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New Parents and the schooling issue

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Hi All,

As impending new parents who are new to the whole schooling system, I was wondering if anyone could shed some light onto the process of registation, day nurseries and nurseries and reception schools in and around Dulwich/East Dulwich that are good and would recommend.

I am Australian and used to the Southern Hemisphere system. My partner is British and went to DVI so would like to keep around the area, hopefully getting baby into DVI when age appropriate which I believe is age 4.

Does day nursery come first, followed by nursery then Reception and then what? I am a bit confused.

Any day nursery recommendations welcome as I will need to go back to work. Baby is due in September this year.

Many thanks and sorry for the ramble. Hope this makes sense.


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Congratulations on the impending new arrival!

I also found it all a bit confusing at first, as I'm from NZ and it seems simpler there.

So, when you return to work you have these options:

- nursery, generally they cater from small baby to pre-school age, but you need to put your name on waiting lists

- childminder, one person looks after your child and a few others, at their house

- nanny, home based care

Once your baby is 3 they have the option to move into a pre-school (either private or one attached to a primary school - to confuse things the school ones are called nurseries), or stay put in their current arrangement. You get 15 hours a week for free at this stage. You register with the nurseries directly, in advance.

Then they start primary school the September after they turn 4. State school applications are well publicised, you apply online listing your schools in order of preference, and this is done at the start of the year in which your child is due to begin primary school. Private schools are different, I don't have experience of them.

Once you're in a primary school that's pretty much it, unless, in the case of DVI, you need to apply to a different school for year 3+. To get into a particular school you need to make sure you live right on the doorstep, but there are no guarantees.

Hope that makes sense.

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I agree that it is all quite confusing to a non-native, and maybe to native as well!

One thing I would say about schools is that it's a good idea to visit the schools personally, and not to set you heart on one specific school until you know that it will suit your family and your child. Also, schools change and sometimes rapidly, so I'm not sure you can decide this early on what school to aim for.

If you're not from the UK, especially, you may find that you don't feel the same way as Ofsted and other local parents about what makes for a good school. In particular, having grown up somewhere that religious instruction was not allowed in schools, I found the Church of England school DVI very odd to the extent that I could not imagine my children going there. The religuous atmosphere just felt, to me, to be "wrong" for a school. I am saying that as an example of why personal visits to a school are really important.

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The main differences are in how places get allocated. For day nurseries, independent pre-schools and 3+ entry to private schools, what matters is putting your child's name down on a waiting list as soon as possible. For reception entry to state schools, what matters is how close you live to the school. (Except DVI which allocates 45 places on distance criteria and 45 places to regular church-goers.)

For nurseries attached to state schools places are allocated first to siblings and then based on distance, and as there are generally fewer nursery places than school places you usually have to live incredibly close to the school to get in.

For private school entry at reception, what matters is whether or not the school likes your child, based on an informal assessment session held during the year before entry when the children are 3 or 4. Most local private schools are oversubscribed, especially for entry at 4+, so they pick and choose between all kids on their waiting list.

So it's worth visiting day nurseries now and putting your name down at any that you like. If you decide to go for a nanny or childminder instead you can wait until nearer the time you will need them. Nellys nursery has a good reputation and notoriously long waiting lists so might be worth checking out first.

For schools, unless you are just about to move house anyway, I wouldnt worry about it yet. I don't know anyone locally who is unhappy with their child's school.

Edited for clarity(!)

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