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Choosing a Day Nursery

What is a Day Nursery?

Day nurseries offer care for children under five years old, however not all nurseries have the facility to take babies.  They provide fun and learning opportunities on a full or part-time basis and are usually open all year. 

There are different kinds of day nurseries – private, community, local authority or workplace.  The size and facilities they provide may vary.


Plus points 

  • your child may be able to access free nursery education
  • a nursery is open for a full day enabling parents to work
  • your child will be with a team of professional staff trained in childcare


It is important to plan ahead as some care providers have waiting lists.  Searching for the right childcare setting will take some time and thought.  Try to give yourself plenty of time to visit and choose a childcare setting.


Have a look at our Early Help Directory for a list of Ofsted registered day nurseries in Bedford Borough, or call us on 0800 023 2057.



All nurseries must be registered with and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

Ofsted registration requirements will specify the number of children that are allowed to be on the premises at any time and the ratio of staff to children.  The minimum ratios are as set out below:


Children aged 0 – 2 yrs           -           1 adult to every 3 children

Children aged 2 – 3 yrs           -           1 adult to every 4 children

Children aged 3 – 5 yrs           -           1 adult to every 8 children

In nursery classes for 3-5 year olds where a qualified graduate is employed the ratio is 1 adult to every 13 children.


Every registered day nursery has an Ofsted registration certificate which indicates the maximum number of children that can be cared for on the premises – their registration certificate must be prominently displayed within the nursery.


Early Years Register

Registered day nurseries caring for children aged from birth to 31 August following their fifth birthday must register on the Early Years Register and deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage – a framework for the delivery of quality integrated care and education for children.


Childcare Register

Day nurseries caring for children older than five years and under eight must register on the compulsory part of the Childcare Register.  This may be because they run a holiday scheme or after school club.  Day nurseries caring for children aged eight and above may also choose to register on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.



Early Years Register

Ofsted inspects day nurseries on the Early Years Register least once every three or four years.


Following their inspection, Ofsted will give them one of four grades:

Ofsted Grading Meaning
Outstanding The setting’s practice consistently reflects the highest aspirations for all children’s safety, well-being and learning. It enables them to make excellent progress in relation to their starting points and prepares them extremely well for school or the next stage in their learning.
Good The setting’s practice keeps children safe and enables all children to do well, make good progress relative to their starting points and prepares them well for school or the next stage of their learning. Children benefit from practice that is at least good and sometimes outstanding.
Satisfactory The setting’s practice is not good enough because one or more key aspects of its work require improvement to be good. Children do not make good progress in their learning and development. Leadership and management demonstrate sufficient ability to identify and make required improvements.
Inadequate Overall effectiveness is likely to be inadequate if any of the key judgements are inadequate; and/or
There are breaches of statutory requirements which have a significant impact on the safety and well-being, and/or the learning and development of children; and/or
It is a nursery or pre-school which has been judged as ‘requires improvement ‘at two consecutive inspections and is still not ‘good ‘at its third inspection.


Ofsted will also write a report which will tell you about the quality of the childcare service provided by the day nursery - what they do well and what needs to be improved.  You can ask the day nursery for a copy of their inspection report.

Alternatively you can view a day nursery’s Ofsted report at  http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/, you will need their Ofsted Unique Reference Number (URN) to view their report on the website.


Childcare Register

If a day nursery is on both the Early Years register and Childcare register, then Ofsted will check to see if the day nursery is meeting the requirements for registration when they undertake the early years inspection.


When you visit

Try to take notes as you go along, for reference later. You must be your own judge of what is best for you and your child, but the lists below may help guide you on points to look for and what to ask.


Things to consider and questions to ask

  • Visit the nursery with your child.  Are you made welcome?  Are the staff well presented, happy, calm and confident?
  • Discuss the policies on such things as behaviour management and diet.  What are the emergency procedures? 
  • Ask about staff qualifications and about staffing ratios.
  • Will they keep a diary of your child’s day?
  • Do the children in the nursery look happy and well occupied?  Are the staff involved with the children?
  • Consider the accommodation.  Is it attractive, clean and well organised?  Is there a safe outside play area?  Is the equipment of good quality, safe and appropriate?


General points to consider

  • All young children need a variety of learning experiences e.g. quiet times, noisy, messy play, creative and imaginative play, outdoor activities and physical play.
  • It is important that for most of the day children are able to move freely around activities and make choices. Are both boys and girls encouraged to take part in all activities?
  • In group care, all children need to receive some individual attention. This is especially important for babies and toddlers.  Ask whether young children will have their own key worker.
  • Are different cultures positively represented in the toys, books and wall displays?
  • Look at what happens between the adults and the children. They need to be involved together in activities and enjoy each others company.
  • Make sure that the provision meets any special needs your child may have and that it takes into account your child’s age and cultural background.
  • Will the staff set aside time to talk to you about your child? Are you able to see any records kept about your child?
  • You should sign an agreement with the carer of your child but be certain you are happy with its contents.
  • It is a good idea to use the provision for a trial period before making permanent arrangements.


You may find it helpful to visit more than one day nursery.  When you feel happy with everything then go ahead


Do you have a child with a disability or additional need?

Bedford Borough Council is committed to ensuring that all childcare and early years settings in Bedford Borough provide a service that includes all children.  We believe that every child has a right to a safe, stimulating and inclusive environment to enable them to reach their full potential.  The Council offers funding to encourage, support and enable childcare and early years settings to offer places to children with a disability or additional needs.  For further information please telephone 0800 023 2057.


Fees and conditions

Nursery fees vary.  However, a full time place for a child under 2 years is in the region of £180  a week.  You will need to ask about the following and whether they are included in the fees, e.g. meals, nappies, outings; also about holiday and sickness retainers. Most nurseries will expect payment in advance. You may also be asked to pay a registration fee for your child. 

You maybe entitled to some help with your childcare costs, please contact the Family Information Service on 0800 023 2057 for more information.


Settling in your child

Once you have made your decision, settling in will be easier for both you and your child if it is done gradually.  Ask the nursery about their settling in policy.   


The nursery staff will have a lot of experience in settling children.  Some children can be upset at first - this is only natural - but with gentle reassurance this phase will pass.


What to do if you are not happy with your childcare

If you are not happy with the care that your child is receiving and have spoken with your carer but are still not satisfied with the outcome, then you can phone the Ofsted Complaints Line on 0300 123 4666.

Ofsted will investigate any complaints about providers and take enforcement action if providers do not meet the required standards set.


Find out more

For a list of day nurseries in your area or further information please contact Bedford Borough Family Information Service on the number below.  Alternatively, you can search online for day nurseries on our Early Help Directory Freephone 0800 023 2057

Lines open: Mon - Thurs 8am – 5.15pm, and Fri 8am – 4.45pm. 24 hours answerphone service.

If you would like to speak to someone face to face please call on the above number to arrange an appointment.


Email: fis@bedford.gov.uk

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