Robin Nathan, the father of 2-year-old Oscar, offers his perspective on what parents are really looking for when searching for a childcare provider and what made him choose the current nursery for his son.
Two years ago, after having been told for ten years that we could not have children, my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful, healthy, bouncing baby boy.
After the initial shock had subsided and we got our heads around the fact that our lives were going to be turned completely upside down (incidentally, getting our heads around this took about nine months), we started thinking about day nurseries.
An initial cursory search on Google showed more than 50 day nurseries within a 12 mile radius. As if bringing up our first child wasn’t stressful enough, we were now faced with the seemingly impossible task of picking a nursery which would provide a nurturing, safe and educational environment for the most precious thing in our lives. In a word – “aaarrrggghhhhhh”!
We started narrowing down the options. Initially, we looked at the Ofsted results for all of the nurseries. Anything less than “outstanding” was immediately discarded – why would we settle for less when there were plenty of establishments which have been graded as “outstanding” in the vicinity?
And then we started the viewings. I have fond memories of my days at nursery school, and of my early days in “big school”. I was lucky enough to attend fantastic and very traditional schools which offered their pupils a rounded education. When considering nurseries, I wanted the same thing for my son. However, when we visited our first nursery and found that it was almost identical to my nursery – bearing in mind that my nursery education finished three and a half decades ago – it was rather off-putting. I like tradition, and I like stability, but I also believe in progress and technology and sadly this particular nursery was stuck firmly in the 1980s, it even smelled the same – of Jeyes Fluid and powder paint. I have nothing against powder paint per se, but I was hoping that things had moved on a bit.
The rooms were a bit dark and small, the carpets a bit threadbare and there were wooden benches everywhere. In comparison, the nursery that we finally chose is bright and airy, has a huge, fantastically equipped garden and just has a far more up-to-date feel.
It was this experience that made me consider very carefully what it was that I was looking for in a nursery, and what I believe the vast majority of parents are also looking for. We live in a diverse and multi-cultural society so nurseries must bear this in mind, however there are a few basic principles that, if made part of the fabric of the place, will absolutely help attract parents.
For starters we all value honesty, integrity, inclusion, empathy, enthusiasm and variety, and if these ethics and morals are integrated into everything that you do it will be obvious to prospective parents. I will probably have made up my mind about a nursery within the first two minutes of stepping in the door – two minutes. Regardless of whom I have spoken with or which rooms I have seen, you have two minutes to make me feel comfortable about leaving my child with you “in loco parentis”.
Get specific – when giving parents updates, be specific about the child in question. An update of “Beginning to ask simple questions” is so generic as to be almost meaningless. Give me an example of the type of questions he is asking. Our son is at nursery five days a week, so in reality the nursery staff spend more time with him during the day than we do, and it is lovely to have some specific feedback.