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Benefits of private nurseries vs school nurseries

Like many other parents and guardians, you may already attend a day nursery, like Ducklings Preschool. You may also be aware that when children reach the age of 3 and above most primary schools offer a pre-school service. With that in mind, you may now be questioning what are the differences between the preschool you are already attending, and that offered by your local primary school?

We’d love to provide a brief insight into these differences, to help you make your decision.

“Will my child experience a better learning environment at school nursery or not?”

Firstly, and potentially the most vital thing to understand is that all nurseries and pre-schools, regardless of whether they’re privately owned or part of a school, must follow the SAME curriculum – The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). To find out more about EYFS, click here; EYFS: What does it stand for?

In brief, the EYFS is the statutory framework and standards for care, education, and child development.

The main difference between privately owned and school preschools is the way EYFS is delivered. Firstly, in terms of the child-to-staff ratio; Privately owned preschools (like Ducklings Preschool) have to follow the 1:8 staff-to-child ratio, for children aged 3 and older. However, preschools that are part of schools have to follow the 1:13 ratio - That would mean 26 children with only two adults to supervise, observe, and promote learning! Private preschools, like Ducklings Preschool, have almost twice as many qualified adults as most school preschools, which gives your child a more personalised and nurturing experience.

Another difference is the various types of ethos that different preschools will adopt. For example, schools are likely to take a very formal approach, following topic-led teaching, which might not be of interest to your child, meaning they'll be less likely to get involved and enjoy learning. However, privately owned preschools like Ducklings preschool follow a more child-centred ethos, where our sessions are based on the child's individual interests and needs. Our staff are trained to support ongoing development and offer educational activities that promote progression and learning through play-based learning.

"What about having a key person?"

At privately owned preschools, like Ducklings preschool, your child will be paired with a qualified member of staff. This 'key person will perform observations and is someone your child will feel comfortable around and will be your contact throughout your time at nursery/preschool with us.

Unfortunately, school preschools have no such scheme in place - and with only one adult for every 13 children, it's questionable whether they can provide that personal level of attention and assistance.

“Would I be guaranteed a primary school place if I send my child to a school’s nursery?”

Unfortunately, no. This is a common misconception – that children who attend a school nursery will gain automatic entry to the attached primary school when their child starts reception. This is due to local authorities making decisions on which school children attend – and where your child currently attends does not weigh their decision. Local authorities can only consider your preferred choice when submitting your application.

“Would my funding entitlement at school nursery be the same? Can I still use it?”

Both privately owned nurseries and school nurseries receive funding for the same hours and age groups. However, each offers the funding differently. What exactly does that mean?

School nurseries often provide two sessions only, morning and afternoon, which are usually 3 hours long, to comply with the school opening hours. Although the sessions may be useful, if you work full-time, you may need to find cover for the lunch hour in between, or at the end of the school day, depending on the school's nursery hours. Furthermore, check on the school nursery requirements during term breaks and holiday dates. Typically, private nurseries are much more flexible when it comes to hours and funding. Furthermore, Ducklings Preschool allows parents or guardians to combine funding entitlements with paid sessions!

If you have any more questions regarding finances, please call us at 01772 356709 or email us at

Due to all of this, we advise parents to carefully consider moving their child to a school nursery, and whether they will move their children away from their current preschool for the right reasons. We want all children to feel comfortable and happy when arriving at nursery, so if you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us.

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