Christine McLelland, head of North Bridge House Nursery and Pre-Prep Schools in Hampstead answers your question on choosing a school
Choosing a nursery and pre-prep for your child can be a daunting experience. Parents have a bewildering selection to choose from in London and for some the process is inherently fraught – many are entrusting their child to carers outside the home for the first time.
The first piece of advice I give is to look around. Don’t fixate on one school to the exclusion of all others. You may have an initial preference but you will lose nothing by comparing several options. Inspection reports, The Good Schools Guide and talking to other parents are useful starting points. But there is no substitute for visiting in person.
The most obvious question is, do the children appear happy and engaged? Children who are engaged, motivated and playing well together will be happy and will learn. There will be occasional tears, especially in the first few days, but children should rapidly settle down and look forward to going.
Equally important is the attitude of staff. Do they celebrate and nurture the individual child, or are they more concerned to boast about the academic performance of the school? Ultimately, it’s a question of trust: are the staff caring enough to do the best for your child? I would also urge parents to look beyond pre-prep to any related prep school. Often pre-prep to prep is a natural progression. Look at the school’s prep offering – is the same ethos applied here and what are the senior school outcomes for the children?
Finally, look at the facilities. Is the equipment well maintained? What are the play areas like? A word of warning, though: do not be distracted by state-of-the-art classrooms and piles of ipads. Technology is not a proxy for excellent teaching and shiny new buildings are no substitute for a great education. A school is made by the people in it, and parents would be wise to look to them first and last!