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The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

The Complete Guide to Choosing a Nursery

One of the key challenges that affects parents is how to choose the best nursery or pre-school for their little one. Babies can go to nursery at just a few months old and Government funding for childcare kicks in from as early as 2 years of age. So, the choice of nursery is a decision that, for many, needs to be made very early in a child’s life.

What is the best way of choosing the most appropriate nursery or pre-school for your child? What factors should be taken into consideration? This guide clearly explains the key considerations and provides a useful road map to find the perfect nursery or pre-school match for an individual child.

Choose a convenient nursery locationA Convenient Nursery Location

The most obvious factor to consider is location. After all, you will usually want your child’s nursery or pre-school to be close to either your home or place of work — or somewhere en route — so they’re easy to drop off and pick up. With a quick Google map search for nurseries in your desired area, you’ll already be able to generate a great list of possible contenders.

Social Proof

While you’re still on the search results page, you can check how well the various nurseries have been reviewed on Google. Little Cedars has an average rating of 4.4 out of a possible 5 stars on their Google listing, for example — that’s very good. If you dig a little deeper, you can see that, of the 7 total customer reviews, 4 of them were rated at the full 5 stars, which again is extremely good. You can also see any comments with some reviews, where people left them. In our Little Cedars Day Nursery example, here are the comments:

“With the new management this nursery is better than ever. Well done …!]”

“… her team are amazing in every way, with the attention and time they give to the children. Very good knowledge on childhood illnesses and Allergies.”

“Amazing nursery! Our daughter loved it here and all the staff are fantastic!”

So, that’s the kind of thing you need to look for — happy customers! You can also do a similar exercise via the Facebook profiles for each of your contenders. How many 5 Star reviews have they got? What were the comments, if any?

Check children are happy at the nurseryCompatible Opening Hours

The nursery’s opening hours will also need to be compatible with your working hours and allow sufficient time to drop off and collect, allowing for travel. This may help to whittle down your list of contenders a little. Many nurseries and pre-schools only operate during weekdays, so if you work at weekends, you may need to make other arrangements on those days or find one of the rare nurseries that is also open on Saturdays or Sundays. Similarly, you may require childcare all year round and not all nurseries/pre-schools offer that. Our Little Cedars example operates for 51 weeks of the year, only closing for public holidays and one week between Christmas and New Year, so that would be very convenient if you’re looking for an all-year nursery or pre-school in the Streatham area.

Ask Around

Also ask around your friends, family and perhaps neighbours for recommendations. These are worth their weight in gold! You could also consider asking for any recommendations on social media, for example on Facebook, appropriate Facebook groups, or on other parent groups and forums online.

Spend time on Nursery Websites

A huge amount can be learned from a visit to your nursery contenders’ websites. They should tell you about the nursery’s approach to early years learning and development, about safeguarding and security, their curriculum, staff quality, facilities, equipment, anti-COVID measures and a whole lot more. Pricing may also be important as a consideration and websites are usually a great way to appraise fee levels without having to ask directly. If your child has a brother or sister, also check to see if the nursery or pre-school offers a sibling discount. Find out if food and drink are included in the fees. These are just a few examples of the type of information that you can usually obtain just by visiting nursery/pre-school websites, assuming they’re well maintained.

Speak to the Nurseries

Once you have a short list together, call each of the nurseries and speak with them. You can get a great deal of insight by talking with staff members. They may be able to tell you much more about the nursery than can be gleaned from their website or social media profiles. Sometimes speaking to staff can turn up wonderful nuggets of information. For example, they may run a phone app for parents to allow them to receive regular updates about their child throughout the day. They may be able to tell you more about security at the nursery. They should also be able to tell you how they are approaching the effects of the pandemic and what measures are in place to keep everyone safe, whether they’ve won any awards, whether they’ve just had an Ofsted inspection that’s not yet published … and so on.

Excellent, high quality staff, who are all suitably qualified.Visit the Nurseries & Ask Questions

Once you’ve whittled down your nursery contender list to a manageable level, it’s also a great eye-opener to visit the nurseries on your short list. There’s nothing quite so insightful as taking a tour of the nursery contenders in order to see them in action on a standard nursery day. Take note of the facilities and equipment, how the staff interact with the babies and children and consider taking your child with you during the visit. Was the setting a ‘good fit’ for them? Was it homely and welcoming? Did the children there look happy? Were the facilities good? Were the activities varied and well-supervised? Were children’s individual needs catered for? Were babies and young children given enough time for naps? Is the setting well-kept and does it look professionally run? If your child has special dietary requirements or preferences, will these be catered for? Is the food high quality, healthy and well balanced? Do staff feed back to parents/carers regularly about their children? Do they keep progress notes in regard to children’s learning and development and, if so, can they be viewed at any time? What are the child-to-staff ratios? How are special needs catered for? Visiting the nursery will give you ample time to ask these and lots more questions.

Ofsted Reports

Ofsted is the ‘Office for Standards in Education’, the main body for childcare and educational settings in England. You should check out recent Ofsted reports for any childcare settings that you’re considering. These can show some great detail about the running of nurseries and pre-schools on your list. Assuming they’re properly registered childcare settings (which they absolutely should be), don’t be alarmed if you can’t find an Ofsted report if they’re quite new. Not all settings will have them as they happen every four years, so relatively new nurseries may not have an Ofsted Report as yet. If they’ve had one, though, the Ofsted website will show the report. At time of writing (late 2020) Little Cedars has not yet had their Ofsted Report as they were only registered in late 2017, but we’ll publish results the moment our first Ofsted report has been generated.

Ask about safety & safeguarding measuresNursery Security & Safeguarding

For parents and carers, the safety and security of babies and children will be every bit as important as a homely atmosphere, a nurturing environment, a good curriculum, caring staff and modern equipment. Ask the nursery about security and safety at the setting. Are there anti-intruder measures in place, like an entrance system, CCTV and so on? Are there measures in place to stop the children being able to leave the premises unintentionally? When children and babies are picked up at the end of the sessions, is there a water-tight protocol in place to ensure that little ones are picked up by only the right people? Ask your nursery contenders all these kinds of questions.

Are Free Childcare Schemes & Vouchers Supported?

Find out if your nursery/pre-school contenders support the “free Government-funded childcare hours”. At Little Cedars, we support both the 15 and 30 hour schemes for 2- to 4-year-olds, where eligible and when spaces permit of course. Read our Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding to learn more about those.

Any questions?

We hope this guide helps as a guide to choosing a nursery for your under-five baby or child. It goes without saying that Little Cedars would be absolutely delighted if we are considered as a nursery/pre-school place for your baby or child in Streatham, near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown or Balham in south west London. Do feel free to ask us any questions, book a visit, apply for a place or call for information and we’ll be very happy to help — click an option below:

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Your Toddler Needs to Go to Nursery. Here’s Why.

Reasons your toddler needs to go to nursery or pre-schoolThere are compelling reasons why under-fives should attend early years education and childcare settings like nurseries or pre-schools, or their equivalent — before starting school. Missing this crucial stage in their early years education and development may disadvantage the child — a fact that’s backed up by various studies.

Results of a Department for Education (DoE) study released in February 2020 highlight the benefits of attending early childhood education and care, all in incredible detail. We took a look at their 145 page report and picked out some of the key findings.

Benefits of attending Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC)

  • Note: the term ‘Early Childhood Education & Care’ (ECEC for short) refers to non-parental childcare and early education that occurs before school. There are several different types, including nursery settings, pre-schools, registered childminders and so on, so the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) and the European Commission have adopted this term to encompass them all.

According to the DoE study, early childhood education and care has both short- and long-term positive effects on the educational, cognitive, behavioural and social outcomes of children. That’s no mean feat. A good educational grounding for under-fives is also shown to result in more positive social behaviour, better behavioural self-regulation, lower instances of emotional issues and less peer problems.

“Research … indicated that the benefits of high quality early education exist from as young as two years of age.” (Sammons et al., 2002)

There are many benefits of early childhood education & careSome of these benefits are even more pronounced for disadvantaged children who start to attend formal ECEC sessions no later than the age of two. The DoE impact study shows that 2-year-olds benefit most if they receive early education and care for an absolute minimum of 10 hours per week by the age of two. Three- and four-year-old children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from no less than 20 hours per week thereafter in the run-up to the start of primary school at age 5. Children who follow this approach have better verbal abilities when they start school and are also much more likely to achieve expected levels of personal attainment during reception year at school. The studies show that, with ECEC’s highly appropriate, structured preparation beforehand, children are able to hit the ground running once they transition to school.

It’s also interesting to note that, for children from households with the poorest home learning environments, there was a marked enhancement of verbal ability in year one of primary school for those who followed the above attendance approach prior to starting school. The early years education and care was clearly seen to have evened up the playing field in this respect.

Longer-term benefits of early years education & care

“15-year-olds who had attended some pre-primary education outperformed students who had not by about a year of achievement. ” (OECD report, 2011)

Benefits of ECEC can be lifelongAs well as having a positive effect on children’s readiness for school, there is also compelling evidence that early years education at good nursery/pre-school type settings has a marked, positive effect on children’s long-term attainment levels there – and indeed on their lifelong outcomes. As such, early years education and care represents an extremely solid foundation for children’s futures in general.

“ECEC interventions also boost children’s confidence and social skills, which provides a better foundation for success at school, and subsequently in the workplace.” (Sim 2018)

These are all profoundly important findings. Long-term studies have also revealed that educational success is likely to result in better success in employment during adulthood, improved social integration and even a general reduction in levels of criminality.

Benefits for families & society in general

Early childhood education and care doesn’t stop at benefiting children; it also benefits their families and society in general, in deep-seated ways. For example:

  • it allows parents to work, or re-enter the labour market after maternity leave;
  • it allows parents to develop their careers;
  • it helps to improve family income levels;
  • it may increase the potential for upward social mobility;
  • it reduces poverty;
  • it reduces welfare dependency;
  • it reduces crime rates;
  • and, of course, it ultimately improves the lives of children.

Nursery & pre-school for babies & under-fivesAre you looking at nursery/pre-school options for your baby or toddler?

In England, around 94% of 3- and 4-year-olds receive Government funding of some kind for childcare and early years education. For babies and children aged up to 2, it’s closer to 40% at last count. However, beginning any kind of education before attending primary school is not always a given; for one reason or another, there are a few children who only begin their education once they start primary school around the age of 5. For those who have the option for an earlier education but whose parents are unsure, we hope this article has helped to highlight just some of the many benefits of under-fives attending nurseries, pre-schools and childcare settings like Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham before the age of 5. The good news is that we support the Government-funded options for 15/30 hours of free childcare per week for eligible families. For those who are not eligible, our nursery fees are very competitive.  We’re based in Streatham, London SW16, so are also convenient for those looking for early years childcare around Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. For more information or to apply for a place at the nursery, call us on 020 8677 9675, send us a message or book a visit here. We’d love to tell you more and to show you around!

The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme – A Complete Guide

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme: a complete guide for parents

Back in February, we published our ‘Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding in England‘. This proved very useful to eligible parents and guardians who wanted to understand more about the free childcare funding that was available from the Government. For any parent or guardian, totally free childcare is a no-brainer and is usually the best source of childcare funding to consider first. However, for those who are not eligible, there’s another scheme to consider, called the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. While you do have to pay for the childcare yourself, a kind of tax ‘rebate’ (of sorts) helps to cushion you from having to pay for the entire cost.

Young boy drawing at pre-schoolThe Tax-Free Childcare Scheme could save you thousands

The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme

Under the Government’s Tax-Free Childcare Scheme, the Government effectively offers up to £2,000 of help per child, per year, for childcare, or up to £4,000 per year if they are disabled. It’s rather like crediting you back some income tax on the (tax-paid) money you’re going to be spending on childcare, which is why the scheme is called the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme.

How it works

If you are eligible, you simply open a Tax-Free Childcare Account on the Government website. For every 80p you pay in, the Government will put in an additional 20p (this is the part that’s akin to getting the Income Tax back on the money you’re going to spend on childcare). Using this approach, you can save up to £10,000 for childcare, per child, in your Tax-Free Childcare account. As mentioned above, you get even more back from the Government if the child in question is disabled.

Rules for eligibility:

  • Nursery table with play clay and wooden letters The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme is available to parents of children up to the age of 11 inclusive, or 17 inclusive if they’re disabled.
  • You, and your partner, if you have one, need to be working. (If you are a single parent, that’s OK).
  • If one of you is not working but is in receipt of specific benefits, the other can still be eligible. Those received benefits include various disablement and incapacity allowances, Carer’s Allowance, contribution-based employment & support allowance and National Insurance credits awards for incapacity/limited capacity to work.
  • If you have not yet begun working, but will begin working within the next 31 days, you can still apply.
  • Being on sick leave does not stop you from being eligible.
  • Each partner in the household, if there is more than one, needs to earn £140 or more per week (this is tied to the National Minimum Wage i.e. the equivalent of working 16 hours per week, if over 25, at time of writing). Those who have been self-employed for less than a year are not subject to the minimum above. Those who have been self-employed for more than a year will need to use an average of income for the next 3 months or entire current tax year to see if they’re eligible on the above basis.
  • Each parent must earn less than £100k per annum.
  • Those on maternity, paternity or adoption leave are still eligible on the above basis, but can only claim for children they are not on parental leave for.
  • Your chosen childcare provider must be registered with the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme along with at least one of the following regulators: Ofsted, the Early Years Register or the Childcare Register.

Under-five girl painting rainbowAlong with helping to fund nursery places at places like Little Cedars Nursery in Streatham, Tax-Free Childcare can also be used to fund the costs of other kinds of childcare service, so long as they’re registered as outlined above. Examples include play groups, breakfast clubs, some holiday activities like sports and even summer camps.

Is Eligibility affected if I’m working less due to coronavirus measures?

The short answer is no, i.e. if you’re temporarily working less because your work has been limited by the measures put in place to fight coronavirus, you can still claim.

How to apply for Tax-Free Childcare

To apply, sign up for Tax-Free Childcare at the Government site. It only takes 20 minutes or so. You’ll need your National Insurance number and your UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) if you’re self-employed. If you have a partner that you are making a joint claim with, the same two things are required for them, but you only need one account for the both of you.

Once your application has been accepted (it’s usually pretty fast), the Government’s 20% contribution usually goes into your account within just a few hours of you crediting the account with your 80%. Please note that there is a maximum credit of £500 per quarter from the Government. For this reason, it’s wise to credit your account with your contributions all year round if you have particularly high childcare costs that come in one shorter period within the year.

Young girl with mermaid drawingTIP: If you want the Government’s contribution to go into your account faster, your payment needs to be paid by Bank Transfer (rather than, say, via a debit card or standing order, although those still work fine if you don’t mind waiting a while longer for the Government’s corresponding contribution).

How to pay your childcare provider

Once your Tax-Free Childcare account is showing available funds, these can be sent directly to your childcare provider by selecting them from within the account and then transferring the appropriate amount to them. As above, they will usually receive the payment very fast although obviously it takes a little longer if you make a payment over a weekend or Bank Holiday. Allow up to 3 working days, in a worst case scenario.

Looking for childcare services in Streatham or south west London?

Little Cedars Day Nursery is based in Streatham, London, SW16. If you’re in that area, we’d love to be your chosen childcare provider. We’re conveniently close to Streatham high street, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. We’re well-established and offer the very best childcare services at our nursery/pre-school in Aldrington Road (SW16 1TU). Our qualified staff and facilities for children are excellent, whether they’re a 3 month old baby or a five year old child. Call 020 8677 9675 or contact our Streatham nursery team here and we’d be delighted to tell you more about our nursery, or to arrange a visit so you can see the setting for yourself.

P.S. You may also be interested in our separate Guide to Childcare Funding Available Through Universal Credit.

 

Coronavirus & Little Cedars Day Nursery — Temporary Measures

Coronavirus update for Little Cedars Day Nursery

Little Cedars Day Nursery would like you bring parents and carers up to date in regard to the affect that Coronavirus and COVID-19 is having on the nursery in Streatham. Firstly, we’re pleased to confirm that we don’t have any instances of staff or families having been infected. However, we do need to follow Government guidelines. Regrettably, these affect all education settings, so will impact on some families who attend our nursery/pre-school.

Partial closure of the nursery (from Friday 20 March)

As many may have seen in the news, the Government has asked all nurseries to partially close from Friday 20th March 2020. This is part of the community defence against the spread of the virus. It’s especially important for London-based nurseries and pre-schools to do all they can to play their part in the fight against this pandemic. Little Cedars is no exception, so here is what is happening from today (20 March 2020) …

Temporary relocation

During these emergency measures, Little Cedars will temporarily relocate, joining forces with our sister nursery, Beechcroft Day Nursery. This is very close by at 83 Beechcroft Road, London SW17 7BN. As you can see on the map, this is just 1.6 miles, a 7 minute drive or a 16 minute bus journey away. Once the emergency measures and virus have passed, things will go back to normal and we’ll be back at Aldrington Road. Hopefully, that’ll be in no time at all if we all take extra measures to beat this outbreak together. We’ll keep you posted of any changes here and on our social media.

Temporary relocation of Little Cedars durig COVID-19 outbreak

Exceptions to the closure

Nurseries, including Little Cedars, will essentially close to much of the general public. However, as directed by the Government, they will remain open for vulnerable children and children of key workers. In brief, the ‘key workers’ include those involved in the response to COVID-19, front-line NHS staff, emergency services, supermarket delivery drivers, those involved in food production and several other categories. It’s a long list, though, so click here to see it in full.

The Government’s message is:

“If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed … and you cannot keep your child safe at home, then your children will be prioritised for education provision.”

Our promise to you

Please note: We know how disruptive and difficult this may be for many of the families whose children attend our nursery/pre-school. Therefore we, the staff at Little Cedars Day Nursery, promise that we’ll look very carefully at your individual circumstances. We will, of course, help you and your children wherever possible.

Contact us for further information

If you’d like to contact us for further clarification, please email us on . You can also leave a phone message at Little Cedars (020 8677 9675) or call our Beechcroft nursery direct on 020 8767 5501.

Lastly, is free childcare funding for 2, 3 & 4 year olds affected?

No; the good news is that there is no change to the funding eligibility. In regard to those who are eligible for free childcare funding, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has stated, “… we will continue to pay for all free early years entitlements [in place], even in the event that settings are closed … or children are not able to attend due to coronavirus”.

A Rough Guide to Free Childcare Funding in England

A rough guide to free childcare funding in England

The rules surrounding free childcare funding in the UK can be confusing. You may have heard of the Government schemes for ’30 hours of free childcare’, or ’15 hours free funding’.  However, different age groups each have their own separate rules surrounding eligibility. In view of the complexities involved, we have put together a rough guide for early years age groups, to help clarify things. This should be useful for those looking for nursery and pre-school places for 2 to 4 year olds in particular. We’ll take each age group in turn:

Free childcare funding for 2 year olds

You may be eligible for up to 15 hours of free childcare funding for 2 year olds if you live in England and …

  • are receiving Income Support;
  • receive the guaranteed element of Pension Credit;
  • are receiving Income-based Job Seekers Allowance;
  • receive Income-related Employment & Support Allowance;
  • are receiving Universal Credit and your annual household income is no more than £15,400 after tax, excluding benefits;
  • receive Tax Credits and your annual household income is no more than £16,190 before tax;
  • are receiving the Working Tax Credit “4 week run-on” (payments you receive when your eligibility for Working Tax Credit ceases).

You may also be eligible if your 2 year old:

  • is subject to an Education, Health & Care plan;
  • has a statement of special educational needs;
  • is no longer in care following a special guardianship order, an adoption order or a child arrangements order;
  • receives a Disability Living Allowance;
  • is cared for by a local authority.

Separate rules apply for those who are non-EEA citizens who also cannot claim benefits.

15 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

For English nationals, 3 and 4 year old children are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks per year. That equates to 570 hours per year but it can only be used in conjunction with an approved childcare provider like Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham. 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for this until they start school in reception year, or reach compulsory schooling age if that’s later. Eligibility does not depend on income or the parents’/guardians’ work situation. Parents can start benefiting from the funding from the 1st of January, the 1st of April or the 1st of September after their child’s third birthday. Ask your local nursery, pre-school or council for more details.

30 hours free childcare funding

In addition to the above, 3 and 4 year olds may be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare, taking the total to 30 hours a week, if certain criteria are met …

  • You can apply for the additional 15 hours of free childcare , bringing it to a total of 30 hours, at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Childcare Vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
  • If you are currently not working, you may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance.
  • You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

Earning criteria for working parent/parents/partners:

  • You must be working as a single parent or part of a couple that both work.
  • You must earn more than the weekly equivalent of 16 hours at the National Living Wage or Minimum Wage.
  • Neither of you can be earning a net income of more than £100,000, including any bonuses.

Learn more about eligibility here. If you feel that you do not quite meet these earnings criteria, it may still be worth enquiring as other conditions can sometimes apply. For example, a couple may still be eligible if one earns enough but the other is either a carer, is not well, is on parental leave, annual leave or sick leave. Another example is where a parent is self-employed, having started their business in the 12 months immediately prior to their application.

How to apply for 30 hours funding:

You can apply for the 30 hours funding through the Government website. You will need to go online and set up a childcare account. To do this you will need your National Insurance number (and, if you have a partner, their National Insurance number). If you are self-employed, also have your Unique Taxpayer Reference code (‘UTR’) at the ready. The online process will take about 20 minutes and it could take around 7 days to find out if you are eligible. Let us know if you need help with your application and we’ll be pleased to assist.

Other Government childcare funding schemes

You can also read our separate guide on free childcare funding available through Universal Credit and our Guide to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme (click the bold links).

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery & pre-school, Streatham

If you have any difficulties or have any queries regarding childcare funding, please get in touch with us. We can guide you through the process if you need help with your application. Feel free to call us on 0208 677 9675 too, or email us here and we’ll be happy to help!

Little Cedars is a day nursery and pre-school in Streatham, SW16 1TU. We’re very conveniently located for those searching for childcare in or near Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

This is a rough guide only, so always check with us, or your local council. Additional costs such as food, outings and nappies are not funded by the Government, so potentially allow extra.