Schools & Education

all you need for relocation to scotland: edinburgh

Schools & Education: Private Nurseries

Private nurseries | cost and funding | finding the right private nursery | childminders | playgroups | parent & toddler groups

The rule in Scotland is simple. Children are entitled to attend a free nursery school (i.e. pre-school nursery run by the City Council) from the term after their 3rd birthday. 

In practice, the majority of parents of children under 3 will use a private nursery - there are over 100 private nurseries in Edinburgh.

Other solutions exist that are more affordable, for example a playgroup, a parent & toddler group or a childminder may suit your circumstances.

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Private nurseries are different from crèches, which are temporarily used by parents when they are busy doing short activities such as visiting the gym or shopping. Some public institutions like the Scottish Parliament have their own free crèches which are open to visitors.

Types of childcare

Private Nurseries in Edinburgh 

  • by far the most used by parents

  • designed around working parents and open all year round with the exception of the days over the Christmas and New Year holidays

  • open Monday to Friday normally between 08.00 and 18.00

  • accept children from birth to 5 years on a full-time and part-time basis. At age 5, Scottish children start Primary school until they are 12.  

  • may provide part-time pre-school education entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds or family support, including respite

  • from the age of 3, private nurseries will give children the opportunity to explore the 3-18 Curriculum for Excellence

Cost and funding

Private nurseries are expensive, very expensive, costing on average £180 a week for a child under 2 years old staying 5 days a week. 

When a child is over 2 years old, the cost tends to decrease slightly as the ratio staff/child increases:

  • Under 2s: 1 adult for 3 children

  • 2 – 3 years: 1 adult for 5 children

  • 3 – 5 years: 1 adult for 8 children

The problem faced by working parents is that even when their child is 3, and therefore entitled to free pre-school nursery with the City Council, such public nurseries do not provide care throughout the working day, leaving private nurseries as the only option.

We would recommend you to visit the Scottish Childcare website to see the various options open to parents/carers about funding for childcare. 

Finding the right private nursery in your area

To find nurseries in your area, visit the Scottish Childcare website. Scottish Childcare provides free, impartial information on childcare and pre-school education services throughout Scotland. 

As a rule:

  • word of mouth is a good way to find out how professional and friendly a nursery can be

  • always visit a nursery before enrolling your child

  • observe how children interact with each other and the staff

  • ask questions, for instance: 

- How do they effectively observe and monitor each individual child?

- Is the planning designed to further each child's stage of development? 

- Do they use observations along with children's interests and the parent/carers feedback?

- The staff should not only be there for the daily needs and care of the children, but also to observe their intellectual development and to give them reassurance if needed; to praise their achievements, as well as encourage respect for each other and the nursery environment. How to they do that?

-  How do they embrace each child's creativity and ensure all children are fully involved in their learning process?

- Do they make education fun through activities, which ones?

- What is the selection and recruitment process for staff and management (e.g. regular Enhanced Disclosure Scotland checks)?

- How does the nursery tell parents/carers what has been available to each child throughout the day - charts, journals, notice boards, newsletters, informal chat?

- Do they keep daily accurate records for each baby detailing nappy changing, eating and sleeping patterns and a little comment about what they have been doing throughout their day?

- Do children have regular access to outside play areas, how safe are these areas?


Childminders are registered and look after children in their home. As they are self-employed, childminders set their own charges and hours of operation so these vary depending upon the individual.

They should provide your child with lots of care, fun and learning. Childminders can make the most of local parks, playgrounds, toy libraries, drop-in groups and community centres. The cost is usually comparable to a private nursery. 

To find childminders in your area, visit the Scottish Childcare website.


Playgroups provide sessions of play and education for children aged between 3 and 5 and are run by volunteers and/or parents.

They usually run for 2.5 hour and sessions may be mornings, afternoons or both.

Children can take part in activities such as, art, craft and construction activities, sand and water play, adventure play, music and movement, books and stories etc, as well as the opportunity to socialise with other children.

Some Playgroups also work in partnership with their local authority to provide funded, part time pre-school education places for 3 and 4 year olds. 

To find playgroups in your area, visit the Scottish Childcare website.

Parent & Toddler Groups

Parents & toddler groups are informal, unregistered, part-time self-help groups of parents and carers who meet locally with their children on a regular basis. Toddler groups cater for children 0 to 5.

To find parents and toddler groups in your area, visit the Scottish Childcare website.

From the age of 3, children in Scotland are entitled to free pre-school nursery education (run by city councils).

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Schools & Education

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