From home to nursery – how one city centre school ensures a smooth transition from home to nursery for three-year olds
Parents put their child’s name down for a nursery place anytime after a few days old. Some provisionally book places so early because a sibling has already enjoyed a happy time in the nursery, it is close to home or work, or for any one of a myriad of reasons.
Around May each year, parents of children who will be three years old between 1 September and 31 August are contacted and offered a place in nursery from the following September. So children could begin their nursery education from as young as three years and one day old, or as late as the day of their fourth birthday. Priority is given to those who have a statement of special education needs, live in the catchment area or have siblings at the school, in that order of priority. Any remaining places are offered on a ‘first come’ basis.
In early June, a list of up to 52 children is drawn up and places are offered, 26 for morning nursery 8:30 am to 11:30 am; 26 for afternoon nursery, 12:15pm to 3:15pm. Parents or carers and children are invited to attend a one-hour induction session later that month. The children are encouraged to play freely, with or without their parents. The nursery staff circulate to talk to everyone. A chart for a home visit is on display and parents are encouraged to sign up for one. After a fun tidying session, there is a five-minute welcoming talk from the headteacher and staff. The arrangements for arrival and collecting, as well as safety, are covered and everyone leaves with a welcome pack which includes the nursery brochure and an empty scrapbook. Anyone unable to attend receives a phone call to discuss any concerns and book a home visit. A key section of the brochure is the page containing ideas for making a scrapbook. Each child is encouraged to make one to bring with them when they start nursery.
During the first two weeks of the autumn term, nursery is closed as the staff visit all the children in their own home for around 20 minutes. This provides an opportunity to meet in the calm and security of home and allows the staff, parents and child to get to know each other. The staff value this time to begin building the partnership between home and school. They share a book of nursery photographs, play with the child and talk to the parent or carer, discussing any concerns. They also ask questions about the child’s health and fill in a brief questionnaire. Every child is also given an invitation with their start date on it.
The nursery offers a staggered entry procedure to gradually introduce the child into the nursery environment. Parents or carers are welcome to stay until the child settles, though they are encouraged to gradually reduce how long they stay. Staff take time to share the children’s scrapbooks with them and ensure that activities are offered to match their interests. The scrapbooks are lovingly pored over by the children, who often value other children’s books almost as much as their own.
And so begins the child’s formal education...