How to Choose the Best Nursery for your Child? An Insider’s Guide

Imagine 170 pre-schoolers writing, composing and staging their own opera in a London theatre in front of 400 parents. According to Bill Zuckerman, this was his crowning achievement when he was head of an innovative group of nurseries he founded in the southeast of England in 2005, and grew to 10 nurseries. As you can imagine, anyone who can get 170 small children to do anything, much less compose and perform an opera, is going to have an interesting background. Bill’s journey from academia to management consulting to early education is a story we explore in the beginning of this Tanager Talk.

We also call upon Bill’s experience to help us understand how to be savvy consumers of early education here in the United Kingdom.  Here are some of the highlights:

The first step in choosing a nursery involves talking to other parents. Find out which nurseries have the best reputation; then read the inspection reports of those nurseries on the Ofsted website – the body that inspects and regulates children’s services.

Once you have a short list, Bill advises registering with all the nurseries you are considering. You may need to pay a fee (typically £ 50-70 per nursery) but it is a good investment in keeping your options open.

With a short list in hand, the next step is to conduct nursery visits. Here are some of the things Bill suggests keeping in mind:

  1. How do the children look? A child whose needs are being met should be happy, engaged perhaps asleep but never bored or distressed.
  2. Who is showing you around? Is it the person in charge of that nursery? Ask that individual to outline the ethos of the nursery. What makes it different?
  3. Safety and Security – look at the doors, gates and how one gains access. Ask about the vetting process for staff. Does the nursery have webcams? If so, can parents access via a secure platform?
  4. Ask about outcomes and moving on. Specifically, ask what percentage of children end up getting into the primary school of their choice.

Having identified an excellent nursery, parents often face a situation where the nursery is oversubscribed with a long wait list. Bill counsels staying in monthly contact with the nursery. As there is lots of movement in the community (overseas, out-of-London etc) places do become available. It can also be advantageous to be flexible. Taking a less desirable time slot gets you in the door.

To hear the full interview packed with insights and advice on early education, click below.

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