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You pays your money ... LAURA WELSH explains how, all shiny and branded is not necessarily the best for all families, as she found when she discovered a great independent nursery in Teddington.


hoosing a nursery sounds like an easy task doesn’t it? You get a list from the internet, ask friends for advice, check the Ofsted website, visit a shortlist and then, voilà! Our son Connor gets to spend a couple of days a week (in our case, more if you are a working parent) in a loving, caring, educational environment that could be a home from home, and you get some time to either go back to work or, if you’re lucky like me, to care for your other children and run a busy household. If only that were true. Making a decision about who is going to look after your children while you work/run the house/ look after other children can be one of the toughest decisions you have to make in the early days of

parenthood. For starters you have to think about the following: ■ Which way do you go: au pair, nanny, childminder or nursery? ■ How much is it going to cost and how are you going to pay for it? ■ Where is its location in relation to your home and office? ■ What hours is the care available for and is there any flexibility in this? ■ Does the setting have links to any schools or provide any kind of holiday activities (essential for working parents during the long summer holiday)? ■ Do your children have to be potty trained to attend (surprisingly, this became my number one question after a while!) ■ What kind of venue is it? Does it have a lot of open space?

Staines Preparatory School IAPS | Founded 1935 | Co-educational since 1941

Places available for September 2012

‘Have you ever considered an

Independent education for your child?’ Clothes from Mini-A-Ture,

Early registration advisable as we are operating a waiting list for some of our current year groups.

For assistance with fee planning and other fee information please contact the Bursar. Staines Preparatory School, 3 Gresham Road Staines, Middlesex. TW18 2BT

01784 450909 | 14

■ Where do your friends send their children? ■ What does Ofsted think of it? We started out with a nursery for one day a week when Connor was a year old. This was to give him a little bit of independence and confidence outside the house and for me, at 6 months pregnant with our second child, to try to get a day of rest and some precious ‘me’ time. I looked at a number of nurseries in the local area and we plumped for a very highly regarded, Ofsted recommended, expensive nursery that everyone said was the best in town. Needless to say Connor hated every second and screamed from the moment he arrived to the moment he left! At this point I realised that childcare, like most things, is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that it is very much horses for courses. So it was back to the drawing board and more decisions had to be made. Of course the screaming may have been down to his age, the fact that he had never been left before, and that he knew I was leaving him there to go off and have some fun at home (even 12 month olds are very perceptive about such things) but I had a feeling in my gut that this was not the right place for my son, no matter what other people said. I looked at Montessori nurseries, which are lovely, calm, educationally rich environments for the right child (but not my child, I felt). There were others run by teams of lovely caring older ladies but which had no outside space to speak of. Others offered all bells and whistles of toys and activities but where I felt the staff seemed slightly underwhelming. And then there was the issue of potty training. Many nurseries will not take children of over 2.5 that are still in nappies, and Connor still was. My dream was to find somewhere that would help me to potty train him whilst allowing

him to explore life in a dynamic and exciting way and teach him to be himself, in a safe and loving environment. And I hit the jackpot with Little Scamps in Teddington. The day I walked into this slightly scruffy building with its huge garden full of slides, trampolines and ride on cars, and met the (mostly young) enthusiastic staff which included (hooray!) some young male carers (vital in my opinion if you have a son), who didn’t give a hoot about whether he was potty trained or not, then I signed up there and then. Now, four years later, all three of my children have been cared for, and I don’t use the word lightly, by the staff there to the highest degree. They have genuinely been part of my children’s lives and I feel like they are part of my family. It helps enormously of course that they run a holiday club which runs through all the school holidays, as well as flexible care that can wraparound the school day but the kids have fun there while they are learning not only the alphabet, how to tie their shoelaces and pull their trousers up, but also how to be confident, independent little people with their own personalities. No amount of money, fancy buildings or Ofsted reports can provide that. I went with my gut feeling and I recommend that you should always do that too.

extra Little Scamps is at 65a Strathmore Road, Teddington, TW11 8UH, 020 8943 9313, Laura Welsh lives in Hampton Hill. Read her blog about family life at:

January-February 2012

Families upon Thames Jan/Feb 2012  

The 2012 New Year edition of Families upon Thames magazine