A nursery school is a school for children between the ages of three and five, staffed by qualified teachers and other professionals who encourage and supervise educational play rather than simply providing childcare. It is generally considered part of early childhood education. In some jurisdictions the provision of nursery school services is on a user pays or limited basis while some governments fund nursery school services.
The reasons given include the importance of early years in cognitive development, the trouble many families have in providing adequate early-childhood nurturing, and the advantage such programs give students starting the next step in their education. The study considered a number of early childhood educational pilot programs for at risk children, similar to Head Start, but more intense, such as the Perry Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Over 40 years of the children's lives, participants showed greater literacy, higher grades, greater likelihood to graduate high school, higher post-high school employment rates, higher earnings, less need for welfare, committed less crime, and had lower rates of teen pregnancy. The rate of returns to the children was estimated to be 16 percent (about 3/4 of this is calculated from the decreased social cost due to lower crime and less prison spending).
The authors also propose that the return on investment declines with age. This study is significant because it advocates spending as an economic investment in a societies future, rather than in the interest of justice.
Each child in England at the first school term after their third birthday, is entitled to five two and a half hour sessions per week - in some counties this has gone up to 15 hours. This entitlement is funded by the government through the local county council. Pre-schools in England follow the Early Learning Goals for education produced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families which carries on into their first year of school at the age of four. This year of school is usually called Reception. The Early Learning Goals cover the main areas of education without being subject driven. These areas include
Until the mid 1980s, nursery schools only admitted pupils in the final year (three terms) leading up to their admission to primary school, but pupils now attend nursery school for four or five terms. It is also common practise for many children to attend nursery much earlier than this. Many nuseries (such as St Paul's Nursery, Birmingham) have the facilities to take on babies, using the 'Birth to Three Matters', framework as a guide to give each child the best possible start to becoming a competent learner and skillful communicator.
Early years education in Wales is provided half-time for children aged 3-4 (Nursery) and full-time for those between the ages of 4 and 5 (Reception). Since 2005 it has been a statutory duty for all Local Education Authorities to secure sufficient nursery education in their area for children from the term following their third birthday.
Currently, the Early Years curriculum in Wales, produced by the Welsh Assembly Government Department for Children, Education, Life-long Learning and Skills,is set out in a booklet 'Desirable Outcomes for Children’s Learning Before Compulsory School Age’ . However, a new 'Foundation Phase' covering 3-7 year olds is being rolled out across Wales from 2008, with a focus on 'learning through play', which covers seven areas of learning:
In Scotland children are entitled to a place in a nursery class when they reach their third birthday. This gives parents the option of two years of funded pre-school education before beginning primary one, the first year of compulsory education. Nursery children who are three years old are referred to as ante-pre-school whilst children who are four years old are termed pre-school. Pre-school education in Scotland is planned around the document "A curriculum framework for children 3 to 5, which identifies learning intentions around the following five areas of development:
Responsibility for the review of care standards in Scottish nurseries rests with the Care Commission.
Pre-school is defined as: "center-based programs for four-year olds that are fully or partially funded by state education agencies and that are operated in schools or under the direction of state and local education agencies".
Pre-schools, both private and school sponsored, are available for children aged from three to five. Many of these programs follow similar curriculum as pre-kindergarten.
The office of Economic Opportunity launched Project Head Start as an eight-week summer program in 1965. It was then transferred to the Office of Child Development in the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1969. Today it is a program within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. Programs are administered locally by school systems and non-profit organizations.