The High Price of Childcare in Cambridge and How to Get Value for Money

Childcare costs in Cambridge have hit a record high and are among the most expensive in the country. However, this isn’t the only financial challenge we face.

Between 2006 and 2018, the cost of living increased by 2.4% each year. This rise created extra pressure on our wallets and bank accounts. We’ve had to become experts at cutting down on expensive items and focusing only on essentials. Unfortunately, for working families with young children, childcare can be categorized as both costly and essential.

For many of us, childcare allows us to remain in work and tackle the daily mountain of bills. Government estimates indicate that 79% of families in England with children aged 0 to 14 use childcare in some form. However, paying for it can create a frustrating cycle, in which you pay for childcare so that you can work, to pay for the childcare. It hardly seems fair, but it happens.

This article looks at the challenges faced when trying to find good-quality, low-cost childcare. At SmartKidz Play and Learn, we think that after school and holiday clubs are the affordable answer to an increasingly desperate situation.

What school-age childcare do people use in Cambridge?

When children reach school age, it’s easy to think that childcare will become easier; actually, it becomes a logistical nightmare. Few jobs match school hours perfectly, resulting in families having to struggle to find childcare for short periods before and after school.

To fill in the gaps, families in Cambridge have found a range of solutions:

  • Some employ childminders, nannies or au pairs to provide care in the family home.
  • Others send children directly to the childminder’s homes. 
  • A small number of people are lucky enough to have family members and friends to help them cover the childcare for free or as an exchange of favours. 
  • Some parents work for employers such as Cambridge University Hospitals, Addenbrookes or Cambridge University who either offer their own provision or have a list of recommended providers. 
  • Finally, an increasing number of parents are taking advantage of childcare provided by school-based breakfast clubs, after school clubs and holiday clubs. 

How much does childcare cost in Cambridge?

While there is a vast number of settings available in Cambridge, they vary in style, quality, flexibility and cost. Unfortunately, the high price of childcare in this area reduces the amount of options that working families can afford. This results in situations where neither parent nor child are happy.

In 2017, research by Yoopies (previously ‘find a babysitter’) ranked Cambridge among the most expensive places in the UK to pay for childcare. The national average for an hour of childcare is £7.90, but in Cambridge, it has reached £9.01. These astronomical prices continue to rise with some suggestions that the cost of UK childcare increases at 3 to 4 times the rate of wages.

How much can I save by using an after school or holiday club?

The right after school and holiday club is an incredible option to provide something your child will love, while also being affordable. Because these clubs cater to groups of children instead of one or two, they can afford to keep the prices down while providing high-quality provision and activities.

Despite the larger number of children, the satisfaction and enjoyment of the children often increases. This is usually because the choice of activities is wider, and they can socialize and make friends with those of a similar age.

Time at most after school clubs is paid for in sessions rather than by the hour. At SmartKidz these run from 3.15 pm to 6 pm and costs £11.50, which is £4.20 per hour if you make use of the full time. If you were to collect your child early at 5pm it would be the equivalent of £6.57 per hour.

A week of after school sessions would cost you £57.50, which is considerably less than the UK childcare average of £66. For holiday clubs, a day at SmartKidz holiday club is the equivalent of £3 per hour, which is extraordinary value and includes a vast amount of activities and play choices.


After school clubs are one of the most overlooked childcare options. They are often seen as only for the ‘last resort’ when all other possibilities have fallen through. However, they are so much more than that.

Most after school and holiday clubs have identities, aims and objectives that are entirely independent of the school. All the clubs run by SmartKidz collaborate with the schools they are situated in but are run independently. This means that staff members aim to provide your child with a memorable experience when they are at that club.

This can include visiting specialists, performers or teachers, practical activities to choose from, forest school activities and so much more. Staff members work hard to get to know children and support them to make their own choices to have a fulfilling and enjoyable session.

With all this going on these clubs aren’t just a bargain, they are excellent value for money and a real contender for the best childcare options available in Cambridge today. With clubs like SmartKidz, you needn’t worry about the cost of childcare in Cambridge because you’ve already bagged a bargain.