7 TIPS FOR CHOOSING A NURSERY SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD
by Chené Koscielny
Choosing the right nursery school or private creche for your preschooler is always difficult and if you’re an expat parent or a local family with strong international interests – living in or moving to Geneva – finding that perfect option that ticks all the boxes, is even harder.
We speak to Gemma Houghton, Head of Nursery at Geneva English School (GES) International School in Genthod about things to consider when looking at prospective nurseries or childcare centres.
She also explains some exciting changes and new options offered by the GES Nursery as of September 2020.
Of course, one of the main considerations is location and how easy it will be for you and your child to do the drop-off and pick-up every day or several times a week. No amount of fancy frills will compensate for adding 45 painful minutes to your daily commute in the long run, says Ms. Houghton.
Geneva English School is located in Genthod – and so it is perfect for parents living or working on that side of the lake, roughly Geneva and Coppet and in neighbouring France or within easy access, such as the United Nations.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Visit the nursery and try to get a feel for the place. Trust your instincts. Is it a welcoming, homely environment for your child where you will feel welcome too, or is it a more functional, drop-off-and-run style atmosphere?
“At GES Nursery there is a strong family and community focus and parents are invited to become partners and part of this community right from the start,” she says.
The majority of the preschoolers move onto the GES Primary school and so the nursery is their first introduction to an ongoing warm, extended family environment.
(It doesn’t hurt that the nursery is located on the ground floor of the beautiful historic Genthod Villa with stunning views overlooking Lake Leman and Mont Blanc. The setting is idyllic with large tree-shaded areas in the substantial school grounds that border woodlands.)
In an expat environment such as Geneva, you have the choice of putting your child in local nurseries or private nurseries, with many different language options.
“Learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and improved listening skills.”
From September 2020, GES Nursery offers an immersive English and French mother tongue experience.
A mother-tongue English and French teacher will be teaching and engaging the children in each language throughout the day and children have the opportunity to participate in activities in English as well as in French.
“The emphasis is on creating an immersive environment, where children learn both languages in a playful, fluid and natural way before moving on to more formal learning,” says Ms. Houghton.
YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE EDUCATION
It is important to consider your child’s future education and which nursery will best prepare him or her for the next step of the school journey.
At GES – the nursery education for children from 3 years old is based on the well-respected British Early Years Foundation programme, even though there is a stronger emphasis on bilingualism than in UK schools. This means your child will be perfectly prepared to continue in the British education system, although this does not exclude other options in the future.
THE LEARNING PROGRAMME
Don’t be blinded by an extended offer of exotic activities, warns Ms. Houghton. Ask about the foundations of the nursery’s learning programme. Is there a clear structure or focus?
“Our programme promotes a child-led approach and focuses on the personal, social and emotional development of the children”, Ms. Houghton explains, ”the values at the heart of our nursery are in making children aware of sharing, respect for difference and kindness towards others. We encourage problem-solving, exploration and curiosity towards the wider world in an atmosphere of warmth and affection. ”
Whatever your working hours or your week’s schedule, you need your child’s education and childcare to be easy to organise and flexible to avoid putting yourself and your family under unnecessary pressure.
At GES nursery parents can now pick and choose the options that work best for them, whether that be morning or afternoon sessions with or without lunch or five full days or anything in between – with or without afterschool-care. Parents are, however, required to choose at least 1 day or 2 half days per week to ensure continuity for the child.
Children are either provided with nutritious locally-sourced lunches, or they can bring in a packed lunch.
Being outdoors and exploring nature is an essential part of learning and it is important to assess how many opportunities your child will have to spend time outside.
The latest introduction at GES Nursery are regular “Welly Wednesdays”– which is a Forest School-type session during which children will spend the morning in the bordering woodlands – regardless of the weather – exploring and learning together. Ms. Houghton adds “it is really important that the children can start to learn from the wonderful nature around us and take small risks in a safe environment to enrich their learnings”.
Whatever you decide, your child’s first introduction to schooling or nursery, should be a fun, positive experience which makes life enjoyable and easy for you and for them, says Ms. Houghton.
For more information about Nursery School at GES