Pre-school Childcare

Oxford offers a variety of childcare options for pre-school age children.

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Nurseries provide childcare throughout the year, and are open during working hours, which can be any time from 7:30am until 6:00pm.

It is advisable to apply for a nursery place as early as possible; in many cases parents do so before the child is born - you can apply once you know your 'due date'. A deposit may be payable on application. You may wish to apply for places at a few different nurseries as there is often a waiting list for places at popular nurseries. The availability of places may depend on your child's age and on your working patterns. If you plan to return to work part-time, it is worth talking to your preferred nursery to find out what options they offer.

Nursery costs in the UK are relatively high compared to other countries. However, there are various financial support mechanisms in place (see the ‘Childcare costs and sources of funding' below).

Childminders care for your child in their own home. Most are self-employed and can often offer more flexible hours than a nursery. A childminder might be a good option if you prefer your child to be cared for in a less formal environment.

Childminders must be registered and inspected by Ofsted (check their registration number and most recent inspection report). There are rules limiting the number and age of children they can care for. It is a good idea to visit several childminders before you make your final choice, and you might like to consider whether the childminder offers pick-ups for your local pre-school or nursery.

Pre-schools or playgroups provide play, childcare and early years educational sessions for children aged two to four years. They tend to be based on school sites or in Community Centres, and most are only open during term-time. Most pre-schools offer morning or afternoon sessions only. Fees will vary, but most will accept childcare vouchers.

You can employ a nanny, au pair or a babysitter to provide childcare in your own home. If you have a disabled child you may wish to consider a ‘home childcarer’. Nannies and au pairs are not required to register with Ofsted, so you might wish to consider how to check their background and take up references before offering a position.

Crèches provide temporary childcare for a limited number of hours while you do something else. Crèches are often found in leisure centres (gyms) and shopping centres. Some are linked to adult learning or children's centres. The opening times, fees and age range will vary according to the provider.

Finding childcare in Oxford

The University of Oxford offers a comprehensive childcare service for eligible staff and student parents, with more nursery places available than any other Russell Group institution. There are five University nurseries: Bradmore Road, Mansion House, Jack Straws Lane, Woodstock Road, and the Triangle Nursery. The University also offers places at nine community nurseries across Oxfordshire. Please be aware that demand for the University’s nursery provision is high and there may be a long waiting list.

Some of the colleges run their own nurseries (Balliol, Somerville, St Anne’s, St John’s and Wolfson colleges). Applications from college members will be given priority, but the college nurseries accept applications from members of other colleges.

There are many other childcare providers and just under 50 nurseries in and around Oxford. You can search the Oxfordshire County Council website for childcare providers based on your location.

University staff can register with My Family Care to access childcare for emergencies or school holiday cover. They can also benefit from discounted rates with Oxford sitters, a local company which provides fully-vetted childcare professionals for evening and weekend babysitting.

Childcare costs and sources of funding

Costs of pre-school childcare will vary depending on the type of childcare and provider (nanny, childminder, nursery).

University nursery fees

Check the current fees for University nursery places


The University offers a salary sacrifice scheme (subject to eligibility). Children from 9 months to 4 years may be eligible for up to 30 hours per week Government-funded childcare, depending on their age and your household income and circumstances. Please contact the specific childcare provider for details, or see the Local Authority information on childcare funding. Information on paying for childcare can be found on the Childcare Services website, or the Childcare Choices website allows you to check your eligibility and find the best option.

Children's centres and toddler groups

If you decide not to use a formal childcare provider, there are many ways you can meet other children

  • Toddler groups cover music education, creative sessions, physical exercise and many other activities
  • The Oxford University Newcomers’ Club organises a parent and toddler group where you can meet other Newcomers and find lots of helpful advice about living in Oxford with children (please register with the Newcomers' Club before attending this group)
  • Oxfordshire Children’s Centres are a great free way to interact with others
  • Community Centres offer group activities, social support, and public information. Some offer short-term learning courses at affordable prices.

You also might like to have a look at these additional childcare providers that the University has links with. Netmums and Daily Info can be useful for finding local information on activities, playgroups, parenting support and much more.

Disclaimer: Please note that the University does not endorse any of the external websites listed above, or elsewhere in this guidance

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