With the increasing choice, competition and pressure inherent in the London and UK nursery systems, Sabine Hook provides invaluable advice on how to lay stable foundations for your child’s educational future.
Whilst for both prospective and new parents the choice of nursery for your child may seem a long way off, the reality is that the highly competitive nursery application process is beginning earlier and earlier. The wealth of nursery provision available across London and the UK, coupled with the increasingly early registration demands and increasing number of assessments at 4+, demands early and careful planning.
It is now commonly acknowledged that education choices made in the Early Years are as crucial as those made at primary and secondary level. Therefore, finding the right nursery early in the process is an essential step in shaping your child’s educational future.
You must not wait too long before researching the nursery options in your area. In London, applications to popular nurseries are often made within six months of birth and, in some extreme situations, within six months of pregnancy! It is important to prioritise a nursery within walking distance as the fresh air and calm routine will increase your child’s concentration levels for the rest of the day.
Other vital elements of your search should include:
- Checking the Ofsted rating of the nursery (ignore anything rated below ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’)
- Visiting the nursery, and meeting the head teacher, rather than relying on brochures or reviews.
- Checking on outdoor provision to discover how many hours a day nurseries provide children with the space and opportunity to develop their vital gross motor skills.
Preparing Your Child for Nursery
When your choice of nursery has been made, the next step is preparing your child for attending that nursery. Most children in London and the UK have their first experience of nursery school at around two-and-a-half or three years old and, because they are so young, it is essential to support toddlers with a well-paced and gradual transition to nursery.
Making sure you talk with your child about nursery daily in the two months leading up to starting will encourage familiarity with the concept. Breeding this familiarity is essential, and there are many other ways to help do this, including:
- Taking trips to the nursery setting, including the route to the nursery.
- Requesting photos of the members of staff that will be working with your child.
- Introducing both you and your child to relevant staff member/s in the weeks before starting.
There are also key developmental goals that need to be achieved to prepare your child for the nursery school routine. Evidence of seemingly simple physical tasks such as independent toilet visits and hand washing is expected by most nurseries. Additionally, it is crucial that children have the tools to communicate their needs in this new and unfamiliar environment, such as: “I need to go to the toilet”, “I’m thirsty”, and “I can’t find my coat.” Finally, visiting playgroups and music groups with some regularity before nursery begins allows children to get used to group environments, particularly the concept of playing alongside other toddlers or babies.
Whilst this advice only scratches the surface of both preparing your child for and finding a nursery, following these principles and models should help ensure a smooth transition and a confident, secure and, most importantly, a happy child.
Discover the other blogs in this four-part series: