The State Of Play

Am I in denial?

Maybe if I had another younger child, then I wouldn't be finding this so hard a decision to make, or beating myself up about it. Quite possibly the fact that I am a state-employed primary school teacher makes my indecisiveness, and eventual decision, even more difficult to understand? Surely I should be promoting the state-funded education system?

And yet I have decided to not send The Boy to state nursery come September.

When I returned to work after maternity leave, we made the decision it would only be part-time with mum looking after him when I was in school. I'm lucky that she can and I'm lucky that I don't need to work full-time. I work part-time so that I can spend time with my son and help him grow into a well-rounded, happy child. I enjoy spending time with him and want that to continue. Is that why I'm not sending him into nursery school every day in a few months time? It's one of the reasons, yes.

But there are many more.

The Boy is only just three and, although the nursery teacher (on our visit earlier in the week) was keen to point out that they will all be in the same boat, I feel that he's very young to go to an educational establishment every weekday. And with state education you have no choice; I can't keep him off just because I might want to go to the beach with him that day. This is my son who still sleeps for an hour and a half every afternoon; he just wouldn't cope with five half days in nursery. Building up his tolerance slowly in private nursery will mean he can adapt much better with the transition to Reception (without the six week Summer holiday spoiling the routine).

He's going to be in school until he's 18, I'm in no rush to push him into it. I'm fortunate that I am a qualified nursery nurse (specialising in play as a part of a child's development) and a primary school teacher, my husband is intelligent and hands-on; The Boy is going to pass all of his baseline assessments without any problems. (He actually already has done: he spent some time in my school nursery recently when I had to go in for a meeting, and they passed him on everything). I want him to be a little boy for as long as he can, I think children grow up too quickly nowadays.

There's also the fact that he has had two changes already; playgroup in January for the first time and now this nursery in April (I overheard him singing "Jesus' Love Is Very Wonderful" in the dining room one day so we found a new place sharpish) and I don't want to get him even more confused by it. It's not fair to him when he's trying to form friendships, to chop and change him.

The new state nursery would be lovely! Recently extended, there are two distinct areas inside for the children to work in with a good IT provision as well as imaginative play, a covered outdoor area and a beautiful playground with a straw/mud hut, wendy houses, climbing frames, allotments and a rope swing. It seemed perfect until I saw that there were two parents of children I've taught there, and suddenly I felt uneasy. Maybe it's something I need to learn to deal with: I live and work in my hometown after all, but this felt a little different.

The private nursery though feels 'right'. It's more homely, the nursery nurses are referred to by their first names, it's less formal and more relaxed. It follows exactly the same curriculum as the state nursery, but the staff: child ratio is actually lower, giving them more support and attention. There also aren't any ties in the private nursery and it makes me feel more comfortable.

There's also the practical aspect to consider. State nursery is 12.45-3.15 (don't even get me started on it being an afternoon slot, when will he nap?) which would rely on my mum taking him and picking him up, and her not having much time in between to do anything. However in the private nursery we can drop him off from 7.30 (we don't take him until 9 though), he eats lunch there and then I pick him up after work at 1pm. It's far more convenient.

And the final point is that Mr. TBaM changed his job at the time that we put The Boy into the private nursery, one of the perks of it is a contribution to childcare costs, enough for two sessions a week.

This means that come September  The Boy will have two full days with me where we will go to a toddler group coffee session or Under-Fives playgroup on one day and Tumble Tots on the other, a whole day with my mum, two mornings in private nursery, one afternoon with mum and one afternoon with me. He's certainly going to have a busy time throughout the week, with plenty of time for fun and games with friends and family.

Have any of you not sent your little ones to state nursery?

What do you think about the age that they start school?

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  1. says

    You have to do what feels right. You already do do much with the Boy he's not missing out in anything with what you're planning. Rather, he's going to get you for longer and that has to be an advantage between any mum and toddler. I would consider private, but I've seen our state one already and it's a really nice one that feels right so I already think I'll be putting him in there. Not yet though… Still lots of time for that 🙂

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Ours is a really nice one too, and to be honest if it wasn't for the vouchers from Mr. TBaM's work, it wouldn't even be a consideration.

  2. Jennypaulin says

    Burton is attending a private one a d will continue to do so but I don't intend sending him every day maybe two or three but no more else we won't be able to still see mum which is also important in my mind.
    I think, personally (and don't get cross with me) that you should wean the boy off his afternoon naps now. Yes he will be tired to begin with and it may take a few days but if you put him to bed earlier.7-7.30pm then he will get enough sleep at night and not need an afternoon nap AND you get more time which means you will get more done and not go to bed so late (maybe). He doesn't need it B hasn't had one for almost a year now. He still dozes in the car sometimes but at three years old they should be going all day and going to bed at 7pm ish – only my opinion though as you are entitled to your own.(no offence meant)
    I think you do a marvellous job with him and I think 3 is too young and if I didn't have two children maybe I would be more inclined to keep B at home but it will be good for him to get a little independence.
    At the end of the day, he is YOUR boy, you must do what YOU feel is best for him xx

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Thank you for such a detailed and lengthy comment 🙂

      I completely disagree with you though about The Boy's naps. I know that there is no way he could cope until 7pm without a small afternoon nap. I'll admit that I need to be stricter by limiting him to an hour only, but I know that he does need the sleep during the day, otherwise he will end up overtired at night and not sleep properly then either. B might not need a nap during the day, but did that evolve naturally or because as you've said in the past, it was harder for him to do so with J around? I know plenty of other 3 year olds who still nap during the day, most of his peers do. Oh and you know me, no offense taken or intended either 🙂

      About the age though, I just think they are so little and once they are 4 they have to cope with 9-3.30 until they're 18, why would anyone be in a rush to start that off?

      • Jenny Paulin says

        That's a fair reply! I would only say that it's a vicious circle because he goes to bed after B doesn't he and wakes up at 6.30 so he gets what about 9-10 hours at night? B has 11-12 hours so doesn't nap. If he does nap during the day then he can't get to sleep til gone 9. So I think they each get same but B has his all in one go. The boy would cope til 7 as he would get used to it,maybe you could out him to bed at 6.30?? Think of that time you would get each evening!!
        Anyway, as you say B prob did drop his a little early due to J but many of my friends children stopped before they were three too. I Guess each child is different and that is what makes the world go round!.,
        Great debate and post x

  3. Johanna says

    Both mine went to (different) private play-schools funded by the government from the age of 3 i.e. the 15 hours free care. Both went for 3 mornings a week because I wanted to do other things with them. I don't think we have a state nursery around here; there are a couple of primary schools which have early years foundation classes – is that what you mean? The play-schools followed school timetables, so they had holidays when the schools did. The sessions are three hours long, most are mornings only, some also do afternoon sessions. These are not the same as the day nurseries which take children from 6 weeks up to 5 years old from 7.30am -6pm, 52 weeks of the year.

    I do think we start them off in school too early. Both my girls have children in their classes who were just 4 when they started school – birthdays right at the end of August. I think if it was my child, I would have delayed school for a term or more. I'm pretty sure most continental countries and the US don't start school until 5 or 6. As it stands at the moment, we have to ensure that they are receiving an education from the age of 5 – at school or otherwise. So if you think he will be better off spending time with you, and continuing at his current nursery, then do it.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      When I say state nursery I mean the one where you don't have to pay, they start in the term after they're 3 and they go every day, either 9-11.30 or 1-3.30. They are quite often attached to a school but are the year before Reception.

      When I trained to be a nursery nurse, we did a comparative study of Wales and Denmark where they don't start school until 6 or 7, but there are a plethora of pre-school groups. On average the children had picked up the skills to the same level of children who'd been in education since 4. It was interesting.

      I think he's better off spending time with me where I can take him to Tumble Tots and other groups. Thank you for your detailed comment.

  4. StephsTwoGirls says

    I agree, just 4 is too young for the young ones to start school!! Interestingly, my May born child was definitely ready for pre-school 5 mornings a week at our local private nursery… whereas the nursery actually told us they didn't think they could cope with my younger ASD daughter for 5 mornings and would only offer 3 (DDA anyone?!). So at last minute we switched and sent ASD daughter to state nursery, 5 mornings a week, where she flourished -because they cared.
    Every child is different, is the moral! You enjoy your time with him and don't you dare feel guilty – it'll be good for both of you! x

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Thank you, I don't feel guilty but still I find the need to excuse myself, strange isn't it? I'm a well educated woman, a teacher, a sensible mother, and yet I feel the need to justify my decision to all and sundry!

      I know that Boy will benefit greatly from more than one session, but I'm not going to start that until September when we've had the Summer to enjoy each other's company.

  5. says

    I'm an Early Years Teacher and I have spent my entire teaching career in nursery, both in nursery and primary schools. When I started teaching we had two intakes in my authority. Children couldn't start nursery until they were 3 yrs 4 months, so Summer-born children (like The Boy) wouldn't start until January. This started to change so that there was only a September intake, so potentially children could end up starting the day after their 3rd birthday. I always tried to make sure I allocated the youngest children the morning slots, as I found they were just too tired by the afternoon to really benefit as much as they should. IME they really aren't ready for 5 sessions of (state) nursery until at least 3yrs 4 mths – it's a different thing to a private nursery, where they're more set up for the caring side of having young children (eg naps etc can still happen if they need to).

    Schools are now able to take children earlier and earlier. They are desperate to get their hands on the 3yr old funding (and who knows what may happen once the 2 yr old funding comes along) which is understandable, money is hard to come by in education. But really the funding is becoming more available because there are children who are better off at school/nursery etc than they are at home. (One authority I worked in, with a high level of deprivation, has a policy of full time nursery for 3 yr olds. All day, every day. At 3.)

    But, that isn't the case for all of us; for some of us, they're better off spending time at home, too.

    I can't find a state nursery near me. There is one outside our catchment but it is not somewhere I would want to send my children. So I've found a small charity-run preschool which I love, and my two are going to go for one day a week initially when they're two, but they won't be going for a full five sessions a week until they're in their 'official' nursery year, when they'll nearly be 4 (their birthday is in November), even though they'll be eligible for 5 sessions of funding for two terms before that. I want them to have the best of both worlds, and I know I can give them more focused attention than the best of nursery nurses and teachers, because I don't have another 10 children to care for.

    Sounds to me like you're doing the best thing for you and your Boy, and if it feels right, it probably is.

    (So sorry for the extremely long comment…!)

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Thank you so much for the extremely long comment, it is lovely to see such a discussion and debate about something that I feel quite passionately about.

      I hadn't twigged about the funding issue; because I'm UKS2 focused it's not an area that I'm familiar with. However I can completely see your point that for many children they are better off in full-time education as soon as possible, where they can be nurtured and fed (presumably FSM?) away from the depravation at home. I'm lucky that we don't have to worry about that and that I can play a part in his education. Most important to me is developing his social and emotional skills at this age so that he can cope with any of the issues that he has to in primary school.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  6. says

    None of mine have ever been to a state nursery, we just have access to (what was) Playgroup, now called 'preschool'. It used to be for just 3 mornings per week but now due to a change of venue they offer 3 full days (9-3.15). It's very relaxed and I suppose more like a day nursery. I like having my 2 days with Jack when he's not at preschool & I wouldn't want him to go for 5 mornings per week, more for selfish reasons as I would be back & forth every day & not manage to get much done. He's been doing 3 full days since he was 2.5 & he is sometimes so tired that he's in bed at 5.30….I prefer that to him having an afternoon nap & going to bed much later.
    You need to do what's right for you & if The boy is confident then I'm sure he will go into reception without a problem, some need to be eased into school a little more gently & going to a nursery attached to the school helps the transition. Our preschool has strong links with the school and some of the little ones (all ages – 2,3,4) spend half days in school every term & some of the older school children come down to preschool to play & read with the others. I'm hoping this will avoid tears (his) next September!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I had just assumed that J went every day, how fab that you get to have two full days with him and do the things that you want together. Five half sessions always strike me as tricky to manage, there's not that much that can be done in the two hours between school runs are there?

      The other problem is that there isn't a nursery attached to the school, the nursery feeds into three different schools so he will have that transition and friendship issue to deal with anyway. However, the private nursery has about three or four children that go there every year so there's a fairly good chance he'll have a friend or two.

      Oh and there are forty children in the state nursery but less than twenty in the private!

  7. says

    Hmm. Eva went to private nursery as I worked full time after having her. We were thrilled with her progress and didn't hesitate to put luka in nursery too. I did notice, however, that she took a while to settle into reception when she started school and in hindsight if age had attended the school nursery I think she would've settled better. But the hours meant there was no way we could send her. We don't have family bear by to help out. Now, I work part time when/ if I go back after mat leave so the school nursery hours r more manageable but I don't think we will send luka there either. There r many reasons. He doesn't sleep every day anymore but he has a restricted diet. He is settled where he is and he gets his funded places in Jan. The school won't have him until Sept 2013. I have nothing against state nurseries per se but like u I think they spend long enough at school and I don't want to disrupt him when he is happy. Nor will I hesitate to send Isobel to the same nursery- they r excellent


    • TheBoyAndMe says

      That's the beauty of private nurseries I suppose, they offer more of a facility for individual needs based on food, sleep, nurturing, etc. than a state does. It also helps that he eats there, especially as he sometimes messes me around at home.

      Should The Boy be getting funding to pay for his session at private nursery?

  8. says

    Also wanted to add that when the time comes we may change our mind for luka. If we think he would benefit and we can manage the hours then we will send him to state nursery. Every child is different and we do what is best for the individual x

  9. says

    There isn't a state nursery near us and my kids were already in a private nursery one day a week. All I did once they were eligible for NEG was up that to two days. They both loved nursery and I was happy for them to stay there and the decision was made easier by there not being a state nursery at the school we chose. They went full days but both dispensed with lunchtime naps on nursery days (too much fun!) quite early and learned to cope with that until they stopped napping altogether.

    As for the age they start school, the problem is they are all different. Monkey was just about ready, at 4.5, for school – I remember his first day, he looked terrified before he went in on his first official day (which was actually a half) but never cried once. Missy Woo, on the other hand, could have easily joined him right then. We took the children around the school on an open day the year before – Monkey went outside to play on the bikes in reception play area, Missy Woo sat down and tried to write! She was only just 4 when she started school and it was a breeze for her. I was worried she would always be at a disadvantage but her year is very "young" – half of the class have birthdays in May or later, so although she is young, she's far from the youngest.

    Going back to nursery/private nursery, I think it's the most flexible option if you can afford it. The nursery we chose was a few miles away (and opposite direction to school from here, clever!) and I was very happy with it. It was what worked for us. Every family is different, as well as what is available to you, so no-one else can really tell you what is right.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that every child/family/situation is different. Had my husband not got a new job with childcare vouchers included then the chances are that The Boy would just be going to state nursery without debate or even contemplation of another option. However, now the option is there, it's clearly the best one for us. He's a bright boy, he's not going to suffer from not going to state nursery, he will benefit in other ways. I will be able to continue taking him to Tumble Tots for a start which is something that he loves.

  10. says

    Keep hold of him for as long as you can. Once they're gone, they're gone and I wish I'd appreciated the time I had with my youngest when I had the opportunity instead of wasting time on an ultimately fruitless job hunt.

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      Do you know what, aside from anything else I've said *that* is the main reason behind my decision. He's grown up so quickly and I curse that I have to work part-time and miss some of his development. I want to enjoy him for as long as I can before he's swept up with school and clubs and parties and everything else. Thank you for getting it.

  11. Johnson Babies says

    I wrote a post about the variety of childcare our three have 'been through' recently- my conclusion- your instincts as a parent are always right.
    For many reasons our daughter will start state nursery school in September, we missed out on a place at Easter. She has attended pre-school since she was just gone 2, and it has been for her we have taken this choice- she needs the stimulation away from her younger brothers.
    I guess if we could afford private nursery our considerations may be different- I've also written a post about the dilemmas in terms of feeder school of sending her to our local, fantastic primary school and whether to move her when from nursery school to a different primary school.
    It is sooooo difficult, I think you have the benefit of having spent such quality 1-1 time with The Boy and being a teacher. As well as being his mother. You know him ergo you will make the right choice for your family!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      I agree, that considerations may be different based on financial circumstances. We're lucky that my husband has £55 a week childcare allowances with his new job. If he didn't, we wouldn't even be entertaining the thought. You're also right that I'm lucky that I'm a teacher and can ensure that his academic needs are up to scratch for Reception class. I just need to make sure he's getting the emotional and social skills.

  12. says

    Lovely post and I think The Boy has the best of everything with you both. My children also went to non state nursery as having 6 at home and the business made it a necessity. They loved it there from a young age and I feel very happy with the decision. I chose a nursery with lots of outdoor space for play which suited them perfectly, I was in no rush for them to start school and formal learning.

  13. says

    TBH I think it all depends on the child, parent and circumstances. My oldest went 9-6 Mon-Fri from when he was 3, in a private university nursery because I was doing my degree as a single parent. My 3rd child went to playgroup (slowly increasing sessions) from when he was 2 because he was 6 months older than his little brother and A was very bright and B I needed him to have attention that was just for him, and me time with the baby. My 4th child will be going 5 mornings a week voucher funded in September (also built up since he was 2) and I really couldn't cope if he didn't – and have no idea how long the summer will be. In fact they have employed more staff at the nursery so he can have a one-to-one as he's so demanding.

    Good luck with everyones decisions.

  14. says

    I think you have to do what works for you with nursery. Both my children started off at a little private nursery because we could just use the hours we wanted and we could fit it in with me dropping them on the way to work and my mum picking them up at a convenient time for her. When it came to 3 and school nursery we were really lucky and the little place they went did a 'pick up' from school, so they did their mornings at school then went to the other nursery in the afternoon and my mum or I picked them up later. As I said it depends on what's available and what works. When it came to holidays or the odd day out. I just took them. School didn't like it, but until they're at reception its not a legal thing that they have to be in school. I guess they'd get pissed off if you really took the micky and regularly only went 3 or 4 days a week. Anyway, I'm waffling. You're a teacher so you know all this.

  15. says

    I've had this faved for ages with the intention of commenting, sorry I'm only just getting round to it. I just wanted to say I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support your decision because you know better than anyone else in the world what works for the boy.

    We've also decided not to send T to state nursery. We started him at a private nursery when he was 2, for 2 mornings a week, then after about six months we moved house and enrolled him at another state nursery in our new town. For the first couple of months we stuck with 2 mornings, and then when he turned 3 we increased that to 3 mornings. Like you, the timings of the sessions work much better, I didn't want to unsettle him by moving him again, I love the atmosphere of the place, and love seeing him so happy and growing in confidence.

    T is one of those kids that absolutely does things at his own pace, when he is ready to. He still takes a big nap every afternoon, we are doing really well with potty training but definitely not all the way there yet, he likes routine, he bonds very strongly with a very few people… he likes the pace of life to be pretty gentle, and on the two days when he has no nursery we tend to plan something (a playdate, a trip into London, lunch out in a cafe) for one of the days, and have the other just pootling around at home, doing jigsaws, reading, playing in the park.

    Private nursery is scarily expensive, but for us it is a price worth paying to know that he is being dealt with as an individual rather than having to conform to the expectation of what a three year old should be like. He will spend the rest of his life being forced into the expected routines and behaviours of school, workplace etc – for right now I just want him to be allowed to be the little boy that he is, and I think the nursery he is is where that can best happen.

    Didn't mean to turn that into novel, I just wanted to say yay you for having the courage of your convictions 🙂 xx


  1. […] The Boy and Me has mixed feelings. It's never easy choosing a nursery and The Boy and Me has a particularly tough challenge as she weighs up private vs state nurseries. The post makes for fascinating reading and left me wondering if, when it comes to deciding a place for our children that isn't right by our side, can it ever be a choice we're 100% happy with? […]

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