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Children's Centre v Private Nurseries

(27 Posts)
angel1976 Wed 10-Sep-08 22:37:46

Hi all,

Just interested to see what you all think... My DS is 6.5 months now and I am looking for a nursery/CM on a part-time basis for next year... Nothing on the CM front yet but have seen 3 nurseries so far... Two private and one a 'children's centre'. I'm not fully clued up as to what the difference between these two are but my neighbour who is a teacher's assistant says that the children's centre is governed by the borough so are 'stricter' and they would have to offer a place or two per 10 children (for example) to a 'needy' local parent. Please correct me if she is wrong but I kinda get the gist of it! Surprisingly (maybe due to in-build snob factor ha ha!), I like the children's centre best so far... Just to sum up why... (I live in SE London btw)

*Private nursery 1*: Not in a great area, very small outdoor play area, all the nursery staff looks about 18, manager was very pushy to get me to 'guarantee' a place by putting down a deposit, when asked about qualifications of her staff, the manager was very defensive and said government requirements only need half the staff to be qualified. Very new (only 1 year old) but housed in a VIctorian building so lots of awkward shape rooms. The kids all seemed to be eating cheese sandwiches when I visited!

*Private nursery 2*: Very nice area, in a rugby club, so have access to the rugby grounds to play in. It's in like ONE big room, baby room was cordoned off by gates. Though there was meant to be 12 babies max, there seemed a lot more in there and the manager told me it's because a lot of the babies that graduated to the toddlers' room keep coming back in. I almost stepped on a baby! There were 76 kids in total that day and it seemed the whole place was in COMPLETE chaos. Storytime was happening in one corner but it was one staff with one child on lap reading The Graffulo to about 20 kids (most not paying attention). Safety concern is that adults were walking past the outside play area separated only by a low fence. Another concern is the nursery has just changed hands and renovations were in progress - no ceiling, just bare wires, sleep room has no blinds (they were being ordered and I'm amazed any baby can sleep in there, it was bright as anything!). While talking to me, the manager picked up a toddler, took her to the office with her, left her while talking to me (and she was pressing on the photocopier unsupervised! hmm).

*Children's Centre*: Not in a great area but attached to a primary school. Lovely centre! Great outdoor play area (with sheltered bit so even when it rains, they can play outside). Very secure as the outdoor play area faces the primary school. Manager was lovely (not at all pushy about deposit/fees etc but I guess that's because it's not profit-making as such?). The staff made a fuss of DS when we went to see it. Lovely sleep room (dark and seemed very comfy). Maximum 32 children so feels like they have a really big area to play in. Menu looks good.

What are your views? I am going on holiday soon and hoping to see another private nursery when I come back but I have to see I am becoming disheartened with the private nurseries! I honestly thought they would have made more of an effort? Or am I just seeing some bad ones? What are your views on nursery-cum-children's centre? Any cons? Thanks!


angel1976 Wed 10-Sep-08 22:39:34

Just to add that in the children's centre, something like 10 members of staff are fully qualified and 2 are working towards their qualifications out of 12 staff members.

Private nursery 2 has 75% qualified staff.

PerkinWarbeck Wed 10-Sep-08 22:39:59

not for profit nurseries tend to pay staff better, offer more annual leave and a good pension.

as such they are more likely to attract good quality staff.

my DD is in a lovely private nursery, but my first choice was our (oversubscribed) sure start centre.

singingtree Wed 10-Sep-08 22:40:06

The children's centre sounds miles better. What's you reservation about it? It sounds great

Jojay Wed 10-Sep-08 22:42:17

I wouldn't get hung up on the details of what category a place falls into.

Just go with your gut instinct - which is best for your child??

Don't rule out a childminder though - IMVHO a good one is better than any nursery for young babies / toddlers.

SmugColditz Wed 10-Sep-08 22:46:29

Don't be fooled by the term "Private"

It's not like private school. It's like a private nursing home, and having worked for private nursing homes, I would say - never go private. Go council run all the way. The staff are better paid, better treated, the managers are held accountable by other people (IMPORTANT people) and honest to God I don't think I've ever know a really bed one (nursing home that is) whereas private ones .... the staff are held to ransom, practically. And this doesn't create good feeling.

Obviously, the world cares more about children, so they will be better than nursing homes, but I would plump for the structure and accountability of the state run over the private, any day.

angel1976 Wed 10-Sep-08 22:50:20

Thanks! I don't really know... I just thought that privately run nurseries would make more of an effort seeing as they need to attract parents to pay good money to them. I was just shocked at how --money-grabbing-- unconcerned uh, slack, they seem to be! Fingers crossed we get a place at the children's centre, I am just surprised that it is likely we will get offered a place there (since they limit the intake to just a certain postcode) while the private nurseries seem to have a waiting list longer than a child's christmas wish list! Why? I just thought I might be missing something... hmm

angel1976 Wed 10-Sep-08 22:51:04

Jojay, I am not discounting a CM. But am going through the personal recommendation route, just put the word out so fingers crossed we get some good recommendations!

Jojay Wed 10-Sep-08 22:53:41

Fab! It's the best way! I hope some come through for you smile

ShinyPinkShoes Wed 10-Sep-08 22:54:25

Children's Centres are all meant to be working towards the highest possible standards of care and education.

What makes them slightly different to other nurseries is that they are meant to be centres of excellence rather than set up as businesses if that makes sense?

I'd opt for the Children's Centre

PeppermintPatty Wed 10-Sep-08 23:12:11

My DD went to a private nursery for a month, but I had a lot of doubts about the care she was getting so I took her out.

She now goes to a sure start nursery and on the whole I'm very happy with it.

BabyBaby123 Thu 11-Sep-08 10:47:36

i personally wouldn't use group care for a baby so young but if you are going to then i would definately go with the children's centre.

Have worked in private nurseries and they were all pretty awful tbh.

MrsMattie Thu 11-Sep-08 10:53:42

My son has attended three nurseries so far - a community nursery (essentially a charity), a private nursery and now a school nursery. They were all fine.

The main differences I noticed between them was that the community nursery was always coming up with fundraising drives to raise money for outings etc, as was obviously more skint, and that the private nursery was the least racially/culturally mixed, as it attracted the high earning, full time working, mainly white middle classes in my area.

All of them adhered to the same strict staff-child ratios and were generally nice, well run places. Go with your instincts on a nursery, especially for a child so young, rather than worrying about the finer details - that's what I say!

MrsSnorty Thu 11-Sep-08 10:57:26

I would go for the children's centre. DS went to a (very expensive) private nursery first but is now at the local CC. It is a vast improvement.
The private place seemed to be all about appearances - he used to come home absolutely spotless with paintings that had clearly been done by the carers. Everything seemed to run like clockwork there but it never seemed like anyone (children or staff) was having any fun. CC seems to have a much warmer, child-centred atmosphere. And CC will probably have better trained staff or inclusion workers (to help with the 'needy' children) so standard of care will be better over all.

nurseryvoice Fri 12-Sep-08 17:58:09

My private nursery is my pride of joy. I have to offer a high quality service to attract customers. I have very very high standards, i am a high achiever.
I am a local so everyone knows me and my personal reputation is on the line.
I pay my staff more than any other private day nursery in the area. The local sure start nursery is not what is it is cracked up to me(going over ratios0 I know because i have one of their staff with me now.
I pay for training for my staff and 11 out of 12 staff are qualified the other one being the cook/gen assistant.
The management of a nursery is key.
if you have a poorly trained and experienced manager then the service will not be as good regardless of whether it is private or not.

1dilemma Mon 15-Sep-08 01:18:42

I would say go with what you like.
I gather the gov. is pouring money into children's centres so much that they are seriously in danger of putting others out of business, there is one near us that looks/sounds fab but it takes 12 children. (and has about as many staff) We're in SW London so IMHO it seems pretty pointless to set something up so small and pretend it is a children's centre open to all rather than an expensive intervention programme for troubled/at risk/needy kids. (there is nothing wrong with that BTW just shouldn't pretend it is something which any one can use)

Also re council managers being held accountable I would say something rather diferent in that for these organisations people virtually have a job for life and can often rarely be held accountable for anything.

However I am feeling cynical, my youngest has just started at a childrens centre which will almost certainly be a stop gap. The manager declared herself to be too busy to talk to me every time I have been there so far, when I went to her office for some forms she was about 2/3 of the way through a baby toy catalogue!!!

Wierdly the only place the heat was on was her office (I like a bit of fresh air but it was wierd)

Have you found out whether you'll get any chance of a place at childrens centre and also whether local 'needier' kid could bump yours? the ratio of needy to otherwise round here is at least the other way round

angel1976 Tue 16-Sep-08 14:00:22

Hi 1dilemma, thanks for your contribution. Not sure whether I will get a place. The manager said they will be sending letters out fairly soon. Fingers crossed! It's just so hard to judge these places as you go on one visit and I am sure they have good / bad days like anywhere else. Well, DH wants to see the 'shortlisted' places so hopefully, the second visit will clarify things for us. Thanks for your thought though... I guess it really is up to the individual place!

Littlefish Tue 16-Sep-08 14:26:15

As far as quality goes at the Children's Centre nursery, it will depend on who has been commissioned to run it and, more importantly, the actual staff employed. The nursery may still be a "private" nursery, commissioned by the children's centre or it may be run by a charity such as the Pre-school learning alliance.

The children's centre may have a budget to provide respite places for children in need of care for a variety of reasons. However, the nurseries in children's centre are still expected to be sustainable, which is why the fees are generally charged at market rate for the area.

In the children's centre where I worked, it was a first come, first served arrangement for places. Although the children's centre had budget to provide places for children in need, it was dependent on those places actually being available in the nursery. The nursery didn't just keep places open on the off-chance that they were needed.

webchick Wed 17-Sep-08 19:40:48

My DS (18 months) goes to our local (SE London) Children Centre. It is excellent - dedicated staff with good career paths and structured training in place for them. They follow stringent guidelines and are monitored by the school the CC is attached to. I don't know anything about the needy family ratio so cannot comment on that. Our local council is highly focused on their CCs and Early Years education at present and I have first hand experience of this - thumbs up for CCs from me.

Just to add my DD went to a private nursery (she's now at school) and it was so-so as a comparison.

1dilemma Wed 17-Sep-08 22:06:33

ooh webchick maybe you're talking about the same place?!!

Are you in London littlefish I have been given the distinct impression by the ones I've looked at that it isn't first come etcetc althought the issue may be that there are too many 'needy' people between us and them (I've recently realised we're in a nursery 'hole' but it's SW London, maybe SE has more ccs because it's percieved off as being more 'needy')

I'm off to ponder the cc questions now and may even ring my local!!

angel1976 Thu 18-Sep-08 01:23:03

Hi webchick,

Are you allowed to tell me which CC your DS is at? It sounds like the one I like (it's attached to a primary school too). ;)


Littlefish Thu 18-Sep-08 18:03:54

No 1dilemma, I'm in the Midlands. I think it's a good idea to phone your local children's centre and find out what the position is.

webchick Fri 19-Sep-08 14:20:54

Hi Angel, I dont think its the same place as our CC is attached to a school but at a different site altogether. Our LEA is LAmbeth whom I know spend a huge amt of time and efforts in ensuring the public money is spent in a way that achieves maximum educational needs. HTH.

Send me a message if you want more info - I've never used MN other than the public forums but think there is a message system. I'll check it out.

webchick Fri 19-Sep-08 14:22:22

Just checked, its £5 to register. Angel, let me know if you want to chat off-line and I'll register!

LadyOfWaffle Fri 19-Sep-08 14:28:53

DS is going to the newly opened Childrens Centre preschool in 2 weeks (eeek!). I presumed private would be better, but the one I saw wasn't nice at all but alot of money. I gave up on it until he was 3 but noticed this place opened really close, went to visit and the atmosphere was totally different! I am really happy I didn't write it off before I went to see it now. I'd go with your gut instinct, you can sort of tell if a place is abit 'weird' IME, and if a place feels very comfortable.

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