Pre-schools (also known as playgroups) provide early years education to under 5 year olds. They offer young children a chance to learn and play in small groups, often close to their home.
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 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 staff work with the children, and parents often help out. Pre-schools 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.
- 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
When can my child start pre-school? SHOW
Most pre-schools will look after your child between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years old.
Some will take 2-year-olds during term time only. They can offer morning or afternoon sessions lasting between two and a half to three hours. These are mostly non-profits run by a committee of volunteers.
Pre-schools registered to claim the early years free entitlement can offer early years free funded places to children the term following their third birthday, or second birthday if the child is eligible for a 2-year funded place.
How will I know my child will be safe and secure? SHOW
First of all, you know your child best, so look for a setting that you feel is suitable for your child.
Pre-schools 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 3 to 5
- One adult for every four children aged 2 to 3
How many children will there be? SHOW
Most pre-schools will provide places for between 10 and 35 children.
When will services be open? SHOW
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? SHOW
A number of pre-schools 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? SHOW
Pre-schools 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 5 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 a pre-school provide the early years 2-, 3- & 4-year funded places? SHOW
Pre-schools can provide 3- & 4-year-old funded places.
Pre-schools who have a 'Outstanding' or 'Good' Ofsted rating can offer 2-year-old funded places.
How does the funding system work for the free early years funded places? SHOW
The pre-school will be sent twice termly payments by Southampton City Council to provide free early years places to eligible children for up to a maximum of 15 hours per week. No charge is made for the free places, however if you exceed your free entitlement you will have to pay a fee for any additional services or time spent at the setting. This could include hours attended during the academic school holidays as the entitlement only covers children for a maximum of 38 weeks a year.
Do I need to register by a certain date for my child to access a Southampton free early years funded place? SHOW
Each term Southampton City Council will set a ‘head count’ day and children not attending any early years setting by that date may not be able to claim an early years funded place until the start of the following term. Please ask your chosen setting for dates of the head count days.
Can you help me choose a good childcare provider? SHOW
Although we cannot recommend a particular setting, the Family Information Service (FIS) looks to give you the information to make an informed decision.
The 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.
Where can I find a pre-school?
Search our database of childcare in Southampton or for childcare outside of Southampton, contact your local authority.