If you’re already draining your bank account each month to cover the cost of childcare, then it will come as no surprise to you that new analysis has found going to nursery is as expensive as going to university.
Most UK parents are forking out the equivalent of a year’s university tuition for a part-time nursery place for their child. And in some cases, even more.
The figures, released by the Coram Family and Childcare Trust found the average cost for 25 hours a week at nursery for a child under two-years-old (before three when government-subsidised care kicks in in) is £175 in London.
This adds up to £9,100 a year in total for London parents. By comparison the current maximum annual fees for university tuition is £9,250.
It might come as a surprise to people who don’t have children that the cost of early-year education is so high – having risen by 3% since 2017-2018.
Childcare prices vary significantly across the country but are lowest in Yorkshire and Humberside, where 25 hours of weekly care for a child under-two will set parents back £5,616 per year. Still putting a dent in your wallet.
Nursery bills are slightly cheaper for older children with an average cost of £124 a week, or £6,448 per year, for three and four-year-olds in the UK.
This is because most working parents in England and Wales are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare (1,140 hours a year), funded by the government, once their child reaches three, but not before
You qualify for these if you are in work, or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave, and if you are each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week – this is £125.28 if you’re over 25. You are not eligible if your child doesn’t live with you or you earn over £100,00.
Parents in Scotland can access up to 600 hours of free childcare a year for three and four-year-olds, which equates to around 16 term-time hours a week.
Although free childcare obviously helps some families, the new report also suggests local authorities subsidising childcare can be damaging the sector.
One in four (26%) of the local bodies think providers are being driven to increasing the price of any childcare outside the 30-hour allowance.
Some suggested providers are increasing charges so the daily rate is higher for funded children than unfunded children.
The report says: “One of the most extreme examples of charges was a setting who were charging parents £1 a day to open their child’s packed lunch.”
Anntoinette Bramble, who chairs the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Good quality early years education is vital in helping children get the best start in life. The intention behind the 30 hours free childcare scheme is good, but the funding provided by government does not cover the costs for providers in many cases.