Choosing a nursery and pre-prep for your child can be an overwhelming experience, particularly for those families located in London, where the early years' education scene can be increasingly competitive. Parents in the most sought-after areas are often forced to decide on nurseries before their child has turned one, or in some cases before they are born. This article aims to advise those parents on the do's and don'ts of choosing the best nursery for your family.
Our first recommendation would be to get out there and tour or visit some nurseries! You may have an initial preference. However, you will get a much better sense when you go and look in person, as there's only so much you can tell from a website. Inspection reports, resources such as The Good Schools Guide and talking to other parents can all be helpful starting points, but there is no substitute for visiting in person. Whilst recommendations are invaluable, no one knows your family as yourself. Therefore, nothing can replace looking around the nursery and meeting the staff to get a feel for the environment and work out if it's the right one for your child. Although in-person visits were put on hold throughout the pandemic, nurseries are now generally back to showing parents around in-person, and we would encourage you to make the most of this opportunity.
Factors to consider before visiting the nurseries
When considering which nurseries to visit, there are several factors to think about. The most obvious is location; remember, you will be taking your child to and from the nursery multiple times a week, so having somewhere close to your home or workplace will be crucial. The second most important factor is arguably budget, as nurseries can often vary significantly in price from one to the next.
Other factors such as admission rates and sibling policies might come into play following location and budget. Some London nurseries are heavily oversubscribed, meaning you may need to consider multiple on your list and remember to have backups. If you already have or are thinking of having more children, enquiring about the nurseries' sibling policy is a must; having them both at the same place will save a lot of car journeys! The final and perhaps most obvious thing to think about for some people is the links each nursery has with the surrounding pre-prep and prep schools. Many of the London schools will have existing connections in place, which will potentially result in helping your child gain a place for entry into reception.
Factors to consider whilst visiting nurseries
As you visit your narrowed down list of nurseries, there are many factors to look out for. This will include whether or not the children look happy and settled. Tantrums might be expected at that age, but on the whole, is the environment a calm and encouraging one? What activities are there for the children? Are they varied and stimulating? Are the staff friendly and engaging and willing to participate in activities with the children? How long have the staff worked at the nursery, and what sort of tone has the Headmistress/master set? All of these factors are ones you can only truly find out the answers to whilst visiting the nursery and will all play an essential part in determining which one is right for your child and family.
What to know before applying?
Once you have decided upon your final choice of nurseries you wish to apply to, you will need to be aware of their application process and registration timeline. A few select London nurseries still require registration before birth; however, don't let that scare you, as many will follow different registration timelines. It is important to be aware of whatever these are so that you don't miss any. And if the nursery is currently full and you're on the waiting list, our advice would be to keep in touch. As families relocate, there is often movement, so be sure to keep communicating with the school so they know how much you'd love a place – don't be too pushy; however, keeping your name at the forefront of the admissions teams will go a long way!
Contact Quintessentially Education for more information on the London nursery application process and speak to one of their early years' consultants. They can provide a thorough and bespoke service in helping you choose the right nursery or pre-prep for your child through careful consideration of their individual educational, social and emotional needs.