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Preschool education

What's the difference between nursery and pre-school?

28 replies

theminxy1 · 25/03/2009 15:25

I think I am being a bit stupid about this - my nearly 3yo dd is at nursery 2 days a week. She really loves it and is very happy there. So why does everyone keep asking me when she is starting pre-school and looking at me like I am mad when I say she isn't!?!

I thought pre-school was basically the same as nursery just (probably) attached to a school? The nursery she is at offers the 12.5 free hours for 3+ year olds so I can't see why I should move her when she is settled.

Am really confused - help!!

OP posts:

ruddynorah · 25/03/2009 15:36

yes the difference is pre school is usually attached to a school and is only open for the sessions, not 7-7 or whatever your nursery is open. pre schools are sometimes attached to a church or community centre, then they are normally called 'playgroup.'

pre schools operate differently because the children all arrive together and leave together so can be more structured. still lots of play but maybe more structured time as well. in a nursery it isn't normally like that as children come and go at various times. though of course they can still have structured time.

dd will stay at her nursery for 'pre school.' they just call the 3-5 yr old room the pre school room. and i gather they try to do a bit more 'project' work. primary schools near us don't have pre schools attached.


misshardbroom · 25/03/2009 22:05

agree with all ruddynorah said.

If your dd is happy and settled then I wouldn't change anything. There's maybe some argument to say that going to a local preschool will help her meet children she'll be in reception with, but I wouldn't get too hung up on that. My dd went into school knowing nobody, and it's not been any kind of a problem. Also, in preschools that offer fewer than 5 sessions, there's no guarantee they would be in the same sessions as future classmates anyway.


Plonker · 26/03/2009 13:08

If your daughter is happy and settled then I wouldn't move her - both the nursery and pre-school will follow the same curriculum (EYFS) anyway so although it will be delivered slightly differently, it won't be poles apart.

One thing to bear in mind though is that your dd probably won't be able to access her 12.5 hours across just two days, so she will probably only get 10 hrs (4 out of 5 sessions) at the nursery.
There are variations between LA's though, so worth checking it out ...


Ripeberry · 26/03/2009 14:54

Pre-schools are usually MUCH cheaper than nurseries if you are getting nursery education payments.
BUT, for that low cost you are expected to help out as a parent helper at least once a term and you are expected to help with fundraising and maybe even go on the committee.
We have lots of parents who basically don't do any of that but still expect to pay peanuts for their childcare.
I just think that if parents in the future take even less interest in running pre-schools and helping out then everyone will end up paying LOTS more for childcare.
The way they are run (as a charity) is just not working anymore


theminxy1 · 26/03/2009 22:17

Thanks all for the no longer confused!!

OP posts:

mrz · 29/03/2009 14:26

As a reception teacher I am "confused" by the posts... usually schools have nursery classes attached NOT pre schools which were originally called play school/group but changed their name to emphasis the "educational" value of their role. Often pre schools are staffed by volunteers along side paid staff. Nurseries can be private day care or nursery schools/classes very different experiences. Nursery schools/classes have a qualified teacher in charge while "Day" nurseries are run by a manager who is usually a trained nursery nurse.


ruddynorah · 30/03/2009 13:43

mrz- where i am 'playgroup' is usually in a church hall. 'preschool' is usually attached to a primary school and the preschoolers wear the school logo jumper and attend mornings or afternoons. 'nurseries' are private daycare which will normally offer preschool sessions.

soemetimes people will ask if dd is starting 'nursery' soon. these tend to be older people. i explain she is already at a nursery, and will soon be in the preschool room as she is turning 3.


mrz · 30/03/2009 17:25

Nursery classes and Nursery schools don't offer childcare

other forms are childcare with some education offered

Your childcare options include:

  • Sure Start Children's Centres - offer early learning, childcare, health advice and family support for families with children up to age five
    crèches - provide occasional care for children under eight
    toddler groups - informal groups of parents and carers that meet locally with their children on a regular basis, usually including children who are under five
    pre-schools and playgroups - provide play time and often early education to under fives
    day nurseries - provide care for children from birth to four or five and beyond, often integrated with early education and other services
  • out-of-school or 'kids' clubs - offer school-aged children a safe and stimulating environment in which they can play and learn outside of school hours
  • childminders - usually look after children under 12 in the childminder's own home and often collect school-aged children from a nearby school
  • nannies - provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age

ruddynorah · 30/03/2009 18:03

erm well yes. but the OP was actually asking the difference between the nursery her dd is currently at (daycare) and the option of a preschool (which she suggested was attached to a school).


mrz · 30/03/2009 18:25

In my area the difference would be that pre school is childcare and nursery is education which doesn't seem to be what other posters are saying.


ellingwoman · 30/03/2009 18:40

Agree with mrz. Pre-schools are separate entities here and children who attend day nurseries wouldn't leave to go to one. They used to be called play-groups but now are more formalised with the advent of the EYFS that they all have to adhere to.

Our schools have nurseries attached and offer 5 half-day sessions. Children wear the uniform and take part in some school activities. Children at day nurseries often leave at this point to attend the school nursery. But that is purely a parental choice.

Are you keeping up OP?


purepurple · 30/03/2009 18:46

but mrz, the distinction between "care" and "education" is very blurred and becoming more so with the introduction of the EYFS

we are now in the phase of "educare"

many schools offer breakfast and after school clubs, is that not "care"?

and nurseries attached to schools now offer longer days with the advent of wrap-around care too


mrz · 30/03/2009 19:14

We've always offered "care" in the sense that pupils welfare is important but as a teacher I don't want to become a "carer" when I spent so many years training to teach. Can you tell I'm not a fan of EYFS?


purepurple · 30/03/2009 19:18

I am a "carer" now undertaking additional training to be a "teacher"
can you not do the same?
I love the EYFS!!!!!!


mrz · 30/03/2009 19:45

I'm a teacher with a MA is Early Childhood Education so I think I have the training in hand plus many years experience of working in EY.
EYFS has given schools a "day care" curriculum" with none of the benefits of a staffing ratio to match it. Can you care for 30 children on your own everyday? Would you like to try?


Plonker · 30/03/2009 21:48

"Nursery classes and Nursery schools don't offer childcare"

In the light of 'Extended Services' a great many nurseries (that are attached to a primary school) are offering breakfast club, lunch club, after school club or indeed full wrap-around care. Many certainly offer childcare.

I agree with purepurple, whether you like it or not agree or not, the govt are moving away from separate 'care' and 'education' and are moving towards integrated care and education for the under 5's.


mrz · 31/03/2009 07:42

I suspect many parents aren't going to be too pleased that teachers haven't time to teach their child to read and write because they are busy changing nappies and preparing food ...


hotcrosspurepurple · 31/03/2009 07:52

maybe they shouldn't be learning to read and write in reception anyway

You only have to look at countries like Sweden to see how they do it and the success they have with their curriculum (or should I say lack of) for early years

I hope the introduction of thr EYFS is the beginning of pressure up from the early years instead of pressuse down from KS1.
I think the EYFS should be extended until the end of KS1.


ruddynorah · 31/03/2009 09:11

mrz why would you be preparing food? that's what the catering staff do surely? and besides, the pre schoolers tend to only do morning or afternoon, so no food anyway.

and re. the nappies. i gather most preschools that aren't part of a private nursery would ring a parent if a nappy was particularly messy, or would just leave a wet one seeings as the session is only 2.5-3hrs long. parents seem to understand this and aim to get their child toilet trained by the time they start pre school.

and it's rare the whole class would just have one teacher. they tend to have an assistant too. but yes, not the same as a 1-8 ratio at a nursery for 3-5 year olds.


Plonker · 31/03/2009 16:45

I guess we all have our own opinions as to whether reading and writing should be taught formally to the under 5's anyway ...

I don't think that teachers' valuable time would be taken up with changing nappies and preparing food, although I'm not a teacher, and will certainly stand corrected if any teachers come along to tell me that this is indeed the case.


mrz · 31/03/2009 17:40

I have 5 year olds arriving in reception who are not toilet trained and a class of 30 children. Reception children are eligible for free fruit and milk so someone has to prepare snack ...
There are also jobs like cleaning toilets at lunchtime mopping up water from the drinks dispenser at all times of the day and changing children who get wet and muddy outdoors even with 2 adults to 30 children it is far different to "care" with a ratio of 1-8 ...

Take a look at EYFS end of stage profile children are "judged" on 113 scale points including whether they can read and write ...

"communicates meaning through phrase and simple sentences with some consistency in punctuation" and "Reads books of own choice with some fluency and accuracy" and "uses knowledge of letters/sounds/words when reading and writing independently"

We've got a curriculum that contradicts itself and a system that thinks teachers grow additional hands when they gain QTS.

Plonker I am a teacher and I can tell you I have changed 3 children already this week with toileting accidents I've changed another 2 who soaked each other in the water tray today (being silly) and it's still only Tuesday!


Plonker · 31/03/2009 23:28

Toileting accidents are not the same as changing nappies. Accidents will happen and I don't think whether we have integrated education and care or just education makes any difference to that.

IMHumbleO as a parent, I couldn't care less whether my child is "judged" to be adequate in reading and writing in reception, but I do care whether or not my child is happy and secure and enjoying school. If they are the latter then I fully believe that the former will come. JMHO.


mrz · 01/04/2009 07:47

These aren't toileting "accidents" these children wear nappies at home!
In September parents asked if I wanted their child to wear nappies at school as they weren't "toilet trained" ... I don't have a problem about accidents although leaving 29 children sitting while you go to change wet or dirty pants isn't ideal but when children arrive still wearing nappies and are put back into nappies after school, at weekends and holidays so no matter how hard we try they regress is something else.


ruddynorah · 01/04/2009 09:54

mrz i thought you were talking about pre school classes not reception. i gather you don't handle a class of 30 3 year olds.


Plonker · 01/04/2009 14:42

But maybe there is a medical reason for the lack of toilet training/accidents? Anyway, surely that's beside the point - these accidents (or whatever you'd like me to call them) would still happen, with or without the EYFS, no?

Jeez I sond like a manic fan of the EYFS, lol, I'm really not, I just don't think that intergrating care and education for the under 5's is a bad thing.

The pre-school that I chose for my daughter, I chose because it is firstly (and foremostly to me) a wonderfully caring environment whereby if a child falls over, they are scooped up by someone who cares and hugged till they stop crying. The fact that my daughter thrived there is (IMHO) down to the fact that they took the time to find out what made her tick, took the time to learn her interests and really cared about her. The education bit just followed on.

I do stress though, that I say all this as a parent not as a practitioner

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