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Sure Start Centre as nursery? Opinions please.

(24 Posts)
Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 19:01:01

We are considering changing DD's nursery. There are two others in our area. One is a good nursery, but has limited outdoor space.

The other is a very new Sure Start Family Centre. It has an enormous outdoor space, lots of new bright clean toys both outside and in. It has a lot of children but plenty of space to cope with them, and qualified staff, some trainees, but does not appear to be run by them.

It has been open two years, and I have been a bit hard pushed to get feedback about it in terms of its structure, attitude etc, but on the face of it, seems a good fresh clean place.

I have a reservations, partly out of safety/comfort. I work in the field of criminal justice, and not far from this Centre is an estate notorious for crime, meaning some of those living there are people who I have contact with in my professional capacity. These people are likely to use this centre. On the one hand I have issues with DD socialising with children of those criminals I know, although I do not know how many or who use the Centre.

However, if it is the right place for DD, maybe I can find a way to manage that. Maybe.

What does anyone know about these Centres? How do they work? Do they target deprived areas only or do many cross sections of society use these facilities? How would you feel about a new spangly building that had limited past record to demonstrate its effectiveness? Does bright and clean mean good? Or can it cover up things?

How do you decide on what nursery to send child to?

ilovewashingnappies Mon 14-Jul-08 20:19:11

We go to sure start nursery and it us excellent. The benefits seem to be flexibility [I'm a teacher and I only pay when dd goes, so don't pay as much over summer) as well Emily loving her days there.

My gut feeling was that if there'd poor feedback - you would have heard by now. There are loads of different people go.

However i empathise with working in area. I don't supply teaching in this area just in case it gets awkward.

Go and visit! Have a few trial sessions and chat with them as much as you can

keep us up to date

ilovewashingnappies Mon 14-Jul-08 20:20:28

sorry crap typing - feeding!

missblythe Mon 14-Jul-08 20:23:23

What does your gut feeling say?-do you like the people who work there? That's all I went on, not the size of the garden or how posh teh building was

I wouldn't worry about the background of the other children-they are just little children, just like your DD.

Or are you concerned about your private/professional lives meeting? That I can understand, esp. in your line of work.

divastrop Mon 14-Jul-08 20:28:38

my dd2 goes to a sure start(which has now been taken over by NCH i believe)family-centre was originally the local nursery school though which had been running for many years,and my older 2 dc went there,then they extended it a couple of years ago and turned it into a family centre.

we are in what would be classed as a deprived area,but the centre is mainly used by working parents as it provides excellent,cheap childcare.sure start has worked wonders where i am though,i wouldnt have wanted to live in this area 10 years ago when i first moved to the town.

you sound very positive about the place-why not give it a go?

MorocconOil Mon 14-Jul-08 20:35:16

My DD goes to a Surestart playgroup in the middle of what was once of the country's most notoriously 'criminal' estates. It is staffed by lovely, caring people, has great resources and everything is carefully planned under the Every Child Matters agenda. My dd is very happy there.
Perhaps some of the children who attend have 'criminals'hmm for fathers, but they are just beautiful, innocent children. The mums and the dads I have met are lovely, and a welcome relief from some some of the snobby, competitive parents I have encountered at some of the groups I have attended over the years.

Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 20:51:37

missblythe - more concerned about professional/personal crossing. I don't want her to firstly be involved in some of the families I have contact with, and secondly I dont want any of those who I have contact with to know who my child is. It is rare that anything happens, but it can, and has in the past caused issues. At work I use my maiden name for security purposes too.

mimiza I agree with what you say about welcome relief from snobby parents and really dont want to be one myself! I had DD down for one of the best nurseries in the area, a year waiting list, fantastic ofsted, it was amazing in theory. When we went for the look around, it was horrible, it was really pretentious, very very structured from early on, people called the "teachers" Mr/Miss/Mrs and it was extremely 'posh'! We felt it was not for DD, or more to the point, not what we wanted from a nursery for DD. We want her to have a good mix of children and here was clearly a pre-school for the local independent schools.

The current nursery she is in is Surestart, but the one we are looking at is specifically a Family Centre rather than just a nursery, I wondered what the difference if any is.

Initial impressions seem good. We are going to give her a half day a week there alongside her other nursery and see what we think.

littlepinkpixie Mon 14-Jul-08 20:59:58

I understand your concern, if you are concerned enough about your job to be using a different name for work, then people knowing who your daughter is would be worrying.
Are you a SW? Do you have any colleagues who deal with child issues who would know which nursery spaces they are funding, might give you an idea of how many of your clients are likely to be using the nursery?

MorocconOil Mon 14-Jul-08 21:02:02

I don't think there's any difference between family centre and children's centre when it comes to Surestart. Just a different name.

I understand your concern about not wanting your DD to be in the same place as families you are working with. smile

Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 21:06:54

littlepinkpixie - not SW, directly involved in woring with offenders - in particular drug users. I generally prefer not to advertise my exact role as Devon is quite a small place really.

Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 21:07:36

working not woring!!! blush.

missblythe Mon 14-Jul-08 21:21:56

In that case, I might be inclined to keep looking. It would be awful if you got DD all settled, and then because a situation arose at work, you felt you needed to move her again in six months.

Apart from the issue of outside space, how else did you feel about the other nursery? Better than her current one?

littlepinkpixie Mon 14-Jul-08 21:25:53

Sorry, wasnt asking you to disclose exact role, just thought if you had access to child SW might be possible for you to have informal chat.
I suppose whoever is using the nursery (or any other nursery you may use) at the moment there is no guarentee that someone known to you couldnt start there the next week.
TBH if you are living in a smallish community people could probably find out where you lived if they wanted to, though I suppose that is a bit different from presenting them with the option on a plate by letting them see you drop your DD off at nursery.
Are there any other nurseries outwith your work catchment area that would be possible?

FeelingDeviant Mon 14-Jul-08 21:34:51

Good luck with your DD's trial days at nursery Pavlov.
My DD attends a brand spanking new Family Centre which is in the middle of a local authority estate. We live in an area of London which has pockets of incredible wealth mixed in with pockets of deprivation.
Though these Surestart financed Family Centres (or Children Centres as they're called in my area) make efforts to target the less well off families, in reality I find that it is the middle class families who take advantage of the free activities and cheap childcare.

I wanted to send DD to our local children's centre as opposed to the expensive Montessori nursery because I wanted her to be mixing with children from a wider range of backgrounds. I also didn;t want her to make friends with children who would potentially go to a different school to her (as I don;t intend DD to attend private school).

Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 21:51:26

littlepinkpixie - and more than that, if she should become friends with children at nursery and want playdates with those children whose parents I had deaings with.

To be honest the work I do is mostly positive nowadays, and I have moved from an area of forcing compliance to behave to one that actively helps develop skills to reduce offending, so less likely to cause upset and a grudge, which would have been a real risk before I moved into the work I do now. But the risk is still there.

All those within my work catchment area, to be honest run the risk of me bumping into clients and their children, so I guess that element I have to just deal with to an extent.

missblythe - the other nursery is quite good actually. I know two other people from work who use it. And the outside space is dealable as she is going to be there 2.5 days so plenty of time out of these hours to go running around parks and stuff!

I just don't want to reject the Children's/Family Centre because it is new and has no reports to check. And DH likes it and thinks I am being paranoid about clients using it. So what? is his attitude!

littlepinkpixie Mon 14-Jul-08 22:14:30

If your DH doesnt work in a similar field to you then he probably isnt really able to judge how risky it would be.
I wouldnt reject the place because it is relativly new, and no reports. You would be able to judge for yourself if you were using it, and after a couple of visits you would have a fair idea.
The other thing to think about is what you will do when your DD is at school. If you are going to use a local state school then it sounds like you will be facing this issue then anyway.

Pavlovthecat Mon 14-Jul-08 22:22:04

littlepinkpixie I have sorted that one! There is one school which although is not in our catchment area is one that might result in DD going there if she does not get into our catchment, this area has, I would say 80% of the children of my clients go there! shock I phoned the local authority to talk about catchments and got talking about how I would not want DD to go to this school and why. She said there is discretion in relation to this kind of thing and I should make them aware of it at the time I apply. They can ensure DD is not given a place at this school for appropriate reasons! Which is good as the school is also awful!

Local school to our catchment area is in a less 'criminally populated' area, according to stats that is. I can't ever guarantee I will not bump into clients of mine in private situations, but I can reduce the risk somewhat. Its about weighing those up I guess.

And I am not sure about this local family centre. Might be a bit too close to crossing boundaries. But I will do the trial days and see how it goes.

Bubble99 Mon 14-Jul-08 22:38:28

We run a private daycare nursery and will have a children's centre opening nearby within the next couple of months.

Last year we were asked if we could accommodate children whose parents were attending parenting classes. We said yes initially but quickly had to reverse the decision as the children needed one-to-one supervision (which we were not being paid to provide.) Not their 'fault' obv, and their parents were taking classes to manage their behaviour - but we couldn't deal with the swearing and aggressive behaviour that some of them displayed without it affecting our regular children.

We have now been told that these children will be offered nursery places at the new children's centre.

I am not suggesting that all children at SureStart (is it still called that?) nurseries will be like this, and this thread would suggest otherwise, but it might be worth finding out?

ReallyTired Mon 14-Jul-08 22:48:22


I think you have to go on your gut instinct and not worry too much about people thinking you are a snob. Your daughter's safety is an important consideration. You know the area better than your dh.

I think you would find that a surestart nursery has a wide range of families. They won't all be criminals.

spraklynewthing Tue 29-Jul-08 15:21:18

My 10 and half month old DD goes to a sure start affliated nursery. I could not recommend it more highly. The staff are wonderful, the activities are varied and fun and the food is excellent. I also had snobby reservations but my DD would have missed out on a fantastic place had I been so narrow minded!

I would advice to ask other parents (nuseries should have a parent forum) , go for another visit. You have to trust your instincts. wink
good luck!

Littlefish Tue 29-Jul-08 16:05:48

How good the nursery in a Children's/Family Centre is will depend entirely on the staff running it. Do you know which organisation has been commissioned to run the nursery? Pre-school learning alliance? Barnardos? NCH?

In my, very direct, experience, bright and clean does not always mean good.

I would be interested in discussing this further with you, but would prefer to do this away from this thread.

Please CAT me if you would like to. I have direct experience with this on a professional level.

Nemoandthefishes Tue 29-Jul-08 16:12:24

We have just changed our DDs into a sure start nursery. The actual nursery is run by another local nursery,I think most of the childrens centres nurseries are bid for by outside agencies. We are lucky in that it is also based at the same school my ds will be starting at in sept.

We changed because after 6mths at the other place the dds still were not settling and did not seem to be doing anything while there.The outside space was a lot smaller and it just felt wrong..I am soo glad we changed as after 3wks in the new place the dds have done soo much more, are happier and settled. The staff are much better and seem to care more

2cats2many Tue 29-Jul-08 16:18:38

My DD goes to a Surestart nursery. I spent a long time going round (mostly private) nurseries trying to find one that I liked and I left this one to the very end because it was in the middle of a rough council estate.

However, it was obvious as soon as I stepped over the threshold that it was way above the others in terms of philosophy and staffing (numbers of staff and skill levels). We were lucky enought to get a place and DD absolutely loves it.

I sometimes have to wheel her buggy over broken glass to get there in the morning, but the staff work very hard to make an engaging and attractive environment for the children once they're in the door.

mslucy Thu 14-Aug-08 21:41:09

My ds has his last day at a Sure Start children's centre to start school nursery in Sept. He has been there for just under 2 years.

It has been brilliant. The staff are great and the kids - who are from a wide range of backgrounds - are lovely.

The building also houses services for "problem families" but this does not have any affect on the nursery.

It's been a wonderful experience - he loves going in there and I think it is 1,000 times better than the rip off private place we used before.

I would definitely use it again.

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