So you finally get your child settled into the perfect nursery.
They make friends, they love the staff, it’s close to home and work, you feel confident that they’re happy. The situation couldn’t be better.
But then they get a bit older and other mums start talking about pre-school and your mind turns to primary school.
Now you have questions and a whole new dilemma.
“What is pre-school?”
“Does my child have to move now?”
“How is pre-school different to nursery?”
“What do I need to do to make sure my child has the best start to school?”
There’s a lot of confusion around pre-school so below is a complete guide to what it is, why it matters, and why it might not be the upheaval you’re dreading.
Pre-school at school vs nursery – everything you need to know
Most children begin school at the start of the school year in which they turn five, so when your child is three you may begin researching local primary schools and making your application.
Many primary schools also offer pre-school education for children aged 3-4 years, and may suggest you move your child there before you make your school application. But is this right for your child? Let’s explore your options.
What’s the difference between a private pre-school and a school’s?
Private nurseries (like Naturally Learning) and pre-schools attached to schools both follow the same Early Years Foundation Stage guidelines which impact on the learning, development and care of children from birth to five years.
However, there are differences.
Private nurseries run their pre-school sessions based on the individual interests and needs of each child. The staff continuously observe each child and then offer educational activities that help them progress and succeed.
In contrast, school pre-schools follow topic-led teaching that might not be of interest to your child – and if they’re not interested, they’re less likely to get involved and enjoy learning.
What about funding and availability of childcare?
Private nurseries and schools both receive funding for 15 hours a week for children aged 3-4.
However, schools often provide morning or afternoon sessions only – you won’t be able to pay for extra hours. So if you work all day, you’ll need to find someone to pick your child up at lunchtime.
They also only offer pre-school childcare during term-time.
Private nurseries are flexible with timings – Naturally Learning opens from 8am until 6pm every day, 51 weeks of the year, so your child continues to receive Outstanding pre-school education all year-round.
What about the staff ratios?
When children are aged between 3-5 years, schools are required to have just one adult per 13 children. That could mean there are 26 children with only two adults!
In many private nurseries, including Naturally Learning, the ratio is one adult to every eight children – that’s almost twice as many qualified adults as most schools which gives your child a more personalised and nurturing experience.
But the school said my child needs to move now to make friends before they start reception class?
Have you ever been to a parent and toddler group and by the time you leave, your little one is firm friends with another child? It doesn’t take long for children to build strong relationships.
Children are naturally friendly and curious – they will approach their peers and make friends with ease. Do not be put under pressure and made to feel guilty about keeping your child at a private nursery’s pre-school where they are already happy and confident there.
Will my child lose their place at the school if I don’t move them?
The school doesn’t make the decision about who is accepted into the reception year – that decision is made at the Local Authority level.
There have been cases where a parent has moved their child to a pre-school (under pressure from the school to secure a reception place) only to discover that they don’t then get a place at that school.
Just because a child attends a school nursery doesn’t guarantee them a place at that school, so make the decision based on what’s best for your child.
What about having a key person?
At a nursery pre-school, your child will be paired with a qualified adult of their choosing – someone they naturally connect and feel comfortable with. This person will become your contact throughout their time at the nursery, including into the pre-school.
At school, no such scheme is in place – and with only one adult for every 13 children, it’s almost impossible to give that personal level of attention.
So what are the benefits of my child staying at Naturally Learning’s pre-school?
Your child is settled:
Settling your child into nursery is a stressful time for both of you – being able to drop them off at nursery and leave them smiling and waving is the biggest relief for a parent. So why put yourself and your child through the stress of an unnecessary move to another pre-school?
Nursery staff are fully qualified:
Naturally Learning staff are fully qualified in ‘early years’ and understand the importance of the EYFS ethos of learning through play.
Budgets are tight in primary education – not many schools have the money for extensive specific early years resources but instead share with the whole school. Naturally Learning regularly invests in new age-appropriate equipment and resources to keep children entertained and challenged.
Questions to ask before deciding between a school’s pre-school and your nursery’s pre-school
- What is the staff to children ratio?
- Will my child get help going to the toilet if needed?
- What if a child has a toileting accident? Who will help them? How many staff will be left with the other children during that time?
- What early years qualifications and training do the staff have?
- Are pre-school staff trained in first aid?
- Does the nursery have a suitable environment, resources and equipment for three- and four-year-old children?
If your child is settled and happy at nursery, you don’t need to move them to a pre-school at a local primary school. They will receive good education and care from qualified staff in a suitable environment at their nursery’s pre-school.
Naturally Learning employs qualified early years teachers to help get children school-ready in its pre-school, so they start reception confident and happy. Listen to your instincts and go with your gut. Pre-school needn’t be an upheaval but a natural part of their early years education at nursery.