30-hour free childcare – pilot scheme launch

The government is committed to delivering 30 hours of free childcare to hard working parents of three and four year olds by 2017.

From September this year, parents across eight UK councils (Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, York, Newham and Hertfordshire) will pilot the scheme and benefit from extra hours of childcare a year early.

So how will it work?

Currently, three and four year olds (and disadvantaged two year olds) receive 15 hours of free childcare as standard. The additional 15 hours, making it 30 in total, will only be available to families where both parents are employed.

You’ll have to apply for each of the 15 hours separately. The existing 15 hours will be supplied by your local authority and childcare provider, as normal.  Applications for the additional 15 hours will go through a new system being developed by HMRC.

We look forward to seeing the results of the pilot scheme and will keep you updated as things develop.

What skills should your child ideally have when starting school?

Starting school is a big event for the whole family, when your little one becomes a little bit more independent. 

Whilst nurseries and childminders do a lot of work with ‘rising 5s’, there’s also plenty you can do to help ensure your child has the necessary skills for their first day at school. 

Take a look at the questions below. If you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the questions and ‘sometimes’ for the rest, your child should do just fine!

> You’ve spent long evenings with the needle and thread putting name tags in their uniform, but can your child recognise their own name? This will help them to put their coat on the right peg, find a lost jumper or tell which schoolbooks are theirs.

> Can they do up the zip and/or buttons on a coat? They’ll be outside and playing a lot faster if they can.

> Are they able to undress and dress themselves? This will be important when it’s time for PE. Can they put clothes in a pile or hang them on a hook, rather than dropping them on the floor?

> When going to the toilet, can they go on their own, wipe themselves properly, and wash their hands afterwards?

> Lunchtimes will go a lot more smoothly if your child can use a knife and fork. If they have a packed lunch, can they open their lunch box, take the lid off a yogurt pot and peel a banana?

> Runny nose? Will your child use a tissue or hanky, rather than their sleeve or their hand?

> Have they got a basic understanding of the alphabet and counting numbers?

> Can they open and hold a book? Cut with scissors? Hold a pencil?

> Will your child be able to sit still, listen to & follow instructions from the teacher, and focus on a simple task for a certain amount of time?

> Do they know how to share and take turns? And work as part of a group?

> Do they understand the word ‘no’ and boundaries it sets for behaviour?

> Do they understand the word ‘stop’ and that it might be used to prevent danger?

> Encourage your child to make eye contact with adults. Have you explained they may need to put their hand up to get the teacher’s attention, answer a question, or ask for help?

> Do they use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? It can go a long way.

At the end of the day, having to help just one child with a coat zip at playtime will be much easier for a teacher or teaching assistant to manage, than a whole class. 

Holiday during school term time – where do you stand?

A recent High Court ruling seemed to have cleared things up a little when they reversed the decision to fine a father for taking his daughter on a term-time holiday because no evidence had been produced to prove that his daughter had failed to attend school "regularly".

But since then the local council, backed by the Department for Education (DoE), has been told they can now apply to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal.

So, what’s the law today?

In England, Section 444 of the Education Act states that “if a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school; his parent is guilty of an offence.”

Regular attendance is not explicitly defined in the Education Act. However based on the words ordinary meaning and various court adjudications, “regular attendance” means that a “a pupil is required to attend school for every day that the school is open” apart from authorised absences.

According to the Department for Education, authorised absence can be when "they’re too ill to go in" or "you’ve got advance permission from the school”.

School fines

The school and local councils have got legal powers to enforce school attendance.

“Your local council can give you a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if you don’t pay within 21 days. You may be prosecuted if you don’t pay the fine after 28 days.”

In the academic year 2014-15, a total of 151,125 fines were issued to parents, for a total value of £5.6 million.

Why do parents risk it?

The main cause for complaint is the increased cost of going of away during school holidays, when prices are often hiked. Many parents simply decide to take their children out of school, and view the fine as part of their holiday costs.

But government argues that "every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chance of gaining good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances".

What is it like elsewhere in the UK?

The rules are slightly different in other parts of the UK. In Wales, “the Education […] Regulations 2010 state that head teachers have a discretionary power to authorise leave for a family holiday during term time where parents seek permission”.

In Scotland, “schools will not normally give a family permission to take pupils out of school for holidays during term-time.” Without a reasonable explanation for the child’s absence, the education authority does not send a £60 fine but can issue an “attendance order” which gives the parent a duty to ensure their child’s good attendance. “The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 states that if a parent has not complied with an Attendance Order, an application may be made to the Sheriff Court for prosecution […]. If convicted, a parent may be fined (not exceeding […] £1000), imprisoned for up to one month, or both fined and imprisoned.”

In Northern Ireland, the rules are again different. Failing to make sure your child attends school regularly can result in parents getting referred to Education Welfare Officer (EWO). “The initial response to a referral of a pupil by a school to EWS is a home visit. This provides the Education Welfare Officer (EWO) with an opportunity to assess whether the absence is condoned by parents and if they are in a position to ensure regular attendance. […] Parent Only Prosecutions are used as a last resort where parents fail to engage with the service and continue to ignore their child’s educational and welfare needs. […] In the Magistrates Court the maximum fine that can be imposed is £1,000 in respect of each child who is missing school”.

If you want to find out more on the subject, one of many useful links is here.


This information is not the view of Computershare, if you have any queries on this matter please contact your local education authority or visit https://www.gov.uk/school-attendance-absence

Win Your Child's Height in Books Facebook competition winner!

Our Facebook competition “Win Your Child’s Height in Books” is now over. The competition was a huge success, with a staggering 1695 entries.

The correct answers can be found below:


       Quote: You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.

       Answer: Charlotte's Web by EB White


       Quote: You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

       Answer: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


       Quote: A person’s a person, no matter how small.

       Answer: Horton Hears a Who by Dr Seuss


       Quote: Courage, dear heart.

       Answer: Voyage of the Dawn Trader, C S Lewis


       Quote: If you want to live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus one day, so I never have to live without you.

       Answer: Pooh's Little Instruction Book by AA Milne and Joan Powers


       Quote: It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.

       Answer: The Witches by Roald Dahl


       Quote: To live would be an awfully big adventure.

       Answer: This one was so tough that even we got it wrong! Well done to those of you who noticed that this quote was from the 1991 film Hook, and not from Peter Pan by J M Barrie


       Quote: When someone is crying, of course, the noble thing to do is to comfort them. But if someone is trying to hide their tears, it may also be noble to pretend you do not notice them.

       Answer: Horseradish by Lemony Snicket


       Quote: Working hard is important. But there is something that matters even more. Believing in yourself.

       Answer: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

The lucky winner is 4 year-old Grace, pictured below with 104cm worth of books, her mum and our very own relationship manager Nathan.

We would also like to give a special thanks to Waterstones in Bury for helping us picking a suitable selection of books.

Enjoy the read Grace!