Last updated:

26th January 2024

Starting nursery or preschool

Options for pre school learning and care

  • It's not compulsory for your child to attend nursery or preschool 
  • In all cases you will need to apply directly to the nursery or preschool you want your child to go to
  • Most will have open days or will let you visit before you apply

There are different options for pre school learning and care

Day Nurseries

Day nurseries can care for children normally from around 3 months up until compulsory school age. Most offer care throughout the day, from around 8am until 6pm and are often open all year round, including during school holidays.

Find a list of day nurseries in the community directory

Day Nurseries

Preschool

Preschools are often run by a voluntary committee. Normally they care for children from 3 years old, up until compulsory school age although some now care for children from 2 years old. 

Most offer care in 'sessions', often of 3 hours, for example 9am until 12 midday. In most cases preschools follow the same terms as state schools, meaning they're usually not open during the schools holidays.

A lot of preschools have lunch and breakfast clubs which means if there are spaces your child can attend for the equivalent of a school day.

Each preschool sets its own admissions policy. 

Find a list of nurseries and preschools in the community directory

Nurseries and pre schools

Nursery classes and foundation units

Some schools have what's known as a nursery class or foundation unit. Like pre schools, most offer care in 'sessions', often of 3 hours, for example 9am until 12 midday. In most cases they follow the same terms as state schools, meaning they're usually not open during the schools holidays.

Some have lunch and breakfast clubs which means if there are spaces your child can attend for the equivalent of a school day. 

Admission arrangements

To find out more go to the school admissions section of our website.

Transferring to school

It's important to remember that there is no automatic transfer from a school's nursery class to the school itself - you still need to apply to the school when your child is old enough.

Find a list of all the nursery classes in the borough in our community directory.

Nurseries and pre schools

Children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)

To find support for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) visit our:

SEND Local Offer

Further information can also be found on the support for pre school children web page.

You can also read each preschool and nursery Local Offer information.

The UK Government website has a section specifically to help if you have a disabled child.

Free childcare

All 3 and 4 year-olds can get 570 hours of free childcare per year at a nursery or pre school.

Some 2 year-olds are also eligible for this.

For further information go to our web page:

Free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year-olds

Staff to children ratios

Every setting has to make sure they have enough staff for the number of children they care for. For children aged:

  • 0 to 2 there needs to be 1 staff member for every 3 children
  • 2 to 3 there needs to be 1 staff member for every 5 children
  • 3 to 5 there needs to be 1 staff member for every 8 children

The exception to this is staff in a group provider who hold a relevant Early Years Teacher Status, in which case it is 1 staff member for every 13 children.

Early Years Foundation stage

This sets the standards that all providers must meet to ensure children learn and develop, and are kept healthy and safe. 

The teaching and learning children receive helps make sure they are ready for school and gives them the foundation to progress through school and life.

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