Since the introduction of the ECCE pre-school scheme in Ireland, we have started to place a bigger emphasis on the importance of our children’s pre-school experience.
Since the introduction of the ECCE pre-school scheme in Ireland, we have started to place a bigger emphasis on the importance of our children’s pre-school experience. In some families that second pre-school year has even dictated the age at which they send their children to junior school. Plans may have been in place to send them at a younger age until the possibility of a second year was on the table.
There are so many things to consider when you are choosing the right pre-school for your child. Curriculum tends to be one of the first enquiries that are made. Some parents are passionate about the Irish language and therefore gravitate towards a Naionra for example. Many of these are connected to an Irish speaking junior school which may play an important role in the decision also. Others wish for their children to experience the Montessori method of pre-school and will only consider settings that offer this option. In addition to this special needs and SNA learning support is vital for many families. There is no denying that day-to-day learning will be of paramount importance when it comes to making your decision.
Childcare varies from family to family and what is normal for one family is alien to another. A child who has been in crèche since they were an infant may adapt to pre-school a little easier because going into that kind of environment may have been part of their daily routine for a number of years. It could also work in the opposite way though. Years of free-play and seeing the same faces and teachers could make for a big adjustment to a more structured pre-school environment.
For other families, pre-school may be the very first time that their child has done something “separate” from the family. Years may have been spent developing patterns and rituals in the home and now change is imminent as a new routine is established.
So where does one even start to look for the right pre-school? On the one hand, there are so many to choose from. It seems like every corner boasts a cute pre-school name in big colourful letters. But places are often extremely limited and secured years in advance which can limit the choices that we have.
But it isn’t necessarily a case of simply choosing a pre-school that speaks to you in terms of their philosophy and curriculum. Location is a huge factor we must consider. Is it somewhere we can easily drop our kids off on our way into work every morning? For that reason does it have to be in a location close to where you work? If so that may not be close to where you live. Will a family member or childminder be collecting your child from pre-school? If so, can they get there by foot? Is there a public transport option in the case of adverse weather conditions when walking is not an option? These are all possible factors that many of us will have to consider on a serious level.
Finances are another important consideration. Many pre-schools offer the ECCE scheme for three hours per day five days per week with no extra charges. That is the amount of hours that the government scheme covers you for. However other pre-schools may add on an extra compulsory thirty minutes per day which you pay for monthly. There may also be extra charges for arts and crafts and tours. This could be something that requires serious thought in terms of the family finances.
Flexibility is worth noting also. If you will require child-care from time to time, does your chosen pre-school offer that? Might that be a reason to choose a pre-school that is also a crèche? I am self-employed and have personally found this to be really important for us. We may only use it for a couple of hours a month, and sometimes not at all, but the option is really helpful to us and our circumstances.
It may seem stressful now but before you know it your child will be waving you off and excited to spend the morning or afternoon with their new friends learning and growing beautifully.