Differences between nursery schools and day nurseries

Differences between nursery schools and day nurseries

I have worked in a day nursery and a school nursery and I can honestly say they both have advantages for the children who attend.  There are however, a number of differences between the two, and I think it is important to bear this in mind when you are choosing where to send your child.

The first thing to bear in mind is the practical issue of opening hours, and cost.  It is important to work out how much you can afford, and a major incentive to send a child to a school nursery is that the education grant for 3 and 4 year old children will cover the hours they are open.  If you are at home and reliant on this then it may be sensible to send your child to a school nursery although some nurseries will just accept vouchers, and not charge extra or just a small amount extra will cover extra hours.

If you are working you have to consider care outside the school hours, which may entail a childminder, or another parent who will pick up your child until you finish work.  Don’t forget there is a cost to this unless you can get a member of the family to help out.  Personally I have found that it never works to rely on family, because I felt that I was expecting too much, and often they had other things to do, so I had to make alternative arrangements.

The benefits to a day nursery are obviously in continuity, and the fact that your child can attend as many hours as it is open.  Charges are per day or session, so a wide range of hours are covered.  I used to find that it was a relief to think that they were safe in one place and not travelling in cars etc., not to mention having all meals and drinks that they needed.  Safety was a big issue with me, and I worried when I knew they were in cars or buses etc.,


The curriculum is based on the EYFS.   The Staff in nurseries have been trained in early years and early education, and the bonus is the ratios which nurseries have to apply.  In a day nursery the ratio is 1 staff-8 children whereas in a school nursery it is usually 2 staff -26 children.  I have also found that the environment is more homely in a nursery, whereas in a school it is more formal.  However you have to analyse what is best for your child, if they are in for short hours perhaps it is not such an issue.

One big difference I have noticed is that as a member of staff in a day nursery the parents had more opportunity to communicate with me on a daily basis, but in a school nursery this proved to be more difficult.

I do think that the children learn equally as well in both, but probably because of the better ratios if there are learning difficulties a day nursery may be the better option because the staff  have more help and time to concentrate on the child on a one to one basis.

Whatever your choice is, it probably is best to  think of the factors that are important to you and list them, and then base your decision on this.  I hope this helps, but the best advice I can give is explore all the options and then make a decision.

Do you have experiences of a day nursery or nursery school- share them below

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