Choosing a Pre-School
What is a Pre-School / Playgroup?
Pre-schools / playgroups are for young
children to learn and play in small groups, often close to their
homes. Pre-schools / playgroups provide sessional care for children
aged 2½- 5 years (some pre-schools take from 2 years), sessions are
about two and half hours in a morning or afternoon during term
time. More and more pre-schools are now offering extended
sessions enabling parents to work.
Pre-schools / playgroups are often held in
church halls or community centres and are run by qualified
- your child can enjoy learning and playing
in a group setting
- your child may be able to access free
- you can meet and get to know parents in
It is important to plan ahead as some
pre-schools / playgroups have waiting lists.
Have a look at our
Family Services Directory for
a list of Ofsted registed pre-schools in Bedford Borough, or
call us on 0800 023 2057.
Most pre-school / playgroups are registered
with and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education
Ofsted registration requirements will specify
the number of children that are allowed to be on the premises at
any time and the ratio of staff to children. The minimum
ratios are as set out below:
Children aged 2 – 3
adult to every 4 children
Children aged 3 – 5
adult to every 8 children
Every registered pre-schools / playgroups has
an Ofsted registration certificate which indicates the maximum
number of children that can be cared for on the premises – their
registration certificate must be prominently displayed on the
Early Years Register
Registered pre-school / playgroups caring for
children aged from birth to 31 August following their fifth
birthday must register on the Early Years Register and deliver the
Early Years Foundation Stage – a framework for the delivery of
quality integrated care and education for children.
Pre-schools / playgroups caring for children
older than five years and under eight must register on the
compulsory part of the Childcare Register. This may be
because they run a holiday scheme or after school club.
Pre-schools / playgroups caring for children aged eight and above
may also choose to register on the voluntary part of the Childcare
Early Years Register
Ofsted inspects pre-schools /
playgroups on the Early Years Register at least once every three or
Following their inspection, Ofsted will give
them one of four grades:
||The provision is of exceptionally high
quality. The standard of care is excellent.
||The provision is strong. Children
are well cared for.
||The provision is sound. The standard
of care is acceptable.
|Inadequate Category 1
||The provision is weak. The standard
of care is not good enough.
|Inadequate Category 2
||The provision is poor and needs urgent
attention. The standard of care and/or early education is
Ofsted will also write a report
which will tell you about the quality of the childcare service
provided by the pre-school - what they do well and what needs to be
improved. You can ask the pre-school for a copy of their
Alternatively you can view a pre-school’s Ofsted
report at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxcare_providers/list,
you will need to ask the pre-school for their Ofsted Unique
Reference Number (URN) to view their report on the website.
If a day nursery is on both the Early Years
register and Childcare register, then Ofsted will check to see if
the pre-school is meeting the requirements for registration when
they undertake the early years inspection.
When you visit
Try to take notes as you go along, for
reference later. You must be your own judge of what is best for you
and your child, but the lists below may help guide you on points to
look for and what to ask.
Things to consider and questions to
- Ask to see the registration and insurance certificates.
- What is the age range of the children? Are the activities
suitable for those age groups?
- How much does each session cost? How often do you
pay? Some groups ask parents to pay half-termly, other pay
per session or weekly.
- Do I have to pay if my child is absent through sickness or
- Do the times of the sessions fit in with your
- Are you encouraged to visit before fixing a start date?
What help will be given to your child to settle?
- Does my child need to be toilet trained?
- What sessions are currently available?
- Is there a full range of stimulating play opportunities offered
at each session?
- Ask whether your child will have a key worker.
- What extended services do they offer i.e. lunchtime club,
before / after school care.
- Do the activities look interesting and inviting? Are there
opportunities for outside play?
General points to
- All young children need a variety of learning
experiences e.g. quiet times, noisy, messy play, creative and
imaginative play, outdoor activities and physical play.
- It is important that children are able to
move freely around activities and make choices. Are both boys and
girls encouraged to take part in all activities?
- Is the overall atmosphere one of enjoyment
- Are different cultures positively represented
in the toys, books and wall displays?
- Look at what happens between the adults and
the children. They need to be involved together in activities and
enjoy each others company.
- Make sure that the provision meets any
special needs your child may have and that it takes into account
your child’s age and cultural background.
- Will the staff set aside time to talk to you
about your child? Are you able to see any records kept about your
- You should sign an agreement with the
setting of your child but be certain you are happy with its
- It is a good idea to use the provision for a
trial period before making permanent arrangements.
When you feel happy with
everything, then go ahead.
Do you have a child with a disability or additional
Bedford Borough Council is committed to
ensuring that all childcare and early years settings in Bedford
Borough provide a service that includes all children. We
believe that every child has a right to a safe, stimulating and
inclusive environment to enable them to reach their full
potential. The Council offers funding to encourage, support
and enable childcare and early years settings to offer places to
children with a disability or additional needs. For further
information please telephone 0800 023 2057.
Fees and conditions
Pre-school / playgroup fees vary.
However, a 2½ hour session is somewhere in the region of £7.50 -
All three year olds qualify for Nursery
Education Funding from the term following their
3rd birthday until they start school. This means
that your child will attend their 2½ hour session for free (12½
hours per week).
Some three year olds may be entitled to 15
hours of free nursery education and some 2 year olds may be entitled to up to 10
hours of free nursery education. Please call Bedford Borough
Family Information Service for further information on 0800 023
Please refer to our leaflet Nursery
Education Funding (PDF document opens in new window) for more
Settling in your child
Once you have made your decision, settling in
will be easier for both you and your child if it is done
gradually. Ask the pre-school / playgroup about their
settling in policy.
The pre-school / playgroup staff will have a
lot of experience in settling children. Some children can be
upset at first - this is only natural - but with gentle reassurance
this phase will pass.
What to do if you are not happy with your
If you are not happy with the care that your
child is receiving and have spoken with the provider but are still
not satisfied with the outcome, then you can phone the Ofsted
Complaints Line on 08456 404040.
Ofsted will investigate any complaints about
providers and take enforcement action if providers do not meet the
required standards set.
All the above information is in our leaflet
Pre-School (PDF document opens in a new window).
Find out more
For a list of pre-schools / playgroups in your
area or further information please contact Bedford Borough Family
Information Service on the number below. Alternatively, you
can search online for pre-schools / playgroups at
Freephone 0800 023 2057
Lines open: Mon - Thurs 8am – 5.15pm, and
Fri 8am – 4.45pm. 24 hours answerphone service.
If you would like to speak to someone face to
face please call on the above number to arrange an appointment.