Pre-school places in Croydon – what to look for

By - Tuesday 23rd June, 2015

Pre-school director Lizzi Wallace helps Croydon parents make the best choice for their families. Here she gives her hints and tips for happy children – and happy parents – in the coming year

Living and working in Croydon all my life has given me a wonderful perspective on the uniqueness and diversity that we have within our borough. I’ve worked with an amazing range of children and parents down the years, from all sorts of families, and I can truly say that I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical Croydon family.

It’s not just down to our cultural diversity. It’s because we have everything: old established communities, with people whose local roots go back a long way, incomers looking to the future of Croydon and the changes that are taking place here, and then groups whose work brings them to Croydon or London for a short time, who stay for a year, perhaps two, enrich our communities with their input, then move on, perhaps internationally, to the next job or career position. I think it’s our location on the fringe of London, with a foot in both worlds, that makes us such a melting pot and such a fascinating place to be.

You’ll get a feel as to whether this is the right place for your child

But all these parents have one thing in common: wanting the very best for their children during their formative and vital pre-school years. Whether you require a full day care nursery or sessional preschool, this is one of the first steps that your child takes on their path to school, and as a parent and practitioner I understand the importance of finding a safe place for your child.

Choosing the right childcare setting

  • Visit the setting before you register your child to get a feel for the day-to-day routine, and take your child with you to see whether they like it too
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions – it can be helpful to write them down beforehand. For example; How many staff work with the children on a daily basis? (there should be one staff member for every 8 children over three and one staff member for every four children under three. What are the staff’s qualifications? Are the staff security checked? How much experience do they have?
  • Ask about the routine of the day and ask to see a weekly plan. This will give you a snap shot of the sorts of activities that are planned for the children.
  • Make sure that you have a full tour of the premises, including toilets and outdoor areas. Are they clean and safe?
  • Ask about how you will be informed of your child’s progress or any incidents that may happen and also how you can be involved in your child’s learning from nursery to home.
  • Take time to see whether the staff and children are talking and playing together. Do the staff look interested and happy; are the children having fun?
  • Talk to the staff about outings. Do the children get any outside experiences as well; what are the safety procedures for this and are parents invited?
  • Enquire about a possible home visit if you think it would help your child to settle in. Discuss the setting’s settling in policy
  • Look at the setting’s OFSTED inspection online Bear in mind, however, that this is a snap shot of the setting and as a parent, you will get a feel as to whether this is the right place for your child
  • Ask about the behaviour policy and share any concerns that you may have about your child’s development
  • Make sure that you find out about any costs for the setting. If you have a three or four year you are entitled to fifteen hours’ completely free childcare.
  • Discuss what food is provided. Is there a healthy, balanced diet on offer? Is water available whenever children want it? And are parents able to donate to the food that is offered?
  • Find out about any financial help you can get. Working parents can get up to 80% of their costs back through the childcare element of Working Tax Credit. If you receive certain benefits you can also access 2 year old funding
  • Ask about parental involvement and what you can expect from your time at the setting.
  • …and finally, visit a few settings to get a balanced view and remember that if you choose a nursery school/class that is attached to a school, this does not guarantee your child a place in that school. All children from all Early Years settings must apply separately for a reception school place.

Running three preschool settings within Croydon inspires me not only to get to know the wonderful richness of cultures that attend our settings but also to share with our families the amazing and fascinating activities that can be found in and around the town for very little cost.

Lizzi Wallace

Lizzi Wallace

I was born in Croydon and live here with my family who are an inspiration for my stories. I have been running a successful group of preschools for over 22 years and my passion for storytelling and teaching children to love books led me to start writing my own children’s picture books.

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article and it is so important for children to attend these, as they get used to socialising and being away from Mum.