Choosing a Nursery
Selecting the right nursery for your child is essential and can be a daunting desicion, particularly as this may be the first time your child will be looked after outside the home environment. The following checklist is designed to help you choose the best nursery setting for your child. Keep in mind that nursery staff expect to be asked questions and will be happy to provide you with extensive information.
Ensure that the nursery you choose is Ofsted registered. You can access any nursery's latest Ofsted report online at www.ofsted.gov.uk or it can be supplied directly by the nursery.
- Check whether the nursery is a member of a professional organisation such as the National Day Nursery Association (NDNA).
Environment and Equipment
- Visit the nursery to get a sense of the atmosphere. Ask yourself whether it feels friendly and whether the children appear happy. Is the nursery flexible about when you can visit?
- Is the nursery clean and do staff observe good hygiene procedures?
- Is there plenty of space for the children and do they have the opportunity to play outdoors?
- Check the equipment and facilities the children are offered. Is there a variety of creative equipment and is it well kept and freely available to the children?
- Are you satisfied with the safety and security standards?
- Ask about safety, including access to the nursery, emergency procedures and staff vetting procedures.
- Check that the ratios of staff to children, which will vary according to age group and must meet set government standards.
- Ask about the qualification levels of staff and the training which is provided. Legally 50% of staff within the nursery must be qualified.
- Does the company value their staff and give them opportunities for progression?
- Will there be a Key Person who will take special care of your child and liaise with you about their progress?
- Ask about how you will be kept informed of your child's daily activities and his or her general progress. Is there a dialy activity sheet detailing information such as what your child has eaten, what activities they have taken part in and, if appropriate, when they have slept?
- Do the staff interact well with the children:- do they listen to the children and encourage them to ask questions, and do they respond appropriately?
- Do the children appear well behaved and do they interact well with each other?
- Do you feel that the nursery management took a genuine interest in you and your child and was your visit friendly, relaxed and informative?
Registering and Starting
- How will your child be settled into their new environment?
- Confirm with the nursery what sessions are available, what the cost will be and what the terms and conditions of your contract with them will be.
- Ask how far in advance you can register your child.
Meals and Nutrition
- What is the quality of the meals and snacks on offer in the nursery? Is food freshly prepared on site and is a balanced, healthy diet provided? Ask to see copies of the menu plans. Can the nursery cater for special diets and allergies?
Added Value and Funding
- What added value items are included in the nursery fees, such as nappies, milk, meals and extracurricular activities, and what will require extra payment?
- Find out about any financial assistance you may get and how this is administered by the nursery.
- Does the nursery have a Parent Nursery Association(PNA) through which parents have a formal input into the running of nursery? Ask to be put in contact with a member of the PNA should you wish.
Not every nursery will suit you and your child so be prepared to look at more than one nursery and ask other local parents for their recommendations. You can get more information on choosing a childcare setting from your local Family Information Service by phoning 0800 234 6346 or visiting www.direct.gov.uk/childcare.