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preschool vs. independent nursery advice please

(13 Posts)
crumblemumble Tue 12-Jul-11 15:04:57

Hello, I'm new to posting but have been reading quite a lot of the archives to find the answer here and am still a bit baffled as a non-Brit about options for 3-4 yos.

We would like our DD (3yo) to attend preschool or nursery school while we are in the UK for a year. After researching many options, we seem to have come down to two radically different choices: a preschool run by parents (Cottontails in Girton/Cambridge, if anyone has specific advice there) and a nursery year in a non-selective independent school. Both have 1's and 2's in the Ofsted report.

With the Early Years curriculum, we don't understand what makes one kind of place different from another. Reading the boards here, I see the comparison of "structured" and "unstructured" come up a lot but what do people mean when they make this comparison?

(PS. Our DD has been in Montessori school in the US for two years, and so is used to 5 mornings of a somewhat structured "school" but with the Montessori child-driven ethos. She's been able to do a 9-3 summer version as well, but all play. I'm trying to figure out what is the comparable UK option. We're too late for a place in a state school nursery year, ruled out a private day nursery because the hour structure doesn't work for us, and the Montessoris are all too far to drive.)

carocaro Tue 12-Jul-11 15:25:52

Both have to follow the same rules, structure, curriculum and regulations by law. So it really is which you personally prefer. UK curriculum for pre schoolers is all learning through play, the words structured and unstructured don't really come into it. Have you been to look round both?

carocaro Tue 12-Jul-11 15:27:10

There won't be a radical difference between the two to be honest, as I said it's law what they have to do.

crumblemumble Tue 12-Jul-11 16:07:26

Many thanks, carocaro. We're left wondering, if there's no difference, why would someone invest the extra money for a nursery place in an independent school?

I'm afraid we have to make a decision before arriving, which is why this is confusing. I'm sure if we could just see them, it would make perfect sense.

MovingAndScared Tue 12-Jul-11 19:17:37

hi are you going to be living in Girton as I would say that a community pre-school would be a really good way to meet people -and traffic is a real pain in Cambridge so if you can walk/cycle that would be a bonus
and I don't know about that one specifically but my DS1 was at 2 commnity pre-schools and we loved them - probablya bit less formal and maybe not quite as nice equipment than a school setting but hard to tell without visiting

you could post on the cambridge bit of mumsnet for more feed back on the specfic schools.

I thought the the nursery places in the independant schools were also funded as per preschools - eg 15 free hours the term after child is 3 - which I imagine would cover your DD -and I thought quite a lot of day nuseries offered just the 15 hours as well

nurseries at independant schools would probably be used by people who are working who would want more hours than just the 15 in my experience - becuase they probably do wrap around care -or some one who was planning to send their child to the that school for that primary

bubblesincoffee Tue 12-Jul-11 19:28:34

I chose a private pre school over an independant one because I didn't want to be pressured into going in to do the washing up every time my name came up on the rota! I loved going in, but the private nursery invited parents in for open days, exhibitions and days out, whereas the community one did none of that.

No all community nurseries rent villiage halls, but many are based in halls that are used for other purposes so all the equipment had to be taken out of a cupboard and put away at the end of each session. This meant that their equipment and facilities weren't as good.

The curriculum they cover should all be besically the same thing, but ime (and I work in one) privates do tend to be 'nicer'.

crumblemumble Wed 13-Jul-11 18:14:34

I see. So, it seems to be about facilities or hours perhaps rather than what the children are actually doing? I guess I had it in my mind somehow that the independent school would require a bit more experience doing "school-y" types things. But if they're all just playing in sand, singing songs, and counting a few things everywhere...

Oh, yes, Movingandscared, the Cambridge section sounds like exactly what I need. Didn't realise there was one here. Thank you. I do wish the 15 hours funding worked the same in the nursery classes of independent schools but it doesn't seem to, at least the one we've been considering. The best I can understand it, the fees are reduced by what 15 hours would cost in an LA setting. But really I can't find any rhyme or reason. Perhaps it's different in different councils?

Very useful, bubblesincoffee. Precisely the sort of first-hand experience a friend said I get on Mumsnet.

So difficult to buy a pig in a poke - especially for a consummate worrier like I am.

MovingAndScared Wed 13-Jul-11 20:08:20

I think they should in theory just let you attend 15 hours and that should be free - it shouldn't be different in different councils but I don't know much about independant school nurseries
I don't suppose there is anyone who could go and look at both settings is there - it would have to be next week for the girton one - its so hard to tell what they are like without visiting - and my experience at that level its the indvidual staff that really make a setting
that said educational standards in cambridgeshire are very high and if girton its rated good - thats a 2 over all then it will be fine
and I never had to help out in either of my communitiy preschools - although you could - and we had lovely open days and trips

visavis Wed 13-Jul-11 21:11:30

We have decided to move our dc from a preschool to a nursery attached to a preprep for this september. Although we were v happy with the preschool (felt v sad when he was leaving!!), I thought it might be easier for my dc to make friends which would lead into school and also generally make the transition to reception.

fatandknackered Wed 13-Jul-11 21:19:21

Just to throw in my tuppence worth about the 15hrs per week funding... The private nurseries have to prove to the council/LA that they are following Curriculum for Excellence etc and this approves them for funding. Depending on the council/LA (I am in Scotland), you either get a straight reduction of your nursery fees, or you get a periodic cheque from your council/LA.

In our case we get 3 cheques per year, linked to the school terms. Just the way our council does things. I know of other areas where they get a reduced nursery fee, so if all you put your child in for was exactly 15hrs pw then you wouldn't pay anything.

visavis Wed 13-Jul-11 21:28:24

Good point fatandknacked - the nursery we are going to unfortunately has decided to "opt out". Thank goodness I managed to convince them to accept childcare vouchers...... I have been hording them - so doesn't feel too much pain!!!

bubblesincoffee Thu 14-Jul-11 23:55:15

Even though I work in a nursery, I don't really understand the whole funding thing either! Thankfully I don't deal with that side of things.

But from what I know, the government sets a limit of how much they think a hour of nursery care should cost, and that's what they give the setting. So even if it actually costs more than that, because the nursery chooses to provide more expensive food for snack, or because they choose to have a higher staff to child ratio than the legal limit, they have to charge parents to cover those extra costs.

Nurseries aren't allowed to charge parents more than the government says they can, so some opt out of the system, or some provide lunch clubs or extra hours and charge more than they usually would for that amount of time.

For example, you could send your child to nursery for three hours for free, but if they have a session that lasts three and a half hours, then has a lunch club, the nursery could charge £5 for the extra half hour, and then another £5 for lunch club. You aren't usually obliged to do that though if you don't want to. Nurseries often have to do this just to be able to pay staff more than minimum wage or be able to buy resources, it's not that they are trying to screw parents out of money, it's often a genuine need.

Hope that makes sense!

Lisa20b Tue 19-Jul-11 13:02:54

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

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