Research shows that early childhood education can have long-lasting, positive effects on children. Children’s cognition, behaviour, and social and educational skills improve. This is a direct effect of early care.
But there’s a catch.
The benefits are only evident when the childcare is of high quality.
So, when choosing a nursery for your child, what do you look for to ensure the best outcome? Keep reading for insight and inspiration.
Choosing a Nursery
You can’t leave such an important decision to chance. Make sure the nursery you choose is the right one by checking the following things.
1: Ofsted Rating
Do your research. First, inspect the nursery’s website. Then, check out their Ofsted history.
Ofsted is the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
They regulate all services catering to children. Nurseries, schools, colleges, and children’s homes are all subject to inspections. Those reports are available to the public. You can read reports on the official government site.
Take the reports for each nursery you have in mind and compare them. Drop any that are below standard.
2: Ratio & Qualifications
A healthy staff-to-child ratio ensures the safety and wellbeing of all children. The ages of the children dictate the ratios. You want a nursery that complies with Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) standards.
There must be at least one staff member for every three children under two years of age.
Once a child reaches age two, the ratio goes to one staff member for every four children.
For ages three years and up, the ratio change depending on the situation.
Further, at least one staff member has to hold a full level three qualification. And they must also have experience with the age group with which they work.
Regulations also dictate qualifications and suitable experience for other members of staff.
When choosing a nursery, make sure they follow all regulations. Those on ratios and staff qualifications.
It’s vital to make sure that the nursery’s values align with your own. This is especially important if you have strong personal convictions. They should respect religious, spiritual, or political beliefs.
Consider the particular parenting style that you prefer. Or disciplinary tactics that you don’t allow. It’s important that the nursery agrees and respects your decisions.
You don’t want your child to be in an environment that doesn’t nurture the beliefs you hold as a family. Your child should feel free to express themselves and question their world.
So, when comparing schools’ values, ask them how they feel about your beliefs. How would they respond to the things that are most important to you and your family?
The right nursery will embrace diversity and respect your values.
4: Safety & Security
Security procedures for nurseries are essential. When choosing a nursery, check what they’ll do to keep your child safe.
Ensure they use a secure entry for the building. And that only approved individuals may enter the premises. You should be able to provide a list of people permitted to collect your child.
A CCTV system should be in place to monitor the premises to include the car park and all entrances.
Do they perform regular fire drills? Are there fire extinguishers on-site?
What is the nursery’s accident and injury policy? Do they have a trained first aider on staff?
If your child takes medication or has medical needs, ask how the nursery would address these.
When choosing a nursery, make sure the nursery will do everything to keep your child safe. Or cross them off your list.
This isn’t the time for bargain hunting. But you want to make sure that you are comfortable paying the cost.
When choosing a nursery, it’s important that they are upfront and transparent about costs.
Nursery fees vary by region and centre. Compare prices to see what fits in your budget. There may be an option to decrease the days your child attends if affordability is an issue.
So, ask if there is any flexibility with pricing or scheduling. Many nurseries will work with you.
Further, check if you are eligible for government grants. For example, if your child is age three years or older and you’re working, you can access 30 hours of grant funding.
Examine the rooms in which the children interact. They should have ample space to explore without crowding.
Look for various stations of different types of play. For example, experts recommend independent and parallel play for healthy child development. Also, they recommend associative, cooperative, and unoccupied play.
Each is important during various stages of development.
Children should use their imaginations and explore. Check that a secure outdoor play area is also available. Children should play outside in all seasons, even if for limited times.
7: In-Person Impressions
It is vital to visit in person when choosing a nursery. Check that you can book a visit on the nursery’s website.
See first-hand how the staff interacts with the children. And how the children respond.
Are staff standing around and chatting with each other? Or are they on the floor, interacting with children?
In talking to nursery staff, are they receptive to your questions and concerns?
How did they greet you? Did they greet your child?
Pay particularly close attention to the children’s moods and behaviours. They should be curious and alert.
Staff should speak to children in a calm, respectful manner. They should dress in a neat, professional way that shows they work there.
While all factors determined by your research are important, you can’t deny your gut feeling. If you or your child don’t feel right about a nursery, it’s not the one for you.
The Best Beginning
The options for nurseries are many and varied. So, it’s wise to research and compare.
When choosing a nursery for your child, the most important factor is that it’s a perfect fit.
If you’ve found this helpful, please see our blog for more.