What is a pre-school?

  • Pre-schools provide care and education sessions for children from 2 to 5 years. 
  • They are often held in church halls and community centres. They take children between the ages of 2 to 5.
  • They traditionally offer morning and/or afternoon sessions, during school term time.
  • Although some do offer longer hours which parents can pay for.
  • If they take children for more than two hours per day they must be registered and inspected by Ofsted. Inspection reports can be viewed on the Ofsted website.

What are the fees?

How can I find a pre-school?

You can look for any type of childcare provider by using our simple Childcare Finder. You can also contact our Families Information Service using the details on the right-hand side of this page

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. 

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Contact details

Families Information Service

Telephone helpline : 01274 437503
Polish/Slovak/Czech Helpline : 01274 434905
Urdu/Punjabi Helpline : 01274 431252
Mobile : Text 'Childcare' to 07781472076 and we will call you back within 5 working days
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