Day nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups

Day nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups provide care and early education for children from birth to age five. They are registered by Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). This means they are inspected regularly to make sure the care they provide meets the regulations set by Ofsted, and that all staff have a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

Some will also care for children aged up to 11 years old; for breakfast, after school, and during school holidays.


Some childcare providers offer sessional or full-day care.

Pre-schools/playgroups are community led groups and will often be situated in community spaces such as scouts huts, church halls and community centres.

They may offer a more sessional approach. They are usually focused on children aged 2 years plus.

Day nurseries are usually private providers. They cater for a broader range of children from ages six weeks onwards, and provide more flexible daycare. They are often open all day, up to 51 weeks of the year. They offer the choice of either full-time or part-time care, to meet the needs of working parents.

All Providers have arrangements in place to support children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). Maintained schools, maintained nursery schools, and all providers who are funded by the local authority to deliver early education places must have regard to the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years.

All providers have a named Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO). Childminders are encouraged to identify a person to act as a SENCO. Childminders who are registered with a childminder agency or who are part of a network may wish to share the role between them.


The number of children they can care for depends on the space in the building and the number of staff working there. Ofsted have set clear guidelines about the number of staff required to make sure children are safe and that their needs are met. For children:

  • under two, there must be at least one member of staff for every three children
  • aged two, there must be at least one member of staff for every four children
  • aged three and over, there must be at least one member of staff for every eight children. This ratio increases to one member of staff for every thirteen children if a member of staff has Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or level 6 qualification.

For further information on qualifications and staffing in day nurseries, pre-schools please see the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage (EYFS).

Standards for the learning, development and care of children

Day nurseries and pre-schools must follow the statutory framework for EYFS when caring for under fives.


Pre-schools usually offer a more sessional approach having morning and afternoon groups within the school day and term time only.

Day nurseries are usually open from 7am to 7pm, although some open earlier and close later to meet parents’ needs.

Most are open 48 to 51 weeks a year. The daily/hourly rates depend on:

  • where the childcare provider is located
  • the number of children they care for
  • any special requirements your child has
  • how many hours of childcare you need

Funded Childcare

Day Nurseries and Pre-schools can be registered for Funded Early Education Entitlement Funding for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds. This includes:

  • 2-year-old funding (up to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks or 570 hours per year)
  • Universal 3 and 4-year-old funding (up to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks or 570 hours per year)
  • Extended 3 and 4-year-old funding also known as 30 hours funding (up to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks or 570 hours per year in addition to the universal 3 and 4-year-old funding equating to up to 30 hours per week over 38 weeks or 1140 hours per year).

Find your nearest childcare provider

View a full list of current day nurseries, pre-schools and playgroups and a list of Pre-schools with current childcare vacancies

For further information please contact the Families Information Service.