Need To Know: Applying For Nursery In The UK

Words by Keven Amfo

23 June 2020


Early Years Education Consultant Rose De Pass speaks to Quintessentially, providing top tips and overall info to make the most of the nursery experience and optimise and ease the transition for your little ones.

Is nursery compulsory?

No, there is no compulsory education in the UK until age five. That being said, nursery is an excellent way to prep children for that education. Nursery school, which typically begins around age two, is a termly program with holidays similar to big school. Children start with a shorter day, then gradually increase as they get closer to big school. Because of this, it’s not a solution for working parents. Instead, they can pursue daycare, which babies can enroll from six months old. It operates 51 weeks of the year, from morning til evening, so it is a great option for parents who work. It is a much different environment than nursery school, which is structured.

What is most important when considering where to apply?

Definitely think about distance, which nurseries will take into account as well as they serve the families that live closest to them. Most great nurseries are found in the residential areas of London where most children reside—Chelsea, Kensington, Clapham, St John’s Wood.

Aside from that, spending some time visiting to get a feel is an essential factor. Speak to the headmistress or headmaster, find out how long the staff has been there. Trust your gut! You should be able to quickly discern which are family-run and which operate more like a business.

Also, consider what is important to you as a family. Do you want to make sure your child plays outside every day? What is your preferred approach to learning—do you prefer a Montessori ethos or an education that is more didactic and structured? Remember, it’s a stepping stone and not a springboard. Most London nurseries are outstanding and have links to the next stage of schooling.

At what age should I send my child to nursery?

Age two seems to make a lot of sense. If they want it earlier, then it might be necessary for your child in particular—but before two, you won’t get much education. It’s more of a social environment until then.

What are the benefits of nursery over nanny?

The primary benefit is the socialisation element. The children will probably crave the interaction around age two—not necessarily daily, but at least a couple times per week. Big schools (beginning at age four) are assessing social skills when deciding which children to accept. Behaviour, confidence, willingness to share,
obedience, and how they interact with others are all factors for acceptance—and things that are more easily taught in a nursery environment. It’s a cornerstone for children to develop proper social skills alongside a positive attitude toward learning and an understanding of structure.

What can I do to make the transition easier for my child?

Firstly, trust the school. They should be good at it! They may have their policy, so ask how they handle it—the nursery is your ally. Often, the parents are more emotional about it than the children are, and the child can sense that. So try to remain calm!

New children are usually allowed to visit before school starts, to have a tea party and meet their new classmates. This helps a lot, so they’re in a more familiar environment on the first day. Also, prepping them over the summer by talking about school and how exciting it will be can go a long way.

What do I need to know about applying?

Admissions are more simple than you’d think. There is no assessment process, and they are first-come, first-serve. Early registration is a crucial aspect of the process. Visit and register your interest, to see if you’re aligned with the school and their vision. If that’s the case, then pay a deposit to secure your spot. If the school is full and you’re on the waiting list, 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. A handwritten letter, detailing how much you’d like your child to attend and that you’re waiting patiently, goes a long way.

Contact Quintessentially’s Education experts in to help you with every step of schooling.

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