Nurseries: what are you signing up to?

As parents we have a number of important decisions to make. One is who will look after and care for our children, where we cannot do so, due to returning to work for example. We all focus on finding a nursery based either on: locality, an Ofsted report or word of month referral, maybe fees or the curriculum or all of these elements. We take a tour and meet the teachers and think this is perfect. We then hear we need to book immediately as places are limited and the waiting lists are over six months or more. So, with all this on our minds how many of us thoroughly scrutinise the terms and conditions before making the decision to sign up?

I have just chosen our nursery and having read through their terms I surprised myself how little I really had thought about everything. I thought a quick summary of what others should look out for might be useful as, if you are not a lawyer, like me, reading these terms can be like reading Latin.

Do we truly appreciate the fees?

It is not enough to look only at the daily or weekly rate as stated:

– Don’t assume the weekly or daily rate is simply how you calculate the overall costs. Often you will be asked to take the rate and times by 52 and then divide by 12 which lifts the costs substantially;

– Do the rates include breakfast/lunch/tea if not add on these costs and understand what is included;

– If your child needs nappies, milk or a uniform add on these costs too;

– Also understand the late charge: usually you will find late collection costs and some can be charged in increments of 10 minutes so make sure you factor your travel vs late costs when comparing nurseries;

– Understand that often you will be required to pay a deposit AND one month’s fees in advance to secure your little one’s place.

Cancellation & Bank/Annual Holidays

You should see two types of cancellation clauses: one to cancel before your child commences the nursery and one if you cancel after they have already started.

There will be one or two cancellation policies and this will set out:

(1) the means by which you can cancel; and

(2) when you can cancel and what fee will be payable.

Very often if your little one attends nursery on Mondays or Fridays , you will not  get a refund when the nursery closes on these days over a bank holiday so do check this too.

The return of your deposit may not be immediate. Read the terms to understand when this is repaid as it can be up to two months.

Collection & Security

The nursery should have at least the majority of these elements in place, but do check:

– A registered list of names of who ONLY may collect your child;

– A password that must be presented by anyone not on this list;

– A Lock, coded door etc on the doors and gates to limit access;

– A structured collection system that is clear and you have tested this;

These are just some of the key considerations and you may have additional terms in the contract or specific concerns you need to consider.

*Karen Holden runs a successful law firm in London that she set up herself. She juggles running a business, managing staff and being a mum. Hopefully her legal updates or practical tips will help you as working mums.

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