Guest Post: Choosing Nursery Schools

Minerva Tutors was set up in 2014 by Hugh Viney, classics scholar and Head Boy at Stowe School and a good friend of mine. They recently were awarded "Best Tutoring Company in the UK". I am lucky enough to consult for their Early Years clients on a regular basis. Find out more at: http://www.minervatutors.co.uk

This article was originally written by Minerva Tutors.

"Many working parents face the tough decision of choosing a nursery for their child and in London this can be a more complex process than many parents are prepared for. Handing over your little one to strangers for perhaps long periods of time can be an anxiety inducing prospect for many parents, and understandably so.

We talked to Rose de Pass, our expert early years education consultant, who has worked in nursery schools and consultancy in London for almost a decade, about some of her key guidelines and recommendations regarding nursery school choices. One of her core beliefs is that the nursery should be near to home and based

within your local community: ‘You’ve got to be close to home, little children should not be travelling miles across London. They need to be near their friends, and good nurseries should be serving their local community’.

Looking at the Ofsted ratings should also be one of the first things parents do. Nurseries rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ will have achieved that accreditation due to important factors such as their policies on safety and safeguarding, the quality and delivery of the curriculum, and the system in place regarding children’s’ key workers - the teachers who work individually with a child. Our consultant also recommends that parents look for other ‘good signs’, such as the links that a nursery has with prep schools, low staff turnover and outdoor play areas.

When visiting potential nurseries Rose advises that parents should survey the nursery thoroughly and take time to observe the children. Do the children seem engaged and happy? Is it a warm and nurturing atmosphere? What facilities do they have? Is their an outdoor play area and places where children will be able to express themselves and play? Good nurseries should have facilities available for children to involve themselves through sensory play such as sand pits, soft play areas, or perhaps a place where they can ‘cook’ basic things.

She also placed importance on having a talk with the head of the nursery to find out more about their approach and what a child’s typical day will involve. From this conversation you should be able to establish whether you feel your child will fit in and if you are getting the right feeling. Parents on mumsnet.com have shared that they based their decisions on getting the right ‘gut feeling’.

Another factor to consider is the 4+ assessments, which take place before children enter reception at pre-prep school. Undoubtedly, this has complicated nursery choices as clearly parents wish their child to do well and be adequately prepared. Hence, it is also important to find a nursery which can demonstrate that they have a good understanding of what the assessments involve, and a programme which involves some preparation activities.

If you feel you need extra support through this process, both Rose and Minerva Tutors offer Early Years Education consultancy services. Working closely with expert advisors, our priority is to ascertain your family’s needs and the needs of your child to identify the nurseries which are best suited to, your schedule and requirements. We will also offer guidance on the right questions to ask the nursery and things to look out for, and for busy parents our service includes complete handling of the applications. What’s more, should you have a specific requirement such as a bilingual child or a child with a special educational need, we can also help you find a nursery which will be best equipped to facilitate your child’s needs.

Finding a safe place for your child to learn the alphabet should not difficult, but as the saying goes, ‘childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons’, so make theirs a special one.

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