at the math:
- a year has 365 days and a week has 7 days.
- 365 days divided by 7 days of a week equals to 52.14 weeks in a year.
- Subsequently, 570 hours divided by 52.14 weeks equals 10.93 hours per week, to be spread over at least three days
- meaning 10.93 hours divided by three days equals to a maximum of 3.64 funded hours a day).
This entitlement is not means tested and all children are eligible from the start of the term following their third birthday.
Subsequently, children born
- between 1st January and 31st March become entitled on 1st April
- between 1st April and 31st August become entitled on 1st September
- between 1st September and 31st December become entitled on 1st January
Settings (nurseries, pre-schools and childminders) do not have to participate in the scheme but, if they do, they must offer a certain number of ‘funded only’ places. In other words, while many working parents need year round day care and treat the funding as a welcome subsidy when it is available, others use the setting only for the free sessions.
For settings to claim funding from their local authority to help them provide the ‘free’ early education entitlement, settings are required to submit their headcount of eligible children in a timely manner following fixed deadlines and cut-off dates set by their local authority, therefore funded places are subject to availability.
In this context, you also will be asked to complete a “Parental Declaration Form” for the Free Early Education Entitlement which you require to pass on to your chosen nursery along with a copy of your “eligibility code” letter or email you received from your local authority.
This funding is based on a fixed hourly rate, which is generally well below the rate that the setting charges for non-funded children.
Settings may charge whatever they like for any additional hours, as well as for any extras such as food, nappies, special activities, etc (provided these are genuinely optional). However, settings are not allowed to charge any additional fees for the actual free entitlement hours, even if this leaves them facing a big shortfall compared with their normal hourly rate.
This point can cause difficulties and misunderstandings. Hence, it is important to understand that this is not the child’s funding: it is a grant paid to the setting to enable it to provide a free place during the relevant term.
Different local authorities have different policies about this, although most prefer not to get involved but to leave it to the settings. Some settings will happily transfer funding, while others take the view that the funding should remain with the setting which originally claimed it.
2-year old funding
Settings with a good or outstanding rating from Ofsted and who are approved by the local authority to do so, can also obtain funding to provide a free place for certain two year olds.
This scheme is administered in a very similar way to that described above, however, unlike three/four year old funding, it is not a ‘universal’ entitlement but is restricted to families on low income or receiving certain benefits (broadly the same criteria as for free school meals).
‘Extended’ funding of ’30’ hours of ‘free’ childcare
This scheme for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds was launched in September 2017 who can claim an additional 15 hours of ‘extended’ funding a week over 38 weeks (term time) equivalent to a total of 1140 hours a year, which in an all year around open setting like William Elliott Nursery School translates to ‘21.86 hours’ of free childcare a week over the 52.14 weeks in a year (e.g. 1140 hours divided by 52.14 weeks equals 21.86 hours).
It is important to note, however that – despite the government spin, this additional support is not a ‘universal’ entitlement. Like Tax Free Childcare, it is restricted to families where both parents (or the sole parent in the case of a single parent family) are in work. Couples where only one parent works are not eligible. To qualify for the extra entitlement, each parent must earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours at the legal minimum wage and neither may earn more than £100,000 per year.
Once you open your childcare account you’ll see a screen called ‘Your childcare service account’.
From here you can:
- Find your 30 hours free childcare code, by clicking on the link ‘30 hours free childcare’. Codes usually start ‘500’.
- Use ‘Your Tax-Free Childcare account’ link to pay money into your account, add a childcare provider, pay your provider or set up regular childcare payments.
Check your messages by clicking on the ‘Secure messages’ link. Your eligibility response will be in here, as will your Tax-Free Childcare payment reference number. You need to give this number to the nursery manager at WENS in order for us to match your payments to your child.
You can claim 30 hours from the term after:
- your child turns three, or
- the date you receive your eligibility code from HMRC.
whichever date is later.
Just like at any school, WENS can charge for additional services and provisions provided over and above the ‘basic’ provision. For example: meals, nappies, general consumables, extra sessions, trips and activities.
Yes, you can split the entitlement between multiple providers. However, you cannot use more than two sites in one day as we believe continuity of care is important for a child’s learning, development and wellbeing.
Your childcare fees will depend on household income, how many hours of childcare you need, the age of your child and whether or not you live within the London Borough of Islington.
You could be eligible for:
The Tax-Free childcare online service launched in April 2017 and is available to all eligible parents.
If eligible, you can set up an online childcare account which you can use to pay your childcare provider directly.
For every £8 you pay in, the government will pay in an extra £2.
You can get up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.
You can use Tax-Free Childcare to pay for:
- Registered childminders, nurseries and nannies
- Registered after-school clubs and play schemes
- Home care workers working for a registered home care agency.
You will be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare if:
- Your child is under 12 years old, or your child is disabled and under 17 years old for Tax-Free Childcare.
- You may be able to claim 30 hours if your child is 3 or 4 and not taking up a state funded reception place. (30 hours is available in England only.)
- The child you’re applying for usually lives with you – you don’t have to be their parent.
- You live and work in the UK, unless you’re a Crown servant or member of HM Armed Forces posted overseas.
- You, and any partner, are working, and each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week – in 2020/21 this is £140 if you’re over 25– but less than £100,000 a year each.
- If you’re under 25 or an apprentice, you should expect to earn the equivalent of 16 hours, at the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage which applies to you.
You can still apply for Tax-Free childcare and 30 hours free childcare if you’re:
- On paid sick leave.
- On paid ordinary or additional maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or getting Maternity Allowance, for another child.
- On paid shared parental leave.
- On paid annual leave.
You can also apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare if you’re not working but expect to start a new job in the next 31 days.
Please note: You can not get Tax-Free Childcare and tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers at the same time, e.g. if you apply for tax-free childcare, you won’t be able to get: Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit, Childcare Vouchers from your employer.
However, you can apply for 30 hours only, and still receive tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.
The full eligibility criteria for 30 hours can be found on GOV.uk
Yes, 30 hours is for working parents and you need to apply through the childcare service.
However, both the 15 hours and 30 hours must follow the same regulatory framework and there should be no difference between the standard of childcare provision.
First, you can find out which scheme best suits you by completing the Childcare Calculator on Childcare Choices.
If you wish to switch from childcare vouchers to Tax-Free Childcare, you need to notify your employer, and send HMRC confirmation that you’ve stopped your vouchers within three months of successfully applying for Tax-Free Childcare.
The email you send your employer telling them you wish to stop using childcare vouchers can be used as confirmation.
You can continue to use any childcare vouchers already accrued prior to joining Tax-Free Childcare.
No, the scheme closed to new entrants in October 2018.
Parents who want to continue using childcare vouchers afterwards will be able to, as long as they stay with the same employer, their employer continues to offer vouchers, and they don’t take an unpaid career break of longer than a year.
You can apply for 30 hours up to 16 weeks before your child turns three. It is recommended that you apply as soon as you are able to – don’t leave it to the last few weeks as your application might require some extra checks. To ensure you get a code for the term after your child turns three, you must have applied by the end of the previous term.
You can apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours via Childcare Choices.
You, and your partner if you have one, will need your:
- National Insurance number(s)
- Details of one or more of the following – your UK Passport, tax credits, P60 or a recent pay slip.
In most cases, you’ll be told straight away if your application is successful. In some cases, HMRC may need to do some additional checks to confirm whether you’re eligible, so it’s important to apply in good time. If you’re found not to be eligible it will tell you why.
All 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for the universal 15 hours a week of free early learning.
Childcare Choices has a Childcare Calculator where you can learn more about which government offers might be best for you, whether you are likely to be eligible and how to apply.
Policy and Provision
The ‘Universal’ 15 hours entitlement at WENS
We offer the 15 funded entitlement hours by the Government as part of our “standard day” care, by us stretching the funds from the 38 weeks (term time) over 52.14 weeks of the year.
Subsequently, the 570 funded hours per year equate to:
- 10.96 hours per week spread over at least 3x “standard days” taken a week over 52.14 weeks of the year.
Subsequently, WENS offers a maximum of 10.96 hours divided by 3 equal to 3.64 hours (218.59 min) of Government funding per day as part of our “standard day” care and apply a charge for the additional hours outside of the funded hours.
Your Universal 15 hour entitlement will be provided free at the point of delivery.
As per our policy, William Elliott Nursery School does, however, charge for the additional hours provided outside the entitlement hours funded by the Government (see our policy above for the provision of hours as part of “standard days”).
Our charges for the additional hours outside the Universal 15 hour entitlement are detailed in our fee sheet.
The ‘Golden Ticket’ was launched in November 2019 to increase the uptake of free early learning for 2 year olds and automatically entitles parents to apply for a 2-year-old free early learning place with a provider, starting in the term after the child has turned 2, without having to check their eligibility.
The ‘Golden Ticket‘ Letter will be sent to all parents who have been listed on three or more Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) lists of eligible families, but have not applied for an eligibility check.
Please note: not all parents will receive a ‘Golden Ticket‘ letter! Parents who are new to the DWP list of eligible families will receive a postcard encouraging them to apply online for an eligibility check.
Once you’ve signed up for tax-free childcare, you need to add “William Elliott Nursery School (WENS)” to your childcare account by clicking on the ‘Your Tax-Free Childcare account’ link on your account homepage.
You can pay us directly through your childcare account and can also set up a regular payment on the 1st of each month when our invoices are due.
Please consider, that when you pay money in, it will take 24 hours to clear before you can pay us, whilst payments to WENS will take a further three days to arrive in our account. Therefore, to avoid any late payment charges, please allow sufficient time for your payments to reach us.
When you apply for Tax-Free Childcare, you’ll be given a unique reference number for your child. You need to give this number to WENS so that we can match your payments to your child.
You can find this in your “Tax-Free Childcare Welcome Pack” by clicking the ‘Secure messages’ link on your childcare account homepage.
Once you have an eligibility code you should take it, along with your national insurance number, to our manager to be checked and to reserve your place in good time. We must check your code before you take up your 30 hours place.
Eligible parents are entitled to 15 or 30 hours a week funding in each of the 38 weeks (term time) of the academic year beginning from September. At WENS this funding is stretched over the 52.14 weeks of the year, equating to 10.93 or 21.86 funded hours per week respectively. However, the equal spreading and thus the numbers of hours per week is based on when your child becomes eligible.
Children eligible from the 1st September who receive up to a total of 570 or 1140 hours a year of funding receive their 15 or 30 hours for 14 weeks in the Autumn Term, plus 15 or 30 hours for 12 weeks in the Spring Term and 15 or 30 hours for 12 weeks in the Summer Term; but children becoming eligible from 1st January receive up to a total of 360 or 720 hours funding respectively in the Spring and Summer Term; and children eligible from 1st April receive up to a total of 180 or 360 hours respectively in the Summer Term.
This way any transitional funding from a two 2 years old child turning 3 years old becomes easier to implement.
Yes, you can get Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours funded childcare at the same time.
However, you can’t get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as tax credits, childcare vouchers or Universal Credit.
You can also get 30 hours childcare alongside these schemes.
You will need to reconfirm you are still eligible for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare every three months, using your childcare service account, even if you have not yet taken up your place.
This is straightforward to do if your details have not changed, you just need to tick a box to confirm this and you will be reminded to do this 4 weeks before the confirmation deadline.
It’s important you let the nursery manager at WENS know if your circumstances have changed, as they will be checked against other systems.
If you miss the confirmation deadline, you will receive a message telling you that your eligibility has lapsed. You should go into your childcare account and reconfirm your eligibility.
If you reconfirm and you’re no longer eligible, or do not reconfirm, you may be able to continue your 30 hours childcare place for a short period only known as the ‘grace period.’
If you are no longer eligible for 30 hours, you will enter a grace period where you maybe able to retain your 30 hours childcare for a short period of time.
You should check your grace period arrangements with our manager.
If you are no longer eligible for Tax-Free Childcare, you can still use the money in your account (including the top-up you accrued while you were eligible) to pay us.
You can also continue to use your account to pay us in future, but you won’t get the government top-up.