Whether you choose to send your child to nursery because both parents work or as a preparatory stage for a school, there is a lot to choose from. There are many different types of nurseries in the UK, to name a few: community nurseries, early years centre, workplace nurseries, forest nurseries, nursery schools etc. Most of them are divided into the following learning methods:
- Montessori - This approach allows children to explore the world for themselves and at their own pace. They learn through interaction with specially chosen and placed items and equipment. The child selects what he wants to play with, and uses his senses to begin to understand the items he discovers. Each little one is seen as an individual, and learning at his own pace is key. Montessori teachers don’t instruct the children but guide them to learn for themselves.
- Steiner Children are at the centre of their own learning process and creativity is highly valued. For example, little ones bake their own bread, and use movement to music as a means of exploring the world around them. Cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills are valued equally, and teaching is done by example, not instruction. The children lead the learning process, allowing them to come to know the world through active feeling, touching, exploring and imitating. They encouraged to master physical skills before abstract intellectual ones, such as reading and writing, which aren’t usually introduced until a child is over 6. There are more than 100 nurseries throughout the country accredited by the Steiner Fellowship. Accredited Steiner nurseries – sometimes called Steiner Waldorf – take children until the age of 6. Many more nurseries operate on the Steiner method but aren’t fully accredited because the children leave to attend mainstream schools at 5.
Most mainstream nurseries adopt the Foundation Stage Curriculum, which was introduced by the Government in 2000 as a distinct form of education for 3 to 5 year olds. Its purpose is to give guidance to adults who work with little ones, to make sure that all children have reached a similar level of education by the time they begin the National Curriculum. Experimental and educational play is highly involved in mainstream nurseries, which is usually conducted in a structured but fun learning environment guided by the Curriculum. At this age in the UK, the Reading and Writing process commences with many nurseries choosing to develop both phonic understanding and number sense in pupils. These are two of the six areas of learning for under 5s and are called ‘Communication, Language and Literacy’ and ‘Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy’. Others are ‘Physical Development’, ‘Personal, Social and Emotional Development’, ‘Knowledge and Understanding of the World’ and ‘Expressing Arts and Design’.
In most of the areas, registration in a nursery with a well established reputation is a priority, which usually follows a place on a long waiting list. Places do become available and it is essential to be fully conversant with the localised movement.
Local knowledge and a reputable consultant can provide sound advice in these areas!