The cost of early education can add up, especially if you have more than one child, but some help is available for those struggling to pay pre-school fees.
Various forms of pre-school early education classes are available for children aged under five year olds, and mostly from the age of three or four years. Pre-school classes can include anything from playgroups and nurseries, to childminders, children’s centres and school reception classes that take younger children.
Attending some form of pre-school experience is important for children. Not only does it help them learn to interact with their peers and develop social skills, but it also builds on all their existing skills and knowledge and helps give them a good start in life.
Sadly, pre-school education does involve a fee. This can vary a lot, depending in part on the type of early learning option you’re considering and also on where you live in the UK. The average cost of a pre-school session ranges from about £2 to £7 per session, but areas such as London can unfortunately be more expensive. For single parents, those on a tight budget or families with several children, the cost can be tricky to handle.
What Help Is Available?
Although fees can seem steep, there is some help available with paying pre-school costs.
In England, there’s a government scheme that allows all three and four year olds to receive up to 12.5 hours of early learning free of charge each week. It applies to 38 weeks of the year and includes a wide range of different options, such as attendance at nurseries, playgroups, pre-school reception classes or time spent with childminders.
There are some conditions attached, namely that the early education provider you choose must have conformed to and met a series of government standards. All providers who do meet the standards will be included in a directory of local eligible services in your area, so you should be able to easily identify somewhere suitable. Your local Children’s Information Service (CIS) will able to provide you with the directory.
There’s often demand for places, so you might not be able to get your child into your first choice. As long as you’re prepared to be flexible, you should hopefully find something suitable.
Some people can also gain help towards paying for pre-school fees from the Working Tax Credit. The Working Tax Credit is available for anyone who’s on a low income and works for at least 16 hours a week (it’s also available to those who worked at least 16 hours a week before going on maternity leave or before sick leave).
The amount of Working Tax Credit you’ll receive is dependent on the level of your income. The good news for parents wanting to use it towards help with the cost of pre-school services is that, if you use government approved services, you can get up to 80% of the cost back. This works out as up to £175 per week for one child or up to £300 for two or more children.
To find out more about the Working Tax Credit scheme, find out if you’re eligible and to apply, you’ll need to contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You’ll need to fill in a form and submit it to them for consideration. Although it can seem like a bit of a hassle to have to apply , it can make a considerable difference and is well worth it if it means your child can enjoy more time at pre-school and get a foundation for their early learning experience