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Choosing early learning and childcare outside the home, that's right for your child, is an important decision to make. There's a huge amount of choice out there, from nurseries to playgroups to childminders.

Most childcare providers must be registered with the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) but there are some types of childcare that do not need to be registered. 

You can search for childcare in St Helens using our online directory.

School-maintained nurseries

We provide nursery education in many parts of the borough through maintained nurseries. They normally offer places for 3 and 4-year-olds, and some also offer 2-year-old places.

Admissions to maintained nurseries are co-ordinated by the local authority - find out more information on .

Maintained nursery opening times tend to coincide with the school opening times - 9am to 3pm on weekdays. Maintained nurseries normally offer the 15 hours of funded early education over five days per week (either mornings or afternoons). Some maintained nurseries also offer wraparound provision to provide care all day for a fee.

Day nurseries

Day nurseries offer care for children between birth and school age on a full or part-time basis. Most day nurseries are open all year round, usually from 8am until 6pm.

Nursery facts

  • A day nursery provides care and education for children between the ages of six weeks and five years. Many also offer out-of-school care for five-to-11-year olds.
  • Maintained nurseries provide care and education for children between the ages of three and four years (some offer places to two-year-olds).
  • Day nurseries can be run by the council, the community, based in the workplace or privately run.
  • Maintained nurseries are run by the council.
  • Day nursery opening times tend to coincide with a standard working day - 8am to 7pm on weekdays, 50 weeks of the year. You can send your child full or part-time.
  • Your child should experience learning and development activities suitable for their age.
  • Always use a registered day nursery to ensure that they are regularly inspected by Ofsted, but also to check that the free part-time early education is satisfactory. All maintained nurseries are registered with Ofsted.
  • Children will be grouped together by age and looked after by qualified staff according to specified staff/children ratios.

Is it for me?

The answer to this is 'yes', if you:

  • feel happy leaving your child in a place where there are qualified staff
  • need somewhere open virtually all year
  • know your hours fit in with their opening times
  • need to know that there will always be someone to look after your child - if one carer is sick, another can cover
  • want your child to be around plenty of other children and involved in lots of activities
  • want your child to have access to different toys, equipment and stimulation
  • think your child is ready for new experiences

Questions to ask when choosing a nursery

  • Ask for a copy of their latest Ofsted Inspection report or view it online.
  • Ask for a full breakdown of costs.
  • Do they charge if your child is off sick or on holiday?
  • Do they offer free early education for two, three or four-year-olds?
  • What qualifications do staff hold?
  • Who will be responsible for monitoring your child's development? Will you get regular feedback?
  • Will you get a daily record of what your child has done/eaten?
  • What learning and development activities will your child take part in?
  • Is there an outside space for play and learning?

Other things to remember

  • Be certain the day nursery has places for your child's age group. For example, some don't take children under two.
  • Let them know the weekdays you want day care.
  • Go back for a second 'viewing'.
  • Take your child with you to see how they get on with other children, staff and in the surroundings.