A guide to opening a nursery school or crèche

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You would like to open a nursery school. You have done the background research and decided on the size of your centre, the type of services you will offer and what you will need to get your business off the ground. So let’s kick off the process.

The first order of business is to find an appropriate site for your business.

Choosing the right location

If you are going to open your business on a commercial site, it should either be close to where parents work or where they live. This could be in a residential neighbourhood, near a school, a concentration of office parks or sharing a facility with another community organisation.

Is there enough space for all the equipment needed and to comply with the local municipality’s requirements? Is there enough parking? Is the area zoned for running a business? How much refurbishment will be needed for the premises to be operated as a crèche.

Operating from your home

There are many role-players that must be consulted if you decide to open your business from home. First and foremost will be your own family who will have a business operating around them and possibly encroaching on their space.

The neighbours will have to be consulted about the potential noise and extra traffic. It’s important to explain how you will keep the inconveniences and disruptions to a minimum.

You may also have to find out from your local municipality whether your home needs to be zoned for business rights or special concessions.

Finding the finance

The amount of money you will need depends on the size and location of your business, number of children, number of staff and the services you’ll offer. Use your business plan to draw up a budget of all the things you will need.

By comparing it to the cash you already have, you know what your shortfall is; how much money you need to borrow.
Make sure that you have only the essential items in your budget. You can always buy the other items at a later stage. There are a few sources you might go to for funding.

  • Own resources: take stock of what assets you own, including savings, property equity, insurance policies, unit trusts, etc. These can be sold for cash or used as security for a loan.
  • Your personal line of credit may enable you to buy most of the equipment on your credit cards.
  • Approach friends and family who believe you can succeed for. But tread carefully and make sure there is a written contract in place and that the person can afford to take the risk.
  • You may look for an investor who will partner with you. This could be someone who will put a cash injection into the business and play a hands-on role in the running of the business. Some partners are willing to invest, but don’t want to be involved in day to day operations. You will need to enter into a written Partnership Agreement that spells out each person’s role and responsibilities.

Rules, regulations and licenses

If you are going to accommodate six or more children, you have to register your business with your local municipality, who follows the rules set out by the Department of Social Development. When reviewing your application, the local Council can impose conditions and restrictions as it sees fit.

Your application must contain the following:

  • Your particulars (identity number, address and telephone numbers)
  • The physical and postal address of the partial care facility
  • The number of children that will be accommodated by the facility
  • Your qualifications, skills and experience
  • A description of the programmes and services to be offered, including the aims and objectives

You must also submit:

1. A business plan containing:

  • the business hours of the partial care facility
  • the fee structure
  • the day-care plan
  • the staff composition
  • the disciplinary policy

2. The constitution containing the:

  • name of the partial care facility
  • composition, powers and duties of the management

3. An original copy of the approved building plans
4. An emergency plan
5. A tax clearance certificate
6. A health certificate from the local municipality

The structural regulations for setting up a crèche/nursery school/day-care state the following:

  • Office, staff room and sick bay: If there are more than 30 children in the school, there must be a room that can be divided into a sick bay that can accommodate two children. The same room can also be used as a staff room.
  • Indoor play area: There must be an indoor area that covers 1.8 square meters of floor space per child, which can be used for play, meals and rest.
  • Kitchen: The kitchen must have suitable cooking and washing facilities, separate from the play area. There must be enough natural lighting and ventilation, and walls should be smooth and painted with washable paint.
  • Bathrooms: There must be one toilet and hand washing area for every 20 children under the age of five. The same goes for children over the age of five, but girls’ bathroom must be separate from the boys’. There must be hot and cold water at the basins. Potties must be emptied, cleaned and disinfected.
  • Outdoor play area: An outdoor play area must provide at least two square meters of space per child. The area must have shady parts, be fenced off and have approved lockable gates. The area must also be free of excavations, dangerous steps and levels.
  • General: The crèche must keep a health register.

Other requirements

To make sure all criteria are met and licenses are obtained, you may consider contracting a lawyer and insurer to make an assessment and give you advice. To run your business effectively, you must have:

  • A safe playground that meets the requirements set out by the local municipality.
  • Insurance: At the very least, you should have public liability insurance, accident and equipment liability insurance. Make sure that you meet all the requirements set out by the insurance company so you don’t have any surprises when you claim.
  • Compliance: Once you are set up, the local authority will come assess the premises and the playground. The Medical Officer of Health will issue you with an Environmental Health Permit for the playground.
  • To serve food, you will need a Certificate of Compliance for Food Preparation.

Inspections by your local official of the Department of Social Development can be made without notice to assess whether you are complying with the relevant regulations.

It’s important that you make sure you know exactly what is required in terms of all the legalities of setting up a business in childcare. Contact your local authority and the Department of Health for information.