One of the things that has struck me since moving to Surrey is that Relatively unusually Junior has been in two different nursery settings, which has given us a breadth of comparison that most people don’t have – you pick a nursery at the starting stick with it, almost certainly for all your children. So herein some learning points from me.
First thing to say is that both nursery school we’ve used have been good, and we have been happy helped Junior prosper and develop. But there are definite differences, and our current, Surrey nursery is definitely better. And I think it is that comparison which is interesting.
I should declare a conflict/bias at this point – as I didn’t go to nursery, and my parents were rightly proud iof having been able to raise me and my siblings at home, I’ve been reluctant about nursery, although knowing that in the current economic cl mate, even for two pretty well paid parents we can’t afford to do anything else (despite the costs).
The similarities: both are private, go from 9 months to 5, and have at least 3 “rooms” (age groupings). Both relatively large, but not massive – Wimbledon was about 40 places, and Merstham about 55, as it also has a term time-only room for 2+.
What Should You Look For?
- Leadership. Wimbledon had a really good manager when we started, but she was overworked as she was expected to both education and admin. She left, and the vacuum was huge. They had difficulty filling the post, not their fault, but despite the owners’ best endeavours the nursery lost focus and drive. Merstham clearly had this from the very first time we viewed it, and they have strengthened with another leader since.
- Find out about staff turnover. Neither setting was bad, but again Wimbledon comes second. Mostly because of the greater choice of employers. Mind you I wouldn’t do their job, and they earn peanuts. Change is unsettling for kids and if you lose a key worker it is even harder.
- Outside space is great. Merstham has the space outside as well as great equipment (slide, house, sandpit etc) that you can’t afford in Wimbledon. Junior is a ball of energy and this is great for him, and most boys.
- Mixing of classes. Difficult to compare as Junior went from baby room to toddler room, and the babies don’t mix with the older kids in either, but again Merstham has the space to allow this in a way I don’t think Wimbledon could. And it’s important as it allows a wider range of interaction and friendships. As well as know Junior is nearly out of the toddler room for him not to have to nap.
- Look at the walls. These will give you an idea of how much activity is carried out in the classes, as opposed to less directed play. Wimbledon had an edge here initially but the additional leadership has moved things on in Merstham. You can also get other extracurricular activities. Junior did French in Wimbledon. Unsurprisingly doesn’t remember it now…
- Don’t ignore the admin. Neither is amazing at admin (except taking money), but this was a bit of a sign of the troubles at Wimbledon. You can quickly spot this from early engagement – take a long time to reply to queries? Ask some questions.
As I said, neither was a bad choice, but with hindsight these are the questions and things I’d wish I’d known. And awake….