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Nursery, school and university fees - Do you have to pay if they’re closed?

With some teaching and childcare severely reduced or stopped altogether, it’s worth looking at what your options are to save money.

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As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

Do you have to keep paying nursery fees if your child’s nursery is closed? 

The simple answer is that there are no hard and fast rules around whether you’re entitled to money back during the pandemic. 

The Government has said that it expects nurseries to take a ‘reasonable and proportionate approach’ to fees paid by parents while their children are stuck at home.

Some nurseries have temporarily stopped charging parents who have had to keep their kids away. There have also been reports of pre-schools continuing to charge parents monthly fees, even if they are not taking care of any children right now. 

Some childcare providers have come to agreements with parents to charge a fraction of the usual fees. 

Can you get nursery fees refunded?

It’s possible that you’ll be able to get any fees you’ve paid upfront for private nurseries, but it looks unlikely. Some local councils across the country are reporting that in the majority of cases, local providers are continuing to charge parents at their usual rates.

But it’s certainly worth speaking to your childcare provider to learn more.

The Department for Education has said that it will keep funding local authorities for the free childcare entitlements of two, three and four-year-olds during the outbreak.

Can your child’s nursery really continue charging you despite lockdown?

Parents have reported being told by their child’s nursery that their children’s place at the nursery will be lost if they refuse to keep paying fees, despite not being able to take their children.

If you’ve had to take your child out of their pre-school and the facility has not already contacted you with arrangements for fees, it’s worth getting in touch with them.

Your contract with your childcare provider may state that you don’t have access to a refund if the provider is forced to close for reasons outside its control.

If after speaking to your child’s nursery it still refuses to temporarily halt or reduce its fees, it might be worth speaking to other households who usually send their children to the same nursery.

You might find that you are in a better position to negotiate a reduction in fees if you can approach the childcare provider as a group. 

But remember, this is a tough time for everybody, so think about approaching any such discussions with your childcare provider in a non-confrontational way.

Can you get school fees refunded?

If your child goes to an independent school, it’s likely that their teaching has continued remotely, using methods like video chat software.

This may mean that there are costs that these schools are not facing at the moment, like meals and some after-school activities. So if your children usually attend one of these schools, you may be wondering if there are some fees you can recoup.  

Some schools have already contacted parents to offer discounts or refunds on a portion of the fees paid each term or each year.

If your child’s school has not already contacted you, then you may want to get in touch with them to see if there is any financial help available. 

Getting financial help

All independent schools offer some form of financial help to families. Typically this help is offered when a child first starts school. But it can be extended to help families whose financial situation has changed.

The Independent Schools Association (ISA), which represents fee-paying schools in the UK, has said that parents facing financial difficulties should contact their child’s school as soon as possible. 

The ISA also points to a list of charities and organisations that can help with the cost of school fees in some circumstances.

Can you get university fees refunded?

There are several costs you need to think about when looking at whether you can get refunds or reduced costs.

Can you get some of your tuition fees refunded?   

Student finance is a complicated issue. But the short answer is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to get any refunds on your tuition fees.

The government has said that students should not expect any fee refund ‘if they are receiving adequate online learning and support’.

But the universities minister has also said that if your higher education institution does not or cannot provide adequate online tuition then it would be ‘unacceptable’ for them to charge students for any additional terms. 

If you’re a student and you feel that your university is not offering a suitable learning environment or support, you do have some options to make a complaint.

First of all, you should speak to your university to see if your complaint can be resolved. But if you’re not happy with the outcome of this, then you can take a complaint for free to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

The OIA only covers student complaints involving universities in England and Wales. Students attending institutions in Scotland may want to approach the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Getting accomodation costs back if you’ve had to return home

It does not look currently look like you have an automatic right to cancel your contract and get an automatic refund. 

But the Government has told both universities and managers of private student accommodation to be ‘fair and clear’ in their decisions about rent charges during lockdown.

It’s been announced that a number of the larger student halls companies have either reduced or waived rents for the summer term. Meanwhile, others have released students from their contracts early.

If you have not been contacted by your landlord you should get in touch with them as soon as possible to see what they can do about your payments.

If you usually live in university-managed accommodation, then the university housing office should be your first port of call.

It’s also worth taking a look at your housing contract or lease agreement. You may find that there are rules written into the agreement about cancelling your contract early. 

Read more about renting accomodation during coronavirus


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