Getting your child off to the right start in life is crucial if they are to flourish for their entire educational journey

The British education system can be a minefield for the unwary, and the scare stories of putting your child’s name down for a pre-school, pre-prep and prep school place as soon as they are born only reinforce these concerns.

Nonetheless, working the system is key if you are to provide your child with good early years education. It is true that some schools require you to register your child the day they are born, or soon after, so you need to be aware of key timelines to ensure you do not miss out.

Missing these registration deadlines fuels the need to check out multiple schools and to hedge your bets by registering at several. It can be a very tense waiting game until you receive that golden ticket to the school you want for your child.

What is at stake is ensuring that these tentative first steps in your child’s education are the right ones. Early years education is crucial to the development of life skills and is the foundation of every child’s future success at school and their life in general.

Crucial timing

Choosing the RIGHT Early Years School2Under the surface, five crucial areas of brain development occur during the first five years of life and these need to be nurtured if your child is to flourish: a child’s cognitive development, social and emotional development, speech and language development, fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Undeniably, getting your child in the right school will enhance your child’s early learning experiences.

“I cannot stress how important it is that a child’s early learning experiences are wholeheartedly positive and the perfect start to their educational journey,” says Dr Pamela Edmonds, Head of The Hampshire School Chelsea. “The child will then have the literacy, numeracy and social skills as well as an understanding of the world around them, to thrive.”

Remember that early years education helps children develop their love of learning and heightens their curiosity, something that stays with a child throughout their entire educational career.

How do you choose?

How do you ensure that your child is in the right place for them to thrive? There is no substitute for research, socially-distanced school visits (when allowed) or virtual arrangements and playdates (again, if permitted) to find the right fit for your child.

Pre-school can start as early as two years of age and yet skilled teachers and pre-school managers are able to gain a snapshot of a child’s strengths in just 30 minutes of free play on a playdate.

“I can tell if a child is sociable, will play well with their peers and what triggers their curiosity in those few short minutes,” says Samantha Danison, Head of Pre-School at The Hampshire School Chelsea.
“It’s from these early observations that we adapt our learning once we know which activity or activities inspires each child.”

The importance of a visit

Arrange for your child to go into the school, if viable. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many challenges and virtual meetings with parent and child are an alternative. Either way, ask lots of questions of the teachers, about their teaching style, pedagogy, their qualifications, the classroom environment, outdoor learning space, staff to pupil ratio, the curriculum, personalised learning for individual pupil progress, the breath of extra-curricular activities, the assessment schedule and how the results are shared, the catering provision, class sizes, their settling-in transition sessions, how teachers deal with separation anxiety, and follow your instincts.

For example, observe the interaction between the children and teachers, and the children with their peers. Ultimately, you want a pre-school which encourages your child to develop their own character and personality by being introduced to the excitement of learning in a warm and nurturing family environment.

Parents need to walk away with a good idea of how their child will be engaged on a day-to-day basis and that the school will trigger their thirst to learn. If the teachers are not forthcoming or restrict where you can look (Covid-19 risk assessments notwithstanding), then perhaps this isn’t the right school for you. It has got to feel right, and that goes for how they communicate with you and whether the school’s ethos and values resonate with you.

A cautionary note here. Do not accept a place at a school just because your friend’s child is there. What suits that child may not suit yours. “Care should be taken that the pre-school is the right fit,” stresses Dr Edmonds. When it is spot on it is an easy decision by both the parents and the school. Securing a nursery place at The Hampshire School Chelsea negates further assessments for a place in Reception through to the transition to senior school at 11+or 13+.

What’s to come

Early years education can develop a child’s strengths, interests, skills and abilities. They will learn through free play as long as the pre-school provides the right opportunities for exploration, discovery and fuels their imagination. Teachers will strive to find the one activity that inspires each child.

Early years education will be an exciting time of making friends and enjoying a range of activities. It is a time when a child learns to interact positively with fellow classmates and teachers and to develop relationships.

At The Hampshire School Chelsea children develop outstanding social, linguistic, aesthetic and academic skills through the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, through purposeful play, and specialist lessons in music, drama, art, ICT and physical education. They are assessed through observation of their speaking, listening, reading, writing, creativity and numeracy development and meaningful dialogue with the child in relation to their understanding of their learning and the world around them.

A growth mindset approach encourages pupils to build confidence to succeed. Mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than stumbling blocks and critical thinking is part of the curriculum. Through the timetabled Pupil Voice Time and participation in Development Groups, the children debate and influence school decisions and develop the skills needed to become active citizens.

The School’s Core Values – respect, responsibility, resilience, community and excellence – permeate across every aspect of school life at this Chelsea-based prep school.

choosing early years school

Facilities second-to-none

Early learners can fire their imagination in a bright, new expansive facility inside and outside of the stunning Grade II listed former Chelsea Library. The outside learning space in particular is the envy of many London prep schools, with its stand-out climbing frame, mature fig tree which affords shade in the summer months and plenty of space to run wild.

Still fresh from its pre-school renovation this summer, the ribbon was cut in September during the community opening by TRH Prince and Princess Michael of Kent whose grandchildren attend this traditional prep-school just off the Kings Road.

The Hampshire School Chelsea is Finalist in the 2020 ISA Awards for Junior Prep School of the Year, the only London  prep school to be nominated.

The school is holding an Open Day on Thursday November 19th from 5pm. Come and see why your child would flourish at our Pre-School, Pre-Prep and Prep School. Register your interest and learn more details at