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caffinefreak
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Afternoon all!

I'm just looking for some advice from you with regards to those parents who book places at multiple nurseries then decide which one to take (and don't bother contacting the others).

We are a full day care nursery but we also offer some free places (fully funded, term time only Pre School places) this has a slight impact on our finances as all our staff are employed 52 weeks per year, but we swallow the lost revenuse during the holiday weeks as we use the time for folders, paperwork, trips ect so it's not the end of the world!.

However, last year I became aware that some families were booking free places at multiple nurseries (the 'best' one being the family who had booked a place at ELEVEN nurseries because they thought they may have been moving house/changing job and wanted to be sure they had a place at the one that suited them best at the time) This of course meant 10 children were turned down for places because the space was being held for their child.

So, this year I have been really organised and have contacted all the parents of children who are due to take a free place from September or January (I haven't contacted those taking more than a free place as they have paid the registration fee and they have already booked their settling in dates). Obviously in accordance with the code of practice, we do not charge the registration fee to parents who are only taking a free place, however, already today I have had 2 people cancel places because they have moved, neither contacted us to tell us and I can't tell you how many people I have turned away whilst holding these spaces for these children.

My question is, what is the best way to allocate these places so that they actually get used? I have already decided that I will not allocate free places any more than 2 terms ahead as there is too much chance that things will change for the family. Do any of you have any more ideas as to how to go about allocating the places? We are completely full with a waiting list so I will now go down the list and give these places to familes on the list, however, a few years ago we were struggling to fill places and I cant help feeling that the current system whereby parents can book places in as many nurseries as they want, with no cost and no come back on them if they decide not to take the place, is really unfair on nurseries who really need these children through the door and on children who really need places. I know we cant change the system and I agree that free should mean free but I can't help thinking I'm missing something really obvious here, I just want parents who book places to use them!!!

And breathe :P

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It's so annoying isn't it! Thankfully the large majority of our children come up from the baby room so when they get their funding it's just a technicality as children already with us get the space automatically unless they hand in notice. We rarely have children joining us just when funded and thankfully there is little competition around us. I know you can't charge but can you maybe get them to sign a contract? Something like if I decide not to take the space I will be liable for a £.... Fee. Then you can have something in there about exceptional circumstances such as change of address blah blah blah! I don't see why this wouldn't be allowed as there is no cost incurred unless they change their mind and may put people off booking children in for the sake of it! We are the same with staff and 52 weeks of the year but like you use this time for catching up and the other jobs that kind of get put to the back - spring cleaning etc and this week so far we have been taking it in turns to paint the fence as the sun has been shining :-)

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You may be able to charge a no show fee if they have signed a contract. We stipulate that any changes to bookings need to be made six weeks in advance or the amount of funding will be reclaimed from the parents (we do have discretion on this ) We will try to recuperate the money if needed (though this is tricky) but it acts as a deterrent ....check with your agreement rules

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Well, if they are booking that far in advance for a free place- then that means at the time of application they are not funded so could be asked for a registration fee that could be refunded once they start?

 

 

We are a 38 week preschool so not as affected as you overall. We only really have a sept intake, maybe a few in Jan- but they would be confirmed starters, siblings etc.

We charge an admin fee £15. We have been told by our LA this was ok- as long as it is a genuine cost for time,paperwork, phone calls ect. We tell parents about this upfront that if they want a guaranteed place they need to pay- if they are happy to take a chance on what spaces we may have in September they don't have to pay.

 

It is hard, but we do need to have some kind of control over places! Can you imagine any other business taking this kind of BS about how to run their financial affairs.

 

Xx

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Yes, this was a real problem for us last year. We were full for the new term when we finished in July but by September we had loads of places, because of people changing their minds.

I have already decided this year to record the cancellations and give the figures to the council.

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Thank you for all your comments, as usual with you lovelies its nice to know we're not alone!!

 

We are the same as you Woodlands, the vast majority of children come up from our baby room, but more and more now we are having applications for free places only, I did check with our funding officer whether or not we could charge a refundable fee at the point of booking, she said we cold only ask for it on a voluntary basis, but I like your idea louby loo on saying if they pay it is a guaranteed space, or they can take their chances and call us on the 1st day of the new term.

 

Finleysmaid, do you actually manage to recoup or is it like you say, more of deterrent?

 

The real choker is that we are turning away children who want more than the free place because we have offered free places to families who may not even turn up. You're so right louby loo, can you imagine Tescos being told by the government that they have to keep a percentage of their stock on the shelf for months instead of selling it because a customer has said they might want it in September?? or being told they must sell a £1.00 pack of butter for 75p and they can't ask the customer to pay the difference?? I think they may have a thing or few to say about that!! grrrrrrrrrrr!! xx

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Funnily enough diesel10, I've got an email in my drafts box ready to send to our funding officer tomorrow, (I didn't send it today as I wanted to reword it when I had calmed down a bit!!) to ask what she would like us to do in future when one of these places that is apparently so much in demand in our area is not taken up by a family who have booked it so far in advance, we are constantly being contacted to ask about available free places (by them and parents)but this system of booking free places then not using them is putting nurseries and other families at a real disadvantage.

 

I knew today as soon as I said my name and where I was calling from and the woman asked 'which one are you?' that it was not going to end well!!

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I operate a writing list. I have children on my list that have been down since they were babies. I CANNOT guarantee a place and I advice that they also put there names down elsewhere otherwise they could be left without a pre school place. It is annoying that they no longer want the place and have not let you know but equally they must fee the same when I can't offer one. It is just the way it goes. I could not be taking a registration fee if I cannot guarantee a place. Also they may not be funded when they go down on your list but they may well be at the time of being offered a place and therefore you should not be charging a fee.

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This has been a problem for years for us. However the other local preschool was under threat of closure and we were unindated with phone calls and people wanting spaces because there first choice was at risk of closing.

 

Colleague who deals with numbers listened very carefully when they come to visit and if they said oh we might want a space if x closes then she simply said if someone comes along and definitely wants a space then they get priority.

 

However as they have managed to stay open and indeed were now having venue trouble it's going to be very interesting to see what happens x

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caffeinfreak...it is mainly a deterrent but we do send out letters chasing payment including a 'if you don't pay we'll send a solicitors letter one....We now have the notice period on every piece of invoicing we send out so no one can say they didn't get the message! Our offer letter is a contract form stating that once they have signed it they are liable (this has all been checked by lea) two years ago i lost nearly £3000 in fees because of no shows...we did manage to fill the spaces but that might not always happen we had to protect ourselves and this is one of the ways we do it...we also ask for an administration fee (£25 non refundable) for all those booking a place before they are funded ....so a child who is 3 before september would not be charged. (or a child accessing two year old funding)

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