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Did anyone have first time parent dilemmas when choosing a nursery?

(21 Posts)
uberconscious Sat 12-Dec-15 13:23:45

Hi, just curious how the nursery selection journey went for other first time parents. Here are some of my experiences:

- The more nurseries I view, the more I find things left to be desired for (I've started comparing and looking for the perfect one from taking the best from all the ones I see. I'm aware it may not exist but still looking for it. How did you arrive at your choice?

- The OFSTED outstanding ones aren't always the most warm and caring ones out of the places I visited. Question: Are 'satisfactory' or 'good' rated nurseries worth considering because they could be trying hard to get the higher OFSTED rating? Or are staff demoralised by the rating they have been awarded? I'm interested to hear all views on this.

- I'm located in South West London suburb but have explored nurseries outside of London within a 30 minute commute. The Outer London nurseries have a much larger outdoor space (some with 9 individual play areas in landscaped gardens). Some even have resident animals / farms (big selling point) the care seems to appear much more genuine than 'box ticking' but some of those rural nurseries have less than outstanding OFSTED ratings hence the dilemma. One nursery was downgraded following an incident of a child falling off a scooter and subsequently needing surgery. Should I be concerned of such incidences? If so, all the nurseries seem to have some kind of less than favourable aspect or incident report so how did you choose or manage the selection emotions?

- I don't have a lot of connections with other parents but with the few I know, what they rate highly as a nursery is not what I rate. Are my standards and expectations still new parent fairytale? If so, how did you get around this stage if you experienced anything similar?

Thanks for reading the post :-)

Iguessyourestuckwithme Sat 12-Dec-15 13:28:14

How old is your child? Will they be there full time or part time?

uberconscious Sat 12-Dec-15 15:02:29

Hi there :-) so my child is 19 months and will be at nursery part time.

Eminybob Sat 12-Dec-15 15:08:48

I viewed pretty much every nursery in my town before deciding.

I narrowed it down to 2 in a head vs heart scenario.

Nursery 1 was small and homely, ofstead good, no flash facilities, but a lovely outside space and I came out feeling that it was the right one for us.

Nursery 2, ofstead outstanding, really high results, very academic focused, super smart facilities, on paper looked perfect (rated in top 10 in the country) but I came out feeling cold.

Obviously I chose the first one, DS has been there since September and we both love it. I'm very pleased with my choice and glad I went with heart over head.

When you find the right nursery you will just know.

feelingcrossagain Sat 12-Dec-15 15:27:39

I didn't have dilemmas first time around as i didn't really know enough to know what to look for. i do now and have very strong views on early years provision.
ideally, i would look for a nursery which voluntarily explains to you, in detail, their underlying understanding of and approach to children and childhood. they should be able to articulate their conceptual framework that underpins each staff member's work with children. only one nursery i visited did this and as soon as they did it was clear they were streets above everyone else. they had really thought about what they did and were not box ticking at all (despite getting the highest scores ever in my country's inspection system). their approach is based on a guy callec Froebel. if you can find a nursery that follows this approach i would seriously consider them.
look for staff who are natural and warm in their interactions with children, but who also, crucially, respect children's voices and choices.
look for a nursery which gives children plenty of free access to the outdoors and which regularly takes children outside nursery (if the child wishes to go). look for a nursery which has created an interesting outdoor space and not just thrown some toys on a piece of flAt grass (as most round here seem to do, especially for babies and toddlers).
look for a nursery where staff do not set activities for children to follow but where staff respond to children and what they want to do.
ideally, choose a nursery where children are not segragated by age. although this is common, it really is better for children to be able to mix and learn from and teach each other. it also means siblings can spend time together if you have another.
look for a nursery which believes in children's capabilities and allows them to explore and take risks, rather than an obsession with 'safety'.
obviously what i have outlined is ideal, in my personal view, and not many nurseries operate like this.

uberconscious Sat 12-Dec-15 15:51:50

Wow! Thanks so much for such valuable information!

Eminybob - I really relate to your view about going with gut feel regardless of the OFSTED rating I am slanting toward this approach and needed some confidence to trust my own feeling - thank you for helping with that! Also thanks for helping me feel better about viewing several nurseries.

feelingcrossagain - gosh you are the business when it comes to knowledge! I am looking up Froebel and I totally agree with and looking for the same standards you have outlined though you have articulated it far better. I will definitely be going to the visits with your post advice points written down. Thank you!

kinkytoes Sat 12-Dec-15 15:56:25

I only viewed two and went for the one I felt I would rather go to if I were ds. Gut feeling is important! I haven't been disappointed.

Iguessyourestuckwithme Sat 12-Dec-15 16:41:40

If part time big spaces and animals wouldn't be a direct selling point for me. I would imagine that the rest if the week she will be out and and out with you and going on trips etc so no need for these as top criteria.

I would go over warmth and nourishment of the child - cuddles, chatting to the child etc over educational results. As long as nothing was satisfactory or poor it wouldn't put me off - sometimes an excellent nursery will rest on its laurels if it knows it can sell itself on being outstanding.

What do you want from your nursery experience a full and busy nursery where children are herded from activity to activity and taught their alphabet and other educational activities from a young age or do you want a more relaxed/homely setting where the staff spend time with the children etc. .(not saying that an outstanding will do this versus a good)

I also wouldn't go "out of town" if that's not on your way to work try and look at distance from work and home (so you're close enough from work but on a sick day you're close enough from home) you say part time but how long a day? Which routines do you like? Where will the child sleep/eat? How do they progress/move up the nursery? Etc

Liveinthepresent Sat 12-Dec-15 16:47:48

I agree with PP when you find the right one your gut lets you know in my experience.
If your DC is going part time then think about what it is that you really want them to get from nursery.
Even the really good nurseries will prioritise on different things - around us it ranges from long hours , mandarin classes , French classes , academic focus - in the end we ended Up choosing one with a rabbit in the garden and staff who genuinely end up adoring your kids! I am not sure looking at loads would have helped me either !
I am in same area as you so if you want to see if we are close enough that I might know about some of the ones you are visiting feel free to PM - I would 100% recommend the one I use!

trilbydoll Sat 12-Dec-15 16:48:24

The only Ofsted outstanding nursery I saw made me cry, it was awful. I wouldn't leave a dog there, and I don't really like dogs.

From the other 7 I saw, I realised that fake grass is,actually a better option than real grass and that there just wasn't anything to choose between them. They all had a chef onsite, the staff were all smiley, and the kids all looked happy. So we went for the most convenient, which was also one of my favourite buildings because it's light and airy.

uberconscious Sat 12-Dec-15 16:53:14

Hi Iguessyourestuckwithme, lots of food for thought...I'm contemplating your points.

Meanwhile regarding your points - I would pass 'out of town' nursery on the way to work (two days at the office /2 full days at nursery).

You're totally right- non-nursery days would be at museums and children's activity centres.

I feel you are absolutely right - warmth and nurturing over farmyard and acres of parkland however if I can get both - that'll be a huge bonus especially because I have a super acrobatic and active child.

I'll check the sleep / eat areas you mentioned on the visit.

Thanks so much for the insight! Feeling a lot better about choosing now!

Liveinthepresent Sat 12-Dec-15 17:03:34

Yes I should have said I wouldn't set too much store by the ofsted as long as it's good.
From what I observed at our nursery the ofsted was a ticking boxes on a specific day type exercise rather than really meaning a great deal about how the nursery runs day to day / under pressure.
Same with my DD school - it is ofsted good but am pretty sure if ofsted went in now the head has been at the helm a few years it would be outstanding.

kinkytoes Sat 12-Dec-15 17:08:18

I definitely went for the cosier of the two!

Miloarmadillo1 Sat 12-Dec-15 17:08:29

Gut feeling over outstanding OFSTED every time. I have visited nurseries where they were much more interested in showing me all their paperwork than in interacting with my child. I look for older/ experienced staff with low staff turnover, a warm caring atmosphere, that the current children look settled and happy, that they are flexible to fit in with children's individual needs and routines. Outdoor space is a big plus for me. I have generally found the glossier the brochure, the more the focus is on profit rather than children.

Iguessyourestuckwithme Sat 12-Dec-15 17:10:09

I am a nanny but was a room leader in a nursery smile

Duckdeamon Sat 12-Dec-15 17:17:01

Dd1 went to a LOT of nurseries in london (combination of events!) and we looked round a lot more. The ones that were ofsted outstanding were no better than others IME. Safety was variable: dd was scratched across the face with five fingers at one "outstanding" one and it was missed: the manager said she must have scratched it on a slide! Not likely.

most of them had very high staff turnover, eg the good staff would be poached to be nannies! The exception was an old fashioned "satisfactory" one based in a church which was shocking on paperwork but the staff were fab and had been there for years.

They don't publish turnover attendance stats: wish Ofsted required this!

We were never 100% happy with any of them and went for a childminder for DD2, until she was three when she did a mix between CM and preschool.

Duckdeamon Sat 12-Dec-15 17:18:24

Strongly agree with miloarmadillo.

TiggyD Sat 12-Dec-15 19:30:27

Are 'satisfactory' or 'good' rated nurseries worth considering because they could be trying hard to get the higher OFSTED rating? Or are staff demoralised by the rating they have been awarded? - They are worth considering. The grades are an indication of one person's opinion on one day every 4 years. The nursery might have misplaced a piece of paperwork, or maybe the inspector knows fuck all about childcare having not done it on a practical level for decades. (Yes I am fuming about one particular idiot we had mock inspect my nursery recently).
On the whole staff don't get demoralised by results because they know they're fairly meaningless or they blame management for not giving them what they feel they need.

...* the care seems to appear much more genuine than 'box ticking'* - Go for the genuine nursery. The one that does what it thinks is right rather than anything to get a good grade. The nursery who's manager will give you a 5 minute talk about their beliefs as to what childcare should be rather than the one who drones on about their record keeping. The inspirational figure rather than the competent administrator.

...*downgraded following an incident of a child falling off a scooter and subsequently needing surgery.* - Totally depends why. was it a dangerous scooter? Accidents happen. Ask to see the reports about it.

TiggyD Sat 12-Dec-15 19:30:57

Bold fail angry

uberconscious Sun 13-Dec-15 17:57:30

I am soooo grateful for everyone's posts. A huge thank you for taking the time to write. We've got a few visits coming up and I will be going with a renewed perspective after reading the wisdom shared here. :-)

TiggyD - really like your assertive and logical viewpoint!

uberconscious Fri 08-Jan-16 20:09:49

Just to say, we've found the perfect place for our child and it's worlds apart from what we started out looking for...we've opted for a small cosy setting with lovely carers. We no longer care about OFSTED ratings, classes such as ballet, music, drama and science and we don't care about high-tech equipment and luxurious settings. We realised (with the help of all the posts above) that for us the highest priority for our child who is under two, is how deeply the staff genuinely care for all the children in the setting and how passionate they are about doing a good job in an old fashioned kind of way. meaning they take great pride in doing a very important job and all look super happy working together.

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