what to look for in initial visits to nursery schools (north london)

(11 Posts)
kalidasa Fri 10-May-13 09:18:12

Our baby is only five and a bit months old but it seems that where we are many of the local nursery schools require registration within the baby's first year for entry at two and a half or three. Madness I know!

Anyway, I have just started looking at these places and have been to one open day, with a couple of others arranged. But obviously our baby is so small it's hard to really think about in connection with him/his character etc as we don't really know what that is yet. So for those of you further on, perhaps with experience of more than one nursery/pre-school option with different children, what should I be looking for? what sort of variables make a difference in your opinion?

We are not at all set on private education in general, but I do think I'd like him to go to something more structured than the childminder at some point before he starts school properly, so that would mean either transferring to the nursery school part of a day nursery; or the nursery/pre-prep section of a school. We live in North London (NW3) and there are SO MANY options within 15 minutes walk of us that I need some way of deciding between them!

kalidasa Wed 22-May-13 18:16:56

Bumping this just in case I posted at a really dead time originally.

NotAnotherPackedLunch Wed 22-May-13 18:26:47

I think that good access to really good outdoor space can often be overlooked. DC ended up at a nursery with a brilliant outdoor learning space by accident. With hindsight I would now make that one of my top criteria. It's hard to imagine just what active, curious busy people your tiny babies will grow into.

kalidasa Wed 22-May-13 18:46:45

Thanks notanother. One of the nursery schools has a really nice garden and I shall bear this in mind when looking at the others. DH doesn't really think it matters (grew up in central Paris) but I grew up spending hours in a big overgrown garden and as we don't have this at home I am keen for DS to get lots of time outside. I also really remember my outside time at my very first school (doing tree-bark rubbings and gathering stuff for nature table and things like that!).

Karoleann Sun 02-Jun-13 22:15:26

They're all so different, a lot of the pre-schools eg broad hurst, mulberry house are quite academic and really exist to get children into pre-preps.
Then you have the play school type pre-schools like fordwych and the one at the church in the centre of hampstead (can't remember the name), which are more child -centred.
Then you have the ones attached to the schools, which are worth going for if your child is going to go to that school.
Then you have the day nursery ones which are better if you want all day care and are at work.

I'd work backwards - choose your school and work backwards - if you want him to go to certain schools eg the hall, you need to get his name down on the waiting list now anyway.

kalidasa Mon 03-Jun-13 10:20:19

Thanks for this Karoleann. Yes, I am looking at the schools too because as you say it seems you have to register very early in many cases. (We actually live right opposite the Hall's Junior school but have been umm-ing and aah-ing about that - it seems like a great school in lots of ways but we are both uneasy about the single sex thing from so small, and also it just seems way too early to have any idea what our baby will be like! I suppose you just have to put your name down for a range of options.)

It's interesting though that you think the nursery schools really do differ - I mean in terms of what they actually offer/what the experience is like rather than just in terms of their 'branding'. I thought at such an early stage it might be more a difference in 'spin' than actual delivery, but it seems not.

I like the child-centred concept for such small ones, so we are on a list for Hampstead Hill School (which is in a church, so I think the one you mean?). I'm also going to an info morning for the Montessori, and we are visiting a bilingual nursery school this week (as DH is French). I was a bit too late already for Broadhurst so we are on some sort of waiting list for the waiting list! I still haven't made any decision about the schools with nursery classes, though I visited Devonshire House and have made enquiries at Trevor Roberts, Phoenix and North Bridge House.

It doesn't help that many of these places won't let you visit until several years after you register, presumably to maximise their registration fees!

I hadn't heard of fordwych so will check that out, thanks. Do you have any personal feeling/experience about which of these places suit which sorts of child? or which two or three would provide a good "range" of options?

horsemadmom Sun 16-Jun-13 08:39:27

My vote for Hampstead Hill. Did very well by my 3.

kalidasa Mon 17-Jun-13 14:32:35

Thanks horsemadmom. We are on the list there and we are keen from what we have heard but can't look round it for another year or so. Could I ask what schools the children go on to from HHS?

notadoctor Tue 18-Jun-13 20:19:33

Things I looked out for - and that have led to me finding a nursery I am extremely happy with:

A great outdoor space - and staff who talk positively about taking her out in all weathers.

Friendly/ smiley ness of the staff - how many babies seemed to be going to them for cuddles

Emphasis on the children's own art work on displays rather than on glossy corporate photos

I thought evidence of messy and creative play was a good sign - too clean and shiny made me worry!

A nap/ meal structure I could imagine fitting with our own

Hi there! I live in Nw3 as well and i am six months pregnant. i am panicking about getting my baby (who as yet does not exist in the real world) into a good nursery. How did your search resolve itself?

TinyTear Mon 04-Nov-13 15:02:16

My daughter will go to Hampstead Hill in January.

Unfortunately where she is currently will close (Little Acorns from the Hampstead Hill group) so if I ever have a number 2 I don't know what to do before they are 2 years old...

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