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Coronavirus | Updates, advice and resources for families and practitioners

Choosing a day nursery

The facts

  • A day nursery provides care and education for children under five years. Most nurseries include places for babies. Some also offer out-of-school care for five-to-eleven year olds.
  • Day nurseries may be privately run; organised by community or voluntary groups, or by the Council's Early Years Team as part of Children's Centres.
  • Opening times tend to coincide with a standard working day - 8.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays, 50 weeks of the year. Some nurseries are open for slightly longer hours. You can send your child full or part-time.
  • Your child should experience learning and development activities suitable for their age, which are based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

How can I be sure of good quality care?

Day nurseries are registered and inspected by OfSTED (Office for Standards in Education). Children are usually grouped together by age and looked after by carers according to the staff / children ratios that are part of the EYFS framework. Some of the day nursery staff will hold childcare qualifications and others may be working towards them. The numbers of children that nurseries are registered to care for varies - most are registered for between 30 and 50 children.

What will it cost me?

Fees vary. There is information about fees on the day nursery lists that you can get from Families Information Direct (FiND).

Is it for me?

  • My hours fit in with their opening times.
  • I need to know that there will always be someone to look after my child - if one carer is sick, another can cover.
  • I have emergency backup - children who are ill cannot attend day nursery.
  • I want my child to be around plenty of other children and to have access to different toys and equipment.
  • I want my child to be in an environment that is purpose-built for children.
  • I think my child is ready for new experiences.

Questions to ask your day nursery

  • What is the ratio of carers to children? Remember the rules: for under twos, it's three children per carer; for two-year-olds, four children per carer and older children, eight children per carer.
  • What is the daily routine?
  • Where will my child eat / play / nap?

Ask a member of staff to walk you around the nursery, room by room.

  • Is it clean, light and big enough?
  • Is there a safe and secure outdoor play area?
  • Are the children well supervised?
  • Do they look happy and purposeful?
  • Is there a lot going on?
  • Look for projects and drawings up on the walls. What about stimulating toys and books on show?
  • Will your child be taken off the premises? Ask for examples of where.
  • Are nutritious meals provided?
  • Do you keep a daily record of what children do each day?
  • Do you offer school pick-ups and out of school care? Some nurseries will do this.
  • Are there penalties if I'm late in picking up my child?
  • Are the security arrangements satisfactory?

Also remember...

  • Be certain the day nursery has places for your child's age group. Some don't take children under two.
  • Check that the nursery operates a key carer system - whereby each child is assigned to a particular member of staff. Ask to meet the staff who may be caring for your child.
  • Find out how much continuity of care there is. A rapid turnover of staff can be unsettling for your child.
  • Go back for a second 'viewing'. Do this at a different time of day to your first visit. Take your child with you to see how they get on with other children, staff and in the surroundings.
  • Talk to other parents who use the nursery - ask their views on the provision.
  • Ask to look at the OfSTED inspection report.

For a printed version of this leaflet please contact FiND.

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