Are you strictly Montessori?
We are Montessori. We use, and respect, the method and philosophy of Montessori and we have a huge amount of Montessori equipment. “Strictly” is not a word we like; we are open to new ideas and will adapt anything that we feel complements the way we are already teaching
How many children are there in a class?
The children are not split up into classes. They each have a group teacher who will liaise with you, as parents, about your child’s progress. Although children may look to their group teacher for guidance, they are not restricted to her and may ask any teacher for help. The approximate ratio of teachers to children is 1:6 in the morning session and 1:3 or 1:4 in the afternoon session.
Were the children told to go there?
When parents are shown around the school, they often ask whether children are in particular places, or carrying out particular activities, on instructions from a teacher. In the Montessori system, the children are introduced to activities and equipment as and when they express an interest or when teachers consider them to be ready. They are then free to choose any activity and may do it as often, or for as long, as they want. They are encouraged to put the equipment away tidily when they have finished and may then move on to another exercise of their choice. The primary role of the teacher is to act as a guide, introducing the child to the equipment within the environment and encouraging him or her to use it
The children in the school are aged between two and five years.
When do you teach them letters and numbers?
The simple answer is “When they are ready, and not before”. For example, teaching a child how to write if he doesn’t yet know how to hold a pencil is doomed to failure. Most of what goes on in a child’s development at this age is to do with motor skills, concentration, confidence, socialising and becoming aware that learning is great fun. Only when those are firmly in place, and providing the child is beginning to show an interest in numbers and letters, do we introduce him to the relevant equipment. At that stage progress is likely to be rapid. Putting pressure on a child before he is ready (whether at home or at school) usually leads to the loss of any enthusiasm for the subject. Virtually all four-year-olds leaving Iverna Gardens are numerate and any that are not yet literate have learnt the skills necessary to become so. They are all properly prepared for reception.
How does the waiting list work?
We operate the school on a full occupancy basis. Consequently, all children go on to the waiting list. We look at each term as it comes along, see how many places we have free, and then offer those places (about a year in advance) to children on the list in order of registration. Children must be two, or older, to qualify for entry.
You’ve offered me an afternoon place, but my child sleeps then.
The biggest concern voiced by parents when considering which session to choose relates to their child’s sleeping habits. As we offer places up to a year in advance, it is often difficult for parents to conceive of a time when their child will not sleep in the afternoon. Nevertheless, children do change their habits and they do drop their nap. Indeed, we find that two year olds who start with us show no intention of sleeping as the school environment is far too enticing! For those children who do still need to nap, we recommend having an earlier lunch and giving them a nap before they come to school. Some parents let them sleep in the buggy, walk them to school, and give them a snack before the doors open.
Advantages of the afternoon session for younger children include:
- a much higher ratio of teachers to children (1:3 or 1:4, as against the morning of 1:6 or 1:7), particularly in the September term when we restrict the intake. As a result, children get a great deal of attention and settle quickly, becoming well prepared to take advantage of the busier morning session when they get there.
- a session that is half an hour shorter; a quieter session designed for the younger ones.
- Primary schools tell us that children who are used to school in the afternoons cope better with the full day. This is one of the reasons why, once children get into the morning session, we offer the opportunity to stay all day for one or more days a week.
How can we get involved?
Each term the school does one or more projects. These may involve places around the world, cultural festivals, scientific or biological activities and so on. Parents who would like to contribute to these projects with ideas or equipment or artefacts are very welcome to do so. Occasionally, we may ask a few parents to accompany us when the children are taken on an outing. We also have a reading session twice a week when a parent will come to read to the children in their own language (English welcome!).
Why can’t I have my deposit back?
In line with most other private nursery schools, we operate a strict policy of not refunding deposits if the terms of the contract between the school and the parents are broken – for example, if less than a term’s notice is given for the removal of a child or a child commits to join the school but then doesn’t. We need to plan several months in advance in order to run the school efficiently and the deposit helps to persuade parents to make only those commitments that they expect to be able to keep. For a short time in the early 1990s we experimented by returning deposits to parents whose children’s places were subsequently filled from the waiting list. The number of broken commitments rose rapidly, causing us considerable difficulties, and we very quickly had to re-impose our original policy. Forfeited deposits are distributed amongst various orphan charities.