What is a pre-school?

Pre-schools provide care and education sessions for children from 2 to 5 years. They provide opportunities to play and learn with other children.

Are pre-schools registered and inspected?

Pre-schools are registered and inspected by Ofsted if they care for children for more than two hours per day. Inspection reports can be viewed on the Ofsted website.

What is the Early Years Foundation Stage?

The statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage outlines the learning and development, assessment and safeguarding and welfare requirements that all early years providers on the Early Years Register must meet to ensure children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.

What are the opening hours?

Most registered pre-schools offer at least 5 sessions a week. Children usually stay for sessions of 3 to 4 hours.

What is meant by Free Early Education?

The majority of pre-schools provide early education for three and four year olds. Parents can access a free early education place for up to 15 hours per week for children aged three and four, and some parents on low incomes may be able to access free early education for children aged two. The pre-school will claim funding from the Local Authority and will then reduce the hours of childcare fees payable.

What are the fees?

Pre-schools set their own childcare fees and these are agreed between the parents and the pre-school. Costs vary, the average cost of a session of 3 to 4 hours is £9. Parents should check what is included in the fees before signing the contract.

What help is available to pay for childcare?

Parents may be able to get help with childcare costs.

What are the different types of pre-schools?

There are all kinds of pre-schools, some are run privately, others by the local authority, voluntary or community groups and schools.

How can I find a pre-school?

Contact Bradford Families Information Service for a list of registered pre-schools.

Choosing the right childcare for you and your child

The following checklist will help you choose the type of childcare best suited to both you and your child.

  • Visit the pre-school to get a feel for the day-to-day routine and take your child with you to see whether they like it too. 
  • Visit when it is in full flow and, if possible, make a return visit so you can see the setting at different times during the day and week. 
  • Does the pre-school have a friendly feel? Does it have plenty of space inside and outside. If there’s no outside space where do children play in the fresh air? 
  • Check the equipment and facilities on offer. Is there a variety of creative equipment, such as painting stations, sand pits and play areas? Are they kept at a high standard? 
  • Are the children’s paintings and other work displayed on the walls? It is important that your child is offered a number of creative and stimulating experiences throughout the day, within a friendly environment. 
  • Ask about safety. What happens in an emergency? What precautions have been put in place? Do they have finger guards on doors? Is it secure? Do they have visitor control systems in use? Your child’s safety is a top priority. 
  • Does the pre-school have adequate staffing? 
  • Will there be a key person with special responsibility for your child and who will you be able to talk with about how your child is getting along? 
  • Take time to see whether the staff and children are talking and playing together. Are the staff questioning and responding to questions in a way that interests the children and are the children encouraged to ask questions of their own? 
  • Ask about the latest Ofsted inspection or view it online on the Ofsted website 
  • Ask about the staff. Are they well trained? Do they have qualifications at the levels needed to best help children learn and develop at their own pace? 
  • How do the staff deal with the children’s behaviour? There should be a behaviour policy in place so ask to see it. 
  • Talk to the staff about their flexibility. Can they provide childcare that fits in with your work hours? Ask about costs and contracts Do they charge for a late pick-up? 
  • Check what food is provided. Is there a healthy, balanced diet on offer? Is water available whenever children want it? 
  • Can the pre-school cater for your child’s individual needs? e.g. medication, dietary needs and additional needs 
  • Ensure there is a written contract in place which highlights the hours, fees (and what is included in it), over-time rates, fees for non-attendance (including holidays and sickness for both the child and the carer), notice period to be given for both changes to the contract and to end the contract. The contract should be agreed, signed and dated by the parents and the provider, and each of you should keep a copy. 
  • Ask what is included in the fees for example are meals, drinks, snacks, nappies included?

And remember, not every childcare setting will match your child’s personality, so be prepared to look around. Don’t get disheartened – there’s a suitable childcare setting out there for you and your child. 

Useful contacts

For information about registration and inspection of childcare settings
0845 601 4771

For more information about Working Tax Credits
Tax Credit Helpline: 0845 300 3900
Textphone: 0845 606 6668