Choosing the best preschool for your child
What is a preschool?
A preschool is a place where your child can go from the age of 2 years. They attend a preschool prior to starting in a reception year group at statutory school age. Whilst a the preschool they will follow the Early Years Framework Stage (EYFS). Choosing the right preschool for your child is one of the most important decisions that you make for your child as it not only forms the base for all future learning but also helps teach them how to interact and socialise with other children. There are various types of preschool, but the general basis is that they all specialise in early years education.
Early Years teaching is available in various ways within the uk. Some of these are funded and others private, usually depending on the age of your child. There are two main types of preschool, being playgroups and nurseries. These are usually available to children aged between 2years and 4years.
Playgroups offer Early Years experiences in a casual setting, usually by staff with little academic training, although all paid staff must have a childcare qualification and there must be at least one member of staff with a level 3 qualification. Parents are asked to take an active part and help within the establishment. Playgroups prefer to teach the children using play and social skills although OFSTED requires that the setting has adequate resources to meet all areas of a child's development.
Nurseries are usually a much more formal setting with the staff very often having higher levels in childcare and mostly all staff will have a level 3 qualification childcare. Although these are run within more formal settings they still follow the Early Years Framework Stage and have to be OFSTED registered.
Ok, so how do you decide which preschool is best for your child?
How do you know that a preschool is a good one?
The first place to start checking if a preschool or playgroup is of good quality is OFSTED. Using their website you can view inspection reports and see relevant data that you need to start your search. Once you have a list of preschools that seem to be suitable you should then contact the preschool to arrange the following;
· You should be encouraged by the establishment to visit with and without your child.
· Whilst there the children should be happy and interacting with other children and staff
· There should be plenty of opportunity for interesting play using toys and materials which are available to them at home and some things which may not be.
Before you choose a preschool for your child, sit back and think about which one best suits your childs needs and your family’s. Arrange to visit several different establishments and at each one ask yourself the same questions.
· Does your child have a short concentration span and are they very active? This usually applies to boys, so you should choose a placement that has enough different activities to keep your child entertained and an outside play area for your child to burn off all their energy while they learn to develop their gross motor skills.
· Does your child learn quickly and require more attention due to them being demanding? If the answer is yes, then your child may be better within a preschool that has staff with academic teaching qualifications as they will be better able to cope with the constant stimulation that your child requires.
· Does your child have any physical or speech and language problems? If they do then an establishment where the staff are high trained in Early Years so that they can assess your child to form a plan to help them develop successfully. Nursery schools will probably have a better follow on system with connections to specialists ect.
· Are parents encouraged to help with the preschool? A good preschool should always encourage help from parents and carers alike. You should be welcomed into the preschool at any time.
· How much will it cost you? Remember although there are places available for 2 year old funding the majority of children do not get their government funding until the term after they turn 3 years. So if you are sending your child before then it may well have to come out of your purse so remember to ask how much their session rates are and their hour rate.
Before you make your final decision try to talk to other parents whose children attend the preschools you have short-listed. Sometimes it may not necessarily have the best OFSTED report but that may be down to numbers attending the setting, especially if it is in a rural location. Where will the other children attending the setting be going when they reach statutory school age and apply for reception year places? Friendships built at this age help build good socialising skills, but it is important to remember that although young children look like they have developed firm friendships which can never be broken, this is not the case. Young children adapt extremely quickly to changes within school settings and make new friends very easily. Are their children happy at the school?
When your child starts preschool it is the next big step in their life, as well as yours, so you must try and make it as easy as possible for them. Remember your emotions rub off on them so if you are feeling upset at taking them for their first day try not to let them know as it will make it harder for them to leave you. Remember all staff have childcare qualifications so are more than capable of looking after your child.
In the time that your child is not at Preschool try to help them learn at home. Encourage drawing and painting. Reading can be fun as well. Take them shopping and get them to help you count things into the trolley like loafs of bread and pints of milk. Always remember no matter where you send your child to learn, whether it be a playgroup, nursery or even at home, it should always be fun and your child should always be happy.
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