This isn't a post about how to choose a nursery / pre-school for your child but a sharing of my recent experience. I've been looking at nurseries over the past few weeks ready for my son to start in September this year, shortly before he turns three. Quite a few of my friends started their children at age two for 2-3 mornings a week and most of them were going to the same nursery, so that was the first on my list to visit. At the back of my head, I had decided that he would go to this nursery because it must be pretty nice if everyone else is sending their child there, it's a convenient location, not the most expensive and offers the flexibility of doing as few or as many mornings as you like. Going to look at it was more a formality.
Well, I hated it! I didn't like the lady who showed me around. She rushed me around, wasn't especially friendly, didn't answer my questions properly and didn't treat me with the sort of cordiality I expected from someone working at a place where they want parents to pay them money and leave their child in their trusted hands. They had a great outdoor space but the indoor space seemed dark, worn and in poor condition. I could go on but suffice it to say, I was surprised so many of my friends were sending their children there and knew I wouldn't be sending my son there. I should mention the nursery does have an 'outstanding' Ofsted report which is obviously a draw but it wasn't for me.
The next place I looked at was a very small nursery attached to a church. I really liked this one and it reminded me of the small simple scale of the nursery I went to when I was little. There were just three small rooms separated for different types of activities and then they use the attractive vicarage garden for playing outside. They only take a maximum of 14 children and can't guarantee a place, so it would have been a matter of calling and reminding them I was still interested throughout the summer. The lady who runs it wasn't especially genial but I was won over by the simple set-up and general feel of the place.
However, it was the third nursery I saw that was the very best of the lot. Everything about my visit was perfect and to my expectations. The headteacher was extremely amiable, very thorough in her explanation of all aspects of the nursery and the sort of approach and activities they encourage. The facilities are great, the staff all greeted my son and I with genuine smiles and the children there all seemed happily immersed in an activity of one kind or another. This nursery was at the very opposite end of the spectrum to the first one I had seen. There was only one remaining place left for September which I was able to take up, so it almost seemed like it was meant to be. It's a longer walk from our home, it's the most expensive of the three but most importantly, it felt like the right environment for my son.
The overiding point that I have learnt from the experience of finding a nursery is that, as with most things concerning parenting, you have to trust your instincts. I had no idea what sort of treatment is realistic for a parent to receive from someone showing me around a nursery but I had expectations that correlate to the sort of values I find important for myself and my family. To me, things like that are as important as the Ofsted reports, the quality of the facilities and all the other factors to consider when looking at a school.
I had already been feeling nervous about my son starting nursery and how he will take to it but now I feel really happy and excited for him. It might be tough at the beginning as he settles in, especially as he is not used to being left anywhere without me but I am confident the process will go as well as it can at this nursery and that once he does settle in, that he will get a lot of enjoyment from it. That's a reassuring feeling for a parent!
What were your experiences when looking at a nursery for your child and what sort of factors were most important to you?