Getting your child into childcare or a nursery can be a headache at the best of times, before you even start thinking about the cost and quality of care. The nursery that my children attend currently has a two year waiting list! They regularly have parents with babies aged only a few days being asked to be added to that list, and some very organised mums and dads even chose to add their precious ones to the waiting list before they are born! All hail those of you out there; I hadn't even worked out where we going to live during my pregnancies, let alone which nurseries the kids would go to!
So, How Much Will It Cost?
A full time place in an Ofsted rated 'Outstanding' nursery can set you back anything from £950 per month to £1700 per month. These figures are based on one child attending nursery 5 full days a week before they hit that magical age of 3 when the 3-year childcare funding kicks in. The cost varies between settings and the area of the country you live in. The higher end of the scale (based on a nursery in Surrey) equates to £21,300.00 a year. For many of us, that's more than an annual salary!
You might, however, not want to return to work full time, or you could choose not to simply to keep nursery costs down (or because you just can't afford to!) For 3 full days a week in an 'Outstanding' nursery you could expect to pay anything between £650 and £1000, again depending on where you live.
Is It Always Going to Bankrupt Us?!
The good news is that childcare does get cheaper as they get older. Most nurseries have lower rates for children aged 2 and above, and all children benefit from 15 free hours of childcare per week when they turn 3 (increasing to 30 hours in September if you meet working criteria.)
Of course, you could save money by opting for an Ofsted rated 'Good' setting. This could lower the monthly full time cost by between £120 and £400, and for part time this could go as low as between £575 and £800. This sounds great but what price do we pay for lowering our standards?
There's No Price For My Child's Happiness
Naturally, we all want the very best for our children, so surely it's worth the extra fees to ensure that they are being cared for in the best possible setting... Or is it? In my opinion, it is always worth investing some time reading the Ofsted reports of prospective nurseries. By law, these are readily available online. They are usually not very long reports or difficult to read and interpret.
I recently read an Ofsted report for a nursery that stated that it used effective systems to evaluate the quality of its own care, and actively sought and respected the views of staff, parents, and children alike. Their management was said to analyse children's achievements "meticulously" to identify areas which needed development. The staff were said to have a good understanding of how children learn, and were good role models for the children. Children were seen to be developing well, and were actively learning things like manners, sharing and turn-taking. More than this, it was reported that the children were happy, confident and secure within the setting. What more could you want?!
This nursery was rated 'Good' by Ofsted. It failed to reach the dizzy heights of 'Outstanding' because some staff missed an opportunity to encourage independence, and it was noted that activities were not "constantly" organised. Now, constantly seems like quite a lot of activities to me, especially when you are trying to encourage independence!
Good Is Good Enough
So I suppose the moral of the story is that sometimes 'Good' is good enough. I am not an outstanding parent, and neither (probably) are you! But my guess is that you are a very good parent, and that this very good nursery would be more than perfect for your child.
For us as parents, our good days are the ones when we are mumming the s#&% out of life! They're the days when we are great role models, when we behave respectfully and receive that respect back. The days when the washing gets done, and the kids play nicely. Hey, they might even learn something on the good days! Our good days are good enough; in fact, they're more than good enough. So maybe that 'Good' nursery is more than good enough too. And maybe, just maybe, it will ease the drawstrings on our purses as well!