Advice for parents and carers ahead of supported hours roll-out

We are issuing advice to parents ahead of the roll out of supported hours for working families.

On April 1, the Government’s new childcare scheme saw the introduction of 15 hours of funded support for two-year-olds, for 38 weeks of the year.

And in September, the scheme will be extended to include babies from nine months old, from the term after they turn nine months.

However, the timescales which dictate when parents and carers are eligible to access the funded hours are critical and depend on when the child turns nine months.

Clever Clogs Nursery Group, which includes the Clever Clogs nurseries at Belmont and Bowburn in County Durham and Little Ladybirds Day Nursery in Stockton, has been supporting families who have been able to access the first stage of supported hours and is issuing guidance ahead of the roll out in September.

Sharon Lewis is Group Director. She said: “We have seen from the introduction of 15 hours of funded support for working families with two-year-olds that there has been some confusion as to exactly when children are eligible.

“And although we have been meticulous in our communication to our parents, we really wanted to take this opportunity to reinforce some of the key details parents and carers need to know ahead of the scheme being rolled out in September.

“Your child will be eligible to claim the hours from the beginning of the term after their eligible birthday. Terms currently start after January 1st, April 1st, or September 1st. For example, if you child’s eligibility age changes on September 1st, they will be eligible after January 1st, not from the first of September.
“It is vital that you get your application in at the right time; if you miss the deadline for the next available term after your child’s birthday, you will need to wait until the term after it before you can access the funded support.”

The 15 hours of support are for 38 weeks but can be spread across the whole year, as normal school term times are 39 weeks long.

Demand has been high for the supported hours across Clever Clogs Nursery Group’s three nurseries and Sharon is urging families not to hang around if they want to access it.

She added: “The biggest challenge nurseries are facing is how to meet demand from families for the 15 hours of support. Naturally, when so many parents and carers are struggling with the cost of living, this childcare support is invaluable, and we fully appreciate that.

“However, we must stress it’s first come, first served so please speak to us, or your child’s nursery, as soon as possible to find out if and exactly when you will be able to tap into these funded hours.”

Clever Clogs Nursery Group, which is owned by entrepreneur Andrea Townsley, was recently rated on the childcare industry’s equivalent of Trip Advisor, Day Nurseries (
It was ranked fourth best in the country and was one of only 16 groups across the UK to receive a perfect 10 out of 10 score (of 329 scored). It’s three nurseries all enjoyed individual success in the Top 20 North East Small Nurseries category, with Little Ladybirds Day Nursery in Stockton coming top and Clever Clogs in Bowburn and Belmont ranked sixth and ninth respectively.
Over 100 people are employed across the group’s three sites.

Clever Clogs Nursery Group named fourth best in the country

We are delighted to say we have beaten some of the biggest nursery groups in the UK in a poll voted for by parents.
Clever Clogs Nursery Group was one of only 16 up and down the country to receive the coveted 10 out 10 score on the nursery industry’s equivalent to the Trip Advisor ratings platform.
That was out of 329 nursery groups that were scored based on reviews left by parents and carers.
Overall, Clever Clogs Nursery Group ranked fourth in the poll, cementing its place as the best in the region.
The poll is carried out every year by, the industry’s ‘go to’ website for parents and is decided based on parent and carer testimonials and average ratings.
Individually, our three nurseries also scored very highly, each coming in the top 10 in the Small Nursery Group poll of the North East’s top nurseries.
Little Ladybirds Day Nursery at Preston Farm Industrial Estate in Stockton came first out of 20, while Clever Clogs in Bowburn and Belmont, in County Durham, were ranked sixth and ninth respectively.
Andrea Townsley, founder of Clever Clogs Nursery Group, said: “We are beyond thrilled that we have been recognised in this way. It’s absolutely huge for us. We’re a small group of just three nurseries yet we’ve been beaten some of the biggest and well-known nursery groups to rank fourth in the whole country and be one of only 16 to receive a perfect 10 out of 10 score.
“I could not be prouder of my team – I have always know they’re the best but to hear our parents agree is just wonderful.”
Sharon Lewis, Director of Clever Clogs Nursery Group, said: “We are absolutely delighted that, thanks to the reviews submitted by our parents and guardians, all three of our nurseries are placed in the Top 10 of the website’s annual review of regional nurseries, with Little Ladybirds coming first.
“This is testament to our wonderful teams, who go above and beyond every single day to ensure our little ones have the best possible start, from coming to us as babies to leaving us to begin their school journey.
“Day Nurseries is the most respected platform within the childcare industry and the one our parents visit to tell us, and everyone else, how we’re doing, so these ratings really do mean the world to us. They’re even more special because it’s a list decided solely by parents and carers – it’s always good to get industry recognition but ultimately, it’s our parents that we want the praise from, and this list tells us we’re doing a great job.”
All three Clever Clogs Nursery Group nurseries look after over 100 children each from babies through to pre-school.
Clever Clogs Nursery Group employs 120 people across all three of its sites in the region.

Government-funded childcare support explained

Understanding childcare funding isn’t always easy. We are here to help explore the options. Here is how it all works:

Eligible Working families

• Current – receive 30 hours of funded childcare for children 3+
• April 2024 – Receive 15 hours of funded childcare for children 2+
• September 2024 – Receive 15 hours of funded childcare for children 9 months +
• September 2025 – Receive 30 hours of funded childcare for children 9 months +

Parents who do not meet eligibility criteria.

• Universal funding – Receive 15 hours of funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds and no change is being made
• Parents of 2-year-olds already in receipt of government support receive direct local authority funding – no change being made

This will be for 38 weeks but can be spread across the whole year which will be taken off your monthly childcare invoice. Please note that normal school term times are 39 weeks long whereas this offer is for 38 weeks for nurseries and schools.

When will my child’s funded hours start from?

Your child will be eligible to claim the hours from the beginning of the term after their eligible birthday. Terms currently start after 1st of January 1st of April or 1st of September. For example, if you child’s eligibility age changes on the 23rd of June, they will be eligible from the 1st of September. If your child’s eligibility age changes on the 1st of September, they will be eligible after the 1st of January.
How do I apply for funding?
How and when you need to apply for your childcare funding depends on your child’s age. You might be wondering when your child will be able to use the 15 or 30 hours of government funding. It’s all down to when their birthday falls. For Working Family Funding, you’ll need to apply online for an eligibility code.
You also must confirm that you are still eligible every three months, and the government should remind you to do this.

Remember, your child’s funding will not apply until the term after their qualifying birthday.
If you miss the latest date to apply each term, you will not be able to receive funding until the following term.

Recommended time to apply for eligibility code: Last date to apply for eligibility code:

15th October to 30th November – by 31st December to be funded after 1st January
15th January to 28th February – by 31st March to be funded after 1st April
15th June to 31st July – by 31st August to be funded after 1st September

What do I do next?

Working family funding.

You will need to check your eligibility to access the working family funding you will need to apply for an eligibility code from:
You will also need to confirm that you are still eligible every three months, and the government should remind you to do this.

Some 2-year-olds may be eligible for funded childcare.

They may be eligible if they receive certain means tested benefits, have been looked after by a local authority, receive Disability Living Allowance, or have an Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP) in place. You can read more about the qualifying criteria here: help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-2-year-olds

If you do not meet the eligibility criteria for working family funding.

All 3 and 4-year-olds can access fifteen hours of funded childcare if they have not received funded hours before they turn 3.

What happens next?

If you are eligible for working families funded hours you will receive an 11-digit eligibility code.
You will need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months. You will receive a reminder from HMRC by text and/or email. Please note failure to reconfirm your eligibility may lead to you losing your entitlement to the funding with HMRC and you will then become liable for any nursery fees.

Once you have received your 11-digit code, please complete the Durham County Council Declaration form, and return it to us as soon as possible. These are available in the office. We then must check this eligibility through the local authority using your code. Following which we will confirm if a place is available for you at our nursery. At this stage, please do not complete the section asking for days and hours attending. We can complete this section with you.

You must also provide your National Insurance number along with your child’s birth certificate or passport to prove their identity and date of birth. Do not worry, we only need to see these and will pass them straight back to you.

Please note you must complete this form and sign the declaration to be able to access your funded hours. We cannot process your application without it.

Will there be any extras to pay for such as food or consumables?

Yes, unfortunately to remain sustainable we will be implementing a small consumable charge which will help us with such things as paper towels, toilet tissues, art, and craft materials etc. This will allow us to continue to provide the amazing activities we do every day equating to £1.00 per 10 hours funded hours each week. For example, a child attending fifteen funded hours each will pay £1.50 and a child attending thirty hours each week will pay £3.00 each week.

There is also a cost to cover all snacks and two course lunch. Please see a member of staff for prices and options.
These extra sustainability costs apply to the 38 funded weeks only and it may be possible to spread over the year should you take that option.
We hope this goes a little way to explaining the minefield that is Government funding. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or require further information.

Kind Regards,
Sharon Lewis
Operations Director

Making friends Down Under

Our Clever Thinkers have struck up a long distance friendship with a school in Brisbane and were thrilled to recently receive their first letter.

The little ones, our pre-school children ages three and four, made the link with the school as one of our staff has a goddaughter who is a Kindy teacher over there.

We thought it would be great fun for the children to become pen pals and were so excited when the first letter back arrived in the post.

Our Brisbane friends sent us some pictures showing their favourite activities, their lovely classroom and what they love to do in their nursery.

Clever Clogs Bowburn Assistant Manager Jane White said: “In the letter we received there were also some very important news,

“Stick Man had arrived in Australia!

“We think he has got onto an aeroplane to go and see our new friends and they have seen him playing in their playground.

“We’re so happy to have heard from him and we hope he plans on making a return very soon. He’s been all over the place but Australia is definitely the furthest so far.

“We have sent our friends another letter in response to theirs, with the children telling us what they would like to include on it. One child said “I went to see fireworks the other day, did they see any” and another child said

“I think Stick Man has got an aeroplane or helicopter to go on holiday with our friends”.
“We can’t wait to hear back from our new friends Down Under in their next reply.”

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas from staff and children at Belmont

Christmas is just around the corner and our children and staff at Clever Clogs Belmont are well and truly in the festive spirit.

Since the start of December – the official Countdown to Christmas – we’ve been holding lots of fun activities for our little ones and the fun doesn’t stop until we do on December 22.
Here’s some of the festive fun you can expect between now and then:
• Stay and Play – our parents will be joining their children for a fun session of Christmas activities including a party tea, Christmas songs and a visit from Santa and his Elves
• Treasure Island – the annual pantomime is taking place at Belmont with children from both nurseries enjoying it.
• Nativity play
• Christmas Jumper Day and Christmas lunch
• Christmas crafts – we’ll be doing lots of festive craft activities over the coming weeks
• Christmas decoration exploration for our Little Hedgehogs – our babies have been exploring some of the different decorations and baubles, feeling the different materials and textures as part of their sensory development
• Christmas tree decoration – we let our Little Owls decorate the Christmas tree with Christmas songs playing along which we all had a dance to

Clever Clogs Belmont Assistant Manager Dawn Sweeney said: “Christmas is our favourite time of the year and the staff are really looking forward to making this year extra special for our little ones.

“The festive fun officially started on December 1st and every day between now and then we’ll be doing fun activities with the children.

“There’ll be lots of fun to be had right up until our last day on December 22 when the staff will be hanging up their Santa suits for a well-earned break before returning on January 2.”

A perfect 10

Clever Clogs Day Nursery in Belmont has received a perfect 10 out of 10 from parents, with their reviews once again resulting in the setting being named as one of the top 20 nurseries in the North-East of England.

This is the second consecutive year the nursery has achieved this award from Day Nurseries, which is based purely on ratings and comments posted by parents over a 12-month qualifying period. All the reviews submitted in this period were maximum ones, giving Clever Clogs Belmont an overall review score of 10 out of 10.

Continue reading “A perfect 10”

Top 20

The Clever Clogs nursery group is the only one in the North East to be named among the top 20 recommended providers in the UK.

We have been included in the top 20 small nursery groups for 2023 by the UK’s leading nursery review website,

This is based on ratings and comments posted by parents at our three settings – Clever Clogs Belmont, Clever Clogs Bowburn and Little Ladybirds Day Nursery in Stockton – over a 12-month qualifying period.

Continue reading “Top 20”

Outstanding by Ofsted

Clever Clogs Bowburn has been rated outstanding by Ofsted for the second consecutive time, with the inspector highlighting our “caring and nurturing environment” and “excellent staff role models”, among the many positive comments.

The nursery has ben described as outstanding in all the areas looked at during the inspection, namely overall effectiveness, the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.

Continue reading “Outstanding by Ofsted”

One ambition in life

Clever Clogs Bowburn Assistant Manager Jane White only had one ambition in life when it came to her career and that was to work in childcare.

She even went further than most and did a Degree in Childhood Studies to give her an even greater understanding of early years learning and development.

Jane has worked in childcare for 16 years, most of these in settings in North Yorkshire where she has lived most of her life.

Continue reading “One ambition in life”

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Contact us

To request a brochure, or for any further information, call, email or fill in the message form and we’ll get back to you.

Belmont Nursery

Tel: 0191 384 3610

Address: New Ferens Park, Durham, DH1 1GG

Nursery Manager: Sharon Lewis

Bowburn Nursery

Tel: 0191 377 9192

Address: Durham Road, Durham, DH6 5AT

Nursery Manager: Sharon Lewis