What to look for in a Pre School
Faye Green, Head of Radnor Pre Prep, offers guidance on choosing a Pre School for your child.
Your newborn has arrived, everything is a whirlwind of emotions, and you can’t quite believe that this tiny person is here… and then…. all of a sudden, they are walking and talking and they are ready for their first big step. It’s time for Pre School! But, how do you know which setting is the right one? What should you be looking for?
International research shows that children who spend longer in strong early years provision have better educational outcomes later on. This is due to many factors, but must be underpinned by the optimal nurturing of personal and social development. But not all Pre Schools are the same, and vary regarding their ethos, ability to provide certain opportunities, staffing and time, which goes hand in hand.
We know that a happy child is a happy learner and the most important aspects of ensuring this happiness, is a sense of warmth, security and enthusiasm, underpinned by a true passion for exploration and challenge. The personal, social and emotional development of your little one must always be first and foremost. When our children are happy and secure, only then can the other wonderful advantages of a good Pre School come to the fore. This should include huge strides in confidence, independence and language development; the foundations of friendships and negotiation; the fostering of both gross and fine motor skills; as well as the development of maths skills like counting, sorting and recognising patterns, though play opportunities, to name but a few.
So, what to look for: when viewing a Pre School, have a look around as you walk in: Are the children enthusiastic and busy? Are the staff engaged with the children? When you look around, can you see activities being undertaken that are thoughtfully planned and well-organised? Are the activities purposeful and interlinked? It may seem at first that the children are ‘just’ at play, but look a little closer, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the children are doing, and why. It is really worth asking if activities are tailored for not just their age, but their stage too. The right stimulation and challenge, at their individual level, lays the foundations for when they move from Pre School to Reception.
A good Pre School will also have a Phonics programme in place, that promotes speaking and listening. This should be grounded in the elements of ‘Phase 1’ phonics, which is based around tuning into sound (This can be done through lots of fun games, rhymes and stories, like going on sound walks, musical instrument games and listening games) and being able to orally blend and segment words. This gives children a huge advantage when they come to start Reception emergent reading and writing.
Always ask about their settling policy. Do the practitioners really take the time to get to know the children in their care? Are they attuned to individual needs, meaning children settle easily and gain confidence in their new surroundings quickly?
Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone else: the right Pre School will strive to ensure that your child is happy and content, deeply engaged and challenged in a warm and caring environment. Ideally, it should promote a true love of life-long learning.
This is the beginning of your child’s journey that will enable them to one day go out into this ever-changing world as a happy, successful global citizen.