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surestart nursery/ childrens centre: any advantages over a conventional private nursery

7 replies

beetlemum · 29/01/2009 20:05

DS2 will start nursery in September when he is 11 months old, there is a sure start one near me, wondered if they had any advantages compared to a conventional private nursery, cost is the same as private nursery,

OP posts:
angel1976 · 29/01/2009 20:46

HI beetlemum,

I asked the same question a few months ago. Have you gone to see the nurseries? Most important is how you feel about them (but I don't need to tell you that!). My own experience is this - I saw 4 nurseries: 2 private, 1 run by a trust (not sure what that means to be honest!) and 1 was part of a surestart centre AND primary school.

I hated the private nurseries. The feeling I got from them was very pushy for me to put down a deposit to get a place etc... That seemed most important to them. Their menus looked okay but again, I was a bit dubious about the quality. The one run by a trust had lovely grounds and the staff was nice but I wasn't keen on the lack of a proper sleep room.

The one DS just started is the one attached to the primary school and surestart centre and I think it is fantastic! The advantages so far (some I could see before I started but some I've just realised!):

  • More qualified staff (because the Surestart centres are governed by the council, they are stricter about the qualifications of staff. All the nursery staff have a childcare qualification. The private ones can get away with something like only a 1/3 or 1/2 of their staff having a childcare qualification though I think this is changing in the near future.)

  • Not profit-driven - they seem very flexible about payment and never asked for a deposit. Also, DS gets really lovely food there. I think they get their food from the primary school, which is in some healthy food initiative with the council so DS has got such good food there. Today, he has had lamb casserole, sponge cake with custard for lunch, cheese pasta and yoghurt for tea and fruit for snacks. The food really is fantastic.

  • Shared facilities - The nursery gets to share some of the children's centre facilities like a sensory room that DS loves.

Good luck with choosing one. Our DS has been settling in nursery for two weeks and despite his clinginess to mummy, I can tell he is loving it there already. The staff there really are lovely and try their best for my DS!

M1SSUNDERSTOOD · 29/01/2009 22:07

I agree the family centres (as they are called in Scotland) are less profit driven and more child led IME. The staff also seem to be older and there is not as high a turnover. In ours the wraparound care also includes lunch from the local school which adheres to certain govt. guidelines.

tankie · 30/01/2009 21:26

I've worked in private chain nurseries, an independent private and a children's centre, and I must say on that small sample the children's centre was the one I liked the most.

The most important thing I found was that they were often a staff member over the legal minimum ratios, something that private nurseries never are. As a result, in private nurseries you are always stressing about numbers, enough staff to cover lunch breaks, staff having to move children into other rooms for half an hour to stay in ratio etc. It was much less stressful having an extra staff member, and in the children's centre there was also a much higher percentage of qualified staff.

As the children's centre was attached to a primary school, it felt more rooted in the local community - children in the nursery had siblings in the school, other local parents and children came for drop ins and stay and plays. The food was also nice school dinner type food, with sponge pudding and custard for afters.

hoxtonchick · 30/01/2009 21:31

children's centres tend to be better funded. ours has a soft play bit, sensory garden, organic food. dd goes 2 days a week & does french one day & yoga the other. marvellous! ds went there too, & lots of the staff who looked after him are now looking after her which makes me really happy. she has just moved into the pre-school room where there is a proper early years teacher who prepares them brilliantly for school.

UniS · 01/02/2009 20:03

We use a surestart childrens centre almost every week since my lad was born, still in there 3-4 days a week now. I work one week day per week.
I was keen for my lad to attend a sure start neighbourhood nursery (SS NN)at teh end of our road. They had no spaces for his age when I had work. SO he is at a private nursery.

It will depend on each nursery and what you like/ dislike about each. Personally I find surestart staf are more likley to be older, qualified, continuing to self educate, interested in early years reserch, well up on early years, development & play thery.

Round here a number of kids at SS NN will be there on respite places to help the family, so not lots of 8.30-5.30 5 days week kids. Not every kid will have 2 working parents, some will have normal development, some will have extra needs, some are being assessed to see what extra help they might benifit from. Most of the children do live near the nursery, they see each other at other activities in the area and the parents get to know each other.

FiveGoMadInDorset · 01/02/2009 20:07

We use a surestart nursery and love it. In the 2 years that DD has ben there only 2 members of staff have left, both of their DH's are military so were posted away. They get a home cooked meal every lunchtime, use the primary schools playing fields, and have been supportive of potty training. I did go and have look at one closer and was not comfortable with the atmosphere.

KT12 · 02/02/2009 08:56

From experience - it depends on the staff and management of the Sure Start nurseries. I have seen some excellent ones and some with pretty poor practice. It also depends on the relationship between the Children Centre and the nursery. Like others have said - you need to visit and ask lots of questions and go with your instincts.

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