Chantal’s four year old son, Gabriel, started school in September. She works full time and her husband also works full time, but usually works from home one day a week. Whilst nursery was just two miles from their home, after much deliberation, they chose a school closer to her work, 25 miles away from where they live.
They have both continued to take childcare vouchers, but now use them to pay for wrap-around care outside of the school core hours, as well as for childcare cover during the school holidays.
“I work in the Financial Services sector and have a very demanding job, so feel the pressure of career versus motherhood. Although my husband’s parents do help us out from time to time, they are in their 70s and we want them to enjoy having Gabriel occasionally, rather than it becoming a daily chore and wearing them out. So, when we were looking for a school for him, as well as looking at Ofsted ratings, we were interested in what childcare provision the school offered, and how flexible they could be with the arrangements. For example, would we always have to keep the same drop off and pick up times, and would we be able to vary the days which Gabriel attended the clubs? As well as asking about wrap-around care before and after the school day, we found out what was available for the school holidays and checked that the school accepted childcare vouchers for these clubs.
Luckily, we found a great school near my work which has both a before-school Breakfast Club and an after-school Cabin Club, as well as school holiday provision. This means that I’m able to drop Gabriel off at 8.30am, and sometimes much earlier, and pick him up at 5.30pm, secure in the knowledge that he’s not only safe and well looked-after, but also having fun with his friends.
Since Gabriel has started school, there have been massive changes to all of our routines, which we have had to get used to. We knew that this would be the case so tried to prepare Gabriel beforehand. All of his nursery friends were going to different schools, so we spoke to him a lot about making new friends. We also took him to see his new school and had lots of positive chats about ‘big school’ over the summer. One of his new classmates had a birthday party before school started, which was great, as he was able to meet everyone and make some friends before term started. Fortunately for us, he’s used to being in the car for extended periods when we go out at weekends and has easily adapted to the longer day. And to top it all off, he absolutely loves school!
My husband and I have found we’ve had to be a lot more organised. For example, we like to eat soon after we return home and then give Gabriel a bath and read him a bedtime story, so we tend to make big batches of family favourites, like spaghetti bolognese or chilli, at the weekend and then freeze them in portions to eat during the week. Even though both our employers are family-friendly, co-ordinating our work diaries and other commitments has also become paramount. It can be difficult juggling everything, but the fact that I can rely on the school for wrap-around care, and that they’re flexible with the arrangements, has made things a lot easier than they could be!
Holiday cover was important for us as well as wraparound care during term time. With half-term fast approaching, we’ve booked our son into Eco Club, and once again we will be using our childcare vouchers. It only runs 9am-4pm so we’ll be asking Gabriel’s grandparents to cover the gap until I can pick him up after I finish work. Unfortunately our childcare vouchers won’t stretch to cover the Summer Camp too, so we’ll have to pay for that with cash.
My advice for parents whose children are starting school next September and are in the process of applying for schools now, is to find out what childcare provision is available, at school and in your local area, not just for the school week, but also during the holidays. Asking the right questions now could make your life a lot easier later! Perhaps the best tip is to start talking to your child early on about how exciting going to big school will be and take the time to explain their new routine to them, so that they have time to adjust to the idea and are looking forward to that first day when it arrives.”