Choosing a nursery for your children can be fraught with uncertainty. Most of us worry, rightly, about their safety and well-being, making it vitally important that we make the right decision. Most of us, however, just don’t know where to begin the selection process.
1 It is always a good idea to look up each nursery on the Care Commission’s website, www.carecommission.com and navigate to the nurseries section to see how it is rated.
Ratings vary from 1 – unsatisfactory to 6 -the highest available. The Care Commission grades homes on a number of bases including Quality of Environment and Quality of Staff. Bear in mind, however, that the rating only reflects the opinion of a Care Commission officer and it is really up to the individual parent to take a view on the quality of the nursery.
2 Armed with the Care Commission’s ratings, arrange to visit the nurseries you most like the look of to see how they measure up and speak to other parents about their opinion of the nursery.
3 Parents should use all their senses to assess the quality of a nursery. Look around the premises, are they clean? Do the children look happy? Do staff members appear professional in their approach? Engaging the staff in conversation about the nursery and their role in how it operates ought to provide you with a good idea of the quality of care on offer.
4 Take a good look at the menu; does it look wholesome and nutritious?
5 Ask to hear about the daily routine for the nursery. Does it involve lots of activity combined with rest time and story reading? If it doesn’t, you might be looking at a nursery where the children are left to their own devices for long periods of the day.
6 For children aged between 3 and 5, nurseries should be engaged with the Curriculum for Excellence to prepare them for school, so ask what educational facilities are used in the nursery. Instruction should cover as many areas as possible including the arts and sciences, music and physical exercise.
7 A safe recruitment policy is a must for every nursery in the land and you should ask what the policy is and about how it is implemented. If on your visit the staff strike you as kind, enthusiastic and caring you will have a reasonably good idea of how they will treat your children. Ask them also how long they have worked in this particular nursery, since continuity of staff is a critical element in running an efficient and happy establishment.
8 Ask about outdoor as well as indoor activities since the former are just as important as the latter. Children need fresh air and the ability to explore in a safe outdoor environment.
9 A nursery which engages with the local community, including the local authority, tends to be more outward-looking and better at developing children’s understanding of the world, so look for signs of visits from community figures such as police or fire-fighters and the like.
10 Ask also to see the nursery’s ‘participation strategy’, an approach which supports children to see themselves as an important part of the nursery community and, within reason, encourages them to communicate with the staff on their personal preferences and on how the nursery operates.
In conclusion, there are lots of ways in which you can narrow down the choice of nurseries that best suits your child. It’s just a matter of gathering the evidence and coming to an informed conclusion. There are ample resources out there.
Arti Poddar is Managing Director of Little Einstein’s Kindergarten Limited, which owns and operates seven nurseries throughout Scotland.