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Possible Change In Admission Policy


Jenni B
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As you may know from my other posts, things at the sessional pre-school where I work have been a bit fraught of late! It has now been suggested by the boss that we could:

 

Alter the age of admission from 2years 9 months to 3 years - reason - to have less children in nappies and less fee paying children (a few non payers at the moment) as well as giving them an extra 3 months 'growth'.

 

Have only 3 intakes per year (currently it is whenever the child/children are 2yrs 9 months.

 

No longer hold places open (we have a number of children who have had places held open from September and are not due to start until May/June this year)

 

I think that this wont make too much difference to the sometimes chaotic sessions but I have been asked to give my thoughts and wondered whether as well as other points it is in fact discriminatory?

 

What do you think?

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We have actually put in 2 2 yr old sessions a week, these children are aged 2-3, we then move them to our 3 yr old session from their third birthday, this does work well for us as we have a very long waiting list for all sessions.

Not sure about your other points i will give it some thought but i'm sure someone out there can answer your question.

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Hi Jenni

In what way do you think it would be discriminatory? I know a few groups that don't take children until they are three. They then start straight away with their free place and all the hassle of fees etc. is done away with. I have considered it but don't know if we could survive the lean period which would occur because of loss of fees.

As to holding places open, well that is probably a moral dilemma rather than discriminatory. Do you keep a place for a child who has had their name on the waiting list for a couple of years? Is it financially sound to do this? That is a difficult one, but if you had it as part of your admissions policy that you could not guarantee any child's place no matter how long they had been on the waiting list, then at least parents would be aware of this right from the start.

As long as you are applying these changes to all children I don't see why there should be a problem.

Linda

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I supose I think it is discriminatory to alter the age group because I know the reasons behind it. Because it would definately be discrimanatory if we stated that we wouldnt take children in nappies. And as a setting regsitered for children from 2 years 9 months I just wondered really. but I supose, like you say Linda, giving the parents plenty of notice/policy and procedures beforehand would make it ok. The other things such as not holding places open etc are a policy matter which varies with each setting but some groups in our area are altering their age group to take younger children (2yrs 6 months) in order to survive! And as a registered charity with a large mortgage we have to survive but hopefully not at the expence of our previously flexible accomodating reputation.

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its nice to be in a position to pick and choose how young to have children many preschools like mine have had to lower the age limit to fill the vacancies and keep afloat

 

if the setting can cover its costs with only taking children over 3 year olds lucky group your obviously doing something right... but if the spaces are there it seems a shame to stop the younger children who are ready and waiting from starting..... we find that starting the children as and when they are old enough/ spaces become available, means a gradual intake and each child (and parent/carer) can have that individual care getting to know you time rather than set intakes it all sounds a bit formal and school like (althought once it is all in place you may look back and think what was all the fuss about?)

 

personally I love taking the children from two years and watching them grow up, over 2 1/2 years theres so many treasured moments to share with the family although we do limit how many 2 year olds we have per session.

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I actually have 2 groups going in one hall. we are allowed no more than 26 under 3's.

I think you might have to look at the financial side as much as the age group. financially I would have thought that you cannot keep a place open for 6months it is bad business sense and financial suicide to do that. You need to look at what your minimum number you need to keep the group viable, and work on that. If you have to pay wages you need to fill your numbers. I actually dropped my age group to 2 6mths as I take in children that have 6 months paying then go onto grants. what is the problem with haveing paying children? I cannot guarantee parents a place only in the September intake as I know then I will have spaces. Any other time its first in first served. Saying that I do ask for a deposit of £10 which holds a place and the money comes of their first week of paying.

 

Consider your finacial implications along side your other problems as well so that you can be viable at all times.

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I am guessing you are in a viable situation to increase the start age to 3 yrs. However, how will the boss justify the decision to change the starting age to parents on the waiting list?

 

To use the reason as described, ie: nappies, is discriminatory, and to use the reason of parents may not pay fees ( because of previous 'non' payers) is to me like having a bus driver drive past all the stops just in case a passenger tries to get on without paying!!. This may be seen as discrimination in the sense of only offering a service to government funded children depending on what the groups stated aims are.

 

Admissions policy (including waiting list criteria) and fees policy needs to be looked at in the context of the groups aims and objectives, inclusion and equal opportunities policies.

 

The issue on children wearing nappies will not necessarily stop at the age of 3 yrs for all children!

 

Peggy

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I agree with Peggy - to be inclusive and non discriminatory you would need to be willing to admit children of 3 who may still be in nappies due to a variety of reasons including special needs.

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Guest Wolfie

Holding places open doesn't make financial sense at all if you have other children who could fill the spaces now? I agree with the people who have said that you need to look into the financial situation of the group, work out your break even costs, etc.etc. before coming to a decision relating to that, but I can't think that there are many groups who would hold a place open for nine months when another child could take it....and not many parents who would expect you to do so! :o

Edited by Wolfie
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we only take children from 3 , and have no problems as it is part of our policy, and financially we cope, intake is after 3rd Birthday so many will start mid term and pay for the odd session, but in our area parents who send children to pre-school actually cannot afford to send them any earlier, and often have to wait until the grant is available, we still have some funded by social services for a term.

 

children of 3 are more often in nappies these days than ever before, so you will probably still have that to deal with,

 

will parents go elsewhere if they can start there younger?

 

our admission policy states that we take children from 3 and the children are admitted by age not how long they are on the list, no places are kept open, we could argue that keeping a place can be discrimination to the parents/child who move into the area and then cannot find a place for their child because of those 'waiting', and how many parents move or change minds in the mean time.

 

we do keep 1 place open for emergency placement social services, etc. this has proved very useful and is often used during the year.

 

Inge

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We too are are sessional pre school and we used to operate very similarly to you I think (although I haven't yet read any of your previous posts). We used to hold places open - an absolute admissions nightmare - are the children who you are holding places for old enough to start? We found that some parents would keep moving the start date to suit what they wanted - which meant that we were losing out financially. We now inform parents that we don't 'save' places. Places are allocated on age first and then on time on waiting list. We take children from 2.5yrs nappies and no nappies - you can't use that as an excuse to change Policy - it would be discriminatory as mentioned previously. You perhaps need to define what exactly it is you want as a group regarding admissions? Our admissions procedure has been running really successfully since we introduced a different Waiting List approach a couple of years ago. We know how many spaces we have to fill in an academic year - parents can put names down at any time - however, if we know by our list that we have filled all the available spaces for the next academic year, any parents who want to put childrens names on our lists are always told there is no guarantee of a place, however we give them a choice to keep them on a reserve waiting list (just incase someone moves out of the area etc) or they can have their child's details removed from our records. Parents are encouraged to apply early even though we do operate on an age priority if they want to guarantee a place for their child.

 

On a different subject non-payers are a particular problem - after repeated problems from certain families our fees policy now demands up front payment. One warning letter - then if not paid by 2nd date (still up front) place offered to another child from waiting list. Parents receive letter to state that child no longer has a place. It seemed harsh but it's worked a treat. All fees in!

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Guest Wolfie

Collection of fees is a nightmare isn't it - I agree, you've got to be really tough. When I opened my nursery I was a real "soft touch", believing all the sob stories about why fees couldn't be paid up front. I gradually hardened to those stories, often because the children from the families concerned came dressed in brand new outfits from Next( :o )...and yet couldn't afford the fees all at once?! It only took one occasion when I actually turned one family away from the door, saying the place had been withdrawn because so much was owing in fees, (which actually killed me inside! xD ), and I never had a problem with non - payers again! Word soon got round that I meant what I said!

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I agree with you Wolfie, it's really wrenching to inform parents that their child no longer has a place, but sometimes we are seen as a soft touch. It's understandable if there are genuine circumstances around why the fees haven't been paid, and we always make parents aware that they can approach us in confidence if they are experiencing such difficulties. However why is it the same parents consistently? Fees can be a nightmare - our latest issue involves parents wanting to pay fees to committee members 'off site' (eg on the school playground etc.) arhghhhhhh!!!! Would they do that with other bills?????? for example if they saw someone from the Leisure Centre in the car park at Sainsburys - would they want pay their Badminton Subs there rather than at the Leisure Centre????? Anyway - I've digressed from Jenni B's original post - oops, sorry.

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Thank you for all your replies, you have all said what I felt anyway! The boss asked for feed back from me and the committee members and I have given mine, saying that I didnt agree with it, and for me the only way to help with present problems was to add a member of staff or drop the number of children per session and the fact that they were 2 yrs 9 months or over 3 didnt make much difference!! Only two committee members agree to upping the age to 3 the rest dont!! I think the fee paying is a separate issue and shouldnt be used to change the age of admission. Last year I showed the boss the fees policy (from this site) and told her I thought we should adopt it but it never happened!! One child owed 2 terms fees and yet she was still able to come to playschool!!!

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For all who don't hold places open, do any of you have a single point of entry feeder school without a nursery? We allocated our places, much like the LEA does for school admission, at the start of the accademic year, regardless of their actual start date. Not doing things this way means that we effectively only provide for 4 year old, and a few September and October bithday 3 year olds, even though our registration is actualy for 2 years and over.

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We are allowed to take children from 2 years old. However we always state that we do not take them until they are 2.6 years but they do not get priority of funded children. So if we had a 2.5 year old on the waiting list for a year but a 3 year old funded child came along needing a place then that child would take priority as we only take 2 year olds in like others to top up the fees. I think so long as you make your admission policy clear to the parent when they are putting their name down it should be fine. I tend to tell parents that we will take their child towards their third birthday providing there is a place available for them. I would not take a 2.6 year old over a 3 year old as you don't get as much money and the chasing fees again is a hassel. Managers also have to make sure they can keep the business afloat. But I don't think that saying it is because they are in nappies is a good idea, a change in admissions has to be based on more that they don't like chaning nappies

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