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10 Things to consider when selecting a day nursery.
Jul 26, 2020

July 2020 by Jane Andrews, Area Manager

During the period of lockdown many day nurseries were forced to close as they could no longer remain viable. Many are now currently struggling to remain operational because of significant financial losses due to both government underfunding and the reduced demand for places amongst keyworker families during the lockdown period. A survey by The Early Years Alliance found that based on its results 25% of those settings surveyed will be forced to close. Moreover, a report from Ceeda suggests that occupancy rates in those day nurseries that are open are running at 48% compared to 77% for the same period last year.

How do the staff engage with each other and your child?

More parents will feel driven to use the services of a nanny or childcare agency under the assumption that these are regulated organisations.

The resultant impact of nursery closures with less childcare availability will put more pressure on parents to find nursery places. Campaigning group Regulation Matters (RM) has stated that parents will face ‘childcare chaos’ and have problems accessing childcare if urgent action is not taken by the government. They fear that more parents will feel driven to use the services of a nanny or childcare agency under the assumption that these are regulated organisations, which is not always the case. Without regulation they stress the potential safeguarding risks to children.  Now more than ever with the additional stress over the availability of places at nurseries it is important to choose the right setting for your child.

10 things to consider when choosing the right nursery:

  1. How was the initial enquiry and subsequent follow-up handled? How were you greeted by the staff and how did they engage with each other and your child?
  2. How did you find the nursery environment, was it clean, welcoming, and free of clutter? Does it appear to have reasonable resources on display, are they clean and age appropriate? Is there an outside area which is utilised daily?
  3. Are the nursery fees competitively priced and are they inclusive of all costs? Is there a charge for late pick-ups? Are all consumables, such as snacks, paints, paper and party food for special occasions included within the price?
  4. Is the nursery flexible, can hours be extended, or additional days/sessions added and how much notice is required?
  5. Will your child be well cared for and stimulated? Are the childcare staff qualified and does the nursery follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)? Are the staff all able to explain the curriculum and experiences the children enjoy at nursery?
  6. What is the policy regarding absence through sickness and family holidays? What is the policy regarding nursery closures for snow, power failures, pandemics, and incidents outside of nursery control? Does the nursery close for Christmas and bank holidays?
  7. Are the menus freely available to parents, do they cater for food allergies and dietary preferences? Are the meals home cooked and do the staff working in the kitchens have a Food Hygiene and Safety award?
  8. How much notice is required to terminate a nursery place?
  9. Have you read the nursery terms and conditions?
  10. Have you read the nursery Ofsted report?
Are the menus freely available and do they cater for food allergies and dietary preferences?

Ultimately, you must feel comfortable with what is being offered. At First Friends, we always recommend that parents, particularly new parents, view several nurseries within the area to get a feel for what they do and don’t like.

Are the staff all able to explain the curriculum?

We are a small nursery group where every child and family are known to all the staff. At First Friends we like to feel that we offer a family-feel to our nursery settings, a home from home for our children. Most of our families have been with us since their children were babies with siblings regularly joining us. 

Working within this sector is highly rewarding and it is a privilege and joy to work with so many delightful children and families. There are still excellent nursery settings around despite the current financial situation and it is important to choose the right nursery for your child. The important points are to trust your own  judgement and instincts and do not accept less for your child.The right nursery.


Nursery World, Fears Parents Will Be Driven To Use Unregulated Childcare

A. Rawstrone   June 29 2020

Early Years Alliance, The Forgotten Sector: The Financial Impact of Coronavirus on Early Years Provision in England

Ceeda, Evidence In Action – Covid-19 Tracker 6 July to 12 July

Categories: Choices, nursery


Nurturing Nurseries
Jul 1, 2020

June 2020 by Jane Andrews, Area Manager

Why is this important?

There have been many articles within the media during the last 10 weeks concerning mental health and well-being. There have also been numerous radio and tv programmes dedicated to promoting diversion, interest and mindfulness, from cooking initiatives led by Jamie Oliver to crafting demonstrations by Kirstie Allsopp along with other celebrities and presenters. Joe Wicks has tried to focus us on keeping fit as daily exercise has also been strongly promoted in order to help manage the long periods of being inside without access to all our family and friends. In the absence of normal filming conditions these programmes have provided an alternative entertainment outlet as our mental health has been recognised as being at risk during such altered times. 

Who should we be concerned about?

Like adults, children’s mental health has been of concern as the government and mental health organisations have identified problems for some vulnerable families and particularly children. During the lockdown national statistics have revealed that there has been a rise in domestic abuse and the knock-on effect for some led the government to issue its revised guidance allowing for cooling off periods in another household in the event of potential risk within families. Most vulnerable within our society are our youngest children. Some parents, already stressed by the current situation, may not have been able to focus on supporting their children through this period. Stressed parents may have found it difficult enough to look after themselves and each other let alone have anything left over for their young children.

Some parents, already stressed by the current situation, may not have been able to focus on supporting their children through this period.

So what is to be done?

A return to normal Nursery life will be beneficial for all our young children as it will give them opportunities to play again with their friends and to enjoy different experiences from those available at home whilst instilling a sense of normality and Nursery structure to their daily lives. What benefits the children, will benefit their families.  

Our role as early years practitioners can be pivotal in helping to promote mental well-being in our children. Healthy habits at Nursery age can help to provide children with the right tools to cope with challenges, building greater resilience for life. Activities and experiences which we provide and facilitate can be a springboard for the future. 

Why worry about this with children so young?

It has been well researched and evidenced that every experience whether negative or positive has an effect on the neurological pathways in the brain. The brain controls all our behaviours both pro and anti-socially.  The stimulation or lack of it which a young child experiences both prenatally and in the first few years of life determine the type of brain a child will develop. It has long been established that, ‘from birth to age 5, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. And early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. (

Scientific advice recommends that being outside as much as possible helps to lessen the spread of transmission of the virus. 

Early years practitioners can be inspirational to children even when they are so young.  Nurseries are re-opening with new, government-set guidelines to help ensure that we are continuing to protect our young children, their families and our own staff and families as best we can. Whilst meeting this advice and being outside we can also, as practitioners, ensure that being in nature can further help to nurture our children. 

Does this apply to all children, or just some?

Many children across the country have benefitted significantly from lockdown through being able to enjoy extended quality family time through daily exercise, nature walks, games and home schooling. Sadly, this has not been the case for all families. Settings which are predominantly set outdoors (such as Forest Schools) or who offer several regular opportunities to play outside in their designated ‘bubbles’ are able to meet the guidelines adequately. 

Engaging with children through teaching them how to set goals and persevere – mastering peddling a bike, learning to use scissors or whittling twigs and later peeling carrots for teatime – allows them to achieve. Equally important are teaching strategies to help children cope when they haven’t been able to achieve their set goals. Everyone makes mistakes and this is the way we all learn in life and it is OK.

If you are interested in this topic, please leave a comment below.

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Categories: nursery

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