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If we counted up the cost of bringing up a child we would undoubtedly frighten ourselves to death. But there is help out there if only we know where to look. We sift through the red tape to discover ways to make life a little easier

With worries about job security ever looming and in spite of all the government directives ensuring the rights of working parents, it has never been more important to ensure stable, reliable childcare and schooling.


The newspapers have been full of scary stories of population explosions and closing private schools which have led to a huge pressure on places. Good provision is often expensive as parents seek the very best for their children. However, there is help available if you have time to sift through the various schemes and the too often unintelligible paperwork.

Funding for pre-school children: Nursery Education Grants (NEG)

All three and four year-olds are entitled to twelve and a half hours of free early years education a week for 38 weeks of the year, with a registered provider such as a school, nursery, or playgroup, regardless of income or circumstances. Some large employers provide registered early years education at the workplace. You can also use a registered childminder if they are part of an approved childminding network.

From September 2009, about a quarter of eligible three and four year-olds will be able to access 15 hours a week. This will be available if your child is attending a provider who has been invited to offer these hours. From September 2010, all eligible three and four year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of ‘Free Entitlement’ per week.

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Childcare Vouchers: Salary Sacrifice Scheme

Childcare vouchers can save parents thousands of pounds a year. They were introduced by the government in their current form in April 2005 to help working parents make their childcare more affordable.

This scheme enables you to pay for childcare out of Pre-Tax Income and you can choose your own childcare provider which includes any nursery, playgroup, nanny, childminder, or au pair who is registered and regulated by Ofsted.

These vouchers can be used to cover childcare up to 1st September after your child’s 15th birthday.

Ask your employer if they run a childcare voucher scheme and if they don’t, get together with other parents and request this facility. Providing childcare vouchers should not cost the employer. In fact, as they don’t pay National Insurance on the vouchers, it actually saves them money too! Firms can offervoucher schemes one of four ways, either by operating the scheme themselves or by using one of the many voucher companies such as Avent Childcare Vouchers, Busy Bees, Early Years Vouchers, Employers for Childcare. Before accepting childcare vouchers check for tax credit implications though.

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Some independent nurseries and schools will offer bursaries. The key message is honesty and openness. Many schools are prepared to help parents who in the good times have supported the school if suddenly that parent finds themselves in difficult financial circumstances.

Schools are introducing various support systems from simply enabling parents to spread or defer payment, use monthly standing orders or by giving discounts for paying fees in advance. If you have more than one child at the school, most schools offer sibling discounts.

The Independent Schools Bursars’ Association has provided member schools with guidance as to how to help and schools may well ask for details of your financial status by giving you a confidential form to fill in. Don’t be embarrassed about asking as most schools will do their best to keep children from the distress of moving schools when times are difficult within the family if they can possibly do so.


If you have a particularly gifted or talented child, it is definitely worth asking about scholarships which may amount to up to 50% of the school fees. Academic, Sport, Music or Art scholarships can be available and it is always worth asking the school for details.

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Nursery Education Grants Possible Annual Saving:

This entitlement is worth up to approx. £1,600 with a further £300 with the extended entitlement.

Childcare Vouchers
Possible Annual Saving on tax and National Insurance:

Employee Situation     Based on a value of £243 per month    Based on a value of £150 a month Higher rate tax payer         £1,196                                                               £738
Basic rate tax payer           £904                                                                  £558


Possible Annual Saving:
£11,000 based on a senior school boarding fee of £7,707 per term
source: ISC Census 2009

Possible Annual Saving:
With a 10% bursary..........................................£933.00
With a 25% bursary ......................................£2,333.00
Further 5% sibling discount ............................£ 466.50

Average junior day school fee taken from ISC Census 2009