Starting a Nursery School Business

If you're thinking of starting your own nursery school business, then this article shows you what's required to start a nursery school or day care business and be successful.

Many parents will get tax credits or additional child care allowance help to be able to send their children to nursery each day. With no reduction of babies being born each year, starting your own nursery school could be a way to begin your own successful business.

What is a Nursery School?

The government encourages parents to send their children to nursery school from age four onwards to prepare them for primary school. There is even so-called early years day care available from as early as one-year-old.

Attending school at an early age not only prepares them academically but gets them used to being with other children their age. It encourages the discipline of being at school during the day as they could get very tired when first at school if they miss out in the earlier stages of life.

Previously nursery schools were named play schools, pre-school or play group and just about anyone could run them to earn additional income but of course in these modern times all schools need to be run and managed by qualified adults and teach children more than just "play".

These days both parents need to work to pay the bills so more and more children need care and attention during the working day whilst the parents are at work.

Types of Child Care Provisions

Nursery school businessChild care is big business in the UK and there are various types of child care facilities. Full-time child care is for children under 8 where they're at your premises for more than fours hours per day. This type of business is normally called a nursery. Day care under four hours per day is termed sessional day care or part-time nursery.

A creche is normally for children for parents at work for more than five days a year and out of school operates on non-domestic premises like breakfast clubs and after school clubs. Childminders is for two hours per day for children under eight based in domestic premises.

UK Government Help and Guidelines

In the UK the government fully fund part of the pre-school learning in that each child is entitled to 12.5 hours of free pre-school learning each week when they are three and four which increases to 15 hours per week from 2010 (over 3 days) and these places are available at all types of day nurseries, nursery classes in primary schools, accredited child minders and sure start childrens centres.

After the pre-school years the child moves into mainstream education at primary school and starts reception class (now called the foundation stage).

What do I need to Teach?

All reception, nursery classes, day nurseries, childminders, playgroups and afterschool/ pre-school clubs that are teaching children from birth to five years old have to follow the early years foundation stage (EYFS) development structure.

The EYFS ensures your child learns through play and you are kept up to date with the progress of the child's education. It came into force in September 2008 and there is a Early Years Foundation Stage Profile handbook that should be used by all practitioners.

It has been developed so when children enter primary school the teachers have accurate information about the child's development and there are 13 assessment scales that the child is judged against. Full information about EYFS can be found here and more information on the every child matters website here.

What Qualifications are Required?

So what qualifications do you need? If you're just the proprietor of a nursery or day care/ child care provision you do not need any formal qualifications but if you are the manager of the nursery you need the appropriate NVQ level 3 and at least two years day care experience whereas at least half the staff need NVQ level 2 in childcare education or playwork.

Ofsted now inspect all child care provisions in the UK.Child minders also have to register with Ofsted and the Early Years Education and like all businesses need to register with HMRC.

Your Premises

There are regulations on what size premises should be and of course they need to meet various hygiene and cleanliness standards. The premises should be at least 3.5m square per child under the age of two, at least 2.5m square per child aged two or at least 2.3m square per child aged three to seven.

Parents need to drop their children off so will there be enough car parking - you may need to liaise with your local council to see if you need any permissions. You obviously need toys and educational aids and places for toddlers and babies to go and you may also need a moses basket if you have very young babies and children in your care.

What can I Charge?

Like all businesses you can charge what people are prepared to pay. Research other local child care businesses to see what they charge and what services they offer. More expensive childcare businesses will offer more and the quality of their staff and teaching may be higher.

If you charge too much you might not get any customers and it will also depend on the area of the country you are in and whether you are in the middle of the city and what your costs are.

Health and Safety Requirements

To meet health and safety requirements for your child care business you have a legal obligation to undertake a health and safety risk assessment set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage under the welfare requirement. The welfare requirement sets out provisions for safeguarding and promoting child welfare, finding and recruiting suitable people and finding and managing suitable premises and equipment and providing the right environment.

To meet environmental health requirements you will need to have a current employers liability insurance and have the certificate clearly displayed and have a written health and safety policy statement. If you prepare food you are required to complete a food premises registration form by law and an environmental health check by Ofsted is to assess the fitness of the premises and the fitness of the people.

Grants and Start-up Cost Help

There may be funding help with your start up costs and this varies by council. So it's best if you contact your local child care business support team to see what is on offer in your location. It will depend on where your business is going to be sited and the ages of the children you are looking after.

There is a childminder start up grant to help with equipment and other start-up costs so long as you can show you have contributed £100 into your business. All childminders are eligible and it is not means tested and you should claim the grant as soon as you are registered with Ofsted. Additionally you need to be registered with the Early Years Childcare and Extended Schools Service (EYCESS).

Planning Your Child Care Business

Even if you are at the early stages of planning your business you should develop a business plan to help you understand how much profits you are going to make and how many children you need in your nursery school to achieve those profits.

Other important considerations are the location of the premises in relation to how many families are local and can easily get to your school. Undertake some basic research by driving around your area or see any adverts in the local papers to see what your competition are doing.

You can telephone them or get them to send you the prospectus to give you an idea of what they offer and what they charge. If some of them have waiting lists then you know there is sufficient demand in the area for another business.

Developing Your Nursery

Remember that this is a business and in that sense you need to make a profit. If you are not good with numbers and finances then find someone who is because you'll need to manage invoicing, cash flow, recruitment and payment to staff (wages), maintenance of your premises, purchasing of toys and educational matters and conforming to ofsted regulations.

Managing how many children come to your nursery and making a profit are perhaps the most important. See what your competitors charge and put together a simple spreadsheet to see how many children and what price cover all your overheads and contribute the profits you want.

The management of receiving child care fees from parents is paramount and it's best to either set up standing orders or say you need the cash on a weekly basis. It's easy for fees to mount up and before you know it you've run out of cash.