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Please reassure me I've done the right thing... pre-school vs school nursery (long, sorry!)

(25 Posts)
smallpotato Wed 22-Jun-11 10:08:22

DD1 is 3 and when I did her nursery application earlier this year I had a dilemma about whether to keep her at the community preschool where she currently is, or move her to the nursery attached to the local primary school. I had a look round the school nursery and although there were a lot of good things, great facilities etc and it is Ofsted outstanding there were some things I didn't like, mainly it seemed very school-like compared to the relaxed atmosphere of the preschool, teachers are called Mrs X rather than by their first name, there was too much emphasis on learning for my liking, such as tracing letters etc (I was told she will be writing her name by the time she starts school hmm) and they were given homework each week. Plus it was compulsory to attend 5 morning sessions, while at preschool she can do 2 full days and a half day, which suits me much better as I also have a 1yo DD2. Also, the school is very oversubscribed so there is no guarantee she will get into the school even if she has been at the nursery and I thought it would be too much disruption to move twice.

So I decided to keep her at preschool - she seems happy there, I like the idea of having 2 full days with both DDs so we can go on days out etc and then 2 full days when I can concentrate on DD2. The preschool has a lovely caring family atmosphere, DD frequently gives the carers lots of cuddles and is very settled there.

However, I'm now wondering if I did the right thing... the drawback of the preschool is they take kids age 2-4 and they are all mixed in together (apart from a half-hour session at the beginning of the day when the 3-4 year olds do something different). There were some new kids starting today and it struck me just how young the 2yos seem now next to DD. Talking to other parents, most of the 3yos will be moving on to school nurseries in September or January, so this time next year DD will be one of the older ones (I know of one other definitely staying, thankfully it is her best friend!). There is no 'structured' learning, just lots of free-flow play and activities. I thought this was what I wanted, but now I am getting cold feet especially after talking to another mum who was banging on about the need for 'structure' to prepare them for school.

What if she starts school and she's the only one who can't write her name/do letters because the others have all been taught it at the school nursery? What if she starts getting really bored at preschool when all her little friends leave? Have I made a massive mistake??

5ofus Wed 22-Jun-11 11:13:31

You have made the right decision.

I think school nurseries are too rigid and don't take enough of the individual child's requirements into account, they tend to have much higher ratios of children to staff and insist on stupid uniform and attendance rules. I could go into a big rant about it now but won't.... they start school early enough as it is without having it from 3 years old.

<steps off soapbox>

bumpybecky Wed 22-Jun-11 11:25:31

I think I would have made exactly the same decision as you smile

My 4th dc is in preschool at the moment and I've been making a similar decision as to whether to keep him at the preschool he's settled in or to move him to the one at the school he'll be going to.

Reception should be mostly free flow play anyway, it's not all formal and structured. That comes soon enough, probably too soon anyway. Many countries don't even have them starting school until 6 or older. Let her be 3 and enjoy herself smile

smallpotato Wed 22-Jun-11 16:35:33

thank you both! I know I made the decision based on my gut instinct, and I think it is the right choice, it's just hard to deal with some of the uber-competitive mums round here sometimes. They all seem to think the preschool is good enough for their 2yos, but at 3 they should be tracing letters and learning their ABCs. My neighbour actually said to me 'but how will you feel if she starts school and she's the only one who can't write her name?' hmm I mean, I'm all for teaching them to sound out letters/write etc, but at their own pace when they want to do it, right?

I just need to breathe and repeat to myself "she's only 3, she's only 3..." grin

Jojay Wed 22-Jun-11 16:42:04

You've done the right thing.

DS1 is at a school nursery. He's 4 1/2 and can't write his name though wink

They all vary, nurseries and children - go with your gut instinct. And ignore the pushy Mums.

camdancer Thu 23-Jun-11 14:27:16

There are more important things to be learning at 3 and 4 than endless copying her name. The preschool is teaching your child to be an independent learner, to explore and find out things for herself and be generally interested in life and the world. When you have a child who is interested in learning it isn't going to take her long to learn to write her name. It's much harder to get children to be interested in learning again once they've been turned off it.

PandaG Thu 23-Jun-11 14:32:26

you've made the right decision. Early years should be all about free flow play, in reception too. I am sure the setting will encourage her to start to write her name if she is ready/interested.

pranma Thu 23-Jun-11 18:51:40

dgs will be 5 in Sept and moved from pre school to school nursery last Sept[just before he was 4].By then he could write his name and sort of draw a tractor smileHe was however socialised,used to leaving Mum and saw the move as going up a step-he was old enough.I think you are quite right to carry on at preschool for another year if your dd is happy.You can teach her to write her name at home if you want to.

Fifis25StottieCakes Thu 23-Jun-11 18:59:15

Im in a similar situation. Eldest DD's went to local pre-school which was more like a playgroup. I had the choice to put youngest dd in preschool, school nursery or private. I opted for te private as they offered 2.5 days instead of 5 half days which is much better for me.

I wouldnt worry about it. In reception they concentrate a lot on play learning anyway.

nutterbutsquash Mon 27-Jun-11 22:53:59

smallpotato I have been in exactly the same dilema as you and am still to make up my mind. The differences being:
- his current (private) is 'satisfactory' and I can see why really even though I've tried to gloss over it for the last year. I never get evidence of any activities throughout the day apart from watchng peppa pig and playing cars although he's perfectly happy there.
- they won't offer 2.5 days either- most I could get free would be 1.5 days due to them only being able to offer 11 hours/week (but all year round)
- but... its a 2 min walk as opposed to the 20 min one for the outstanding childrens centre where he does loads, has amazing play area, but is 3 hours/day 5 days/week.

I tend to agree with the above posters that school starts too young anyway and I've spoken to teacher friends who say it doesnt' seem to make any difference - it all evens itself by the end of reception/year 1.

But.. DS is aug born so want to do all I can to help him be prepared for school when it comes. Why is it so difficult, I really don't know what to do.

januaryjojo Tue 28-Jun-11 11:11:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lolis Thu 30-Jun-11 10:25:55

I knew there would be a thread SOMEWHERE on Mumsnet about this! I am stressing out big time about this decision for my 2 and half year old DD. Her children's centre nursery feeds into the school nursery and the staff all assume she will be going there. But it's 52 children in two small adjoining classrooms with four staff, and the teacher shouts a lot (according to the nursery's own staff!).

By contrast, the local community preschool I visited with DD last week is calm, spacious and very friendly with 24 children and four staff. DD ran straight in and had to be dragged out after half an hour, she was so happy.

She is a very intelligent child (IMHO!!) and is already learning her numbers and letters at home, but I figure I can just continue with that at home. Reception is supposed to be a preparation for school, right, so how come the school nursery manager was plugging nursery so heavily to me as a great preparation for school? We have to prepare them at 3 years old now? That's a non-argument to me.

I feel bad for taking DD away from her familiar setting (both the children's centre and school are on the same site right on our street) and her familiar peers (the majority of them will be going up to the school nursery) plus I am turning down free childcare, which does irk. But I don't want to go to work every day worrying about whether she's okay, fighting for attention with 51 other children. That's not worth any money in the bank.

There will be plenty of time for school once she is 5 and then we don't have a choice. Put it off is the conclusion I think I am coming to.

happyhorse Thu 30-Jun-11 10:32:32

I did exactly the same as you OP and for the same reasons. I've also had the same worries about whether I've done the right thing, but I trust that I have.

DS is confident and happy at his preschool. IMO another year of play in an environment where he is settled and secure is much more beneficial for him - and will prepare him just as well for reception - than a school nursery.

moonbells Mon 01-Aug-11 15:43:31

er, Lolis I thought that staff:child ratios have to be at least 1:8 at 3-5y.o.
52 with 4 is 1:13, surely not legal?

naphillgirl Wed 03-Aug-11 22:22:15

If it is attached to a school the ratio can be 1:13. (I believe)

I work in a Pre-School and the school I feed into takes them from the term after they are 4 into a 'nursery class'. From my belief this is attached to the reception class so they are swallowed into that. I try to keep my children until the right time for them to leave as I think it does them good to be the 'older children' (think of who gets the lead in Nativities etc) for a time with a few more responsibilities. They spend a lot of time being the youngest at school as it is.

I also have a lot of conversations about children not being able to write their names at the age of 4. Some children can but most can't but please remember children at Pre-School and Reception are governed by the Early Years Foundation Stage which takes them through to the end of Reception. The early learning goals go up to 60+ months so they have until they are 5 to reach these.

Pre-School and reception are free flow playing with structured activities for those who want it. Learning should be fun and a lot of our learning is done on walks (when they don't realise they are learning). Free flow gives them the opportunities to choose, learn to share etc.

hippy1952 Thu 25-Aug-11 14:57:23

Don't take notice of people saying your child will be at a disadvantae if they won't be able to write their own name etc.. My grandaughter went to a wonderful preschool where they had great fun playing and socialising, no name writing or worksheets. Within a week of starting school aged 4yrs 3mths she was writing her name perfectly and reading her first reading book. Now at the end of year 2 she writes wonderful stories and reads at least a book a day and sometimes more. She also loves to read to her 2 little sisters.

An0therName Thu 25-Aug-11 15:11:12

havn't read all of thread but my DS1 was a community pre-school until reception - he settled fine and had done really well at reception - I could have had him in the school nursery where he went to school but it was inconvient for other reasons - but in your case you are not even sure that your DD will be going to that school. and sound loads more flexiable as well -
he was one of the older ones for the last few months but he quite liked that - and I would have thought the pre-school would do a bit on letters etc at that older stage - mine did

petisa Sat 27-Aug-11 01:26:26

Another one here who made the same decision for the same reasons and am now getting v excited about dd going to her new playgroup!

mrz Tue 30-Aug-11 08:25:46

moonbells the legal ratio if there is a qualified teacher or EYPS is 1-13 for children aged 3+

mrz Tue 30-Aug-11 08:27:06

It obviously applies to nursery classes as there must be a qualified teacher but it can also apply in pre schools and CCs

fumanchu Tue 13-Sep-11 14:29:59

Keep your child in the pre-school! The staff there should provide for each individual child's needs which means some different activities for the older ones or extending activities for them. If children show an interest in print and mark making they may want to start for example writing their own names and the pre-school would support this - but all children learn and develop at their own pace.

stripedcat Thu 15-Sep-11 20:41:23

I think it depends on the individual child - I did the opposite, just because my dc loves letters, numbers, structure etc etc (more than toys!!)

I also thought that the transition to receiption would be less. Loved the unstructured pre-school he went to though....

stripedcat Thu 15-Sep-11 20:42:59

Should add that the ratio is also better - it is 1:5 in the private nursery he is at.

GetOutMyPub Thu 15-Sep-11 22:07:04

Mum to a 3 yr old & a teacher

I would say you have done the right thing.

Wigeon Mon 19-Sep-11 14:05:30

My 3YO is at a community pre-school rather than the nursery year of the school and she will stay there til she's in Reception. She is a late birthday (June) and will be young in her year, and I really can't see that she needs very formal education yet. However, she has shown an interest in letters and numbers and so we have taught her the alphabet, some writing and counting at home, always at her own pace and only if she is having fun and wants to do it.

I can't see that she's being held back in any way - she's only at the pre-school for three sessions a week after all, where she is learning loads of things relevant to school (listening to instructions, being away from her parents, making friends, playing co-operatively, meeting children who are different to her (eg they have SEN), taking part in the pre-school routine (eg sitting down while they take the register) and so on. She also has lots of fun playing.

I think I am by instinct a potentially pushy mother (I was always high-achieving as a child / teenager academically) but this is the right setting for DD at the moment (who seems at least normally intelligent --and probably actually a genius, being my PFB--) and I am sure it is in her best interests.

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