Choosing a day nursery

Questions to ask when you are selecting a day nursery for your baby, child or toddler.

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Nearly one million children are looked after in day nurseries in the UK , and that number has grown consistently over the last 10 years.

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They are the nation’s most popular form of childcare, with 78% of working mothers describing them as ‘ideal’, according to research by the National Day Nurseries Association.

But if this is your first child and you’ve had no experience of childcare before, how do you go about choosing the right nursery for your baby?

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), an early education charity, recommends that you ask the following questions and check relevant facts.

1. Make sure the nursery is registered with Ofsted. The registration certificate should be displayed together with a current certificate of insurance.

2. Does the nursery belong to a professional organisation such as the National Day Nurseries Association?

3. You are entitled to see copies of the recent Ofsted report, showing the quality of education and care.

4. Does it have any kitemarks of excellence, especially those endorsed by the government, or Investors In Children kitemark such as NDNA’s Quality Counts?

Mum’s top tip: Start looking early. Nurseries in many areas are fully booked months in advance so you may have to put your child’s name down even before he is born to be sure of a place when you need it.

Happy, safe and clean

1. Is there a safe and clean outside play area? Is the interior bright, clean and welcoming?

2. What sort of meals are provided and at what time? Are special diets catered for? Are the menus varied?

3. Do the children look happy and occupied? Are staff interacting well?

4. Are the staff happy, relaxed, well presented, calm and confident?

5 Ask about the staff to children ratios. Here are the guidelines:

0-2 years          1:3
2-3 years          1:4
3-5 years          1:8

Mum’s top tip: Just because a nursery was right in the beginning, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be right a year down the line, so be prepared to change.

A professional approach

1. Half the staff must hold relevant childcare qualifications such as NVQ Childcare Level 2 or equivalent. One staff member should have a First Aid certificate and all of the supervisors must have an NVQ Childcare Level 3 or equivalent.

2. How much is it and what’s included?

3. How are your child’s activities and achievements recorded? Will your child have a key worker? Who is your main point of contact?

4. Ask about staff turnover – how long do members of staff stay and how often do they leave? Some children find a change of carer disruptive and unsettling.

5. Ask about diet, potty training, emergency procedures, discipline and other nursery policies.

Finally

1. Did you enjoy the visit?

2. Your local Children’s Information Service (CIS) will have an up-to-date list of registered childcare providers. Your local authority switchboard will have the telephone number or could direct you to an official online list.

Also, get personal recommendations from friends and family, and look at more than one nursery. This will help you work out what you do and don’t value eg outside space,

  • If you’re not happy with any aspect of the nursery, go elsewhere.
  • For more info call 0870 774 4244, or visit www.ndna.org.uk

Mum’s top tip: Nobody knows more about the childcare facilities in your area than local mums. Talk to as many as possible. You’ll discover things that no one else will tell you.

Useful contacts

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  • Visit Ofsted’s website at www.ofsted.gov.uk for nursery reports.
  • The Daycare Trust is a charity campaigning for quality, affordable childcare. Call 020 7840 3350 or visit www.daycaretrust.org.uk.
  • Sure Start is a government support programme for families with young children. Visit www.surestart.gov.uk.

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