Your Toddler's Education
State education in the UK is free of charge form the age of between four or five. In addition, preschool education can begin at anywhere between two and three, and is currently state funded for up to 15 hours per week - from the term following your child's third birthday.
There are several types of nurseries available and many parents use them for different reasons. You may be returning to work, you may feel your child needs more stimulation than you can offer, or you may have just have had another baby and need some extra help with childcare during the day.
Nurseries can be privately run or attached to a school. The main benefit is that they can enhance your toddler’s understanding of basic life skills and social skills. Learning to share, how to take turns and to sit still can be remarkably difficult for your toddler and the atmosphere of a nursery, surrounded by peers, can make learning these key skills an enjoyable experience and help to build their confidence and own self worth.
Nursery or Preschool
In the UK, preschool education sessions are usually either morning or afternoon sessions and many offer additional lunch clubs for children to eat together as they would in a school environment.
Nurseries and preschools use the Early Years Foundation Learning curriculum system, which aims to teach at your child’s pace rather than have one overall speed for all abilities. Children can usually attend nursery and preschool from around 2 and a half, although this starting age does differ from each individual school. Some nurseries and preschools expect children to be toliet trained before they start, so be sure to check before singing up for any sessions, and it's always a good idea to pack a spare set of clothes in your child's bag when they attend, as accidents can frequently happen!
In the UK, children generally start school after their fourth birthday, but school is only compulsory once your child has turned five. Details of your local primary schools can be found on your Local Education Authority (LEA) website. You can also check out local Ofsted reports online, although it’s worth bearing in mind that these do not always give a definitive description of what a school is really like and often the most honest reviews come from parents themselves!
The three options for starting your child's education are your local primary school, a private school, or home tuition. The most popular choice by far is the local primary school. While still relatively rare in the UK, home education is fully supported with learning tools and a syllabus by the LEA. Private schools have fees that vary from reasonable to exorbitant. If your local state schools are not what you are looking for (and you can afford it!) private education can work very well. Whatever your choice, a visit to several schools prior to enrolling your child will be beneficial to both of you.
At age five, your child will be learning numeracy and literacy as well as life skills and learning about the world around them. This could involve learning about plants, the body, animals or food. They will be expected to dress and undress for PE, be fully toilet trained, and eat and drink without assistance.
For many parents, their child starting school can signify some well earned down time or the end of steep childcare fees. However, there are not many parents who do not shed a small tear when their baby finally starts school and waves goodbye at the door.