We know how difficult it can be to make a good assessment of your child’s nursery and whether it’s at the standard you should expect for your child. Whichschooladvisor.com’s early childhood specialist, Susan Roberts, has compiled a list of reg flags for parents to look out for.
Before your child starts attending nursery, their nursery teacher needs to receive considerable information. What are your child’s daily care routines? Do they nap? Are they wearing nappies or are they potty trained? Are they able to express their needs verbally? Have they attended a nursery before? Is there anything that scares them? Filling in a form with this information is rarely sufficient to ensure the teacher has a good enough understanding to take good care of your child. If you were not given the opportunity to have a full discussion on these points with the class teacher, it's likely some key information has been missed.
Additionally, specific information relating to your child's medical needs, dietary requirements and more should be documented and shared with the responsible staff members in the nursery prior to accepting your child.
This may seem like mere inconvenience, but it should be considered an early warning sign. When your child is attending a nursery, it is important that you are able to reach the staff reliably. You may end up delayed for pick up or have a change of plan in the day that the nursery staff need to know about. Without reliable communication systems, how will you do this?
How much did my child eat today? When was their nappy last changed? Where did that bump come from? These are some examples of questions that you should be able to receive a quick response to, without any elaborate explanations. If answers are vague or evasive, or staff do not appear confident in their answers, there may be reason to be concerned.
If you only ever hear that your child has had a fantastic day, loved all of their activities, ate all of their food, shared with their friends, did everything asked of them, then you either have an extremely compliant child with an un-movable smile, or the teacher is not giving you a full picture of your child’s experiences.
Like adults, children have good days and bad days, and if you’re being told the truth, this should be reflected in the communication you receive from your child’s teacher. While it feels great to be told your child is doing well, it’s vital that you know about any struggles or concerns too.
Part of a nursery teacher’s role is to form a partnership with the parents and carers of the children they work with. For this to work, there must be a flow of communication about the small stuff as well as major events and concerns.
Parents should expect to be informed if their child’s behaviour has been out of the ordinary, if they appear to be struggling with something, or if they have perhaps shown great enthusiasm for a new activity. Parents should also expect to have an insight into their child's day and of any new achievements or milestones reached.
It is not the responsibility of your child to fit into the nursery, it is the responsibility of the nursery staff to meet the needs of your child. If you find your child’s teacher is telling you that your child won’t sit and listen, is too noisy, too active, won’t stop crying, needs to stop snatching or hitting, then they are perhaps in the wrong job.
Children’s needs and behaviours will vary, and can be challenging, but your child’s nursery teacher should aim to understand your child, ensure their expectations of them are appropriate and realistic, and work with you to come up with strategies that will support them. If the teacher is instead blaming the child, imagine how your child is made to feel in their care.
Artwork in early childhood is a messy business... or it should be! Prior to the age of 3 or 4 years, most children are not able to create recognisable drawings, and once they reach this stage of development, their works of art tend to be wonderfully weird and individual. If you are regularly receiving pristine artwork, with perfectly placed shapes stuck down to create an image, or your two-year-old has apparently mastered origami overnight, the early years practice going on is questionable. A child’s hand being moved by an adult to ensure they stick glue in right place is not enjoyable or confidence boosting, and being instructed to create something pre-designed by the teacher does not provide an engaging or enriching experience.
Supporting the needs of 15-20 children at once is difficult, there’s no doubt about that. However, if your child’s emotional needs are not being met, or are being disregarded, it’s time to speak up. Children often struggle with separating with their parents when first attending a nursery, but this should not be taken lightly by the staff taking care of your child. If your child is not receiving comfort or reassurance when they need it, they are unlikely to feel safe or secure.
Sometimes things do not go according to plan. Teachers and Teaching Assistants leave, children fall over, sometimes they even bite one another, personal items go missing. While we’d all rather avoid these situations, it is important that they are truthfully communicated when they do occur. If your child’s nursery has a policy of hiding the uncomfortable truths, you should feel concerned. You might discover the truth this time around, but how will you know what else they’re hiding?
Your child would be unusual if they never went home from nursery with a scratch or a bump. Little knocks and altercations are part and parcel of toddlerhood and beyond. If, however, your child is coming home with bumps, bites, scratches and bruises every other day, and is not otherwise particularly accident prone, it’s time for you to take a closer look at what is going on at nursery.
Are the staff lacking the skills required to maintain a safe and calm environment for the children? Is there an appropriate level of supervision going on? Is the nursery under-staffed, leaving the children open to risk?