Preschool help and advice


Preschool help and advice

Information, help, advice and links to help you set up and run a pre-school

The information below is intended to be used as guidance about what you will need to consider when setting up your own nursery. It does not cover each area in detail but will give you an overview of what to consider and where to go for more information.

Market research

The preschool sector is a unique environment, one that has endured for over half a century but that is still consistently innovating. Not only that but both parental and children’s needs vary from place to place. To be a success, a preschool has to meet the specific needs of its catchment area. The following are some jumping off points for a new nursery to consider based on Morton Michel’s experience in the childcare sector.

  • Local needs. Make contact with the relevant local authority and see what provision they feel they are lacking. A good relationship with a local authority can go a long way to building a successful preschool over time
  • Other childcare businesses in the area. To begin with, you can download a list of registered providers from the relevant regulator; Ofsted in England, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland, The Care Inspectorate Wales in Wales, and your local authority in Ireland.
  • Local demographics. Prosperous areas have different needs to those with high levels of deprivation. Take-up of benefits and entitlements may be different, as may expectations for what you will be expected to deliver.
  • Demand for day-care. Although full-day care is becoming much more popular, sessional care has not gone away, particularly in areas with well organised and supported childminders. Take a look at parenting groups on social media and see what people are asking for.

Morton Michel has over half a century’s experience of the childcare sector and we have built our reputation on understanding it inside and out. You can find out more through our magazines, newsletters and by getting in touch.

Business structure

Although traditional charities and partnerships are common structures for preschools to adopt, many now opt to become limited companies or charitable incorporated organisations. There are some matters to be aware of when deciding your business structure, based on Morton Michel’s experience of the childcare sector:

  • Unincorporated associations. Many preschools chose to remain unincorporated. However, if you choose this route, you should carefully consider your liabilities. It may be important to ensure that your trustees and officers are protected by an appropriate insurance policy.
  • Limited Company. Incorporating as a business is the usual route to minimise your personal risk, although you should still ensure you have Directors and Officers cover, as you can still incur liabilities in some circumstances.
  • Charity status. Charitable nursery businesses should also consider the structure you want to adopt. Charitable Companies, Charitable Incorporated Organisations and a new hybrid commercial-charity structure called a Community Interest Company are all options.
  • Franchising. This may be an option. There are several preschool franchises available, which can be an excellent way to enter the sector. Likewise for established preschool businesses looking to expand, franchising your model can be a cost-effective way to build your brand.


Pre-schools that are set up as an unincorporated association or partnership are usually run by a committee of volunteers.

This committee has the overall responsibility to ensure that all aspects of the pre-school run effectively and efficiently. This encompasses a lot of duties and responsibilities from liaising with a landlord over the hire of premises to collecting fees and fundraising.

It is down to the committee to prepare a business plan, make sure that the pre-school has in place, and follows, all the regulations regarding risk assessments, health & safety, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks or national equivalents, first aid, insurance and accounts.

There are also all the responsibilities associated with employing staff such as recruitment, training, staff development and payroll. Committees are headed up by a chairperson and also require a secretary and a treasurer and usually there are several others that could have specific roles and responsibilities or tasks such as for fundraising, staffing or collecting fees. There may also be other general committee members that do not have an assigned role.

The role of the chairperson is to head up the committee and take overall responsibility. This includes being on top of all the committee’s legal obligations, keeping the business plan up to date, making sure staffing ratios are adhered to, organising DBS checks.

The secretary ensures the smooth running of regular committee meetings including setting out a schedule of meetings, drawing up and sending out agendas, and taking minutes of each meeting. It is usually secretary that is responsible for communications with local and national authorities for example informing regulators of any changes.

Business plan

A preschool’s business plan must take into account the unique features of operating in the childcare sector. New entrants should ensure they have a clear understanding of the market and the regulatory environment in which you will be operating. Be careful not to be mislead by assumptions based on headlines, or experiences within a limited division of the sector.

The following are some particular considerations that you may wish to reflect upon when constructing your business plan:

  • Finance and funding: There may be grants or start up loans available for preschools in your area. Your local authority may be able to direct you to potential sources of funding such as these.
  • Government subsidies: These are playing a greater role in childcare than ever before, but vary substantially from area to area. In some, they may be more than enough to break even. In others they might need to be supplemented, but there may also be restrictions on how they can be topped up.
  • Fees and charges: Look carefully at what you charge for as an option and what is included in your regular fees. Will parents really be happy having to pay for nappies, or would charging for food be more amenable. Are there any easy wins, popular added extras that will help drive revenue?
  • Local environment: Take-up of subsidised places a varies regionally and a nursery’s business plan should take into account local demand or be prepared with a strategy to disrupt it. For example, by providing help for parents to access subsidies, or developing an offer that is strong enough to attract parents who are prepared to pay privately.
  • Future planning: Consider the size of your setting and the scope for expansion. Regulators set minimum requirements for space per child and this could limit your growth. Similarly, if you are hiring a multi-use space, this might limit your ability to increase your operating hours. There has been a growing trend in recent years towards settings with 60+ places operating for 10 or more hours per day. If you do not intend to fit into this trend, make sure you understand the challenges it will entail.

At Morton Michel we are used to supporting highly creative, innovative childcare businesses, and we are always happy to discuss new businesses’ needs. Contact us to find out more.

Choosing a site

Many preschools operate from shared venues such as church halls and community centres, but others do rent or own their own premises. Deciding on where to host your preschool is a key consideration and various factors will be relevant. The following possible considerations come from Morton Michel’s knowledge of where successful preschools site their businesses:

  • Floorspace: Childcare regulators set minimum space requirements that have to be observed. The site you choose will ultimately limit the capacity of your setting.
  • Potential hazards Safety is paramount, keep it in mind at all times. For example, if your chosen site has multiple floors, look at the staircases to ensure they are child friendly.
  • Local area: Access to outside space is important and if your nursery does not have its own grounds, there may be other options. However, you should take care to be realistic about walking distances to local parks and playgrounds.
  • Air pollution: The quality of air near children's facilities has been in the headlines recently. Find out from the local authority whether it is a concern at your chosen site.
  • Road safety: Consider how parents are going to bring their children to your nursery. Examine parking and street crossings in particular and check they are easy to use and do not encourage unsafe practices such as dashing across busy roads.
  • Sharing spaces: It may be worth exploring co-location opportunities. For example, there has been a recent push for retirement homes to incorporate nurseries so as to deliver the benefits of intergenerational interaction.
  • Valuation: If you are buying your premises, have your location properly valued to help avoid being under-insured.

Early Education Regulations

All preschools in the UK are required to comply with particular regulatory requirements, created under the Childcare Act 2006 and enforced by regulators. Some of these regulations, such as those specifically concerned with learning and development are devolved areas of policy and differ between England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland meanwhile operates a separate regulatory regime administered by local authorities.

Wherever your preschool is based however, you will be expected to fully comprehend and abide by the regulatory requirements. Official guidance from the respective governments can be found here:

Every regulatory regime in the UK requires preschools to obtain appropriate insurance. Morton Michel’s Preschool policy has been specifically tailored to meet this obligation. Not only that, but our Childcare Club includes training packages that will help ensure you meet other regulatory requirements.


All preschools in the UK must register with a regulator. These organisations are responsible for ensuring that childcare settings meet exacting minimum standards and also for grading them on their effectiveness. These grades are crucial to a nursery’s success. Not only are they a key indicator for parents as to your setting’s quality, but achieving higher grades can be a requirement for being able to offer subsidised hours.

Each of the home nations has its own regulator and regulatory framework:

  • England: Ofsted is England’s register. It operates two registers. The Early Years Register, which accounts for all childcare providers who offer the Early Years Foundation Stage, and the Childcare Register, which accounts for all other childcare providers (such as those who operate for very limited hours, or solely with older children). The Childcare Register is split into compulsory and voluntary components. Ofsted’s official guidance can be found here.
  • Scotland: Childcare in Scotland is regulated by the Care Inspectorate. It is responsible for registering and inspecting day care providers. In some circumstances they may also check the financial viability of the service being offered. The Care Inspectorate’s registration page can be found here.
  • Wales: Preschools in Wales must register with the Care Inspectorate Wales. It is responsible for inspecting and regulating all private care services in the country. CIW’s registration page can be found here.
  • Northern Ireland: In Northern Ireland, preschools are regulated by Health and Social Care Trusts (HSCT). Each trust has an Early Years Team that is responsible for annually inspecting childcare settings and ensuring they meet minimum standards. Information from the Northern Irish government on local Early Years Teams can be found here.


Like most organisations, preschools must take out appropriate insurance. Public liability insurance is required as part of their regulatory obligations and all employers are legally required to take out Employer’s Liability Insurance. Beyond this, it is always sensible to ensure that your business has adequate cover for any eventuality.

Circumstances to consider when choosing your insurance policy include:

  • Indemnity limits: It is important to ensure that the indemnity limits are high enough to meet your potential liabilities.
  • Access to advice and representation: Legal Expenses cover is tremendously useful and under-used. With lawyers costing hundreds of pounds an hour, it can be invaluable in an emergency.
  • Personal liability: Directors and Officers can be held personally liable in some circumstances and should be ensured against this eventuality.

Morton Michel has specialised in providing insurance to the childcare sector for over fifty years. Childcare businesses often have very specialised needs as they deal with a very particular type of risk. Morton Michel’s Preschool policy comes with extensive cover and a package of additional benefits, tailored to meet your needs.


Your staff are what make your preschool, but finding the right staff can be a challenge. The changing face of childcare means that traditional recruitment avenues are becoming closed off as ambitious, highly qualified candidates seek the best position for them.

Morton Michel has been working closely with its providers to help them navigate the recruitment maze and create competitive offers to attract the best staff. In a competitive environment, it is worth considering what might give you an edge. For example:

  • Pay staff what they are worth. No-one wants to underpay their staff and in a traditionally low-pay sector, offering a generous salary really will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Make sure it is a job that it is going somewhere. Spend time thinking about the structure of your business to ensure there are ample chances for career progression and development.
  • Offer an employee benefits package, this can make a lot of difference, especially if you are constrained in terms of the salary you can offer.
  • Invest in training and development. Access to high quality training courses is highly valued by staff, as well as directly improving the quality of your business.

Morton Michel’s Morton Michel’s Preschool policy comes with membership of our exclusive Childcare Club. This includes a range of benefits and services such as free training from Flick Learning that your staff can take advantage of.

Branding and marketing

The preschool sector is large, encompassing tens of thousand settings nationwide, and sometimes dozens in one town alone. In this environment it can be very challenging to stand out from the crowd. Yet if you have a dazzling setting – or settings – dedicated staff and a fantastic offer, you need to get the word out there.

  • Consider your brand name carefully, and check that it is not too similar to others within your area. Think about whether it reflects the style of service you will be offering.
  • Bold signage at your premises can make a difference, especially for parents who might be looking around in a specific area.
  • Create a usable website. It does not need to be huge, but it must at the very least include your location, contact details and the services you offer.
  • Social media presence. These days there is no substitute for social media, especially when it comes to targeting local audiences. An engaging presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be vital for attracting new custom.
  • Leafletting. It might seem old-fashioned, but it is tried and tested, and the personal touch can be worth it.
  • Local authorities. Talk to your local authority and make sure they know who you are and what you are offering.

The treasurer’s responsibilities centre around finance and budgetary affairs, so for example making any necessary purchases, keeping fees under review arranging for accounts to be independently audited and submitted to the relevant body, for example the Charity Commission.

All of the members of a pre-school management committee are jointly and severally liable for all of the decisions the committee takes in respect of finance and management. Some committees restrict their liability as they register the pre-school as a company limited by guarantee registered as a charity.

As well as an annual general meeting at which the accounts are approved, the committee usually meets at regular intervals throughout the year to carry out reviews of staff, policies and procedures and organise fundraising activities, for example.

There is often support available to pre-school committees through local authorities starting with induction training for pre-school committee members.