Category: Nursery and School

Childcare Circles for Working Parents

childcare circlesA few days ago I was having a conversation about Childcare and working. This led on to the funding for 15 free hours for 3 and 4 year olds. Finlay goes to Nursery for 15 hours, in theory, you would think childcare would be quite cheap for us. After all, you get 15 hours free, right? Technically yes, but in reality not always. For starters, the funding is only for 38 weeks of the year. That’s fair enough, but still, you would think we would only pay for 14 weeks of nursery a year,our bill would be low.

Well, our Monthly nursery fee for 15 hours a week is between £150 and £200 a month. Between £1800 and £2400 a year! How can that be? The simple answer is nurseries can choose how to offer the hours. You will be lucky to find a nursery that lets you take the hours as and when. In my nursery, the funding is limited to 3 hours per session, term time only. I can only take 9 of my 15 hours. Some nurseries let you spread the hours over the whole year which saves larger bills during the holidays if you’re lucky. The rest of the hours for the session at my nursery are charged at a higher hourly rate than the normal. Although it;s definitely cheaper, it;s not technically free and although our bill isn’t huge, it’s a big chunk when you’re on a lower income.

I actually work 22.5 hours a week (recently reduced from 26). If I had to pay childcare for extra sessions, It would not be cost effective for me to work. So how do I make up the shortfall in my childcare? Childcare Circles!

Childcare Circles

What are they? Well, childcare circles or babysitting rings are more often than not set up between friends. Those people who do not have the privilege of having regular babysitters can get out and enjoy an evening without having to pay the earth on top of a night out. They are often close friends, and the group set up rules and have a token type system. One token is perhaps an hours worth of childcare. Each party perhaps starts with 4 tokens and you give and receive between the group. However, childcare circles can easily be adapted for daycare around working parents.

I am extremely lucky that a close friend of mine was only 3 months behind me when I expecting Finlay. One day when the babies were small the topic of nursery came up and how expensive it was. A friend actually suggested we looked after each others baby to save money. We looked at each other and agreed. When we went back to work, I would have her little girl one day a week and she would have Finlay on another. Neither of us use the full day, but the option is there if that is needed. It saves us both money and can be extremely flexible. We have been doing it for almost 3 years now.

Things to consider when setting up a childcare circle around work
  • They work better for closer friends rather than acquaintances
  • Think about how much you trust the other party
  • How many people will be involved/how many babies can you cope with
  • Ensure you all discuss the terms and arrangements
  • Is everyone happy and agrees?
  • Do you have a back up plan in case it falls through?
  • Can give you flexibility, hours not fixed like nursery
  • Saves a lot of money
  • Baby looked after by someone you know and trust
  • Children can form close friendships/bonds
  • Could fall through quite easily if one party pulls out
  • dependent on two way trust
  • No cover when the other party is on holiday/during sickness
  • If you only have one day off, it won’t be just you and your child

Personally, the childcare circle I have been part of has worked so well for me and my friend. Without it, I don’t think I could work the hours I do and get my little bit of independence. Luckily both our works have good family friendly working policies in place. On the odd days where either of us has been away or sick, it hasn’t caused a problem. If you have close friends with children of a similar age, then bring up the subject. You might be surprised and find an affordable solution to childcare issues!


Mad About Kids





The Fifa Fafer fo of the Primary School Application!

Education - Primary School Apllication ProcessThe Utter Confusion of the School applicant Process!

Seeing all the back to school photos on my news feed, has sent my tummy to a bag of nerves. This year we will be starting the School Application Process! To be honest It has come round so quickly (I guess it does for everyone). I feel I know very little about the process, but I know from word of mouth and news feeds, its a scramble for any place. I know also, all the local schools to us have been oversubscribed for the past few years. I’m guessing that’s a bad thing!

The Schools…

We live in an area that has one definite school in catchment. This school has a great reputation, but its a church school. They hold 30 places for worshippers and 30 places for everyone else (this may drop if they have over 30 church applications).  Then they follow the standard allocation procedure. The School application process for this school is also direct through the school (do I still apply online also? I’m so clueless).

I wouldn’t mind Finlay going to a church school. Although I don’t currently go to church but I am not an atheist. I like the values they teach and would like Finlay to learn about religion. To be to make his own mind up when hes older. However, I don’t hold out much hope of getting a place if I am honest.

The next nearest that may be in catchment, I know little about. It has a good OFSTED rating, but the parent feedback put me off a little. It had the highest percent of all the schools I was looking at with regards to bulling and how it was addressed. I also have heard very little about this school from word of mouth. This I find nerving and makes me think its not as highly regarded as some others.

Next, and to be honest just from my own research is my current favourite. I am unsure if we are in catchment but last year places did get down to distance and the furthest they accepted was 2.1 km away. We are about 1.9km. There may be hope for this one! I like this school as it promotes a lot of sustainability and Natural values. They even have there own Honeybee’s on the Marshlands opposite!

Finally, we have a lovely little School that’s on route to work for both Chris and I. Catchment for this school seems varied, but from last years stats we live too far away by about 0.2km. I do know people who have gone their who live where I live. Each new year will tell I guess.

None the Wiser!

I guess what really worries me is we don’t fall into many catchments as such, that our preferences will not matter and we will be placed anywhere. Scary stuff, thinking this decision is in someone elses hand.

All I know and have read is that children that have good supportive parents do better at poorer schools, than those at good schools with less parental support. So I know at the end of the day, I have some input into how well Finlay achieves. What worries me though is I want Finlay to be at a school where he feels safe and happy, is this something these other schools will offer?

For now, follow this space as I try and decipher the School Application Process. Working out about open days, questions to ask, applications and anything else. Currently I know very little, if anyone has any advice, please comment!