The number of childcare places across the UK has dropped year on year since 2016 from 3,093,000 to 2,841,300 in 2021.
A quick search of ‘when to apply for nursery school’ on Google brings up a wealth of government pages advising parents on the process. Choosing somewhere you trust is no easy task and can often leave parents stressing over their children’s future. Luckily, the process is easier than you think. All it requires is a few planned visits to local schools, a list of questions, and a whole load of research. We’ve broken this process down to help you plan your child’s future without losing sleep.
Research to find the right Nursery
Research makes up the lion’s share of finding the right nursery. Use the internet, maps, friends’ recommendations and anything else you can get your hands on. Once you have all your tools start running through each nursery and see how they match up to your needs.
Here are just a few considerations to keep in mind.
1. Location is important
Looking for a kindergarten, preschool, nursery or creche near your home or work is a must. Alternatively, find an area nearby with good schools to give you a wide range of options. Childcare institutions are run in various ways such as private day nurseries, preschool playgroups, primary school nursery and community nurseries. Each of these will function in their own way with various fee structures and schedules.
An easy way to find local nurseries is to keep an eye out on your daily commute. Alternatively, google local nursery schools or find out detailed information through your local Family Information Service.
All childcare providers need to be registered on their database, providing you access to a long list of prospective nurseries.
2. Read Ofsted Reports
After you’ve found a few places you like, check their Ofsted reports. Nurseries register with Ofsted and are subject to visits by this government body regularly. Early Years Foundation Stage, or EYFS, sets the standard framework with Ofsted giving schools ratings based on several factors.
3. Chat to Other Parents
Don’t just rely on official reports. Your experience as a parent is also important so ask your friends, family, and any other parents you know. Look on websites for testimonials or reviews. You’ll find out a lot more about your chosen school by asking the people who’ve been there.
4. Plan a Visit
Once you’ve whittled down your list it’s time to get ringing. Book a viewing or trial session and see for yourself. Once you’ve got a date, prepare some questions. Here are just a few to consider.
Key questions to ask
- What are the drop off and pick up times?
- Do consumables like food cost extra?
- What ages do they cover?
- How is feedback given to parents? Reports, verbal or online via an app?
- What is the teacher/student ratio?
- Is there any flexibility to fit into your child or your own routine?
These are just a few of the questions to consider before visiting the nursery. Take a few minutes to think about what’s important to you and your child. You’ll be more prepared and informed when the time comes to choose.
5. Apply Early
You’ve finally found your chosen school. Be it a day nursery, preschool or other institution, you’ve found the one. Now is the time to apply. The earlier you apply the better as the uptake for schools is strictly set in line with the school year, however Stepping Stones allows entry to their setting at any point throughout the year.
Each nursery has a different method of application so look for application forms on their website or contact them directly to find out what the next steps are.
6. Are you entitled to a funded nursery place?
Whatever you choose, make sure you have a look at the funded childcare entitlement. This allows all 3 to 4-year olds in England access to 570 free hours of education per year (15 hours funding) or 1140 hours of funded childcare (30 hours funding).
Before signing up for the school year it’s worth applying online or contacting your local council to find out more. Some two year old’s are also entitled to 15 hours free childcare. This is means-tested.
Why choose us?
Stepping Stones Day Nursery is committed to making this process quick and easy for parents and children. Once registered with us, we offer free trial sessions to help your child settle in with their environment. These free sessions also give you a few practice runs to share information with caregivers about your child’s particular needs.
Contact us today to find out more about what Stepping Stones has to offer or book your free sessions. We can’t wait to get you and your little one started on this extraordinary journey.