Updated: Mar 8
The last year has seen half of my friends either pregnant or about to give birth. Thankfully, all pregnancies have been going well so what followed was a list of questions about nurseries: Which one is the best? What should I be looking for in a nursery? How do I chose between so many? What makes a good nursery?
Being inundated with questions made me realize how many things, us teachers, give for granted and how little reliable information there is out there for parents. If you live in London like I do, there are plenty of ‘best nurseries’ lists you can consult. For those living in the UK, Ofsted should be one of the first websites you consult to get a general idea of nurseries available of their quality standards.
As a teacher, these are my personal recommendations.
1. Online visits
Most nurseries are not able to welcome parents in person so many are organizing online visits where parents can see the spaces and meet the manager. Other nurseries are organizing in-person visits in the evenings when the building is empty. Either options are good and necessary to meet managers, ask questions and have a feeling of the space. Avoid choosing nurseries who only opt for pre-recorded videos and, if possible, insist to go visit the school out of hours. With all the necessary precautions, this should be allowed in the coming weeks.
2. Outdoor space - extra-curriculars
Nothing has proven as vital as having outdoor space. Ideally, the space should be always accessible during the day. As per guidance, children must have at least 30 mins outdoor time per day, the space should allow for gross motor movements, pretend play and messy play.
A day at nursery is a very long day for both teachers and children. Having entertaining extra-curricular lessons breaks up the daily routine and avoids everybody getting bored!
A good nursery will have the main policies online available for you to read/download. I believe the Behaviour Management policy is an important one because it dictates how teachers will deal with children's negative, and positive, behaviour. Make sure you agree with it, and if there are strategies which you are unsure about, question them with the manager. It's important to start on the same page! As an example, check out these policies from the nursery I work in.
4. Ratios and Qualifications
Make sure the nursery states the correct EYFS teacher-child ratios. Ideally, there should always be an extra teacher in the room to allow staff to go on breaks, toilet etc.
Knowing the teachers' qualifications should reassure you on their skills and knowledge. When nurseries invest in their teachers' CPD, that means there is trust between management and staff and good employer retention.
5. Indoor space - activities
The indoor space should be airy, with windows that can open, a good balance between floor space and tables and high quality activities. Rooms should be quiet, so not on a busy street, and not crowded nor chaotic. An organised space reflects a good teaching style.
In-room toilets are preferable so that teachers don't have to leave the room every time they change nappies. Having a staff room means that teachers won't take their personal belongings to the room (mostly phones) and focus more on the children.
6. A general good vibe
This might sound silly but the vibes you get from the teachers and from the space when visiting are essential. If you trust the place and the people, settling in your child will be incredibly easier. If you are unsure about your choice, the child will pick up the feeling and won't want to leave you at all.
Finally, there are many social media groups which can give you advice about the nurseries in your borough. Talking with people who can tell you about their personal experiences is pivotal to making the right choice!