For many children, the long journey that is education does not only start when they enter school. It begins at home, and for many children some time between 5 months and 3 years, it continues in nurseries or pre-schools. The best of these can offer an enjoyable and smooth transition from toddlerhood to the Reception classes at primary school.
Many of the prep schools featured on this site have a nursery class for 3 to 4 year-olds attached to them – I will not go into details on these again, but you can find a list of top schools that start at the nursery level at the end of this article. Instead, I want highlight several of the most popular pre-school choices in Central London that I have often heard recommended by other parents. If your child is attending a warm and loving nursery that you do not see listed here, please feel free to share this information with other parents by leaving a comment below. The nurseries below are all oversubscribed, so make sure you also read our advice on “getting a place at a top nursery school!” and what to look out for when you visit nursery schools.
- Acorn Nursery (Notting Hill) – top nursery in Notting Hill with a lovely small garden, owned by the same lady as Notting Hill Prep School. No website, so you better do your research well to be ready for registration at birth.
- Broadhurst School (Hampstead): a small but very well known nursery school for children aged 2 to 5. The youngest children attend 3 hours per day, the older children 6. This nursery is known to provide children with excellent preparation for the tough North London 4+ and 5+ assessments at highly selective prep schools. The programme is fairly structured, so may not suit those who are looking for lots of free play. Register asap BEFORE birth, believe it or not!
- Chelsea Pre-Prep and Nursery (Chelsea): is an outstanding rated pre-school offering early education for children aged 2.5 to 6. It is located in St Andrew’s Church Hall in a small side street running parallel to King’s Road. The impressive list of fun activities offered to children includes Chelsea Ballet School and Little Kickers sports lessons, music and drama, French and animal care. Luckily, its sister school Kingsland Nurseries has opened nearby, easing the pressure on places in the area, and Grand West nursery is due to open in Notting Hill in September 2020
- Hopes and Dreams Montessori Nursery School (Angel) – a lovely and oversubscribed Montessori School near Angel tube station in East London. It has an outstanding Ofsted rating and offers a varied curriculum with excursions, Spanish, French and ballet and sports. There is even a small garden for children to play. The late opening till 7pm proves popular with working parents.
- Little Owls Nursery School (Brook Green) – the nursery of choice in and around Brook Green. Morning school for all with an optional afternoon club. Ofsted rating only “good” but the main point of criticism seems to be lack of exposure to technology – decide for yourself how important you think this is for 3 year olds!
- Marmalade Cat (Battersea) – this Montessori nursery school in Battersea is getting raving reviews from parents, children are happy and nurtured while also getting prepared for tough 4+ assessments in the area.
- the Minors Nursery School and Rolfe’s Nursery School (Notting Hill) – these are both part of the Alpha Plus Group and are a popular choice for parents who like to see their children to continue on to Pembridge Hall and Wetherby.
- Pangbourne House, W10 – recently opened by Sophia Russell-Cobb who has had over 30 years experience working with children as Headmistress of Ladbroke Square Montessori School. She has now decided to set up her own school with a team of dedicated teachers. The nursery is part of a modern development just next to St. Mark’s Park which has opened this September. There are three classrooms fitted with all the Montessori equipment and extensive imaginative role-play activities, one art room with a wide range of art and craft materials, an outdoor garden and a large hall for games, music and other movement classes.
- Pippa Pop-ins – another very popular and well regarded group of nurseries with three sites in Fulham and one in Kensington. It prides itself in being structured and preparing children well for assessments while offering lots of play and outdoor excursions. They offer morning and afternoon as well as full day sessions, so better for working parents than most other choices. Thomas’s Fulham, Kensington Prep and Fulham Prep are the most common destinations for children from this nursery. Helpfully, children can start from age 18 months, so a year earlier than most other nurseries
- Ringrose Kindergarten Chelsea – an academically oriented kindergarten for children aged 2 1/2 to 5. Located in the St Luke’s Church Hall in Chelsea. Describe themselves very much as a “school” rather than a “playgroup”. Excellent preparation for school.
- The Roche School nursery, Keswick House (Putney) – rated outstanding across the board, with enviable outdoor space, highly qualified staff and the perfect mix of free play and structured learning. Many girls move on to Wimbledon High and Putney High, others stay on at the Roche School, with the Merlin School and Thomas’s popular options for boys.
- Strawberry Fields Nursery (Notting Hill) – Notting Hill yummy mummies adore this nursery and it has a glowing Ofsted review. Not big on outdoor space, but nice classrooms and good teaching.
- Willcocks Nursery (South Kensington) – one of the longest established private nursery schools in the area led by the highly experienced and wonderful Lavinia Taylor. Located opposite the Royal College of Music and Imperial College, the nursery has a spacious playground. Children can start in the afternoon school aged 2 1/4 years old and can progress to the morning school aged 2 3/4. Outstanding Ofsted rating.
- Willow Tree Nursery (Stamford Brook) – Plenty of room to play, a garden, highly experienced staff and an outstanding Ofsted rating, what more can one ask for? They even run a holiday club. Popular with families around Ravenscourt Park / Chiswick.
- Young England Kindergarten (Pimlico) – one of the original nursery schools in London founded in the 1960s and for decades run by the very experienced and dedicated Miss Kay (now joined by her son Henry), this nursery’s motto is “where learning is serious fun!”. Free access to stunning St George’s Square in Pimlico is a big advantage here, as is the busy programme of Ballet, Music, Little Kickers, Gardening and French (to name but a few).
- Zebedees Nursery (Parsons Green) – outstanding Christian nursery with excellent teaching and impressive individual attention. 2-3 year olds start out in afternoon sessions, moving to the morning school after spending at least a term in the quieter afterschool. There is a weekly toddler group for those who don’t want to wait until age 2.
Of course, always make sure you do your own research and talk to lots of other parents! This list is by no means complete.
Prep schools that have nursery classes are:
- Abercorn School
- Cameron Vale School, Chelsea
- Cavendish School, Camden
- Chepstow House
- Devonshire House School
- Eaton House Belgravia
- Eaton Square Nursery Schools
- Falkner House School
- Garden House School
- Hampstead Hill
- Kew College
- Knightsbridge School (siblings only)
- Mulberry House
- Newton Prep
- Redcliffe School
- Saint Christina’s School
- St Mary’s School, Hampstead
- Thomas’s Kindergarten (in Battersea)
- Wetherby School