Are very fancy nurseries worth it?(29 Posts)
Nervous first time mother here. We have a choice between two nurseries when I go back to work full-time at 12 months. Both are rated Ofsted outstanding and are within a stone's throw of each other.
One is £1150 a month - has won national awards, has yoga/dance/goodness knows what else classes included, dedicated cook on the premises with really healthy food, hugely popular, extremely professional and well-run.
The other is £950 a month, and seems perfectly nice, but clearly not in a league with the first. Just normal childcare, I guess.
At first I was very taken with the fancy one, but now I'm thinking - do babies and pre-school children really gain any benefit from all the bells and whistles? Is it worth £200 a month? What would you do?
I had a really bad experience with a similar top league nursery in Edinburgh, to the point I complained to the care commission. I moved my daughter to a small, non fancy nursery, and it it was so much better. Go with your gut feeling! Do the children seem happy? How long have the staff been there etc?
The uniform at 2.5 would put me off. No benefit for the children, makes me think it is very geared up to what adults like, not children
I have done supply work in some private nurseries ( a few years ago now). On the whole I didn't like them much as they seemed to cram as many children as they were allowed into each room/space and things seemed crowded. Baby rooms were often great but the provision for 2-3 year-olds not so! Staff often didn't do much actual "playing" with the children (not that I always blamed them with all the paperwork they had to do). Once or twice I felt staff were inappropriate in their interactions ( eg huuuge room full of noisy children and nursery nurse yelling "Oi xxx, shut up!") and once, dangerously, an outdoor play area had a bucket half-full of rain water just left in one corner.
I also did some supply work in the nursery part of a children's centre which was much nicer and more spacious and staff played/interacted more with the children.
The not so good nurseries tended to be ones where the manager was not the owner of the nursery. I got the impression that strategic decisions ( ie how many children to take on etc) were made by he owner and the manager just had to cope! There were signs of trying to make maximum profit, which sometimes didn't sit well with high quality care.
If it were me - I'd look for telltale signs of "pile-em high and sell'em cheap" attitude especially in the older children's rooms. Key things might be overflowing/inadequate storage for child's nappies/change of clothes in toilets or cloakrooms, rooms with large numbers of older children in, very noisy older children's rooms ( unless doing a specific "noisy" activity of course). Do you actually see any staff playing with children as you go round? How are the staff speaking to children ( shouty or calm and controlled). Do they always only have the minimum level of allowed staffing or are their "extra" staff? How many more mature/experienced staff do they have?
I suspect that nurseries actually managed on a day to day basis or nurseries provided by workplaces are less likely to suffer from the above than others, but of course this is a generalisation!
All these things would be far more important to me than actual ofsted ratings!
"Outstanding" grades are meaningless. Some of the things I've experienced at 'outstanding' nurseries:
An outstanding nursery told it's staff that the ratios of staff to children were a maximum and not a minimum. ie 24 pre-schoolers can not have More than 3 staff looking after them.
An outstanding nursery with a computer that had been broken for over a year being used to put damp clothes on to dry.
An outstanding nursery not understanding that animal gelatine jelly isn't suitable for no beef or no pork children.
The manager of an outstanding nursery buying her children shoes with the nursery account. They went in the books as dressing up toys.
The ofsted report is an interesting guide but please don't assume the grades give an indication as to how good a nursery is.
Who will care for your baby the best, I.e. sing to them, smile at them, get down on a level and play with them, cuddle them, treat them well, talk to them nicely, encourage and inspire them (as people, not because of fancy activities)? What is your gut feel?
Little ones need love and consistency. People are more important than things.
A low staff turnover is important, as is some consistency in who will care for your child. The research shows that it is relationships that matter most in the early years. For the same amount of money could you afford a single consistent carer, eg nanny share?
I think your own instinct is probably your best guide
We've looked at nurseries and childminders, and at first I was filtering by the OFSTED reports - mainly because I needed to narrow it down somehow. Having now seen a mix of outstanding / good / satisfactory, I have realised that the criteria OFSTED use don't necessarily correlate with what is most important to me about the environment my son will be in. I think it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with what OFSTED look for so you can see why places and people get the scores they do.
I've gone for a satisfactory CM in the end - she got marked down for her paperwork and the fact she wasn't planning activities with her minds personal development in mind. They didn't care that she could articulate it for each of them, and knew them inside out - she hadn't documented it to their liking.
I've seen a couple of fancy nurseries round here and they were markedly more expensive, and I did wonder whether it was a little of style over substance. For example, I'm sure it's great to have fingerprint technology so that only parents / carers can have access, but you're paying for that in the fees. I was also uncomfortable with the fact that they were very happy to show prospective parents round all week (ironically, since I did of course want to see it!). The facilities were wonderful but the children did feel like exhibits to be looked at through a glass panel ...
Once you've ticked off your basic, non-negotiable requirements it's got to be gut feel, and OFSTED can't tell you that.
Uniform at 2.5?
What is the thinking behind that?
Thanks to everyone who has replied - it's really useful to get all your views.
I suppose I was getting hung up on Ofsted as I'm new to all this and don't really know what I should be looking for! I thought an objective assessment would be helpful but maybe not?
I've been to see the non-posh nursery, and it seems nice, with friendly caring staff and happy interested children. A primary carer is assigned to each child and staff turnover is very low. They actually have their own cook too so that's a non-issue. Space was a bit limited but there didn't seem to be any other problems. But again, I don't really know what I should be looking for so still having doubts... Going to see the posh nursery next week so at least will have something to compare it to.
I do wonder if the posh nursery might be too posh for us - the kids are in uniform from aged 2.5 (a lovely uniform but still) and I guess the other parents must be quite well off to afford the fees. We're not very rich and were planning to send our child to the local non-fee-paying Catholic school, rather than an independent or prep school, so I don't want baby getting ideas But it does seem wonderfully well run so I'm still conflicted.
Yorkville, I tried to message you as I have a feeling we are talking about the same place but it won't send for some reason. Grr. Does the fancy nursery begin with an O? Please message me if so, I'd love to hear your views on the specifics!
I agree with other posters that it isn't the bells and whistles so to speak it is the level of care and the "feel" you get from the staff. IMO it is worth paying extra for that piece of mind that your little ones are getting cuddles and attention when they need it rather than yoga classes. We have just had a few dramas with switching nurseries and have actually changed to a more expensive one but this was down to level of care from staff rather than facilities.
Yes you definitely need to go on much more than the extras the nursery offers, as a first time parent I chose the more expensive nursery as all the children looked happy and engaged when I visited, I've learnt you can't trust the ofsted reports because the other 'outstanding' nursery was the opposite of this! I am also pleased that the staff are older and have their own children at the nursery, I took that as a good sign, I guess it all comes down to gut feel!
... What I would do to have a keyboard bigger than 2 inches at this time of the day...
Just for the record, language clases at that age may mean your child will end up being a cute little kid who can count up to 10 in a foreign language but that doesn't mean child is getting proficient in it and most often than not the child id only learning proninciation errors anf other mustakes as there is rarely a specialist teacher qualified to teach a foreign language to children (says she who has been hammered foreign languages since she was 3, I understand 5 languages now (through living in other countries and spending hundred of hrs in specialised language classes) but I can assure you one hour of language tuition a week through kindergarden and primary school vlasses was absolutely useless.
IME the most important thing is not the cook, the yoga, the extra classes or the incredibly charming premises. The important hhing is they have little rotation of staff and that your child is assigned a person to be the "primary carer" while in nursery.
The food is not a problem, you can send packed lunches if you really care about healthy eating, IME dead expensive nurseries and cheapo ones serve food cooked from the same cheapo supermarkets own brands.
Young children don't guve a hoot about how nice the nursery looks, the extra classes at that age are not going to have much impact on the well being of your child. The important thing is for your child to feel happy and secure under the day to day care of the same nursery worker. So if you see clean children with happy faces that's the place you want.
Take Ofsted with a pile of salt. Ds's nursery used to be satisfactory as paperwork was ropey, is now good. Some prospective parents have asked me about it, saying the staff seemed lovely but it was possibly a but shabby and the toys worn. True - the toys get used! Though as there's always a pile for the binmen each week, they are getting replaced too. One nursery I looked round, the kids weren't given much to play with at one time.
There's one more expensive nursery in my area, and conclusions from many parents are, unless you want the location, the selling point is getting to hang round with the types of mummies who pay that premium. They started doing French and yoga, and within the year all the local nurseries do French and yoga. Ds's has a chef and uses mainly fresh ingredients - I'm often dropping off at the same time as Tesco.
But have to admit that if I wanted to hear about prep schools and cricket lessons, the other parents wouldn't be any help!
My DS goes to a "cheap", Ofsted satisfactory nursery and he loves it. It is so not fancy - fairly old toys, in a converted house with no shiny rooms full of brand new equipment, they have jam tarts at lunchtime and Ofsted told them off for not documenting the children's "learning journey" sufficiently. No yoga, no dance, no French, no cricket.
But the staff are older women who give big cuddles, know loads about DS, call him Chuckles because he's so happy all the time there and miss him when he's on holiday. He also has a little friend who started the same week as him and they're like two little shadows! I'm a teacher and I couldn't give a stuff about a 1-year-old's Learning Journey. I want to know that he's loved and cared for and gets seconds at lunchtime if he wants them.
Why on earth would you care if a nursery is outstanding ?
I would go by a 'feel' of a place, 100% before an OFSTED result . Please take oFSTED s with a VERY VERY large pinch of salt.
I work in outstanding school .... Is it any différent to the satisfactory School ? Erm .... no - not at all - in fact if I had the choice my kids would be at the satisfactory one.
IMO at this stage it's not about the extras they do, or how fancy the food is, or any of that, but how they feel about learning, and the social temperature that is what's important to them. If they have fun and settle with some little friends that's what's going to carry them onto school successfully.
Ime no. We sent DD to a very well respected Montessouri nursery which cost us loads. As far as i can see it's never given her any advantage at all, in fact I think the little local playgroup that my son attends and is a 10th of the price and then our dd's schools preschool will stand him in much better stead.
When DD got to her school she was one of only 2 'outsiders', she took about 9 months to properly settle in, she had to relearn things the way the new school taught them compared to Monties...
I'd do what help yourself suggested and check out where you want her to attend primary and look at the younger years care that feeds into that.
Hi Twitchytail, after reading your post I just had to reply as I faced a very similar decision last year - so similar that I think we may be in the same area! I went for the more expensive nursery and am so pleased I made that choice! I definitely think it's worth paying that bit extra for home cooked food, a high levels of professionalism and I find the staff are really caring. I was actually quite shocked to see how much one outstanding nursery can vary from another. Good luck with your decision!
Thanks for your input all - definitely lots of good points to think about! I'll go for some viewings and see where the money seems to be being spent.
Can you pls tell me the names of nurseries u r talking about as I am also looking for a full time childcare for my child 2 years old
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