Can a nursery be too good?

Last weekend I went to an open day at the nursery I’m thinking of sending Sun to in September. We’re moving over Easter and this nursery is about 2 minutes walk from our new home so I thought I’d go along and check it out before the application process closes at the end of the month. I don’t know anyone in the new town so I had a bit of a scan around the internet to see what I could find out about it, as you do.

I started with the Ofsted report, which was glowing. They scored an ‘Outstanding’ grade, which is no mean feat as I know how tough the Oftsed inspections are. Lots of yabberydoodaa about what a great place it is for nurturing learning, child safeguarding and communication with parents. Excellent, that’s that box checked then.

Onto traipsing round parenting sites to see what personal views I could dig up. I only found people singing their praises for the nursery. Another box ticked then.

So I rocked up on Saturday morning and headed inside. I have to say I was quite stunned by what I found. There were five or six classrooms all set up with their own focus, like arts, computers, books and nature. I’ve never seen so many pegs on a wall and so much paper plastered about. Posters, art work, notices, lists, photographs. Every square inch of wall was covered. I guess this equals stimulation for the children and a way of communicating with parents what’s going on at the nursery but I found it quite overwhelming and hard to take in.

I wandered about feeling a bit unsure as to what to do, there were parents and children everywhere and a lot of staff members clutching thermos cups, wearing name badges and handing out information sheets. One of the teachers told me there are seven groups of eleven children for both the morning and the afternoon sessions and that they stay in their groups for the majority of the time with an assembly each Friday.

One of the parents, who was also a committee member, chatted away and told me she couldn’t recommend the nursery enough. She told me that it’s very difficult to get in if you’re not in the immediate area, and I mean within a mile radius of the nursery. I definitely got the impression that it was the nursery to send your children in the area.

So why did I come away feeling a bit unsure? Surely I should be jumping for joy that we are fairly certain of getting a place, should we want one. Am I just in denial that Sun is growing up? Or is it the contrast to the playgroup he attends at the moment, where there are at most sixteen children, three lovely teachers and a massive room of play chaos with a scrappy garden outside that looks a bit like a prison yard.

The garden at this nursery is ab-fab-ulosa. You could not ask for better. Sandpit, puppet theatre, ride-on cars, nature trails. You name it, it’s there. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Sun would LOVE it. But how long do they spend in the garden each session? I think it was half an hour out of a three hour session. Are they spending the rest of the time being taught to write and read? Is this a good thing, I’m wondering?

No doubt that it will prepare him for school but won’t school prepare him for school? Should I send him somewhere more relaxed like where he is now, where the focus is strongly on play? Or would the structure of this place be good for him? The resources certainly are amazing, no doubting that.

I hate that I have to make the decision now. I am the queen of procrastination and I’d love to be able to put off the decision until a later date. I don’t want to send him somewhere just because I can, I want it to be the right place for him. These decisions are what make parenting so difficult.

How do you decide what you want from a nursery or school? Can a place be too good, or am I losing the plot? Anyone care to make the decision for me? Submit your votes now, applications close 30 March 2012.

6 responses to “Can a nursery be too good?

  1. Gosh it does sound amazing! I would definitely follow your heart and go with what you truly feel to be the best place for Sun (love your kids names). But I’m guessing this nursery also comes with a super duper price tag? I sent my girl to a Montessori just down the road and for me it was perfect, as soon as I walked into the room I felt a positive vibe; everything was made out of wood, meditation music was playing in the background (haha) it was totally my kind of place and for me it was too good to be true – just 10 mins walk from my house, lovely laid back parents and the other kids all seem so loving! It wasn’t the cheapest nursery in my area but it definitely goes hand in hand with how we wish to raise our kids so I think that’s important, do the methods they use agree with you and your family? Good luck!

    • Thanks for the comment Tamsin. Unfortunately the superdooper nursery is free and the only Montessori nursery in the town is expensive, making the decision even harder. Sounds like your daughter’s nursery is lovely 🙂

  2. Have a look at the EPPE study on preschool care. It talks about what good quality childcare looks like. One of the most important indicators of good quality childcare is ‘warm, interactive relationships with children, having a trained teacher as manager and a good proportion of trained teachers on the staff’. It is also important that the nursery has a low staff turnover. Nurseries which do a lot of ‘shared thinking’ are also more effective.
    It is not about how the nursery looks, ofsted reports or even how expensive the nursery is.

  3. Before becoming a Dad I had no idea that parenting would be so complicated. It comes down to your personal style I guess. Our best playdate friend is a terrific Mum but is much more organised & (for a want of a better word) regimented with hers than we are with ours, We’re slightly more relaxed / disorganised. We know a girl about the same age as ours who is really exceptional in language & numbers but whose social, artistic & physical skills aren’t so good. Ours are doing well in all of those areas, & I know which I prefer. If this place is too ‘dry’, are there good alternatives around?

    • It’s true, it’s such a personal thing isn’t it? I’m going to take a look at a couple of other places too to help me get more of a feel for what I’m after.

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