Every year many families have to make the important decision to place their child in a Day Nursery. This is probably one of the most difficult decisions they will ever have to make for a number of reasons.
The decision to engage a nursery, for whatever reason, can lead to a deep seated feeling of guilt on either or both parents. It is clearly important that parents recognise these difficulties and take steps to overcome the anxiety and reassure themselves that they have made the right decision. Parents must get the answers to a number of questions if they are going to be able to come to a decision which of a number of different nurseries they engage.
The start point for parents initially should be to decide what things are most important to them in bringing up their child, is it the quality of ‘education’ that the nursery & Pre School offers or is more important that the value system that the nursery has is a higher priority? Some parents may look for a setting that has a strong focus on education whilst others will want the nursery to be more like their home than a school.
The answer has to be somewhere in between with the emphasis clearly identified.
Whilst it is true to say that nurseries are now far more regulated then they have been there are still subtle differences between one and another. There is no substitute in the information gathering stage than to actually visit the nurseries themselves. Establishing a list of available nurseries can be achieved by using the local Children & Families website, by investigating through a search on Google or by personal recommendation.
With this information in hand parents should next visit the nurseries to experience what each one has to offer. A visit will provide the oppportunity to see the facilitites, meet the nursery staff and view the different areas the Babies, Toddlers and Pre School.
In arranging a visit there will be some nurseries that will insist on an appointment whilst others will be happy to welcome parents who just turn up at the door. Parents may well come to a conclusion about what the nursery insists upon but they should not underestimate the importance of actually visiting the nurseries of their choice.
During the visit nurseries should be questioned about such things as the induction process, staff retention rates, routine, costs and what is included in the fees, mealtimes as well as menus and how flexible the nursery is willing to be to support the routine and needs of the family. Parents should also investigate and sense the atmosphere in the nursery and more specifically the relationship between children and nursery nurses. An impression of cleanliness and Health & Safety routines should also be gained by direct questioning.
All children who attend registered nurseries follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The EYFS directs the learning experiences of children for the full nursery age group as well as the Reception
year of school. Whilst very prescriptive the EYFS does allow for nurseries to exercise some latitude and it is this specific area where parents can investigate to discover whether there is a match with their own views. Parents should get an early feel on how the nursery manages the balance between the EYFS and the quality of care.
Finally, parents should feel comfortable with the atmosphere and the interaction between staff, children and parents. In this respect parents should not feel rushed during their visit and should, if necessary, arrange a second visit and spend more time in the actual room where their child will spend their time.
This may form part of the induction process but should also lay the foundations for the future relationship between home and the nursery. An early introduction and interview should be arranged with the child’s key person so that he or she can get to know the child as well as possible.
Whilst there are many common areas between nurseries there are also differences of emphasis between one nursery and another. This is important as parents will be able to exercise some parental choice that will ensure that they get the best for their child. Nurseries are an important link between home and formal education, it is very important, therefore, that parents have enough information to come to an informed judgement.
Alison Thomson is a qualified teacher who owns the Spinney Day Nursery with two
nurseries in Chester. She has been a teacher in Cheshire for over thirty years
and has run the nursery for the past thirteen years.