Setting your prices can be a tricky task. Clearly you need to cover your costs and support your budget, but it is essential that the parents don’t feel that the school is overcharging.
There are a few key decisions to take on pricing, and in this blog, we look at these in turn, and consider the pros and cons of each. Hopefully you will find it useful in designing your pricing model.
What types of discounts should I consider offering?
Many clubs offer discounts for a range of booking options, such as (but not limited to):
Usually when both children are booked into the same session
For instance, book 4 or 5 mornings/afternoons and get a reduced rate on each day booked, or receive a day free
For instance, book both breakfast and after school care and receive a lower total price
Should I offer discounts?
Termtime childcare is overwhelmingly used by parents who need it, as opposed to extracurricular clubs which have a larger contingent of those booking more for enrichment than childcare. Therefore, offering discounts rarely encourage parents to book for more sessions than they need – they simply need the sessions they need. Discounts do, however, just feel fair – particularly to those parents who require care every day, and/or for more than one child.
Keeping your discounts simple and understandable
Be careful not to create discounts that are hard to calculate, or you may create problems in the future. The rule of thumb is: if you have to explain your discounts more than once to a parent (or administrator), it’s too complex. If you want to use an online booking system, the simpler your discounts, the better.
Discounts – Pros
- Intuitively feels fair to parents
- It has a negligible impact on income
Discounts – Cons
- Can require constant manual admin to calculate the discounts
- It sets a precedent that can be difficult to maintain if you move to an online booking system in the future
Our recommendation: If you want to offer a discount, a sensible place to start is offering 10% off for a sibling, or for booking 4 or 5 sessions in a week. Naturally, only some parents will qualify, and it doesn’t actually reduce your income by much at all. Parents will appreciate the offer – it’s a win-win.
2. Charging for the whole session vs staggered pricing (offering an option to pay for part of the session only)
Example: you want to run a breakfast & afterschool club for 30 children and plan to offer split sessions:
|7.30am – school
|8.15am – school
|3.15pm – 4.30pm
|3.15pm – 6pm
Intuitively, this feels fair. Some parents will only need the shorter session, so it seems fair that they don’t have to pay for a full session – right?
Be careful! Clubs can typically expect a 50/50 split of parents who will want each slot, meaning you will likely have for example, 30 kids from, 3.15pm – 4.30pm, and perhaps only 15 for the last 90 minutes. By offering a shorter initial afternoon slot, you will also (unintentionally) begin to compete with in-house (and externally provided) after-school enrichment clubs, which may lead to those clubs losing attendance to your club, or vice versa. It can be a minefield!
Other considerations when contemplating a stagger:
Offering staggered sessions can make staffing extremely difficult, as you will only need certain staff for the first 75 minutes each afternoon, or the last 45 minutes each morning, whilst your club is at capacity. Finding high quality people for this short a period can be very challenging. You need to be able to offer potential employees a decent number of hours to attract/retain them. See our blog on recruitment/retention in breakfast & afterschool care for more thoughts on this.
2. Impact on income
By offering a stagger, you will reduce your income. This may not matter, but it needs to be factored into your income & expenditure projection.
3. Parents arriving early or not collecting on time
Parents will, on the whole, collect on time at the end of the afternoon session. Typically, this is because they don’t want their child to be the last one to be collected, and there is a certain embarrassment to being late. However, if a parent has paid up until 4.30pm, the pressure of their child being left alone is removed, as the club carries on until 6pm.
In addition, parents will inevitably arrive early for the 8.15am session, in the hope of beating the rush hour traffic. Whilst your staff are sorting breakfast etc, can they be expected to tell parents they have to wait for 5/10 minutes before their child is allowed to come into club? It’s a tough ask.
Both of the above scenarios can cause problems with ratios, and (if you are serving food), planning for mealtimes.
Staggered Sessions – Pros
- Maximum flexibility for parents
Staggered Sessions – Cons
- Hard to staff
- More complex admin
- Difficult to enforce staggered timings with parents
- Reduced income
Our recommendation: Be brave and offer full sessions. Staggered sessions typically cause more problems than they solve. It’s helpful to keep your offer to parents clearly defined and separate – if parents want a short amount of care, their child has a range of 1 hour enrichment clubs to choose from. If they need childcare – then your club is available, but full sessions need to be booked. (You will often find that parents accept this without issue and will use any spare time after work to run errands – often arriving 2 minutes before club closes!)
Are you a school that is running (or thinking of starting) your own Breakfast & Afterschool club?
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About Childcare Bookings
Childcare Bookings provide our school partners with a fully outsourced booking, payment and admin service, together with a booking system that is taking bookings for you 24/7 – and even your own dedicated administrator to support parents.
In addition, we provide an Operations Pack, including template T’s & C’s, a best-practice Club Operations Manual, policies and childcare-specific forms and procedures.
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About the Author
Dan McCaffrey is the Managing Director of Childcare Bookings for Schools, the only outsourced payment, bookings and administration service for school-run childcare in the UK. A former primary teacher, he is also the owner of Pioneer Childcare, the 5th largest wraparound provider in the country, where he learned (the hard way!) everything he shares in these blogs. Dan lives in Sussex with his family.
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