The decision to choose a childcare provider is potentially one of the hardest you will ever have to make. It's also a decision that can be accompanied by expectation, emotion and sometimes not a little anxiety. So before picking up the phone, it's definitely worth sitting back and reflecting on what you want from the nursery and how you might want to compare one setting against another.
Naturally, unless this is your second child, you may not have had much experience of selecting a nursery, so where do you start? In May 2007, we wrote an article for the ABC Magazine on how to select a nursery and what sort of questions to ask before making your decision. We hope it helps!
CHOOSING A NURSERY (Lewis Wood, Proprietor, The Wishing Tree Nursery)
I can just about remember what is like ten years ago when we were looking for a nursery for our children, and to be frank it was almost like trying to join an exclusive club. Being told that there was a waiting list for at least the next year was a little disheartening, but we persisted and eventually found the right place.
Today, there are nearly twice as many nurseries in Brighton and Hove as there were back then, and although baby places in particular are still hard to come by, there are now quite a range of options available to parents and carers. So how do you choose the setting that may well be looking after your child for the next 3 to 4 years? Generally, the top three selection criteria amongst our parents are recommendation, location and the Ofsted report, as well as parental instinct and whether the nursery “feels right”.
So to everyone out there looking for a nursery place, I’ve compiled a small selection of key questions which we’ve been asked over the years, as well as listed some questions which surprisingly we’ve never been asked.
(1) When was your last Ofsted inspection and was it an un-announced visit or did you have time to prepare? Go to www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/ for more details.
(2) How are you implementing the Early Years Foundation Stage in your nursery? Why is it relevant for my child? What does a typical day at your nursery look like?
(3) Are you following any quality assurance programmes such as QuILT, Investors in People or Quality Counts? Ask for details.
(4) Do you employ a qualified teacher(s) or Early Years Professionals?
(5) How will you accommodate my child's routine and address my ideas on discipline, diet, toilet training, and cultural preferences?
(6) How will you cater for children with special requirements (behavioural, learning, physical needs)?
(7) What are the age ranges of the children in each room and how do you decide how and when my child will progress through the nursery? How do you observe my child’s development and report back to me?
(8) How many full time and part time staff do you have? How many of them are qualified and to what levels? What ratios of staff to children do you follow?
(9) Do you operate a keyperson policy and how does this work?
(10) What is your overall strategy for ensuring staff loyalty and continuity of care for the children at your nursery?
(11) When was the last time you conducted a parent and / or staff survey to gain feedback about your nursery? Can I see a sample questionnaire?
(12) Can I see your complaints register?
(13) How do you convert the daily fee into a monthly bill? Are you charging for 52 weeks of the year or do you discount for bank holidays and other nursery closures, i.e. at Christmas?
(14) Do your fees include home cooked meals, snacks, drinks, cows & formula milk, weaning menu for babies, eco friendly nappies, sun-creams and toiletries? What’s not included?
(15) Do you have any time restrictions imposed on you through planning permission, for the use of your outdoor space? Can your outdoor space be used all year round?
(16) What is the Early Years Free Entitlement and how does it work for 3 and 4 year olds?
If you would like a copy of our full questionnaire please call on 01273 551515.
Visiting the Nursery and Availability
Once you have made your selection of possible nurseries you will undoubtedly want to visit a few. It's worth bearing in mind that demand still exceeds supply, especially amongst the quality settings and therefore remember to start your enquiries at least 3-6 months before you need the place, longer if your child is under two years of age.
Here at the Wishing Tree we need about 3-4 days advance notice for a visit to the nursery and you will need to allocate between an hour and 90 minutes for the complete tour. We can even provide follow up visits if you need more time to make the decision or perhaps you might want to bring along a relative or friend. Once you have reached your decision, you will need to complete a registration and booking form and provide a deposit to hold the booking. This is refundable before your child eventually leaves the nursery.
Booking and Registration