Pre-school groups, also known as playgroups or sessional groups, provide play time and early education to under-fives. Groups which are open for two hours or more a day must be registered with Ofsted.
Most pre schools:
- will take children from two to five years old
- are open throughout the school year for morning or afternoon sessions lasting between two and a half to four hours
- are mostly non-profit making and run by a committee of volunteers
How can I apply for a place?
You can apply for a place by contacting the pre school directly. If you are applying for a funded childcare place you may have to register your child well in advance as many childcare providers operate waiting lists.
You can search for pre-school playgroups in your area in our Childcare finder.
What is the average fee?
The average cost for a morning or afternoon session can be in the region of £8 to £16. Fees are set by the individual pre school and can be charged at a daily, sessional or hourly rate.
You can check whether you may be eligible for help with childcare costs via the Childcare Choices website or by using the Childcare Calculator. These can give you an estimate of how much you could get depending on your family circumstances.
You can also find details of support available to help with childcare costs on our Paying for childcare web page.
What is the ratio of staff to children?
The statutory staffing requirements are:
- for two to three-year-olds - one member of staff for every four children
- for over three-year-olds - one member of staff for every eight children
Do they have any training?
All supervisors and managers must hold a full relevant level 3 qualification and half of all other staff must hold a minimum of a level 2 qualification. Some Early years professionals may also be Early Years Teachers, which is professional accreditation on the same level as a graduate.
Everyone within the pre school must attend a safeguarding training course and someone must take lead responsibility for safeguarding children. In addition, at least one person must have a current paediatric first aid certificate and all staff involved in preparing and handling food must receive training in food hygiene.
You can find further information about choosing, finding and paying for childcare in our Choosing childcare booklet.
Files available to download
Helping you choose childcare booklet (PDF)
Information for families about choosing, finding and paying for childcare
Checklist - nurseries and pre school playgroups (PDF)
Questions to ask and what to look out for when visiting a nursery or pre school playgroup