Help and Advice

Information, help, advice and links to help you set up and run a day nursery.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage is the document in the UK that sets out the standards for children’s development, learning and care from birth to five years old. Regardless of whether childcare is provided by a childminder or a nursery, registered early-years providers must follow the EYFS.

As such, for all professionals working in the early year’s sector, the EYFS framework is the core document. This means whatever the setting, a child benefits from all of the same principles and commitments enshrined in statute to support all of their development as a child and all of their learning.  

It is also important to mention that this applies to all children in any early-years setting or provision, and therefore includes all those with any special educational need and/or disabilities.

The framework consists of three sections: learning and development requirements, assessment of a child, and safeguarding and welfare requirements.

Learning and development

All registered providers of childcare have the EYFS and its four major principles:

    • that each and every child is a unique, is learning all the time and can be capable, resilient, confident and self-assured;
    • it is through positive relationships that children learn to be independent and strong;
    • a child will learn and develop well if it is cared for in an enabling environment. This is one in which children’s experiences respond to their individual needs and also where there exists a strong working partnership between a child’s parent or carer and the practitioners in the setting;
    • all children learn and develop at different rates and in different ways.

      There are seven areas of learning and development each with a set of early-learning goals. Three of these are deemed to be prime areas:

    • communication and language
    • physical development
    • personal, social and emotional development

      The remaining four areas are known as specific areas through which the three prime areas are applied:

    • literacy
    • mathematics
    • understanding the world
    • expressive arts and design

      Every child’s progress against the EYFS is measured. It is measured twice. First, when they are two-to-three years old by their early-years practitioner or by their health visitor if they are not in an early-years setting, and again when they are five years old. This second assessment takes place at school when the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is drawn up marking the end of this stage in a child’s education.

      Safeguarding and welfare
      This is the third section and it deals with the steps that all providers of early-years education and care need to take to promote the welfare of those children that they care for and to keep them safe.

It is most important to note that this is not just a matter of child protection. This section also covers adult to child ratios, the food and drink a child is offered or consumes in the setting, any injuries or accidents sustained, a child’s health and any medication they take, as well as the suitability and safety of the childcare premises themselves. Other factors include the suitability of the people providing the care, disqualification, complaints, qualifications, skills, training and support. There is more information in our Safeguarding section below.

Other useful links
The government’s website for providers and parents on early years.
Early years website for Northern Ireland.
Early years website for Scotland.
Early years website for Wales.

Ofsted’s early years inspection handbook contains guidance for inspectors under the common inspection framework and so it is very helpful for providers also to know what Ofsted looks for at inspection.


In reference to children and young people, the meaning of safeguarding goes beyond child protection. In fact it refers to any action taken which aims to protect a child from harm and actively promote a child’s welfare. Not just the responsibility of childcarers, nursery workers and the early-years sector; safeguarding is in fact the responsibility of us all, in society at large.

To be clear, government defines it as:

  • preventing impairment of children’s health and development
  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
    For a nursery, having safeguards both protects and promotes the welfare of the children you care for and also boosts the confidence of parents and carers. It can even help to protect nursery staff and managers too.

The key documents and resources that an early-years setting requires are:

  • The Statutory Framework for the Early Years & Foundation Stage. Remember that Section 3 has details of the safeguarding and welfare requirements. 
  • The Prevent Duty of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children. This lengthy government document has specific sections for the childcare and early-years sectors and clearly explains both important terminology and the role of different agencies such as Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) and Local Authority Designated Officer (Lado).
  • Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education & Skills Settings. This is the guidance from Ofsted that sets out what inspectors are taking into account when they are inspecting safeguarding in any early-years provision under the common inspection framework. Bear in mind therefore that it is a valuable resource for a nursery provider to check that what you know of your safeguarding policy and how to apply it in practice are all up to date.

    Policies and training
    Without a doubt it is best practice for providers to have both a safeguarding training and formal written policy, and many local authorities require these for settings providing funded places. Sample and template policies are readily available online as well as from local authorities and LSCBs. These can easily be edited to reflect a particular setting.

    For more information visit Early years safeguarding and child protection policy.

    Some safeguarding training courses are provided by local authorities free of charge. And of course similarly to first-aid and other training courses, it is vital to undertake a refresher course. This must be done at three-year intervals so that the training stays up to date.

    A wide variety of providers have online courses available, for example Child Protection Company. Alternatively, if you have taken out or renewed an insurance policy with Morton Michel you will be able to access over 35 RoSPA-accredited, CPD-certified online training courses including child protection. Click here for more information.


This is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services & Skills and it is a government department that is responsible for inspecting and regulating all services that provide care for young people and children. It is also responsible for inspecting and regulating those services that provide skills and education, not just to children, but to learners of any age.

Providers running a nursery setting must be registered on the Early Years Register. This procedure may take up to 25 weeks. In order to receive regular updates from Ofsted via email, it is important to subscribe here. This way you can make sure that you always have all of the most recent documents issued by Ofsted.

The list below shows what information providers can obtain from Ofsted.

Early Years Register
Inspections within 30 months of registration and then again at least once every inspection cycle.

Notice of an inspection
Nurseries and pre-schools receive a telephone call on or after noon on the working day immediately prior to the date of the inspection. It is worth noting, that even if the inspector couldn’t actually speak with anyone at the time of the call the inspection will still go ahead.

It is also important to remember that a setting can be inspected with no prior warning. This will usually only happen if there is a concern on the part of Ofsted in relation to your childcare provision.

Before the inspection
Providers are obliged to inform parents that there will be an inspection.

Nurseries can carry out a self evaluation online.

During an inspection
The Ofsted inspector will:

  • observe the children playing
  • talk to the provider and to the children
  • observe how the provider and the children interact
  • verify the children’s level of understanding and also if they are participating in learning
  • speak with providers about the children’s knowledge, their skills and their abilities
  • watch the care routines within the provision and see how they are utilised in the support of children’s own personal development
  • assess the provider’s knowledge of the EYFS

    The inspector feeds back to the provider in order to give an explanation of any measures that might be required to improve.

    After an inspection visit 
    A report is sent out by Ofsted with the grading that a provider is given. The grades are Grade 1 – outstanding, Grade 2 – good, Grade 3 - requires improvement and Grade 4 – inadequate. The report also features information on how to improve if there is anything that the setting could be doing better.

Inspection reports are loaded up online to the Ofsted website here within 10 working days of first being sent to the provider.

Providers are obliged to give copies of the inspection report to parents as well as to anyone else that might request one.

Ofsted provides additional information on judgements as well as how to complain about an inspection and other further action to take. It is available from Ofsted here

Notifying Ofsted of changes 
Ofsted must be kept up-to-date with any changes, so providers are required to inform the body in advance where possible, but within 14 days of a change at the most. The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage lists all the changes that must be reported on pp31-32.

Further details about reporting accidents or other incidents can be found here.

Other useful links
Ofsted’s Early Years Inspection Handbook here and the common inspection framework here provide more details about the early years inspection and how settings can prepare for it. There are also some further examples of good practice among early year’s providers from Ofsted here.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The rules are different for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland you must register with Care Inspectorate if you are looking after children under 16 years old. Read more here.

In Wales, you must register with the Care & Social Services Inspectorate Wales if you provide childcare or a play service for children up to 12 years. Find more information by clicking here.

In Northern Ireland you must contact your local Health & Social Care Trust. For group daycare settings, such as day nurseries, playgroups and out-of-school care, social workers within Early Years Teams inspect premises at least annually. Find out more here.

Food and nutrition

The Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage include a section on food and drink at items 3.47-3.49.

The section states that where children are provided with meals, snacks and drinks, they must be healthy, balanced and nutritious. The main points are summarised below:

3.47. Before a child starts at the setting, the setting must obtain information about any special dietary requirements, preferences and food allergies that the child has, and any special health requirements. Fresh drinking water must be available and accessible at all times. Staff must record and act on information from parents and carers about a child's dietary needs.

3.48. The nursery must have an area that is adequately equipped and with suitable facilities to prepare hygienically healthy meals, snacks and drinks for children as necessary. If necessary these should include suitable sterilisation equipment for babies’ feeds. The setting must be confident that those responsible for preparing and handling food are competent to do so.

3.49. Registered providers must notify Ofsted of any food poisoning affecting two or more children cared for on the premises as soon as possible and within 14 days of the incident.

The full document is available here.

The Children’s Food Trust
The trust was set up in 2005 to improve food and nutrition for children of all ages nationwide. As well as setting voluntary standards for settings, it has a wealth of guidance and other resources for early years settings available here.

The trust also runs training courses for nursery managers and staff.

This organisation runs a useful free-to-join forum with resources and recipes for the early-years sector. It also offers cookery and nutrition classes, and a range of other food courses for the sector covering topics such as allergies, labelling and tackling fussy eating. More information is available here

Nutrition policy
It is not mandatory to have a written nutrition or food and drink policy, but it is an example of good practice and is helpful to the parents or carers of the children in your setting. There are plenty of good templates for such policies available online such as this one or this one

There is also useful information and guidance in the Scottish government publication Nutritional Guidance for Early Years Food Choices for Children Aged 1-5 years in Early Education & Childcare Settings.

The NHS's Change4Life programme has plenty of resources and recipes including a downloadable cookbook.

You could also get in touch with your local Public Health Nutrition team at your local NHS Trust to find out if there are any training courses on offer.

Another helpful link is:

And further training on nutrition in children is available from many online providers, click here for an example.


There are many companies supplying nurseries with equipment, furniture and play resources.

EYP Direct supplies almost everything a nursery needs from business stationery to first aid kits and dens to dough.

Finance and management

There is a lot to learn when it comes to the financial and management areas of nursery ownership and it is important to stay on top of recruitment, tax and national insurance affairs, health and safety, employment law, payroll and fees, to name a few key areas.

If you are setting up as a new nursery business, chances are you will need financing and that will involve having a clear business plan with which to approach banks and other potential funders.

Better Business Finance was established in 2011 to provide impartial information and support to businesses and entrepreneurs looking to develop and grow. It is managed by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and was set up by Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds and Santander to help new and established small and medium-sized businesses that are seeking finance. It is a good first port of call for information on writing a business plan, seeking mentoring and finance.

ICAS (formerly The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland) also has a useful guide for new business start ups highlighting a range of questions to consider as well as different sources of financing and tips for further help and advice.

A child’s wellbeing and safety along with a passion for, and commitment to, childcare and education are the top priorities in nursery management. However, a committed and passionate childcarer will not necessarily be suited to nursery management and there are a host of other skills and abilities which managers of nurseries share with managerial colleagues from other sectors:

  • Good organisational skills
  • Ability to delegate
  • Ability to act as robust role model
  • Good written and oral communication
  • An effective trainer and team leader
  • Strong financial and debt management capability
  • Managing occupancy rates and juggling places
  • Good budget management
  • Operating within the law
  • Keeping abreast of changing government policy and regulations

It is well worth investing in one of the many online or face-to-face courses available specifically for nursery managers.

You should check with your local authority too, as from time to time local authorities provide training for private nursery managers.

This link will also be helpful when lookinginto how to set up.