Under s 19 of the Education Act, 1918, re-enacted as s 21 and 119 of the Education Act, 1921, local education authorities were empowered to supply, or aid the supply of nursery schools and classes for children between two and five years of age.
Regulations for Nursery Schools (Grant Regulations No. 6) were issued in 1919 setting out the conditions under which the Board of Education would recognise such schools, including existing nursery schools maintained by voluntary bodies, for the purposes of grant.
The restrictions on educational development contained in the Board of Education Circular 1190 (1921) allowed for Nursery School provision only in special circumstances and on an experimental basis. This ruling continued until 1924 when the position gradually improved and in 1925 Nursery Schools were made a "special service" under Regulations 34-36 of the Board of Education (Special Services) Regulations, 1925.
A circular  issued jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education in 1929 recommended the establishment of day nurseries, nursery schools, and nursery classes in elementary schools. Reduction of national expenditure, as the result of the financial crisis of 1931, arrested the development of nursery school provision until 1934, and it was not before 1936 (Circular 1444) that local education authorities were asked to make a survey of local needs.
The Board of Education was urged by voluntary associations to consider, inter alia, the extension of the age range of nursery school provision, the training of nursery school teachers, and the desirability of specialist qualifications.
Special problems arose as a result of the Second World War and guidance was given to local education authorities in Circular 1495 (1945) about the setting up of nursery centres in reception areas. The demand for day nurseries for the children of women war workers led to the issue of joint circulars by the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education stressing the need for the care of such children including the provision of play centres for children of compulsory school age. Responsibility for war-time day nurseries fell to the Ministry of Health while the Board of Education continued to be responsible for nursery schools and classes.
Provisions under previous education acts for bursery schools and classes were re-enacted in the Education Act, 1944 which imposed a duty under Section 8(2) on local education authorities to secure provision for "pupils who have not attained the age of five years by the provision of nursery schools or, where the authority consider the provision of such schools to be inexpedient, by the provision of nursery classes in other schools".