The Difference Between Nursery and Pre-School

Often parents can think that nursery and preschool are the same things. However, whilst they share some similarities, they both provide varied approaches to setting your child up for school. 

As a parent or carer, it’s only natural that you want to ensure that your child is placed at the right childcare establishment in terms of education and development opportunities.

So, what is the difference between nursery and pre-school?

What is Pre-School?

Whilst children in the UK join the education system at age 5, pre-schools provide parents with the option to prepare their children for the education system before going into ‘reception’.

Pre-schools tend to accept children from age 2-5.

At pre-school, teachers follow a set ‘early years’ curriculum, which consists of 7 areas of learning. These include communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design.

There is also an added emphasis on enhancing children’s love of books and reading,

What is a Nursery?

Nurseries in the UK offer both full and part-time childcare. Therefore, they enable parents and carers to arrange care around work and personal schedules.

Whilst most also tend to offer early years education, they tend to be more relaxed and can offer extensive activities for your child to do to help their development.

For example, at Little Angels, we offer yoga, French-language classes, outings and lots more to help your child develop. Our variation of activities, from creative learning to literacy, have been selected to prepare your child for primary school education. 

How Will My Child’s Experience Differ?

The Environment

Pre-schools are a more formal environment and heavily stick to the ‘school’ element of their title, following the EYFS curriculum. 

However, nurseries are much more relaxed and expose your child to a wide variety of activities that are both fun and aid your child’s learning and development.


Due to their opening hours, pre-schools usually offer lunch and a snack, whereas nurseries tend to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

At Little Angels, nutrition is important to us, so we offer meals at all meal times, as well as snacks in between.


Both facilities recognise that playtime is important to children. 

Both often have dedicated playtime, though this may be shorter at pre-schools due to the schedules and the shorter days. 

Opening Hours: Pre School Vs Nurseries

Pre-schools can have differing opening times and session lengths, however, in general, they offer morning or afternoon sessions, or in some cases full days. 

Pre-schools are also only open during term time, meaning that you may need to find childcare during school holidays.

Nurseries are much more flexible with opening times. Most nurseries tend to open in the morning and close in the evening, meaning you are able to pick your child up after work with convenience. If you need childcare from 7 am to 7 pm, you need to be looking for a nursery school.

Which Is The Best Option?

Deciding whether to send your child to preschool or nursery can be tricky. But it’s important to pick the option that best suits you.

1. Consider your childcare needs

If you have a flexible schedule and do not need childcare whilst you work, then perhaps preschool would suit you. However, if you need your child to be looked after for long periods of time, then nursery will be the better option. 

2. Consider your child’s needs

You know your child better than anyone else. Do they need to be in a personalised environment, or could they cope in a more formalised, school setting? 

Sometimes, pre-schools are linked to schools. Often, parents think that sending their child to a pre-school will help them get into a certain school. 

However, sending your child to preschool does not give them a higher chance of being accepted. The school doesn’t choose who is accepted into the reception year – it’s made at the Local Authority level – so this should not influence your decision.

Here are some other questions to ask before making a decision between nursery and pre-school:

– What is the staff to children ratio?

– What early years qualifications and training do the staff have?

– Are the staff trained in first aid?

– Do they have a suitable environment, resources and equipment?

– How often each week does my child need caring for?

– Are parents given information about their child’s progress and achievements?

– Are meals and snacks healthy and nutritious?

Little Angels 24/7 Nursery

When looking at early schooling and childcare options, choose the one that’s the perfect fit for both you and your child. If you feel that a nursery would be the best option for you, why not check out Little Angels? 

Being a family run business, our settings are uniquely personable and dedicated to the children in our care. 

Found out more about our quality child care here