Childcare in Croydon: The difference in fees and quality across the borough
A MILE separates Lullabys and Little Ann day nurseries in South Norwood – yet one charges nearly £300 more than the other to look after a child.
Pockets of South Norwood are in the ten per cent most deprived areas in the country. According to official statistics, one in three children in the ward live in poverty and more than 700 people are out of work.
Against this backdrop, Lullabys, in Ross Road, charges parents £875 a month for full-time childcare for a two-year-old. This does not include a £25 registration fee for, effectively, filling in a few forms.
Children are provided with three meals and three fruit snacks every day and are looked after from 8am to 6pm. The charge for a single day's care is £65.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Lullaby's is one of three nurseries in Croydon run by Abacus Childcare Settings. Operations manager Theresa Staunton believes comparing prices is unfair.
She said: "Before parents decide where their child should go, they should visit nurseries and see what they are getting for their money.
"Most of the nurseries that charge less aren't as good. Given the amount they are charging, they couldn't be.
"We provide high end, high quality childcare, and there are huge costs associated with that.
"Lullabys is led by a manager with a degree and a member of staff trained in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
"We also have to meet the Ofsted criteria, which we look at as a minimum.
"Our facilities are fantastic and we're in an expensive area to have a property. For what the parents and their children get, our prices are very good."
The Advertiser investigated prices, services and Ofsted ratings at 30 nurseries in Croydon. Each was asked how much they charge for a month of full-time care (mostly 8am to 6pm) for a two-year-old.
We discovered a £354 difference between the cheapest and most expensive nurseries, and huge differences between playgroups which are less than a mile apart.
Our sample also shows that high prices are not confined to the affluent areas of the borough, with nurseries in Thornton Heath, Selhurst and South Norwood asking for more than £850 per month.
Of the 30 nurseries surveyed by the Advertiser, the cheapest was Little Ann, based in St Albans Church Hall in Whitehorse Lane.
Little Ann charges parents £600 a month, at least £200 cheaper than three other nurseries in the area.
Manager Malarrosa Murugaiah recently dropped her fees by £50 after several parents could not afford to pay their monthly bill.
Unlike some of her rivals, she doesn't believe that price dictates quality. Little Engines Day Nursery, less than a mile away in Cargreen Road and also run by Abacus, charges parents £275 more each month than Little Ann, yet both are rated as 'satisfactory' by Ofsted.
"Yes we're a business but we must also consider what is best for the parents," said Mrs Murugaiah.
"People who live here have very little money. I know there are nurseries which ask for £800 or even £900 a month, but if I charged that much, we wouldn't have any children.
"Some parents came to me and said they could not afford £650, so I helped them.
"Even if I have to put fees up again we will be a lot more affordable than many other nurseries. Does that make us worse? I don't think so."
Croydon's most expensive childcare, according to our survey, can be found at Immanuels, in Haling Park Road, South Croydon.
Entrusting the nursery with your two-year-old will set you back £956 a month, nearly twice the gross weekly pay of an average person in full-time employment in Croydon.
In all, 16 of the nurseries surveyed by the Advertiser charged more than £800.
Some of the most affordable childcare can be found in New Addington, yet it is still out of the price range of parents like Lisa Booth.
"I have looked at childcare but as a low income family we can't afford it, even with government help," she said.
"My son starts school this month, and I will use that time to find work, but I don't know what I will do in the holidays, as I feel like I can't leave a child with friends or family because they aren't registered minders."
Funshine Day Nursery, in Shirley, charges £862 a month.
It is rated as 'outstanding' by Ofsted and senior manager Petra Myatt, 48, says her prices are high because she wants the best for her families.
"Legally there must be at least one member of staff for every eight children," she said.
"Most nurseries are at that level or just below.
"We have one in three. I believe this enables us to provide better care for each child, but additional staffing costs more money.
"If you really want to know what a nursery offers, you look at how many staff it has."
Fees at Funshine are fixed throughout a child's stay, so they increase only for new arrivals.
But Mrs Myatt fears she will have to raise charges when work place pension reform is introduced next month.
She said: "If you think that wages are at least 50 per cent of our outgoings and now we have to find an extra five per cent, that's a significant sum of money."
Nearly half of nurseries surveyed operated some sort of non-refundable registration fee, which ranged from £25 to £50.
Those that impose such charges argue they prevent people from holding a place while they shop around, but never taking it.
Mrs Myatt said: "Filling in paperwork and collecting data is part of our job. It should be part of the package, not an extra charge."