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Choosing a nursery

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Choosing a nursery is important; whether you are going back to work after a period of maternity leave, or sending your little one out on their first experience of nursery or pre-school, choosing a childcare facility will be no easy task.

The list of concerns and factors to consider is endless, especially if you are looking for a full-time setting while you return to employment. After all, your baby will spend the vast majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else – you will want the peace of mind that they are with people you trust in a safe and nurturing environment.choosing a nursery

Finding the right setting can at first seem like a massive undertaking. For starters, there’s a range of different providers to choose from such as licensed day care centres, childminders, nurseries and pre-school groups.

What’s in your area?

A good place to start after narrowing it down to what’s available and practical to get to in your area, is Ofsted. All childcare providers caring for children under five must register with the inspection authority on the Early Years Register.

All Ofsted registered childcare settings, including childminders, day nurseries, pre-schools, school nursery and reception classes, have to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage and must work to the same standard of provision.

Ofsted inspectors will regularly monitor the setting to decide how well these standards are met. The results are published on the internet and will give you a good initial overview of a childcare centre.

From the Ofsted website you can choose to see the inspection reports of all childcare providers within a given radius of your home.

Ofsted ratings

Inspectors will assess a setting based on a number of criteria such as how well it is maintained, children’s emotional and social development, the progress they make, life skills learned and the abilities of staff.

Centres will be given an overall rating of ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’ which gives you a general feel for a place at a glance.

While Ofsted reports are a good place to start, it is definitely worth asking around. There’s probably nothing more valuable than the opinions of other parents when choosing a nursery or crèche. Talking to as many people as you can about their experiences will give you a great insight into the good or bad places. It will also help give you a better idea of what you want for your own child.

Take a tourchoosing a nursery

Once you have narrowed it down, ask to take a tour or stop by unannounced to arrange a tour.

Speak to as many people as you can to find out more about the place, as well as taking a good look around. Keep an eye out for how clean it is, including kitchens and bathrooms, and what facilities there are for little ones, including range of toys, indoor/outdoor activities, quiet areas etc.

It’s worth taking a list of any questions you may have so you don’t forget to ask them while you are there.


Here’s some example questions that you may want to ask:

  • What qualifications do members of staff hold?
  • Are they trained in CPR?
  • What is the ratio of staff to children?
  • Are the children separated into age groups?
  • Do they have a feeding schedule or will they follow my routine?
  • What happens about nap time?
  • What is the discipline procedure?
  • What activities will the children be taking part in and will there be any structure to play?
  • What is the plan for teaching and learning?
  • What are the emergency procedures?

Be thoroughchoosing a nursery, child playing with numbers

Don’t worry about seeming over-protective or over-cautious, it’s a big decision you are making and any decent childcare provider will be sympathetic to your concerns.

Try and see a few different places as the more you research, the more you will get a feel for what is standard and what goes above and beyond the norm. The more research you do, the better you will feel about leaving your precious bundle under their care.

If you’re still not sure, you could try a setting out before committing. Have your child spend a day there to see how they get on. First days may be traumatic, but seeing how any distress is dealt with can go a long way to reassure you about a nursery’s suitability.



About Linda Ram

About Linda Ram

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