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I am preparing to move to Oxford as a postdoc, with two kids aged 1 and 3. I am currently trying to sort out childcare, and what I am seeing so far does not seem very reassuring.

I have learned that, in theory, all 3- and 4-year-old children in England are entitled to 15 hours of care per week for free. However, I noticed something suspicious: on the university page listing the nursery fees ( https://childcare.admin.ox.ac.uk/nursery-fees ), two nurseries (Childbase and The Early Years) have a column for fees "with 15/30 hour funding". And if I am to believe these tables, then even the "free" childcare hours are not actually free, only somewhat discounted - they still cost more than half of their regular price. This is only two data points, though: for the remaining nurseries, I have found no information besides "funded hours are available".

Now here is what the government says about it ( https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/ ):

15 hours of free childcare is available for all families in England.

[...]

The 15 hours free childcare/early education offer is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge a fee for these additions. If you choose to pay for these it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 15 hours place, and must be offered alternative options.

Sounds nice, but how does it work in practice? Do nurseries that offer 15 hours that are really free, or at least almost free, actually exist at all? If yes, how hard is it to actually get a place in one of them? If not, is the ~40% discount I am seeing here typical, or is there at least hope for a larger discount?

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