School & Childcare: When To Start

I’m not gonna start flexing and pretending to be your school and childcare guru. If I’m honest, when to start has been top of a list of life admin Q’s I’ve actively tried avoiding this year. However, I can report Theon has finally been enrolled into childcare. To boot he will most likely also receive free admission to his local nursery, in the new year. What have I learnt from the process? It was way fudging easier than I’d anticipated. I probably (definitely) am going to cry on his first drop off. My nose bubbling, shoulder trembling, blubbering will no doubt be counteracted by his lack of F’s given.

Accessing Your Free Hours

If your child is 2 they may qualify for free nursery school or childcare if you live in England and receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of £15,400 or less a year, after tax
  • tax credits and you have an income of £16,190 or less a year, before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

All 3 to 4 year olds in England can get 570 free hours of child care, per year. Available from the term after they turn 3. The only proviso being that the childcare provider be an approved childcare provider. There are different schemes for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you feel that you need some support but, can’t afford or accommodate childcare look for free groups in your area. Libraries are great for hosting free baby and toddler groups. If you’re a new mum or have a young baby, ask your health visitor for a list of local groups in your area.

Pre-School or Nursery

Pre-schools and Nurseries are typically the same. The only difference being that a pre-school is normally attached to a school, where as a nursery tends to be an independent, private childcare service provider. Now, in theory you might then think that a pre-school is better as that way you don’t have to pick a school for them to attend once they hit 4/5. Wrong! Going to a pre-school does not automatically mean that your child will be enrolled into the infants school it is affiliated with. Enrolment solely relies on numbers for that specific sites catchment area. Which your child may or may not be a priority for.

When To Start

What I’ve realised is that there are no generic answer to this. Every child and family is different and as such we each have different needs. Don’t let others influence you negatively and always follow your instinct on what you deem best for you and yours, this is especially so for enlisting the help of a childcare provider.

However, it’s good to know that depending on what time of the year your child was born, will determine when they begin infants school. Children born pre-mid August will be admitted in the year before those born post-mid August. For Theon this means that he will begin his school life at 5. Where as his cousin (born a year later in June), will also start school in the same year, but will be 4.

Mum’s The Word

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since having kids, it’s that there’s no ‘right’ way to do anything, only your way! I asked other mums to give their views on childcare and starting pre-school.

Mum of 2, London:

“I always felt that my ma provided a great example of a bada** professional, working mother. She’s highly educated and showed my brothers and me that you can go to work everyday (and put your kids in childcare) and still come home and be a nurturing, caring mother. That made it a lot easier for me to place my kid in childcare and go to work, as it was something I’d grown up with. My dad ended up doing more of the traditional tasks around the house as a result, dismantling stereotypical gendered roles. I’ve chosen to stay home with the kids after my second, as it suits our current lifestyle/family dynamics better. I fully support and empower women to do whatever their family needs and wants when it comes to working. We all have different situations and as someone who’s done it both ways, I completely respect and understand the need for both. Do what works for you and encourage other families to do the same.”

Mum of 1, Nuneaton:

“We would like to send our little boy to pre-school. However, 2 half days a week would be £300 a month, and we just fall above the threshold for the free 15hrs for 2 years olds. So, we will have to wait till he is 3 for the 30hrs. We only want to send him for the social interaction side of things. So for now free groups, soft play and times with cousins will suffice. Dad works full time and I’m a full time mum whilst studying. We tried me going to work on Dads days off so we could share childcare and not have to spend all our earnings on it but it was a big strain on the family, not having any time together as a whole unit. Mum and dad being just passing ships. Previously I decided not to go back to work when he was a baby because practically everything I’d have earned would have gone on nursery fees and then I’d also miss out on him growing up. So there would be no benefit to it. Now I don’t know if he is ready for nursery or if he’d enjoy it but I think he would benefit from at least the social aspect of a school style environment.”

Mum of 2, Manchester:

I couldn’t afford to get childcare for my first child or find any that would fit in with the jobs my partner and I did. I also found the idea of sending him to nursery difficult as I was never sent to nursery. However, he is more than ready for full time school and I’m even considering sending his younger sibling with him a couple mornings a week. I really think that every child is different, but also for us the dynamics and needs of our family are ever changing. How I feel and what they need changes from day to day.

How are you finding the whole process? Or do you have tips for the best way to get kids enrolled?

Right, I’m off to go cry quietly in a corner somewhere, whilst pawing through photos of the day we brought Theon home from the hospital. Where did the time go!? I’m so, not ready!

Big loves,

Berrit x

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