a group of small nursery school children sitting on floor

Preschool Education in the UK

Though the state school system in the United Kingdom begins at the age of five, working parents can enroll their children in preschool education. Preschool education in the UK is provided by numerous educational institutions, such as childcare centers, playgroups, nursery schools and nursery classes within primary schools. Preschools are working from Monday to Friday, generally from 7 am to 6 pm, allowing parents work a full day. The main aim of preschool education is to develop child’s grasp of the language, numbers, and colors, as well as to provide them with early childhood interaction.

History of Preschool Education in the UK

In the 19th century, with the growth of the Industrial Revolution and numbers of factories opened because of it, the nursery school movement began. As mothers were expected to work, there was a need to provide young children with care. So in 1816, the first nursery school was opened. It provided care and education for the young children of cotton mill workers. It is worth to mention that first nursery schools were privately run.

In 1870, mandatory education for children who reached the age of 5 was introduced. With the course of time, there has been a notable increase in demand for preschool provision as the society changed rapidly. There was an increase in dual income families, single parents, teen parents.

Preschool Education Today

Though preschool education for children under 5 is not compulsory, it is very popular in the UK. In 1998, a government scheme that makes provision for part-time, ‘early years’ education for children who reached the age of 4 was introduced.

Children in the UK can attend preschools for three two-and-a-half hour sessions a week at a registered play scheme or school of the parents’ choice. It is worth to mention that the provision of preschool education in the UK is considered to be the lowest in Europe. In comparison to the UK, 95% of children in such countries as Belgium and France attend nursery schools. Children from the age of 3 to 5 can attend local state nursery schools, nursery schools attached to primary schools or registered play schemes.

Tough Local Education authority states that nursery schools are not mandatory, it must ensure that there are free places at play schemes if there aren’t enough state nursery schools.

Generally, nursery education in the UK can be provided on a first-come, first served basis. Furthermore, parents can choose from a variety of preschools and apply for a number of preschool educational institutions as they have no catchment area. Nevertheless, most parents in the UK prefer to focus on state nursery schools attached to primary schools to ensure that their child will have a place in the primary school later. It is wise to register a child as soon as possible.

The Cost of Preschool Education

If you are unable to enroll your child in a state-aided nursery school, you will have to pay for the attendance. The cost of private nursery schools varies. Generally, it is ranged from £50 a week to £15,000 a year. In average, a short-term at preschool that includes 25 hours of attendance will cost you about £100.

There are many preschools in the UK that accept children from the age of 2. Just note that if you want your child to be enrolled in such early education, it is required that your child has to be toilet trained. Also, note that if you want your child to be enrolled in all day nursery school, a packed lunch provided by the school is required and it will cost you some extra money.

There are about 800 nursery schools in the UK that use the world-famous Montessori method of teaching. Some of them allow you to choose from a number of morning or afternoon sessions.

Advantages of Attending Preschool

Though preschools such as playgrounds generally do not provide children with education and are focused on educational games, statistic shows that children who attend play schools are generally brighter and usually progress much faster when school begins than those who do not.

Nursery schools are highly recommended for families with children who came from overseas and do not use the English language at home. In this case, attending a nursery school will help your child to assimilate faster, to integrate into the local community and to get prepared to primary school.