An enrolment fee or administration fee may be charged by an early childhood service. It is a method of gathering extra revenue most commonly used by private schools, but it is a method that is creeping into use by early childhood service providers. As a parent you may say no and take your child instead to a service that doesn’t charge you for the pleasure of taking your business.
The enrolment fee can also act as a waiting list fee because the service will say that it won’t consider offering your child a place unless you first pay its fee.
You may not know this until you go to enrol your child because services don’t always publish their full fee schedule. Should there not be a queue of children waiting to get in immediately, then in reality the fee is an admin fee and not a fee for keeping you informed of when a place comes up on the waiting list.
Occupancy rates at early childhood services have been falling over recent years. The average occupancy rate at centres is only around 77%, so there are centres with vacancies and spare capacity.
Advice to parents on paying an enrolment fee
Should the service not be able to offer your child a place when you are ready to start, then check before paying if the fee is refundable should you child not be offered a place by an agreed date. Because while you have confirmed your intention to start your child at the service by paying an enrolment or waiting list fee, the service does not have to hold up its end of the bargain.
For a waiting list fee, $20. is a reasonable amount for a centre to charge to cover the costs of recording details and calling to offer a place. A fee of $50 to $100 or more is revenue gathering as it exceeds the cost of administration.
Remember there are lots of different options for children’s care – childcare centres including kindergartens providing all day care, Kōhanga Reo, licensed home-based care, nanny, or partnering with another parent to care for each other’s children.
Getting a place in a childcare centre for a child under 3 years can be a bit difficult. This is because not all centres offer places for children under 2 years as it is recognised that there are higher risks of caring for babies in a large group environment – such as health risks. Centres can be less willing to accept children in the 2–3-year-old age bracket as only children aged 3 years and older attract the higher 20-hour funding amount paid by the government.
Licensed home-based care is an option that parents can prefer for their very young child. There are many home-based agencies now available to match families with educators/ teachers and supervise the care in a licensed arrangement.