A group of nursery children painting together at a table, representing what to look out for when you apply for a nursery placement.

What to look for when choosing a nursery for your child

Sabine Hook
December 3rd 2021

In this blog, specialist nursery and early year education advisor at William Clarence Sabine Hook discusses what you should look out for when choosing and applying for a nursery placement for your child. 

Choosing a nursery is often a daunting experience for new parents. 

This is often because their main frame of reference is dim memories of their own nursery experience!  

The increasingly competitive London nursery scene now means that parents in the most sought-after areas are forced to make selections on nurseries before their child has turned 1 or even, in some cases, before they have been born.  

When selecting a good fit for a baby you haven’t even met yet, it is useful to consider the following: 

Ofsted reports 

Check this first up, and do not select anything below a ‘good’ or preferably an ‘outstanding’ rating.  

Take into consideration the date of the report, as some schools may have been inspected over 5 years ago and may have changed considerably for the better or worse. This is especially true if there is a new head teacher, or significant changes in staff. 

Existing relationships to schools 

Nurseries aligned to state primary schools emphasise that they do not guarantee you a place in reception but from experience, it certainly won't hurt your chances of gaining a place!  

Some independent nurseries have strong alliances to certain junior schools too, so this is worth taking into consideration before registering. 

Location, location, location 

Prioritise, when possible, nursery schools near your house, as this will make your life indescribably easier and will help with your child’s transition to school. What’s more, walking to nursery in the morning will help your child with concentration, as well as working off some energy! 

Outdoor space 

A much sought-after feature of inner London nurseries is good outside space, as research continues to find positive effects of outdoor play on children's development

Many state nursery schools have well equipped outdoor areas which are incorporated into daily play and sports activities; however, sometimes the most popular and fashionable nursery schools will only have a tiny terrace or indoor hall. 

Staff-to-child ratio and the staff qualifications 

Obviously, the higher the staff-to-child ratio is, the more attention your little one will receive, and the greater rapport they will be able to build.  

The same goes for fully qualified early years teachers or professionals; if there are quite a few, this is a good sign that the school have prioritised and invested in their teaching standards. 

Available hours and starting age 

Try and decide what hours you will require your child to be in nursery for; for example, will you need full working day coverage (8am-6pm), or will you be happy with a half day morning or afternoon slot? 

Day nurseries will take children as young as 4 months for full days, but a nursery school will generally only take children from 2 years of age for sessional times. 

Always visit the nurseries you are considering before committing to a choice or deposit, and don’t rely on friend’s opinions or hearsay.  

The best nurseries will have a happy buzz within the classroom and children will be occupied and engaged. The best nurseries will employ staff who know when to step in and when to hang back and often allow children the time and space to investigate their surroundings independently

Maybe the most important thing to remember however is that every school will have its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own very individual atmosphere and ethos.  

This means that finding the right fit for you and your family sometimes relies on parents trusting their gut instincts as to what feels right as well as what looks good on paper. 

Looking for further guidance on how to search and apply for a nursery placement

William Clarence Education offers unbiased advice and extensive support for parents and pupils in all aspects of preparing to apply for nursery placements.  

Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your particular needs, or for more information! 

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