Nursery or Nanny: A Guide to Choosing your Childcare Option
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
After my return to work full-time from maternity leave, the inevitable question dawned upon us: What childcare option should we choose for Alexander?! A difficult question that requires a careful choice, especially if you don't have immediate family/parents to help take care of baby. At first thought, for most parents it's scary to think that you might have to leave your little precious angel with a stranger. I know for us, it was, for sure!
That being said, childcare options in the UK are well monitored and have specific standards that need to be adhered to. Most nannies are highly trained so a well qualified and experienced nanny who may even speak other languages that you are seeking your child to learn, is fairly accessible. Similarly with nurseries, many have a high standard curriculum, good OFFSTED rating and adhere to general standards that are monitored by external agencies, so that your child is safe and secure.
We eventually chose the option of splitting his time between nanny and nursery, so I would like to share in this blog our guide to navigating your childcare decision. There are pros and cons to both options, as with any decision you make. But since it is such a HUGE decision, budget, lifestyle considerations and parental & child needs must be taken into account and analysed thoroughly before coming to a conclusive choice. Remember that you might not need to choose a clear option, like us. Choosing to go part-time with both a nanny and/or a nursery, could also get your child the best of both worlds.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1) WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?
1) Nursery: Nursery is a slightly cheaper option with fees in Central London ranging from £1500 for a community nursery (partially state funded) to £3000 (private high end nursery) for 5 days a week, full time care. Nursery times are usually 8 am - 6 pm, but you will find nurseries offering places part-time, either during the day or afternoon, or full-time, depending on a parents needs. Most nurseries have a garden and specific teaching styles - consider what these are when making your choice. Research the waitlist as it is important to know when to apply and what your chances of being offered a place are. Many nurseries in Kensington & Chelsea for example, might require the application to be submitted during pregnancy or straight after baby's birth, if you have any chance of being selected due to the demand.
2) Nanny: Nannies vary in cost ranging from £11 - £16 an hour, net pay. As nannies are employed by the parents, all PAYE tax, National Insurance and Pension contributions, will be your responsibility to pay. In essence, your nanny costs may vary from £1500 to £3500, as a gross monthly salary to a live-out full time nanny. It's a big amount and big responsibility which is why full-time nannies are not usually the most popular choice. Nanny Tax is a useful website that helps you calculate the full gross monthly salary due to the nanny after you negotiate a net hourly rate. An additional cost to consider are the agency fees which range from 4 times the weekly net salary of the nanny to 20% of the nanny's annual net salary (£2000 - £6000), as a one off introduction fee if you make and conclude a firm contract of employment. Bear in mind that you can also source a nanny privately via recommendation, social groups or childcare blogs, which might lower or exclude the agency fee. To help lower the cost, you may also be able to offer your nanny accommodation as live-in nannies tend to cost less.
2) WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITISED NEEDS FOR YOUR CHILD?
1) Are you a routine driven parent or more relaxed? Its important to know what type of style your child responds to most. If you are a very routine driven parent, a structured format might suit your child more, which might be a nursery or structured routine with a nanny. However, if you are more relaxed and your child prefers this interaction, consider how the nursery day is structured, whether there is flexibility to adapt the approach to the child so that there's more down time, if needed. With a nanny, you are able to dictate your child's schedule and make it more bespoke.
2) Does your child require any extra educational needs? Perhaps your child is a music maestro or a mathematician?! Consider this when looking at a nursery or nanny. Are they able to strengthen or develop your child's skills? Or perhaps you want to expose your child to a certain language? These are important questions to ask. Some nurseries offer language classes that you might need, and there are many private classes that a nanny could also take your child to. A good place to start is looking at the nursery curriculum or nannies experience in child development, to see if they will suit your child's needs.
3) What is your child's personality like? If your child likes social interaction, a nursery might be the preferred option as there are many group activities and lots of people for your child to socialise with. However, if your child prefers a one to one interaction and/or requires more downtime, a nanny maybe more suitable. Remember that nurseries in the UK have a 1:3 ratio, meaning one key person dedicated to three children, for children under two years of age.
4) Does your home have the facilities your child needs or do you have them easily accessible from home? If you live in Central London, you might live in a flat with no garden or access to a garden close by. This might be something a nursery has. A nursery might also have more toys, activities and classes than a nanny has access to, depending on where you live.
Adversely, you might have the above and not need it in a nursery. Remember that if you have the budget, many parts of London have extracurricular activities such as sensory play, music concerts, language classes and art classes available from private institutions, for an extra charge (£8 - £25 per class). Play groups and social groups might be a small charge (~£5) or are sometimes free. I use the Hoop App or Website for much of our planning for our little one and always find tons of things to do. I am able to book in advance to plan a structure, or on the day if I want to be spontaneous. This still could still be a resource you can tap into if you have a nanny, to ensure that your child still has the exposure to social groups, play groups and extra activities.
5) How do you feel about your child being in a group setting? It can have a positive effect but remember other group individuals can also impact your child's behaviour both positively and negatively, so have a think about how you feel about this.
6) Do you require an offsted registered facility? You can check the OFFSTED registration of a nursery online and some nannies are OFFSTED or Level 3 Childcare trained (the latter is the minimum qualification most nursery key people have) or you can state this to be an option in due course. Consider the age and development needs of your child to decide whether you require this.
3) WHAT ARE YOUR PARENTAL NEEDS?
1) What are your working hours? Most nurseries are open from 7.30 am - 6.30 pm. Please factor that nursery drop offs entail leaving home earlier than usual, being at the nursery on time, dropping your child off then venturing to work. Add this extra time to your commute and consider that you might need to rise earlier. Same with child pick ups. A nanny is more flexible in this case as you remove the requirement to travel to and from a nursery, and a nanny can adapt to the hours you need.
2) Do you have parental leave with your contract of employment? Many nurseries have a general rule to call the parent when a child is ill, or has a fever. This means that you will have to leave work to pick your child up in this case if a fever or illness persists. A nanny will not require this unless the child requires parental attention during illness. But bear in mind, if a nanny is ill, you might need a back up childcare plan.
3) Are you comfortable for your child not having dedicated care? This is an important question to ask as at a nursery your child will share attention with 2 other children, per key person, if your child is under 2. Are you comfortable with this? I have to admit, I wasn't when Alexander was younger but as he gets more independent and mobile, it makes things less complicated. Go with your gut and your child's personality with this!
4) Are safety and security a concern? A nanny will be able to provide security for your child in the comfort of your home in a space that they know well. Bear in mind, that full background checks are the parents responsibility, do not rely on an agency for this. The usual check is a DBS check, in the UK, which is a police clearance. Check for paediatric training; first aid training; OFFSTED and/or Level 3 Childcare qualifications (if required; and background checks with prior referees. A nursery will usually have accredited staff at varying levels but please double check the accreditation of the key person looking after your child. Hygiene and sanitation should be up to ahigh standard in a nursery.
4) VISIT YOUR OPTIONS TO TEST THE WATERS
Once you are sure, or if you are still unsure, visit a few nurseries and interview some nannies to get an idea of what would suit you and your child best. Some important questions to ask are below. Remember, some nurseries require an application or site visit very well in advance so check the waitlists.
For a Nursery:
- What is your Offsted Rating?
- How many children would my child's key person have?
- What activities do you provide?
- How do you support learning and development?
- What meals are provided?
- How do you track a child's development?
- How do you keep a parent informed of a child's progress?
- How do you ensure safety of children in this facility?
For a Nanny:
- Do you have Paediatric, First Aid and Childcare Training? Please may I see these certificates
- How would you plan a typical day?
- What developmental activities do you introduce to children?
- Can you potty train, wean, etc?
- How do you help a child reach different milestones?
- What is your view on discipline?
- How would you like to take your holidays?
- What is your motivation for being a nanny?
- Are you prepared to engage in nursery duties, nursery drop off/pick up, or other?
- How would you handle a emergency (give example)?
- What sort of activities do you enjoy with children?
5) MAKING AND/OR ACCEPTING AN OFFER
It is highly advisable to make an offer pending certain requirements if you interview a nanny: Extensive reference checks and trial day(s) or week(s) of babysitting, to ensure that there is the right chemistry between your child and your nanny. Remember much of it comes down to whether the nanny and you have similar styles and good communication.
If you are offered a place by your nursery of choice, I advise that you do a trial. Many nurseries offer trial day(s) or an hour for free, some at a small cost, but I recommend it as its not a decision to be taken lightly. Remember, on a tour, you only have a small snapshot of the day your child might be exposed to. This is your chance to see how your child fits in, whether they take to their key person, enjoy the environment and activities. On the same note, don't always expect instant adaptation as not all children warm to someone they meet immediately.
I hope this helps your decision making process. Do reach out if you need any advice.
Shanti | The Kensington Diary