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Charging Top-up Fees


Verona
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I have finally decided to charge top up fees for the funded children at my pre-school starting in January next year. I have been subsidising these children for the extra 5/6 weeks a year we are open and also for the extra 1/2 hour a day.

The pre-school is open for 38/39 weeks of the year - 5 days a week - 9am - 12 noon. There is also a lunch club from 12 noon - 1pm that some children stay for - parents pay extra for this.

I am a bit concerned about writing to parents informing them of the change. :o Has anyone had experience of this recently?

This topic has probably been discussed before, but I would also like to know if a child only attends 4 mornings a week, would parents expect the other mornings funding be used for the extra 5/6 weeks we are open, in the year?

I am being lazy by not trawling through and looking for all this info, if it has been discussed, perhaps someone could point me in the right direction please.

 

Sue J

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Here in Stockport if a child does not attend all five sessions we are now being given the extra weeks by the LEA. So in actual fact they are funded probably for the full term, but not if they attend 5 sessions-they still only receive 33 weeks funding. Does that make sense?

I have to say that I don't charge top up fees. We are like you Sue open 3 hours for 39 weeks. But I am seriously considering it for next September. I just feel though that they are not then getting a free place and wonder if it will make more of them choose a local authority nursery. Hard to say but it is a worry, especially with many nurseries having empty places and taking them in earlier.

I still can't find out why the private and voluntary sector only receive 33 weeks funding any way. I have asked the LEA early years team and even asked my MP to find out for me but have never received an answer. Just wondered who to try next? Any ideas?

Linda

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Hi

 

we started this term to charge a top up fee, we warned parents a term beforhand at our open evening and then sent out letters to them, explaining either we did this or close!!!!! for the extra weeks.

 

 

We charged all parents the same top up as we decided

 

1. its was far too complicated to work out every individual child/sessions

2. eventually they would be doing the 5 sessions not 3/4

 

Out of 57 parents being charged only 3 commented/complained about the (my child only does 3 sessions why do i have to pay the same as others) and when we explained the above they accepted it and we have had no problems. :D

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Yes Linda I understand what you were saying about spreading the funding.

 

Like yourself I wondered whether the parents would choose to go to the local authority nursery just round the corner or to other nurseries or pre-schools that do not charge top up fees. I'm going to check with pre-schools near me first to see what they have done. I will also phone the LEA and ask them the same questions you asked your LEA and see where I get with that.

 

It isn't a decision I have taken lightly but I think the time has come as I can't afford to subsidise the places. The other choice, of course, would be to only operate 33 weeks a year and for 2 1/2 hours a day!! But again the parents would go to other pre-schools that open longer.

I am in a bit of a dilemma really. :o

 

Sue J

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We started charging top up fees from Sept.

 

we too sent a letter a term before we started explaining that we could not afford to give care with no payment . we also said no payment no sessions, and term will end earlier for those who do not pay. If fewer children stay we are still gaining more income than giving free care to all children as in past.

 

So far everyone had paid willingly, (the thought of longer holidays at Christmas and summer does help!) We have charged for the sessions individually, and sorted out a weekly payment scheme so no one has to pay a large bill all at once. Took a bit of time but now it is set up it is easy to do. If they add sessions during the year the payment increases accordingly.

 

no parent have moved their child to nursery as the cost of top up there is more than we charge, so they end up paying more anyway. we have in fact gained several children this term from other pre-schools who decided not open the extra weeks, parents are willing to pay for the additional care rather than have longer holidays.

 

our LEA will not allow us to claim for sessions not attending to ofset cost for those who are having less than 5 per week. They are looking into doing this in the future.

 

We also have a problem with parents wanting to have more sessions mid term and as funding is only claimed at the beginning of the term we are unable to take them even if we wanted to as we are not allowed to charge for these sessions unless they already claim 5 free ones, and we cannot afford to take the children without payment. we have done so in exceptional circumstances but try to avoid it if we can.

 

As to them not getting a free place, they do but only for 33 weeks per year, this will be the same in nursery or pre-school, and nursery charges more for top up.

 

inge

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Inge

I think we have our wires crossed here. I am talking about school nurseries as opposed to private day nurseries. At school, LEA, nurseries, they get the full year of 39 weeks funding. These are the ones I am concerned that they will take up a free place at if we start to charge for the extra weeks. We have a few children who stay with us until starting school. If we introduce top up fees then we may lose them to LEA nurseries.

Linda

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We've had this dillema and have decided to NOT plan fror the 6 weeks that we are open but dont recieve funding for. Two weeks at the start of the new Sept term, so we can spend time talking to new parents and settle children, two weeks before christmas so we can concentrate on all the creative without having to be tied to a theme, and the last two weeks of the summer term because thats when we have parties, school visits, and graduation. This is the first year we've tried it but not planning for the first two weeks of term was really helpful to staff who could spend time getting to know the children without having to think what they should be doing from a plan. To bring in a bit of extra cash we charge £1 per half term towards the cost of snacks. :D

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Over the past year I have gradually reduced the weeks to 33. My Early years have supported this and given me evidence to show parents that this is legal. When an important course takes place I close and all staff attend. It also creates days for the premises and equipment to be cleaned thoroughly rather than making do with a quick wipe each day. It gives us time to have staff meetings in an unhurried way rather than at the end of a session when we may not be at our best. I point all these facts out to parents when they register their child so they are clear if my provision suits them.

It also suits me and my family to have our holidays out of the school holiday weeks when it is quieter and cheaper!!

I opened a holiday club in my last provision during the summer and Easter holidays for which parents were more than happy to pay for. I was able to get lottery funding for this which enabled me to pay for refurbishment of the garden and purchase lots of new equipment. I am definately considering doing this again in my new premises.

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Thats a good idea Rea, all my staff found it difficult to get back into the obs, record keeping, planning cycle at the beginning of this term, especially as I had to reduce hours due to school intake.

 

Sue, I have put an extensive post on this subject which was started by steve, don't know where you would find it though :o

 

Briefly- I had a major problem when I started my business 3 yrs ago because other local groups were subsiding extra weeks. I subsidised the .5 hr but not the extra weeks

 

I researched the internet for legislation on the NEG, eventually I contacted a person called Paul Stubbs from DFES ( He wrote the regulations and guidlines) He made it very clear to me that the NEG MUST ONLY BE USED FOR THE TIME IT IS ALLOCATED FOR 5 X 2.5 HRS FOR 33 WEEKS. IN fact he said it is ILLEGAL to use it for outside these time ie: care and not education, because it is an EDUCATION GRANT.

 

My fees are lower than the NEG sessional rate, this has been challenged by one parent, but he was ok when I explained that the difference could not be used for "care" times and that I have to justify in my accounts how it is used toward the cost of planning meetings for the Foundation Stage, educational resources and staff training etc.

 

However, I have discovered that different LEA's interpretation across the country varies.

 

This term I had to charge for the .5 hrs as well as additional "care" weeks, due to minimum wage increase, 10% rent increase etc.

 

I make it clear that parents can choose to send their child for 2.5 hrs and not for the full 3 hr session but no-one has taken up this option, they can also choose to send their child for 11 weeks only. ( only two parents have chosen this)

 

I have devised an excell invoice which easily calculates the variety of charges and will try to attach it. ( I'll post this reply 1st in case I lose it)

 

Peggy

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Here goes I shall try to attach example invoices.

 

When you open the excell documents you may be prompted - choose enable macros

Then a run time error may show - choose "end"

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Well done, Peggy, my boss would be proud!! :)

Clear, concise and saves those sweaty, heart pounding moments when the Committee left you the bad payer to tackle on your own!! See! I remember Pre-school Playgroup days !! :o

 

Sue :D

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Linda I have phoned the LEA this morning and they have told me that ALL nurseries inc school ones are only funded for 33 weeks.

They also said that if a child doesn't attend all 5 sessions they are not given the extra weeks funding (to cover me opening 39 weeks)It is in the pipeline from April 2005 to start paying for them, but it's not definite yet.

 

Peggy I have looked at your invioces and they are very good. I will attempt something similar should I go ahead with charging top up fees.

 

By the way, I have a morning off today! When I got to the hall at 7.50 this morning I could smell smoke. There wasn't a fire - or at least there wasn't one then. Apparently the Guides used the hall last night and had a REAL bonfire INSIDE the hall. They said they were being safe by having the fire in a large tray with water in the bottom!!!!!! Never the less, the hall was filled with a really bad smokey smell - it made our eyes water and caught in our throats. Even with all doors and windows open for an 1.5 hours the smell was still choking us. The children couldn't possibly have stayed so I quickly phoned all parents and explained. They were all fine with it luckily.

So I rushed home to catch up with the paper work but before I started I had to check in here first! :o

 

Sue J

ps better start the paper work now - Anita, if you read this enjoy your free morning as well and see you at the Networking meeting later today.

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linda, we must be lucky then, as none of our school or LEA nurseries open for more than the 33 weeks, we used to loose lots of children to them before the funding came in for the 3 year olds, at least half our children moved when they became eligible and but now they look at the provision and not the cost so much.

( It is a very difficult choice but if you cannot afford the additional costs and the grant does not improve this will become more and more of an issue to all settings.)

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I'm glad my example invoice has proved useful - It does come across a bit strict but experience of non payers has made this inevitable and the overall response from parents is positive, we all like to know where we stand, don't we.

 

I am approachable and has agreed different payment methods for individual needs / circumstances ie: a parent didn't want to use direct debit / standing order so she wrote me 10 post dated (weekly) cheques. This saves a lot of time and attention collecting fees at busy arrival times.

 

Sue.J.

Just this term our LEA has introduced "flexible something attendance" (soory forgot the correct name can't be bothered to look it up)

 

Basically if a child only attends 4 sessions a week s/he is granted for up to 55 sessions ( thus carrying her grant over into weeks past the eleven. The same goes for 1,2& 3 session attenders

 

Total maximum sessions allowed 55 ( up to a maximum of 14 weeks)

if preschool is open for 15 weeks -

 

attends 4 sessions = 52 paid ( ie: 13 weeks)

attends 3 sessions = 41 paid ( ie: 14 weeks)

attends 2 sessions = 28 paid ( ie: 14 weeks)

attends 1 session = 14 paid ( ie: 14 weeks)

 

hope this makes sense :o

 

WHAT BUGS ME is that different LEA can distribute the NEG with different criteria.

It is meant to be a NATIONAL Education Grant.

 

I pressume the LEA's have to justify their decisions but wouldn't it be easier if every setting was given DIRECT an ex amount per term for the number of children they are registered for. Lots of money saved on Administration.

LOTS OF TIME AND HEADACHE PILLS saved for us lot that have to work it all out!!!

and most important more money for the children. :D universally, fairly distributed across the whole country. Differences in local economic factors could be addressed through other grants.

 

There I've sounded off again - I've only spent 3 yrs with this nightmare - feel better now. ( it is getting better in my area)

 

Peggy

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p.s. Sue,

 

I thought I had problems when the scouts hang their tents (from pulleys) up to dry (lose a whole room)..................

 

but bonfires that definately is a new one :o:DxD

 

Peggy

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OK...So, if a child comes for 4 sessions and we open for 38 weeks, with the grant covering 33, do I have to take into account the 5th session and take it over the other 5 weeks? Or...can I not plan for those 5 weeks, as, although the child is eligible for 5 sessions, we are only required to offer a minimum of 1 session with the parent using the funded place elsewhere if necessary. I'm really really confused :o

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Thanks for clarifying that Sue. What happens here in Stockport is that the LEA must fund the rest of the weeks. We have had school nurseries here since before the free funding came into being which obviously came out of the local authority budget. So they must top up the rest.

It's so unfair because it means we are at a disadvantage. Parents will obviously go for the totally free place rather than the one where they have to pay, even though it's a small amount. And I know for a fact that if I was to only open 33 weeks we would lose a lot, especially those with brothers and sisters in school. Most parents want their children off together.

I have considered also dropping half an hour to come in line with the LEA nurseries but had many pleas from parents not to. Many of them said that 3 hours was so much better because they could actually get something done in that time!!!

And Rea-I don't think you are the only one who is confused!!! We have the same system in place as Peggy for children attending less than the five sessions.

I agree with you totally Peggy! I thought that when this went national it would mean we were treated the same. But no! Stockport only got universal funding for 3 year olds late last year. We are surrounded by local authorities who had universal funding for some years. We were always told that Stockport was a relatively affluent town and that was why. Why Cheshire received it before us I have no idea!!!

And Sue, I feel for you-that must have been awful for you finding that this morning! I hope you have had a word with whoever was responsible!!

Linda

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Rea -Here you are not allowed to use the 5th session to cover the extra 5 weeks if the child is only coming 4 sessions a week for the 33 weeks. I am easily confused Rea so don't worry!!!!! xD

I've come to the conclusion - sometimes it is more difficult to explain things when writing it down rather than by talking about it ....don't you agree? :o

 

I have spoken to 2 pre-schools about charging top up fees today and both of them had a few problems - now overcome but with one of them losing 4 children to a nursery attached to the local First School.

 

Linda - the wardens and Deacon were definitely going to have a very severe word with the Guide leader about her indoor campfire. I checked the hall at 6pm this evening and although there was still a smell it wasn't as bad, mind you the big doors were wide open as the Brownies were using it. I am going in extra early tomorrow morning to check again and make the decision as to whether to open or not.

 

Sue J

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Hi, I've been reading this topic with interest. We have been carging our parents a top up fee for the weeks not covered by the funding for some time. Our parents were very supportive when we first introduced the charge . We spread the extra weeks fees over the whole term so that the amount is managable. On the subject of funding i am hoping that you can help, as a small pre-school we are at present having to 'carry' three children to the end of this term without receiving any funding,as they joined us after the headcount date.

One has moved into the area, another has transfered from a local state nursery and the other childs parents hadn't completed the grant form at the child previous nursery. We cannot afford to lose £1200. Our Lea has said we will not get any help to cover this loss.

Has anyone else had a similar problem. :o

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Hello Debs, when we have a child who misses the NEG we just tell the parents that they cannot claim yet and explain why, and that they will have to pay the usual fee's, there's nothing else to do I'm afraid. Nobody has ever complained, it's not like it's our fault. The child who has just transferd from another nursery might be a different matter not sure if something can be done about that though probably not! Oh and welcome to the site :D

 

Sue J, absolutly agree, I cant work out what I've written most times so I'll be blowed if anyone else can work it out!! :o

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Rea I see your only required to provide one free session

Our latest requirements from Kent are I quote

"KCC has a duty under section 118 of the School Standards Framework Act 1998 to ensure sufficient free, part-time early education places are available to satisfy their legal responsibilities for eligable children whose parents/carers want one in their area.

All private and voluntary providers registered with Kent EYDCP MUST GIVE PRIORITY TO THREE AND FOUR YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN THEIR ADMISSIONS POLICY to ensure that sufficient free, part-time early education places are available for eligable children whose parents/carers want one in their area."

 

All private and voluntary providers must ensure they have a clear over-subscription criteria set out in their admissions policy within the boundaries set out above."

 

This caused a bit of a hoo hah regarding equal opportunities within an admissions policy - but its all gone a bit quiet now.

 

KCC also changed their payment method, this was for the better

1st payment 1st week of term, 2nd payment 6 weeks later.

 

Previously we had to wait ages for grant to be paid.

 

Peggy

 

ps. Sue-when in Sweden a few years ago (work experience trip when I worked for KCC)- I had a wonderful time with a kindergarten - we cooked waffles on an open beach fire - yes children aged 3 on their weeks "ootgroup" trip.

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I once had a child come to the group after headcount day, I contacted previous group but they weren't willing to share the grant :o

 

I have also had children who have moved after headcount day and I sent the balance to their new group.

 

However- our LEA says that it's swings and roundabouts and that each group is entitled to keep all payments.

 

I'm not sure that we are allowed to charge parents if they miss the headcount- again it's seen that we may have money from another child who has moved on.

Have to look into that scenario a bit more.

 

Peggy

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Peggy, we take the view that if it came to it and places were tight, that we would only be obliged to offer 1 session because the Code of practice says that ''A child may receive their entitlement place by attending more than one provider. [section A, 11] It really is too confusing for words, you watch as soon as I've cottoned onto it they'll change it! :o

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Peggy Our LEA say the same - swings and roundabouts. I claimed for a child and the family moved about a month later - I didn't know her new pre-school (it was a completely different part of the country) so I still had the funding for a child that was not attending. I haven't had a parent enquiring about a place after headcount day but I know that if you do offer a place you must not charge them.

 

Sue J

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Thanks for this discussion, although I don't think that there will ever be a clear answer for everyone. The only ever really sensible conversation I had on the matter was with Paul Stubbs DFES, he wrote the legislation and he is also on the same wave length as me as to the whole purpose of the grant.

I want to be fair to parents, maintain sustainability and provide the same opportunities as other local groups. It is difficult if even local groups do it differently - or to be fair maybe it is me that does it differently to them :oxD

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