Choosing a nursery is often a daunting experience for new parents as their main frame of reference will be dim memories of their own nursery experience! The increasingly competitive London nursery scene now means that parents in the most sought after areas are forced to make selections on nurseries before their child has turned 1 or even, in some cases, before they have been born.
When selecting a good fit for a baby you haven’t even met yet, it is useful to consider the following:
- Ofsted report- check this first up and do not select anything below a ‘good’ or preferably ‘outstanding’ rating. Take into consideration the date of the report, as some schools may have been inspected over 5 years ago and have changed considerably for the better or worse. This is especially true if there is a new head teacher or significant changes in staff.
- Consider any existing relationships with schools. Nurseries aligned to state primary schools emphasise that they do not guarantee you a place in reception but from experience, it certainly won't hurt your chances of gaining a place! Some independent nurseries have strong alliances to certain junior schools too so this is worth taking into consideration before registering.
- Location, location, location- prioritise, when possible, nursery schools near your house, it will make your life indescribably easier and will help with your child’s transition to school. Walking to nursery in the morning will help your child with concentration as well as working off some energy.
- Outdoor space- a much sought after feature of inner London nurseries is good outside space. Many state nursery schools have well equipped outdoor areas which are incorporated into daily play, however, sometimes the most popular and fashionable nursery schools will only have a tiny terrace or indoor hall.
- Check the staff to child ratio and the staff qualifications- obviously the higher the staff to child ratio the more attention your little one will receive. The same goes for fully qualified early years teachers or professionals, if there are quite a few on the staff this is a good sign that the school has prioritised and invested in the teaching standard.
- Available hours and starting age- Try and decide what hours you will require, for example, will you need full working day coverage (8am-6pm) or will you be happy with a half-day morning or afternoon slot. Day nurseries will take children as young as 4 months for full days but a nursery school will generally only take children from 2 years of age for sessional times.
Always visit the nurseries you are considering before committing to a choice or deposit and don’t rely on a friend’s opinions or hearsay. The best nurseries will have a happy buzz within the classroom and children will be occupied and engaged. The best nurseries will employ staff who know when to step in and when to hang back and often allow children the time and space to investigate their surroundings independently.
Maybe the most important thing to remember is that every school will have its own strengths and weaknesses as well as its own very individual atmosphere and ethos. This means that finding the right fit for you and your family sometimes relies on parents trusting their gut instincts as to what feels right as well as what looks good on paper.
This is a guest post from Sabine Hook, Director of SH Nursery Consultancy.