Childcare and education

Information about childcare provision, including local nurseries, education and schools.


Schools and most childcare providers looking after children under the age of 18 must register with a body called Ofsted (or a childminder agency).  Ofsted is the official body for regulating schools.  Most schools have regular visits from an Ofsted inspector who assesses the school based on nationally agreed criteria.  

The most recent Ofsted report for your local school or nursery can be found on the Ofsted website.  

Childcare for 0-5 year olds

Childcare for under four years of age is not usually available free of charge in the UK.  The range of cost of childcare varies considerably, but it is generally expensive.  The average cost of sending a child under two to nursery in the UK is: £138 per week - part time (25 hours); £263 per week - full time (50 hours).

Childcare is typically available between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and is not available on weekends, although term dates will differ between providers.

It is advisable to visit different childcare providers and talk to them before you make a decision about where to send your child.

There are lots of different options for childcare for 0-5 year olds depending on your needs:

Day nurseries

Day nurseries accept pre-school children from 3 months to five years (the exact age range can vary from nursery to nursery). They provide early education and usually provide part time or full time places.  They are registered and inspected by Ofsted.  Most offer a choice of morning, afternoon or full day sessions and some nurseries provide out of school childcare facilities for school children.  Costs vary depending on the age of your child, babies usually cost more because facilities need a higher staff:child ratio.


Childminders care for small groups of children of different ages in their own home.  The children usually come from different families and sometimes include the childminder's own children.

Childminders in England must be registered with Ofsted or a Childminding agency.  To qualify they must complete a first aid course and a local authority-approved childminder training course.

Childminders set their own rates and these can vary.  

If you chose to use a childminder you should request a contract from them. It should cover their hours, rates of pay, additional costs for meals or activities, holiday arrangements and what will be done for emergency cover.

Pre-school nurseries

Pre-schools are registered and inspected by Ofsted, they provide children aged two to five years with early education.  Usually pre-schools offer morning or afternoon sessions, with some able to provide full days and also additional paid hours.

School education

Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5-16 in the UK. While some families home-educate their children, the majority send their children to state schools which are free, or to independent schools which charge a fee.

There are four key stages in education:

  • KS1 - 5-7 year olds (infant school)
  • KS2 - 7-11 year olds (junior school)
  • KS3 - 11-14 year olds (secondary school)
  • KS4 - 14-16 year olds (secondary school)

After key stage 4, children can either continue onto sixth form or college to undertake further education or seek employment.  If you will be employed in the UK for a period of 12 months or more, then your children are required by law to attend school.

The Local Education Authority will provide a place free of charge for them in a state school near your place of residence.

State schools

State schools provide free school places to children aged between 5-16 years old.  Places are usually prioritised to children living within the school catchment area.

A catchment area is the list of streets surrounding each school, if you live within this area your child should get allocated a place at the school. However, parents do have the option to request places in schools out of their catchment area.

Independent schools

There are a number of independent schools in Sheffield and the surrounding region that charge a fee payable each term; many of these are located within a short distance from the University campus.  The Independent Schools Council provides more information about independent schools.

Details of schools in Sheffield and their locations are available on the Sheffield City Council website.  

Obtaining a school place

Applications for state schools and private schools are managed separately.  If you are making an application to a private school then you should contact the school direct to find out their deadlines.

You cannot pre-book a school place in advance of your child arriving in the UK as school places are allocated by the postcode of your permanent UK address.  Most schools have a catchment area, which means they have a maximum radius around the school and they are unlikely to accept children who live outside this area.  You should take this into consideration when looking for somewhere to live.

You will need proof of address within the catchment area, such as a rental agreement.  Once you have your UK address you should contact Sheffield City Council's School Admissions Team.  If you are new to Sheffield and would like a school place please call the Children Missing Education Team on 0114 273 6462 or email ed-missingchildrem  You can make an appointment to complete an application to apply for a school place.  This form will then be processed and you will receive a letter stating which school you child has been offered a place.  By filling in an admissions form you are requesting a place for your child at a particular school, this does not mean your child is registered at the school.  

See Sheffield City Council's website for further guidance on the school admissions process.

School times and terms

Every school is different but usually, a school day lasts between 9am and 3.30pm.  The school year lasts from early September to late July and usually has three terms.

Halfway through each term, there is usually a one or two week holiday.  You can usually find the term dates for the school from their web pages or by asking the school themselves.

In the UK, parents do not have the automatic right to take their children out of school during term time and can be prosecuted if their children fail to attend school.  Once your child is registered with a primary or secondary school, the school will be expecting that child to attend throughout the term.

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