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Nursery schools in the UK

All children in the UK go to nursery school. The British believe that pre-school education institutions provide everything necessary for a child’s full growth and development. This is helped by well-tested methods of teaching, education, proper nutrition and development of communication skills, adaptation to the outside world. How are British kindergartens organised? What are their peculiarities? These and other questions will be answered in our material.

Pre-school education in the UK

Usually children from 2-3 years of age are admitted to kindergartens. There are some kindrgartens that also accept children of a younger age. A child attends pre-school until the age of 5-6.

Whilst school places in the UK are only available where you live, you can choose a nursery school of your choice, wherever you live. To find the most suitable nursery school for you and your child, you should contact your local authority. Each of them has a department whose staff will help parents to choose a suitable kindergarten. Each municipality has its own website, where you can get detailed information about the kindergartens operating in this territory.

Another option is to search for a preschool using the internet. There are websites with complete information about preschools.

It is better to start looking for a free place in advance, as it may turn out that there are no places available at the moment. In this case, you can join the queue via the internet and wait for a place to become available. But one way or another, you will be given the opportunity to visit the pre-school without any objections, its staff will conduct a tour, familiarise you with the methods of teaching children. It is possible to discuss the details of payment on the spot.

When picking up a child, the parents will be asked to fill in a special questionnaire, where it will be necessary to indicate which parent has the right to pick up the child from the kindergarten and to attach a photo of the child to the questionnaire. There is also a secret code word, a password, which must be spoken if the child is to be taken away without prior notice.

Some time after completing the questionnaire, you will receive an invitation and a form of agreement for fostering services for your child.


Types of pre-school institutions

There are four types of pre-schools in Britain where parents can place their children:

  1. Pre-Nursery is a day nursery. These are groups with children up to the age of 3 years; you can also bring a three-month-old child to this group.
  2. This is a Nursery category kindergarten. This is for children from 3 to 5 years old. Since you can go to school as early as five years old in Britain, nursery schools are designed to prepare you for school.
  3. Children’s centres. They play the role of kindergartens, where children up to the age of 5 can be enrolled. If kindergartens work full-time, the centres offer classes at certain times. But the methodology of the classes is the same. Children’s centres offer play sessions, developmental lessons, foreign language lessons and educational games.
  4. Playgroups. These groups give parents the opportunity to be together with their child 3 to 4 days a week. Participants of such groups play together with their children, share their experience of raising children and news. These groups are more suitable for grandparents of children who have free time and want to spend more time with their grandchildren.

Full-service education centres are also very popular in England. This is a structure that includes Pre-Nursery, Nursery and an educational institution. Parents bring their child to the nursery school. He or she, moving to different age groups, but without changing the usual environment and location, starts school in the school operating within this structure. This format usually operates in boarding schools, which have a vast territory and are usually located outside the city in an environmentally favourable environment.

There is an alternative type of early childhood education in the UK. Many British people use nannies and childminders, as well as childminders for hire, and sometimes even just students who are willing to help with childcare for a fee and free accommodation.

But there is also a separate format that successfully competes with formal pre-schools in England. Childminders are people who use their own house or flat as a mini – day care centre. Such home day care centres are in high demand, as they are officially registered with the relevant state authorities and are regularly inspected for quality and conditions. These day care centres have separate rooms where up to 6-7 children can comfortably stay.

Professional childminders organise various contests, home holidays for their charges and strictly fill in a special journal, where they record the successes and achievements of each child on a daily basis. Such mini-kindergartens are convenient for working dads and mums. The child can be brought and picked up at a time convenient for parents.


Parents whose children have developmental disabilities can send them to a state pre-school or a private kindergarten. There are educators there who have experience and the necessary knowledge to work with special children with various deviations. Each child is allocated an assistant and is trained according to special methods and a separate timetable.

There are separate kindergartens for children with speech disorders. You can place your child in them on the basis of a referral from a speech therapist.

State-run nursery school in the UK

Public kindergartens, called “pre-school” or “playgroup”, are often located on school grounds and accept children from 2 to 5 years of age. Unlike private kindergartens, public kindergartens do not have a lot of resources, so many of them set up charitable organisations in order to raise the necessary funds to purchase educational items, equipment. Lunches are not provided for children in state-run kindergartens. If a child spends more than 3 hours in kindergarten, then they may be offered some fruit and buttered toast. Therefore, parents pack their children lunchboxes with food.

Children receive the necessary knowledge — this is the main goal of the staff. The educators strictly adhere to the training programmes developed by the state structures. The methodology includes a format of early learning for children from 2 to 5 years of age. Every week, according to the programme, the carers read fairy tales to the children, play together with them, do creative activities and go on nature trips.

A very big focus in kindergartens is on learning to communicate. The day in each kindergarten usually starts with the teachers gathering their children in a circle and starting a conversation. During the conversation, the carers answer the children’s questions in detail and make sure that the child understands everything from the explanations.

Attendance is compulsory. Non-attendance is only allowed if the child is ill. In such cases it is necessary to inform the management and submit a document confirming the illness after the visit to the polyclinic.

The big disadvantage of public sector pre-schools is that they do not work more than 5 hours a day, which is very inconvenient for parents who work full time. Public kindergartens do not operate during school holidays.


Private kindergartens

Private day care centres offer parents a very convenient working format. Thanks to their flexible working hours, young mothers do not have to be on maternity leave for a long time. And they work all year round, closing only on public holidays. The opening hours of most of them are not restricted as in public ones and they operate from 7 am to 7 or 8 pm. Children 3 to 6 months of age are kept in separate rooms called “baby rooms”, which are equipped with beds, special mats and toys.

Infant nutrition consists of mum’s milk or formula. Infants are also spoon-fed and allowed to eat on their own. Private day care centres strictly adhere to safety rules.

Children in private kindergartens are divided into two blocks. The first includes children from 2 to 3 years of age and the second includes children from 3 to 5 years of age. Each childminder takes care of four children.

From the age of 3, the children start preparing for school, so the carers have lessons with them. At the same time, children spend time playing games, walking in nature and sleeping in the daytime. Usually for daytime sleep in older groups, soft mattresses and mats are placed in the corner of the room for the child to sleep on.

Specific training

Many English people prefer to send their children to prestigious Montessori kindergartens. The main difference between these pre-schools is that natural conditions are created for children: children are supervised by adults to explore the environment on their own.

Thanks to the Montessori method, children develop better and acquire independence skills earlier than other children. The carers work on the basis of special methodological materials that actively contribute to the development of the child.

Forest kindergartens are also popular in the UK, with their own fundamentally different teaching methodology. Children spend the vast majority of their time in nature, namely in the forest. Children play with natural materials, build huts, learn about forest life, and come into direct contact with forest animals by observing their behaviour. Counting sticks for forest schoolchildren are tree branches and river stones, and they learn the alphabet by drawing letters in the sand with a stick.

Children in forest schools learn practical survival skills in the natural environment. They learn how to collect firewood, make fires, cook food over a fire, live and sleep in tents or in the open air on a hammock.

There are also kindergartens in England that specialise in learning foreign languages. Parents who want their child to learn two or more languages from childhood prefer this option.


While there are many different forms for all childcare settings, there are strict rules for government programmes. There are separate standards in Scotland and Wales, but one thing is consistent across the board – children must learn language, social interaction, maths, art, physical and spiritual development through play.


The costs of kindergartens make up a significant part of parents’ income. State structures help to compensate the costs of their citizens. For example, for a child aged 3 years or older, the state pays for 16 hours of pre-school care per week. Therefore, many parents choose a part-time pre-school or a childminder.

There is also a form of payment in England where the cost of childcare is reimbursed by income tax vouchers from parents’ wages.

In Montessori institutions, the fees are much higher. Five days in a day care centre in a less prestigious area of London will cost parents around £416. And the fee for a child over three years old will be £372.

The cost of five days for a child to stay at a woodland day care centre, such as one in the Highgate area of London, would be £340 for spring to autumn and £355 from autumn to spring.

On average, depending on location and neighbourhood, you need to pay between £6,000 and £15,000 a year for a nursery.

Day care fees are usually paid a month in advance. If your child is ill and away for a few days, the money paid for those days will not be refunded. But you may be asked to pay at least £5 for extra time if you do not collect your child on time. You will be paid for every 15 minutes of overtime.

Frequently asked questions on the topic of nurseries in the UK

What are the names of childcare centres in Britain?

In Britain, childcare centers vary widely in name and type. State-run preschools, specifically, are commonly known as “playgroups.” These playgroups typically cater to young children and provide early educational experiences in a structured play environment.

At what age can I enrol my child in kindergarten?

Families usually send their child to an early childhood education facility at the age of 2-3 years, but there are facilities that have infant care groups as well.

What do children in private kindergartens eat?

Meals for children in private day care centres are included in the fee. The menu in private institutions consists of vegetables, fruit, lamb, chicken, pizza. At the parents’ request, vegetarian dishes are included in the menu.

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