Preschool at Nursery vs School, which is better?

Preschool at Nursery vs School, which is better?

Your child is finally settled at nursery.  They make friends, they are happy and confident to come to nursery, they are learning and developing wonderfully at nursery.

Then they get a bit older, and your mind turns to big school.  Questions about keeping your child in nursery for FS1 (pre-K) or enrolling them in a big school usually causes confusion for some parents.  With the rising competition for getting seats in good schools in the UAE, it’s no wonder that this topic causes anxiety for many parents.  Is it right for your child to move on to a big school for FS1?  Here’s a guide on the difference between FS1 at nursery vs school.

What’s the difference between pre-school at nursery vs school?

Nurseries/early learning centers and Kindergartens at schools both follow a well-established curriculum which impact on the learning, development and care of children from birth to five years old.  Depending on the nursery or school, the curriculum may be UK Early Years Foundation Stage, High Scope, US Common Core, or International Preschool Curriculum (IPC) amongst others.

Nurseries base their learning on the individual interests and needs of each child.  The teachers offer educational activities that will help them progress and succeed by continuously observing each child, with a strong focus on social and emotional development.  Some schools follow the same approach, while others may be less flexible and more inclined to follow a structured topic.

At nursery, a child may be more comfortable and confident.  It is less daunting attending a nursery than a school since all children are within the same age range.  If your child is shy and reserved, he or she may not be comfortable going to a big school amongst older children.  However, if a school has a pre-K in a separate building or section, it might be helpful for the child to get familiar with the school’s routines early on.  Also, if your child has siblings in a school, it is more convenient to drop off the children at one location and your child might enjoy going to the same school as his or her siblings.

Nurseries offer more flexibility in terms of timings.  It is more convenient for working parents knowing they can drop off their children as early as 6:30am in some nurseries, and keep them up to 5 or 6pm if needed.  They are also open all year round, and offer exciting activities during camps, in an environment which they feel happy, safe and comfortable in.

What about staff qualifications, class sizes and staff ratios?

As per Ministry of Education and KHDA regulations, all early years’ teachers must have a teaching qualification, whether at nursery or school.  Early years staff are fully qualified in Early Years and understand the importance of learning through play.  Some nurseries, such as Creative Nest Nursery, have the added benefit of having all staff certified in Pediatric First Aid.

When looking for a nursery or school, always ask about class sizes and adult to child ratios. This is important as it gives your child a more personalized and nurturing experience, ensuring their needs are met on a daily basis.


Always visit the school you are considering for your child, and follow your gut feeling.  It is important that your child is ready, confident and happy when they start school.

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