Parenting: Picking the Right Nursery & School
Growing Up Too Quick.
Before you know it, your little bundle of joy is no longer so little and it’s time for them to face the world now their own; within a secure nursery or school setting so not completely alone.
The emotions are high on both sides, but the experience for each of us will be different.
For me the journey has definitely been a rollercoaster. The various ups and downs frustrate you more than anything. Unfortunately, my journey is not unique and many others suffer. I felt very lucky and still do because I was able to challenge and not settle, able to understand all the jargon thrown at. Not many are in this position as end up disappointed and feeling let they let their child down.
I didn’t go back to work until my girls were around 13 months old but decided we would get a nanny (not a live in one) for a few hours a day to build up a relationship with the girls and give us confidence that we made the right choice. We went through 100s of CVs, interviewed over ten people and dealt with the crap when we told people they weren’t successful. In the end it came down to two very different people. A very experienced nanny (over twenty years experience) and a fresh out of college, no experience person. The second was a wild card as to go straight from college to twins would be a big responsibility and challenge.
The second interview was an hour with the girls so we could see how they interacted and what the girls thought. The experienced lady was very short with the girls and had a very strict regime. This did not work with our girls nor our vision. She was also unwilling to take them anyway so they would be stuck in the house. In the interview we made it clear we wanted them to continue to attend the baby toddler group I was taking them to at least twice a week – it was less than five minutes walk so not a big ask.
The second fresh, keen candidate was great. The girls instantly took to her so we knew it would be the right decision. She started two weeks later. Every day Shelley took them out for a walk, and to the toddler group three times a week. She was very good at keeping the records throughout the day as well. It was just what we wanted and knew that we could go out without worrying.
Then it happened. She got pregnant. I was obviously very happy for her but it left us wondering what to do next. She also let us know that she wouldn’t be coming back so we were back to square one.
As we were both back at work by this time, we decided a nursery would be the quickest option for us now, so we started the visits.
The Nursery School.
Thinking a nursery was a quicker option was a mistake. Trying to find one that had two spaces and was decent was hard work, however, we found a local one that could take them. We knew this was a stop gap until we found a more suitable nursery (this one was only open until 5pm) and not the final nursery but it seemed decent enough and had great parent reviews.
We had a visit and the girls seemed to like so they started the following week. After the first week, we knew it was a mistake.
They constantly came home with bite marks but no one could explain why. There was no feedback to what they had done in the day. The one day we arrived in the afternoon to collect them, we noticed all twenty children were locked in a big play pen and the staff standing outside it chatting and having hot drinks (there was also a child that had clearly soiled themselves and the staff ignored it). We decided there and then to give the notice required and start the hunt again.
We found three nurseries that had spaces. All recommended to us by people we knew.
This time we visited each nursery on two separate occasions, at different times and days to make sure their approach was consistent. The one nursery had children coming down the stairs on their bums and older children (still nursery age) carrying babies, including down the stairs. This nursery was a no. The second nursery was fine but the owner and manager was very rude. If they treat parents like that, it makes you wonder how they treat their staff. That left the third one.
It was in the perfect location although parking was a nightmare, especially as they didn’t have a carpark. The staff and manager were very open and friendly, and their daily reporting to parents was the best we saw. We paid for the girls to have a taster day. One cried her eyes out when we left the other couldn’t have cared less. She did settle after a while though. We decided to go ahead with that nursery and booked them in.
Although at the time we though it was a great nursery, once they started school and we looked back, it wasn’t the best start we could have given our girls. We have to live with that decision and you start to feel guilty that you have let them down.
They stayed at the nursery until Reception.
Picking the school or deciding to home school is probably one of the biggest decisions you need to make. It will decide if your child gets the education they deserve and the help where it is needed.
We had it down to four schools.
Having just moved to a new area we didn’t know, we relied heavily on Ofsted and parents views on various platforms. We also made sure we visited each school twice – once on our own, then with our girls.
The first school was Ofsted Good and not too far away. We only made one visit though. From the second we walked through the door, the head mistress was telling us how most the children are from single parent families so need extra care and attention. Were they saying as we were still together our children weren’t was important? But the thing that stopped us going back was something we could not believe. There was this lovely little boy – he was severely disabled and wheelchair bound. When we got to his classroom, he was being lifted out his chair with his special hoist. The head mistress turned around to us and said ‘I’m sorry about this. He has soiled himself yet again so we are going to have to clean his mess. We also have to make changes to our school, like a disabled toilet now, which is an inconvenience to us all’. Our visit ended there and we never went back. I was appalled.
The second school was Ofsted Outstanding and it was clear why. The class sizes were only around 15-18 instead of the normal 25-30. The teachers were very helpful and it was clear they were supporting the children. It ended up being our first choice but we didn’t get in.
The four school was great on our visit but when we took the girls, the head master told our one daughter off for pronouncing the alphabet correctly instead of using phonetics. This deeply upset her and wouldn’t stop crying or leave our side the whole visit, so it was a no.
On to the third school – this was our second choice and where they ended up. The reception year was amazing. Our girls came on leaps and the teacher confirmed she thought our one daughter needed extra support. We couldn’t have been happy with the choice we made. However, the experience in reception didd not continue. In year one, we got complaints about our daughter being loud and difficult. The wasn’t, she has Aspergers and needs support which the school wasn’t provided. We got through year one but I asked for their SENDCO lead to get involved and put a plan in place so she was supported in year two. Turned out, their year two teacher was the SENDCO lead.
Let’s just say no help was provided. They stopped teaching her in November because it was ‘too hard’ and let her sit in the library all day. I was not told until the end of February when I finally got a meeting as I was not happy with the support she was getting (I was furious when I found out they weren’t teaching her). Then in March coronavirus hit and home schooling started. It was at this point I realised how much the school had let our daughters down. We decided right then, we were moving schools before the next year started.
The New School.
The hunt started again and, with coronavirus around, it made things very difficult. There wasn’t any local schools we thought we suitable so decided to look at the private ones. It was a big decision – having twins the investment doubles straight away.
At the same time I applied for an EHCP via the parent route – I’ll talk about that another time.
After all the research and Zoom calls with the schools, there was one that stood out. It was an all girls school which surprised us as it wasn’t something we ever thought of. We had an in-person meeting with them and took the girls. As that went well, we arranged for the girls to do a taster day before the end of term. When we picked them up after the taster day, we asked them what they thought. One was bouncing around with joy, the other crying and said ‘I don’t like it’. Our hearts sank a little but it had to be right for them, so I asked what she didn’t like ‘I want to stay all day not go home now’, Turns out she loved it as well.
They started that school in year three and are still there today. It was the best decision we could ever make and have never looked back. Our daughters get the support they need and participant in all activities and trips, something that never happened at the last school. Considering our daughter was the first pupil they have ever had with Autism (we knew before they started), they went out their way to support her in every way they could and sent their staff on specialist training.
Our girls are happy and thriving. We are pleased with the level of care and consideration. It took a while but we found the right place.
Don’t be scared to challenge if things don’t seem right. If I had pushed more in Year One at the old school, Year Two could have been different or we could have made the decision to move quicker. As a parent, trust your gut as it is almost always right. Education helps your child to grow and mature so the right setting is key. Do not settle for less than your child deserves.
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