Choosing a nursery can be a nervewracking time, as an ex-nursery worker my friends are always asking what to look out for and what questions to ask. Here is the advice I give them;
Before your meeting with the headteacher, observe as much as you can. Ask yourself these questions;
Are the children contented?
Is the nursery clean? Remember the nursery should be clean but not necessarily spotless and completely tidy, happy kids play, play involves a certain amount of mess.
Is it spacious and bright?
Do the staff look happy? Happy staff equals happy kids.
During your meeting;
1. Ask about daily routine.
Most nurseries have a schedule of sorts, which may include, mealtimes, activity times, nap times, outdoor play, extra-curricular activities such as ballet or french. The key here is to build a picture in your head of how your child’s day will be, and decide what aspects are most important. If you believe access to the outdoors as key then you should look for somewhere that has free access to the outdoor area. If your child values quiet time, then choose somewhere with less children, that is quieter and that has quiet time built into the schedule.
2. Ask about disciplinary procedures.
How is the behaviour of the children managed. Do they have a ‘kids will be kids’ attitude, or are they strict with specific rules and punishments. Choose a nursery that aligns with your morals and beliefs to avoid problems later on.
3. Find out how often they go outside, for walks and on excursions.
This question is especially important if your child will be spending a lot of time at nursery. You may also wish to ask what the ratio of staff to children is on walks and excursions, and how they ensure safety.
4. Ask about staff, age, sex (I think male staff are a real bonus), qualifications and experience.
Don’t be put off by young staff, they are often very enthusiastic and full of energy. Same goes if there are male staff, kids love to have both women and men around, because they enjoy doing different things. For room leaders experience may be preferential. Speak to staff if you get a chance, ask them what they enjoy and what their hopes for the future are, you’ll quickly pick up whether they are commited to and enjoy the job. Staff enthusiasm would be high on my wish list, they set the tone for the whole nursery. Long serving staff signal that the working conditions and pay are favourable, both important for high morale.
Further questions may include details of snack provision, whether you need to provide nappy changing supplies, whether you’re charged for sick days, what happens if you are late picking up your child, what security is in place.