Choosing the Right Nursery for Your Child: Key Considerations

Choosing a Nursery

Selecting the ideal nursery for your little one is a crucial decision in your child’s early education journey. As a parent, you want to feel confident that your chosen nursery will provide a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment for your child. With numerous options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. This article will guide you through the essential factors to consider when choosing a nursery for your child. Combined our children have attended 5 different nurseries. The following post outlines what we have learnt along the way, with two children with SEN needs we talk about what we found useful to ask as well.

choosing a nursery SEN EYFS image of a child in a swing with play equipment in the background

1. Location and Accessibility of the Nursery

The first consideration when selecting a nursery is its location. It’s essential to find a nursery that is conveniently located near your home or workplace, allowing for easy drop-offs and pick-ups. Additionally, consider the availability of public transport and parking facilities if you do not live within walking distance. Taking into account up the potential stressors of limited parking, queues etc can make a big difference. This is especially important if your child struggles with transition.

2. Ofsted Ratings and Reports

Ofsted is the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, which inspects and regulates childcare providers, including nurseries. Their ratings can range from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’. While a high rating may be a general indicator of quality, it’s essential to read the accompanying report for a comprehensive understanding of the nursery’s strengths and areas for improvement. You can access these reports for any nursery on the Ofsted website.

3. EYFS Curriculum and Learning Philosophy

When choosing a nursery, consider the curriculum and teaching methodology employed. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a government-set framework for children aged 0-5 years in England, and it should be the basis for the curriculum offered by your prospective nursery. The EYFS emphasises a balance between play-based learning and structured activities, focusing on seven key areas:

  1. Personal, social, and emotional development
  2. Communication and language
  3. Physical development
  4. Literacy
  5. Mathematics
  6. Understanding the world
  7. Expressive arts and design

In addition to the EYFS, some nurseries may adopt specific pedagogical approaches, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or Steiner. Research these approaches to determine if they align with your family’s values and your child’s personality and your parenting ethos.

4. Nursery Staff Qualifications and Ethos

Qualified and experienced staff are key to a high-quality nursery experience. Investigate the qualifications held by the nursery staff, including relevant childcare degrees, Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS), or other professional certifications. Additionally, consider the staff-to-child ratio, which should meet or exceed the statutory requirements:

  • 1:3 for children under 2 years
  • 1:4 for children aged 2 years
  • 1:8 for children aged 3-5 years

As for staff ethos you should be able to pick this up during a visit. How are they interacting with the children? What kind of language are they using? How are they facilitating play?

5. Safeguarding and Security

Ensuring a safe and secure environment for your child is paramount. Verify that the nursery has appropriate security measures in place, such as secure entrances, visitor sign-in procedures, and CCTV. Additionally, inquire about the nursery’s approach to safeguarding and child protection, as well as their policies on first aid and emergency situations.

6. Facilities and Resources

Tour the nursery to evaluate the physical environment and available resources. Look for clean, well-ventilated, and age-appropriate spaces with a variety of learning materials and play equipment. Outdoor areas should be safe, secure, and well-maintained, offering opportunities for physical activity and exploration. Also, consider the availability of specialist facilities, such as sensory rooms, music rooms, or libraries.

7. SEND, Inclusivity and Diversity

A nursery should be welcoming and inclusive, catering to the diverse needs of all children and families. Ask about the nursery’s approach to supporting children with additional needs, including special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Additionally, consider the nursery’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion through their curriculum, staff training, and community engagement.

Ask what their core SEND offer is. Are they knowledgable about the LIFT process? How do they develop and communicate personalised or targeted plans with parents? You can ask about the transition and induction processes, how do they induct a child in? When it is time to move onto school what relationships do they have with local schools and SENCOs?

You might want to find out about the training they provide to their staff in specific needs such as Autism or Attachment theory.

8. Parent Involvement and Communication

A strong partnership between parents and the nursery is essential for your child’s well-being and development. Look for a nursery that values parent involvement and maintains open lines of communication. This may include regular parent-teacher meetings, newsletters, or online platforms for sharing updates and progress reports.

9. Nursery Fees and Funding

Lastly, consider the nursery fees and any available funding options. In the UK, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 or 30 hours of free childcare per week, depending on eligibility. Some two-year-olds may also qualify for free childcare. Check with your prospective nursery about their fees and whether they accept government funding.

Choosing the right nursery for your child is a personal decision that requires thorough research and consideration of various factors. By addressing the aspects discussed above, you will be well-equipped to find a nursery that meets your family’s needs and sets your child on a path for lifelong learning and success.

Choosing a nursery for your child

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