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Pre-schools, also known as playgroups or playschools, are for young children to learn and play in small groups, often close to their homes. They are registered with their local authority and inspected every year. Some pre-schools provide free early education and are registered and inspected by OFSTED.

Most pre-schools open for sessions of around two and a half hours at a time but some are open for the whole day.

Pre-school staff work with the children and parents often help out. They offer a range of fun activities for children and lots of opportunities to learn.

Plus points:

  • your child can enjoy learning and playing in a small group
  • your child can acquire skills for a head start at school
  • you can meet and get to know parents in your area.

How do I know my child will be safe and secure?

First of all you know your child best - look for a pre-school you feel will suit your child. Help in making this decision is provided on a separate leaflet, 'Choosing high quality childcare'.

Registration and inspection of pre-schools is arranged by your local authority. This means checks are carried out to ensure that the pre-school staff are suitable to look after children. At least half the staff must be trained to work with children. If the playgroup is providing early education it will also be inspected by OFSTED.

A check on the pre-school premises is carried out to make sure the building is safe and suitable for children. Once the pre-school is registered, every year an inspection is carried out to make sure the pre-school is continuing to provide a safe and suitable service.

There should be a set number of staff to work with the children. It is recommended that there is one member of staff for every eight children aged three to five and one adult for every four children aged two to three. However there will often be more adults if parents help out.

You can ask to see the pre-school's registration and inspection certificate.

How many children will there be in the pre-school?

Most pre-schools will provide places for between 10 to 20 children. There should be no more than 26 children in one room.

What age range are the children in a pre-school?

Children in pre-schools are usually aged between three and five but often there are places for two year olds as well.

When are pre-schools open?

Opening hours and session lengths vary. Children often attend for morning or afternoon sessions. Sometimes there will be two sessions a day five days a week and sometimes the pre-school just opens once or twice a week. Most pre-schools have the same term dates as local schools.

What about full-time childcare?

Some parents arrange for children to go to pre-school with a childminder or other childcarer. Some pre-schools are open all day to cater for the children of employed parents.

How much does a pre-school cost?

Pre-schools cost about £2 to £5 per session but many also provide free early education for three and four year olds funded by the Government.

How do I find a pre-school?

Nottinghamshire Children's Information Service can help you find information about pre-schools in your area. Call them on tel: 0300 500 80 80 or visit website: to search online.

Early learning goals

If your child is three or four and using a free part-time pre-school or early education place, staff will make sure your child is able to move towards the 'early learning goals' to give him or her a head start at school. These include learning about numbers, learning about reading and writing and learning to take care of him or herself, so that by the time they are nearly six and are entering Year 1 they can count to ten and know the alphabet.

Find out more about early education by calling the Children's Information Service on tel: 0300 500 80 80.

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