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Pre-schools and maintained nurseries


Pre-schools - also known as playgroups - offer young children the chance to learn and play in small groups, often close to their home. 'Maintained nurseries' are pre-schools run by schools. Pre-schools and maintained nurseries are registered with Ofsted and inspected regularly. All staff must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

All pre-schools and maintained nurseries provide free early education. Most pre-schools and maintained nurseries open for 2.5 hour sessions, but many now open for longer hours.

Pre-school and maintained nursery staff work with the children, and parents often help out. Pre-schools and maintained nurseries offer a range of stimulating activities for children, encouraging them to learn through play. They plan the children's learning opportunities on the basis of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, which prepares children aged 0-5 for Key Stage one in year one of school.

Many pre-schools are community groups managed by parent/carer voluntary committees. Parental involvement is both welcomed and encouraged and without it many groups would struggle to exist. Pre-schools meet in a variety of venues including church halls, community centres, scout huts and school sites. Maintained nurseries are run by the Local Education Authority and are based on a school site.

Plus Points

  • Your child is safe and can make new friends.
  • Your child can develop new skills and build greater confidence.
  • You can meet other parents and get to know your local community better.

Where can I find a pre-school?

Search our database of childcare in Southampton or call the Family Information Service on 023 8083 3014.

For childcare outside of Southampton, please contact your local authority.

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

First of all, you know your child best, so look for a setting that you feel is suitable for your child.

Pre-schools and maintained nurseries are registered with Ofsted and are inspected regularly. Inspection covers all aspects of the service including safety and the suitability and standard of the building. Most pre-school staff are trained to work with children or are undergoing training. There should be:

  • one member of staff for every eight children aged three to five
  • one adult for every four children aged two to three.

How many children will there be?

Most pre-schools will provide places for between 10 and 35 children.

What age range of children will be there?

Pre-school or maintained nursery children are usually aged between three and five, but often there are places for two-year-olds as well.

When will services be open?

Pre-schools are usually open during school term time. Most offer sessions of three hours, either every day or on several days during the week.

Can pre-schools offer full-time childcare?

A number of pre-schools and maintained nurseries are developing their services to offer longer sessions or full time day-care. Some parents choose to arrange for their childminder to take their children to pre-school or maintained nurseries; others may choose to use other types of daycare, e.g. a day nursery.

How much will it cost?

Pre-schools and maintained nurseries provide early years education and are registered to receive Nursery Education Funding. This means they will receive a grant which covers the cost of up to five three hour sessions a week. All children are entitled to this from the term after their third birthday. Pre-school charges range from around £4.50 - £6.50 per session for children who start before this or children who attend for additional hours.

Can you help me choose a good childcare provider?

Although we cannot recommend a particular setting, the Family Information Service (FIS) seeks to supply sufficient information to enable you to make an informed decision.

This directory holds lists of providers in Southampton and information to enable you to make an informed decision. We can advise you on the types of childcare that may be appropriate for your lifestyle or individual needs.

However, it is your responsibility as parent or carer to choose the most suitable childcare for your circumstances. It is important to visit some settings before you make a decision.

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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this directory, we do not accept any responsibility or liability for any errors that have occurred. It is recommended that you always check with providers that their service or organisation meets your requirements. We offer an impartial service and we cannot recommend or endorse any providers listed.

Further information