Day nurseries

Day nurseries are usually privately run and provide care for children aged from six weeks to five years old. All must be registered and annually inspected by Early Years Team in your local Health and Social Care Trust.

What is a day nursery?

All day nurseries must adhere to minimum standards for childminding and day care, issued by the Department of Health. There are strict guidelines on the ratio of staff to children:

  • for under two year olds - one carer to three children
  • two to three year olds - one carer to four children
  • three to five year olds - one carer to eight children

Day nurseries are usually open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm all year round.

Day nurseries participating in the Pre-School Education Programme will have an allocation of funded places for which children in their final pre-school year can apply. These places are available:

  • at least two and a half hours per day
  • five days per week
  • at least 38 weeks during the period September to June

In day nurseries:

  • 50 per cent of staff must have a childcare qualification
  • children have the chance to learn and play with friends
  • childcare is reliable - if one member of staff is ill, others are available to cover
  • some day nurseries offer school pick-ups and out of school care
  • you may be eligible for financial help and support towards the cost of your childcare
  • funded places may be available for children in their final pre-school year
  • part time places are often available

However, some day nurseries are not flexible if you work shifts or weekends and there can be long waiting lists for a place.

Things to check with day nurseries

  • do they have places for your child's age group - some do not take children under the age of two and many get booked up months before
  • that they have a key worker carer system - babies in particular need to build up a relationship with one person
  • that the place is clean, bright and child-centred, with plenty of safe space to play inside and out
  • the facilities should be ideal for your child throughout their time there, with different areas or rooms, depending on age
  • the children present should seem happy and relaxed and be well supervised at all times by staff who communicate well with them in a warm and caring environment

Questions to ask day nurseries

  • what is the ratio of carers to children and what was the turnover of staff in the last year?
  • what are the routine activities?
  • when and where are the sleep sessions?
  • will they take the children off the day nursery premises?
  • can they provide a special diet if required?
  • what is their policy on discipline?
  • is there an opportunity to talk to the carer at the beginning and end of each day?
  • what is their settling-in policy?
  • can you see their most recent inspection report?

Family support NI

Family support NI holds the Northern Ireland public register of all registered and approved childcare providers in Northern Ireland. You can use their website to search for registered and approved childcare providers in your area.

Childcare partnerships

Childcare partnerships are operated by the HSC Board to offer information and support to childcare providers, parents and employers.

More useful links

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