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.
Childcare and the Law
Most pre-schools / playgroups are
registered with and inspected by the Office for Standards in
Education (Ofsted) and their registration certificate must be
prominently displayed at the pre-school.
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 yrs - 1
adult to every 4 children
Children aged 3 – 5 yrs - 1
adult to every 8 children
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
- Ask to see the registration and insurance
- 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 family holidays?
- Do the times of the sessions fit in with
- Are you encouraged to visit before fixing
a start date? What help will be given to your child to
- Does my child need to be toilet
- What sessions are currently
- Is there a full range of stimulating play
opportunities offered at each session?
- Ask whether your child will have a key
- 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 consider
- All young children need a variety of
learning experiences e.g. quiet times, noisy, messy play, creative
and imaginative play, outdoor activities and physical
- 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
- 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 need?
The local authority is committed to
ensuring that all childcare and early years settings in Bedford
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
£5.50 - £6.50.
All 3 and 4 year olds are eligible to receive nursery education
funding until they reach compulsory school age. The funding is
not means tested - it is payable to children attending a private
day nursery, pre-school, children's centre, independent school or a
childminder that is registered through Ofsted and included on the
local authority's Directory of Providers to receive the
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 childcare
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 national standards set.
Find out more
For a list of pre-schools / playgroups
in your area please contact Bedford Borough Family Information
Freephone: 0800 023
If you would like to speak to someone
face to face please call Bedford Borough Family Information Service
on the above number to arrange an appointment.