Advice and Help
Here's some help and advice about childcare
Help and information about childcare
In these pages is advice and help about childcare facilities. Use the links on the left to find out more.
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Advice and Help
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Researching the nursery or preschool

Choosing the best childcare for you and your child is an important decision. There are no guarantees that even with careful planning and research that your child will be happy with your choice. However, you owe it to yourself and to your child to make a well informed decision. Having identified your needs and your child's needs, examined the practicalities then it is time for a little research.

Use the preschool directory's comprehensive search facilities to draw up a short list of ideally, three nurseries to visit. If there are more nurseries in your chosen location that provide the range of services that you need, then prioritise three and put the others to one side.

Start by following the links from Preschool directory to the OFSTED reports for each of the nurseries or preschools. OFSTED, or the Office for Standards in Education is responsible for standards in early education and inspects all nurseries and preschools and publishes the reports. For more information on what to look for in an OFSTED report click here. Read only the summary of the report at this stage if you can, as the full report will influence your judgement when you visit, not provide more detailed information after your visit. If after reading the full report you have more questions then you can always phone to speak to the manager, or arrange a follow up visit.

Word of mouth is a powerful resource and most parents make their final choice of nursery from reports of friends. Do remember however, that what you want from a nursery for your child, will be quite different to other parents and their children.

Ask parents what they like about the nursery and be sure that you are looking for the same things. What impresses even a close friend, may be just the thing to put you off.

Making sense of the inspection report

All nurseries and preschools registered for nursery grant are inspected by OFSTED, the Office for Standards in Education. The inspection report is available to parents and can be found by following the link within the Preschool Directory. The report will be several pages long but a summary can be found at the very beginning of the report, listed as " main findings of the inspection". Do check the date of the last inspection, because there may have been significant changes, even a change of owner since the last report.

The summary will contain information about the nurseries strengths and identify any weaknesses. Almost all settings will have some minor weaknesses. Look at these carefully and when you visit ask what has been done to address any weaknesses. There should be references to the quality of the teaching, the way in which the staff plan and assess what they are doing to support children's development. Also take a look at the comments about the nursery's work with parents. Good settings want parents to be involved and will keep you well informed about your child and the work of the nursery in general.

Look at the summary of judgements and check that all the areas of learning are covered satisfactorily. The early learning goals are divided into six areas of learning and all nurseries and preschools should provide a variety of carefully planned activities and experiences for the children, to allow each child to work towards the early learning goals. You will see the term "desirable learning outcomes" - this refers to the early years curriculum pre September 2000. Don't worry the setting is not working to an out of date curriculum it just means they were last inspected before September 2000.

The inspection findings are important, but are no substitute for visiting and making your own assessment of the nursery and asking yourself how well they are going to care for and meet your child's needs.

What to look for when you visit a preschool or nursery

The right questions to ask

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