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How do I choose a pre-school?

(24 Posts)
beatie Thu 07-Apr-05 10:02:17

My dd currently attends a small nursery that is joined to an Independent School. She attends 2 short days per week whilst I am studying.

Come September, we will be living in a new area and I won't be studying anymore. She'll be 2yrs 10 months and she will qualify for nursery vouchers in January '06. I will want to start her off somewhere in September, however, for the continuity.

It saddens me that we have to take her out of her current nursery as I love it. Now I am faced with choosing a pre-school for her for September and I haven't got a clue what to look for, or what I even want her to get out of it.

It looks like there is a choice of 4. 2 that are large and also run as fulltime daycare centres plus 2 that are only run as half day, term time only pre-schools. I THINK I want her to go to one of the latter... but are there any advantages/disadvantages to that?

What kind fo things should I look for and what should I ask the staff?

Many thanks. I'm not a pushy parent. I want my daughter to gain in confidence, be secure and safe, have fun, make friends and not be held back in her learning. I don't expect the preschool to teach her much more than will be fostered at home - but I just don't want her to be held back... if that makes any sense.

elliedragon Thu 07-Apr-05 10:06:06

I think the only way to tell is to go and see them all with her and see how she interacts and how the staff treat her. It is amazing how you can get a feel for a place. Which area are you looking in?

myermay Thu 07-Apr-05 10:09:45

Message withdrawn

beatie Thu 07-Apr-05 11:12:48

I will be in Emsworth/Southbourne on the Hampshire West Sussex border.

SoftFroggie Thu 07-Apr-05 11:35:49

Personally I chose a sessional pre-school rather than a day-care environment, as I didn't like our earlier experiences of day-care. However, that was my personal experience of one specific nursery with a 1 yr old, and may be a unfairly biased opinion. The key purpose of sessional pre-schools is what you are after, while the key purpose of day-care is, well, day-care. IME (which may not be true more widely) sessional nurseries have better continuity of staff, and day-care can be more variable in staff - different people on different days and also people not working there for long.

I also like the pre-school we chose because it is small.

But you must go to see it. The feel depends so much on the people running and working there.

poppy101 Thu 07-Apr-05 12:06:09

Go for the pre-school, I was an early years teacher and specialist and would advise that you look at both and choose the best that your child is happiest with, nothing wrong with daycare but it will probably be a little more strucutred and more relaxed.

beatie Thu 07-Apr-05 12:11:51

Poppy - the preschool will be more structured and relaxed?

sinclair Thu 07-Apr-05 14:29:08

Agree with SoftFroggie, pre-school is education (hopefully via play I mean not sitting at desks), with a higher proportion of trained teachers and day care cares for your children whilst you work (or whatever) and staff will be child care trained. Having said that the longer hours/50 weeks a year structure of day care suits most people better - it's about what will suit your child and your lifestyle really.

pabla Thu 07-Apr-05 14:34:29

One thing you might want to take into account is if she can stay at the pre-school until she goes to school (or the nursery attached to her primary school.) This would minimise any more upheavals in the future. Because the school my sone will go to doesn't have a nursery, I chose a pre-school he could stay at until he starts at school, even though it is further away. The pre-school round the corner from me only goes up to 3.5 as most kids going there go on to a nursery attached to the local school.

littlerach Thu 07-Apr-05 14:34:55

Personally I took DD1 out of nursery the yr before she was due to start school and put her in the preschool attached to the school. This coincided with us moving and me going on maternity leave, plus she never really liked nursery, but I felt that she was better going to the preschool as she would meet children who would also go to the school. Plus it has a good reputation and all thew other necessary stuff!

beatie Thu 07-Apr-05 15:14:59

As far as I can tell, none of the local primaries have a preschool attached, else that would have made my decision an easy one.

Xzebra Thu 07-Apr-05 21:36:23

If you send her to the half/term time preschools you won't have to pay for her place out of term, that could be a difference.

Different environments suit specific kids, you have to go & see them to decide what you like about them... the preschool that DD is at right now would have been ok for DS, but it's perfect for DD.

One thing to ask -- how do they handle toileting? Who takes them, what if they need a wipe? Will someone make sure they wash their hands afterwards, or are the expected to manage on their own? Some nurseries expect or even insist on a lot of toileting independence very early, which I think isn't so good (not for every child, anyway).

Xzebra Thu 07-Apr-05 21:39:19

also, snacks, what do they get for snack time? May matter to you. Most preschools are on the govt. fruit scheme now, but some still offer biscuits and squash. How many sessions do they want your child to do? One local nursery insists on a minimum 6 sessions -- too much for my dd at 3yo. How do they structure the time while the children are there? What are the outside facilities like? Any multi-cultural slant?

ionesmum Thu 07-Apr-05 21:44:17

beatie, ring the primary schools to see if they have any informal relationship with a local pre-school. Our dd goes to a pre-school that has no official link, but the local primary have the children in one morning a week as most children from the pre-school do end up there. Tomorrow they are going in for a party!

I ma very happy with our pre-school, it is very informal. We didn't want her to be at 'school' but did want her to learn social skills -playing, sharing, co-operating, sitting still etc.- which is exactly what she gets. The teachers are fab, to. I stayed withher for two full sessions before letting her go alone and loved everything that I saw. I don't think you can beat going to look for yourself.

elliedragon Fri 08-Apr-05 13:04:06

Hi Beatie. You can also look at the ofsted reports for some pre-schools so you can get an idea of how they are progressing. Maybe worth a look for the ones you are thinking of. Also East Sussex have a service called kites who go through all kinds of childcare in the area. Dont know if west sussex do the same.

beatie Wed 13-Apr-05 14:36:20

I looked at the OFSTED reports but just got more confused. It did help me rule out the daycare nurseries though since the numbers on their roles seem so huge in comparison to the pre-schools.

I'm not anti nurseries, since DD attended one when I worked part time from 6 months to 22 months but if I don't actually NEED her to be there for daycare purposes then I think I would be better off opting for a smaller, session-based pre-school.

I will try and make appointments to visit them next week. I'm sure I am making mountians out of molehills and the one that is closest to our new house will be perfectly adequate for DDs needs.

beatie Wed 13-Apr-05 14:37:42

Ooop - meant to add - thanks for the tips on things to ask like toileting (is that a word?!) and what they get as a snack. I suppose these are the little things I need to know which I might not know to ask.

If there are any other similar questions I should ask, please let me know. Many thanks

LunarSea Wed 13-Apr-05 15:00:22

I wouldn't take too much notice of the numbers of kids enrolled at a daycare nursery, as some (particularly the younger ones who almost certainly wouldn't be with the pre-school age kids anyway) will only be there for one or two sessions a week, or may even be registered but only do occasional sessions and they still count as "one" the same as a full time place. Preschools tend to be more 5 sessions a week, perhaps morning and afternoon, so at anmy one time half the number might be there.

triceratops Wed 13-Apr-05 15:07:27

Visit them all and choose the one you feel most comfortable with. Or the one with places available which is more like it in our area.

ds is three and a half and we have changed preschool twice. I found that you get a different impression looking round than you do when you spend the morning there doing "duty". The first school employed staff who never spoke to one of the children unless a parent was looking and another was too focused on reading and writing for my liking and wouldn't allow physical play. Both got excellent ofstead reports.

carolou Fri 15-Apr-05 21:06:30

I have been reading your comments on Pre-Schools with great interest, I have just finished working as a Pre-School Supervisor to have my third baby, one comment I would make is always turn up unannounced you see everything warts and all then, they may well be having an off morning but you get to see how staff handle it!

Shimmers Sat 16-Apr-05 00:39:30


I would visit each of the 4 pre-schools to get an initial feel. Maybe that will prompt you to get a feel of what you do like and what you don't. I would always visit more than once and then you will be better prepared with questions. Some could be:

- outline of the day
- provisions/quality of outdoor play- very important
- staff qualifications/experience
- Is there a keyworker system?
- how does learning take place? Is there a lot of learning through play? What resources can you see in evidence?
- communication between nursery and staff- how do they communication what is going on? Verbal, newsletters.
- Food? Is lunch provided? If so, can you see a sample menu?
- Does the nursery offer settling in visits?

Hope I have given you food for thought!!!

Good luck.


carolou Sat 16-Apr-05 08:03:35

Pre-School learning should all be through play! Children should be learning by having fun, your child will only achieve this if they feel safe and secure in the environment, I would ask about settling-in procedure, visits for you and your child to spend time in the pre-school, this is the only way you can get a 'feel' for the pre-school.

Gem13 Sat 16-Apr-05 08:08:35

Definitely visit them where they are in action. I wanted to visit one but the owners would only let me go when the children weren't there ('so they could give me more of their time'!?!).

They showed me unmessy paintings, pristine toys, uncreased books, etc. The place was immaculate.

It was rather scary. Needless to say, mine aren't going there!

bumptobabies Tue 19-Apr-05 14:53:59

found this thread interesting,i am hopefully moving to london feilds hackney and will have to do this for ds,do pre schools nursarys have catchment areas? ds is 2 early sept not sure when hell start.

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