Different types of early years education explained

November 19

“What is Early Education and what are the different types available?”

I often have parents visit our Pre-School saying that they are very confused about what the differences are between Nursery, Pre-School, Playgroups, Childminders, Day Nurseries etc – I can sympathise entirely, as especially for a first time parent, the system is very confusing.    I hope this information gives a little more insight into the choices that are available to parents. 

All OFSTED registered early years settings follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – depending on each child’s age and abilities will depend on the activities that are provided for them and the age band of the EYFS that they are placed in.     Therefore, whatever type of setting you choose for your child, they will be following the same curriculum, albeit in a different style or format.      

Toddler Groups(or sometimes called Playgroups) are the first thing that parents/carers can go to with their child.   These groups are normally run once or twice a week in a hall and are for children from birth up to school age.   Parents/carers stay with their child and there are lots of activities for them to take part in as well as being a social time for new parents to get to know each other.   Toddler groups are not registered with OFSTED and do not need to follow a curriculum – parents are responsible for their own child. 

ChildmindersChildminders are childcare professionals who offer a home from home environment. They usually care for children of all ages together in their own home. From tiny babies through to Secondary school age; children learn and play together. Childminders follow the same Early Years Foundation Stage as nurseries and pre-school but usually with smaller numbers. They also provide wraparound care for school age children meaning a child can be with the same provider throughout their early years. Childminders work closely with parents and other providers to ensure continuation of care for all children

Pre-Schools (formally known as Playgroups) are for children from the age of 2 up to Nursery or Reception age.     Pre-Schools run in line with local school terms and times therefore are often referred to as sessional.      

There is probably the most variety in the way Pre-Schools are set up and run as there is no fixed format that has to be followed for session times etc.   They may have more than one room for their different age groups or mix 2, 3 & 4 year olds together.    They can be run as pack-away settings or have their own premises, be businesses or committee run.     

Pre-Schools will often offer flexibility in the amount of sessions that parents take (often from 1 or 2 per week up to full time).   Parents can pay for sessions and then Government funding can be used when the child is eligible.    Pre-Schools are run by qualified Early Years Practitioners and run to a ratio of 1-4 for under 3’s and 1-8 for over 3s.  

Day Nurseries– were originally for working parents as they are open all year around and for longer days (often from 7am-6pm).   Day Nurseries will often take children from small babies up to school age and they are often separated into age related rooms.     Day Nurseries are often large business chains or sometimes independently run and have their own premises. 

School Nurseryin Hertfordshire, most schools have a Nursery attached to the school.    These are run by a teacher and can therefore have a ratio of 1-13.  Children can join School Nursery in the year in which they turn 4 (if your child is a Summer born child however, they could be in School Nursery from just turned 3).    Most school Nurseries will expect children to attend for the full 15 hours per week, often each morning or afternoon.   Some school Nurseries are now accommodating children on the 30 hour scheme. 

Parent’s Choice - Lots of parents are now choosing to keep their children in Pre-School rather than sending them to School Nursery because of the flexibility – i.e. 15 hours can be taken over 2/3 days rather than every morning and unless you have a sibling link, there is no guarantee that the child will follow through from the Nursery to the Reception class. 

We are very lucky in Hertfordshire that we have a wide choice and variety of settings that parents can choose from that suit their requirements.     Children can go to more than one setting i.e. Childminder and Pre-School and funding can be split across settings to give extra flexibility for parents. 

I would recommend ringing and visiting settings to get a feel for each individual place and to find out what they can individually offer for your child and family.  

Written by 

Jean Palfreman

Early Years Manager 

Thorley Pre-School 

(OFSTED Outstanding Pre-School in Bishop’s Stortford) 




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