Link to the homepage.

Nursery Schools

Nursery Schools FAQ

What is a nursery school?

In the UK, a nursery school is a school for children aged three and four. Nursery schools have a head teacher and trained teachers who help your child learn through educational play.

Although it may look like the time your child spends at nursery school is spent mostly on play, nursery school activities are designed to help your child learn and to prepare him or her for primary school.

What qualifications must nursery school staff in the UK have?

To work as a nursery school teacher in the UK, teachers must have certain qualifications. These include NNEB, NVQ 3, BTEC in Nursery Nursing, GNVQ 4, or Advanced GNVQ. If you're not sure what these acronyms mean, don't worry. NNEB means "National Nursery Examination Board". NVQ is "National Vocational Qualification", BTEC is "Business and Technology Education Council" and GNVQ is "General National Vocational Qualification."

A nursery school teacher in the UK with any of these qualifications understands early childhood development and will be able to create a safe and educational nursery school experience for your child.

How can I tell if a nursery school is reputable?

The best way to tell not only if a nursery school is professionally run but also the right fit for your child is to visit the school. If you contact a nursery school in advance and express your interest in dropping by for a visit, most will be happy to arrange a tour for you at a time that won't disrupt school operations for their current students.

By visiting a school you can get a sense of the school's and head teacher's teaching philosophy and make a better decision about the school's appropriateness for your child. Of course, it is also a wise idea to ask friends or family with older children what nursery schools they chose and what their experiences were.

Must I pay for nursery school tuition myself, or will the government pay for it?

In the UK, children around three years of age are generally entitled to a certain number of hours of free nursery school tuition. The exact age from when this entitlement begins and the exact number of hours vary by region.

In England, a child may receive five free 2 and a half hour sessions a week at nursery school starting in the school term after the child's third birthday (in some counties it is actually five three hour sessions).

Children in Wales between three and four may receive free half-time nursery school tuition. Children in Wales between four and five may receipt full time tuition.

In Scotland, children who have reached their third birthday may take up a free place in nursery school for two years. Nursery school is not compulsory, so even if your child is entitled to a place, you are not obligated to take it.

Of course, you should check with your local council for specific information about nursery school options and funding in your area.

Is nursery school good for my child?

Several academic studies have shown that attending nursery school helps children succeed in primary and secondary education, and in the long-term. Since toddlers and young children absorb information at an astounding rate, attending a nursery school with a well-planned curriculum and trained teachers can set a child up for a lifetime of productive learning.

This doesn't meant that children who don't attend nursery school will struggle in later education, but the evidence does suggest that nursery school is a smart investment in your child's future.

I'm worried that my child may not be ready for nursery school. How can I prepare him/her for the experience?

Children need reliable routines to feel safe and stable, and shifting from spending every day at home with parents or familiar caregivers to attending nursery school with strangers can be quite stressful for some children.

Of course, other children take to nursery school right away and have no problems. Every child is different, but if you're worried that your child's personality may cause him or her to feel stress upon entering nursery school, there are some steps you can take to help him or her prepare.

First, talk to your child about nursery school. Let him know what to expect during the day, or perhaps take him for a walk past the nursery school to watch children playing happily in the school's garden. If he has older friends or family members he looks up to who have attended nursery school, mention that.

Talk to him about the activities he likes to do, and point out that in nursery school he will have many new playmates to share these activities with.