Nurseries are one of the most common types of childcare in London and the UK. They typically offer childcare between 8 am and 6 pm, while some have extended hours, most often 6am-8pm. This childcare option is great for families who can work around their local nursery’s hours of operation or find a nursery that matches their exact needs. Here, we discuss when to enrol in nursery and when you should be applying for the necessary funding. In addition to nurseries, the availability of childminders and the diversity of their profiles mean that your chances are high of finding outstanding and exactly relevant care when you need it.
When should I enrol my child in a nursery?
You should start exploring childcare options before they are needed. You need to be prepared to enrol your child well ahead of their first day of attendance in a nursery. Starting your search and due diligence 6 months to a year before registration is recommended.
As to when is the right time, that will depend on when childcare is going to be required. This will depend on the wishes of you as parents and the needs of the child, as well as your schedule and work demands and your personal wishes in terms of your child’s early socialisation and education.
Whenever you plan to begin childcare, you are going to want to apply for a place at the nursery of your choice months in advance of the first day of your child’s attendance. Most nurseries have waiting lists, and this can be especially true for those using early years education and childcare funding.
When to apply
Because of the application times, waiting lists, and enrollment dates, it is wise to begin exploring childcare options well before your child will start using a nursery. Many nurseries will have a waitlist as long as 6 months, so you will want to have decided on a nursery, and applied for a place at that nursery as much as 6 months ahead of your child’s first day at the nursery.
Many couples will spend weeks or months looking into options for their child’s care, so it isn’t a bad idea to start exploring childcare options between 7 and 8 months in advance of the first day of your child’s attendance. You’re going to want to decide on a nursery at least 3 months prior to the first day you anticipate your child attending the nursery.
If you get a later start and need top-notch childcare to cover the time between the desired start date and when the nursery can accept your child, a childminder may be the right choice for your family. Childminders are more affordable and flexible than nurseries, and finding a suitable childminder has never been easier. Simply search the Kwicare database today to find the perfect childminder for your needs. In fact, childminders adhere to the same framework as nurseries, EYFS, which means a childminder setting is just as good as a nursery, if not better because you get the added bonus of a reduced adult to child ratio, flexible times and likelier possibility of finding an exact match for your needs, whether that’s special need or dietary. A lot of childminders are as well-equipped as nurseries with plenty of outdoor space, stimulating books, access to other playgroups and child centres, and more.
Nurseries and funding
If you are receiving funding for your child’s nursery care or childminder, you are going to want to apply for the provision type of your choice between 3-6 months before your child becomes eligible for childcare funding. Childminders are
more adaptable to your needs as they have fewer children in their care and generally less admin work to deal with. Kwicare allows you to specify whether you require funding at the time of entering your needs. The childminder will let you know whether s/he is subscribed to the funding scheme.
As for when to apply for the funding, that you will want to do 2-3 months in advance of their eligibility. The first day of eligibility depends on the child’s birthday and we’ve included details in the section below: Enrollment in childcare funding.
Another matter which is often relevant is when childcare funding becomes available. For most, funding will become available for their child during their 3rd year. However, some will be eligible for childcare funding at 2 years old.
Enrollment in childcare funding
All children aged 3 and 4 in England are entitled to a minimum of 15 hours of free early learning education or childcare for 38 weeks each year. Some are eligible for more than 15 hours, and some are eligible for funding to begin at age 2 or to continue beyond age 4.
This funding can be used toward any eligible form of childcare, including nurseries, pre-schools or childminders. Working out what childcare option is best for you and your family will depend on your family’s situation, preference, and income.
Your child’s eligibility and the start of enrollment will depend on their birthday as follows:
- A child born 1 April to 31 August, start applying in April of their third birth year for placement starting September
- A child born 1 September to 31 December, start applying in September of their third birth year for placement starting the following January
- A child born 1 January to 31 March, start applying in the following January of their third birth year for placement starting the following April
For most, this will be following the child’s third birthday, though for some this will be after their second birthday. Your child is eligible starting at age 2 if you receive:
- Income Support;
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA);
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA);
- Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act;
- The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit;
- Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit) and have an annual income that does not exceed £16,190;
- The Working Tax Credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit);
- Working Tax Credits and earn £16,190 a year or less
Or if the child:
- Is looked after by a local council;
- Has a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan;
- Gets Disability Living Allowance;
- Has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
If your child is eligible, you can start claiming after they turn two, on the dates as outlined above, but following their second birthday instead of their third.
Working parents, single parents, and students that require more childcare than 15 hours/week may be eligible for additional financial assistance, including 30-hour childcare funding assistance.
For more information on 2-year-old assistance, check out this link – it further explains 2-year-old funding and at the bottom of the page there is a link to local councils to get more information.
For more information on 30-hour childcare funding, go here.