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Day nurseries and pre-schools

What to expect at a nursery or pre-school

Day nurseries and pre-schools give children a great start in life. At each childcare setting children will get:

  • a main carer (their key person)
  • opportunities to learn new skills and understanding through play
  • a chance to mix with other children and make friends
  • snacks and/or meals (this may vary for each provider)

There will be a special educational needs (SEN) coordinator at each nursery or pre-school. They lead on the setting's support for children with SEN or disabilities. Find out about support for SEN and disabilities in childcare.

What age children do they care for?

Day nurseries provide care for babies and children up to 5 years. Pre-schools provide care for children between 2 and 5 years old.

Opening hours

The opening hours for each childcare provider will differ.

Nurseries are usually open between 8am and 6pm, for 48 to 52 weeks a year.

Pre-schools usually open for at least one 3 hour session per day during term time. Some may offer longer sessions.

Quality assurance, learning and development

All day nurseries and pre-schools are registered* and inspected by Ofsted. They make sure they work within the statutory framework, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). This sets the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to 5 years old. Find out more in the parents guide to the EYFS.

*This excludes day nurseries and pre-schools that are part of a maintained school which only take children from 3 years and over. However, Ofsted will inspect them as part of the whole school's inspection.

Help paying for childcare

Free early education

Parents could use 15 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds at most nurseries and pre-schools who are rated by Ofsted as outstanding, good and satisfactory. Some nurseries and pre-schools do not offer funded places for 3 and 4 year olds, so you must check with the childcare provider.

Some parents of 2 year olds may be eligible for free early education if the setting is Outstanding or Good.

Other childcare funding

Visit childcare funding for details of all childcare funding.

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