The UK early years sector is complex because it arose from the needs and requirements of families based on changing social and economic factors. During the Second World War nurseries were set up so women could work however after the war they were closed down. Public expenditure in the second half of the century was aimed at families with social needs and difficulties. Local authority day nurseries and nursery schools were for children at risk of harm in urban deprived areas. Apart from this early years provision was in the private sector with childminders, nannies and private nurseries regulated by 1948 Nurseries and Childminders Act and the Children’s Act 1989 and the Care Standards Act 2000. From 1960’s parents set up playgroups in village halls for their own children.
Families’ requirements for their children vary. Some need their children in a setting where they play and learn from activities all or part of the day whilst they are at work. Some parents do not want to leave their children and want to stay and socialise. Some parents want their children in a home based group like with a childminder. Some families cannot afford to pay for provision. Because of these varying needs there are different types of provision available.
Nurseries offer full or part time places from birth to school age, they are private businesses in their own premises and they charge a fee, apart from some free hours for 3-4 year olds from the government. Childminders are self-employed and offer full or part time provision from birth to school age, run in the childminders home, they charge a fee to parents. Both nurseries and childminders are a good option for fulltime working parents. Pre-schools offer part time provision for 2 ½ year olds to school age, they are normally run in community premises and are free for 3-4 year olds, and they are run by a committee and parents.