Nursery? Pre-school?

What is the difference?

Pre-primary education has different names around the world. Here's an easy way to make sense of the various terms when you are choosing a pre-school or nursery for your child. 

  Day nursery Pre-school
Also known as Day care

Nursery school 



Age From birth to age 5
(check they accept newborns)
Do not usually accept children under the age of 3 or over the age of 5 - usually the year before they start primary school
Management Privately run May be public or privately run
Many have waiting lists

Almost always business hours

Accept children for full or part-time hours

May offer extended hours ('wrap around') care

Usually 1 or 2 sessions per day during term time (morning or afternoon)

Stand alone centres

Sometimes attached to a primary school
Sometimes attached to a primary school
Approach More social activities built into the day with toys, games, singing, story time, reading, painting, play-dough, art and craft activities and free play/outdoor areas

Educational experiences based on learning through play

An introduction to primary education with structured lessons

Follows a prescribed national curriculum

Teachers Not staffed by teachers although some staff will have childcare qualifications Usually staffed by a teacher and a classroom assistant qualified in childcare/early childhood education

At Little GEMS we often use the words 'nursery' or 'pre-school' interchangeably, depending on the local community we are serving. You are welcome to ask us anytime if you have questions.