The early years of any child’s development are undoubtedly crucial to the shaping of their future personality and learning. The environment that they are exposed to at home and at any nursery that they attend are very significant factors in this development so making the right choice for your child can be a tricky and emotional time, particularly if it is your first time in doing so!
At this point, school as a concept that you will remember- sitting in classrooms, facing a board, following structures and routines can seem a million miles away from what your child wants or needs. And so it should be. The Early Years Foundation Stage requirements set out for all providers is based on the fundamentals of play and exploration. This allows children to lead their own learning, find their own way to manage social situations, communicate their emotions, solve problems and overcome challenges. They will begin to be exposed to phonics, writing and number work; concepts that a good nursery will continue to explore through hands-on, practical activities that engage and immerse the child in their learning.
There are many settings that will endeavour to deliver these elements, so how do you choose the right one for your child? You will want somewhere that combines these with other important factors for yourself and your child. Look for somewhere that gives your child the support or stretch that they need to learn effectively as they approach Reception and beyond; the pastoral and nurturing environment to make you as a parent and the child feel secure and valued; and the opportunity to try new things and have experiences that will benefit them in the present and into the future.
This is where school-based nurseries, particularly in the independent sector, can be a strong choice. They are likely to have access to facilities- Forest School, swimming pools, specialist teachers of music, languages etc- that will enable your child try new things, develop and hone formative skills that can evolve into lifelong attributes and begin to build passions and interests. The integration with the rest of the school will bring an opportunity to be exposed to a wider array of people and personalities without intimidation, to socialise with children of various ages and to enjoy assemblies, concerts and trips as part of a larger community. There are likely to be highly skilled Learning Support departments and the transition into Reception can begin earlier with the support of teachers who can help to shape the children’s transition into the next stage of education.
There are many options and the choice must be one that suits your child and your family; there is no one-size fits all so look at the all-round benefits to be gained and make the choice that can offer the best start in as many areas as possible.
(Prep School Headmaster)