Fish Hoek Pre-Primary Schools- The Final Option

Our search for a pre-school for our daughter continued on Saturday morning with a trip to Milkwood Pre-Primary School. This is the last school that we are going to look at so after this it is decision time.

Milkwood comes highly recommended by the woman who looks after Maggie during the day, a lot of the kids that she has cared for have gone there and it is seen as a great place to prepare children for proper school. In fact they have very close ties with Fish Hoek Primary School, with any local child attending Milkwood practically guaranteed a place.

We had phoned Milkwood PPS to arrange to go see however, for some reason D was fobbed off (rudely in her opinion) although she didn’t know who she was speaking to. So when we heard that the school was holding an open morning we were keen to see what it was all about. This time, in addition to Maggie we were armed with a granny (visiting from England) for an impartial opinion.

First impressions were ‘chaos’. In addition to it being an open day it was also a full on fete. There were cake stalls and magicians, face painters and goods for sale, very overwhelming, since all we wanted to see was what the school was like. All this activity had the unfortunate side effect of turning the main part of the school into a hall rather than classrooms, so we were not seeing the place ready for action.

With so many people milling about it was impossible to tell who was a parent and who worked at the school. Eventually we managed to find a member of staff, and after some tooing and froing ended up with the principal who did a brief show and tell.

Compared to the other schools we have seen Milkwood seems to be the slickest operator. They have some glossy material about the school and it seems to be cleaner and newer inside. Due to the fete we did not see the school in operation but we were given an open invitation to go back during school time.

The school is a half day with aftercare available at an extra cost, which is standard, but at least the aftercare is at the same site, which wasn’t the case with Fledglings. No meals are included and fees are calculated on a term basis, so you pay for the time that your child is off school. This made Milkwood the most expensive of the places we have seen.

Milkwood ticks a lot of boxes; its close enough to walk to, is an excellent preparation for junior school and feels like the right kind of pre-school environment. On the negative side is that it is a large school (thought not as large as Fish Hoek Pre-Primary) and it is expensive compared to the other two we looked at (at least 50% more than Fledglings.) Add onto this the cost for after care and things are starting to get a little out of hand. There was another less tangible feeling that all three of us left with- you are left with the impression that there will be no end to the parent involvement in the school, mainly financial. The open day was a classic example- all the stalls were manned by and supplied with items from parents. All very admirable, but it gets to a point where it goes beyond doing your bit and gets annoying, intrusive and insulting. When fees are high to begin with you start to question whether this is a business or not. I run my own business but I wouldn’t go to all my clients and get them to do a cake bake because I need a new tool so that ‘I can provide them with a better service'; I think that they would all laugh at me and check the calendar to see if it is April 1st or not.

Having now visited the three schools in the area we are now faced with making a decision about where Maggie will be going next. I really liked Fish Hoek Pre-Primary, mainly because it is very similar to the nursery school that I went to, however, it is too far to walk on a regular basis, especially in bad whether, and therefore the temptation will be to always use the car. With petrol prices on the increase and concerns over the environment, coupled with the death trap the roads become during school pick up time we wanted a school within realistic walking distance of our house.

Milkwood is a favored pr-school for preparation for Fish Hoek Junior school: it is within walking distance and seems like a well run school, the only draw back is that is it massively more expensive than the other two, which makes you really scrutinize the operation in a very critical way.

So it looks like the compromise is Fledglings. It is the closest, smallest and lowest cost (although meals are not included, and there is no aftercare on site so a plan will need to be made there, however, you only pay for the time the child is at the school- the only education facility that I have seen do this, no paying for Christmas etc.) The school is highly recommended by a number of people we know and because it is small the attention that each child gets is increased, aiding their development. The plan is that the money we save in fees can be used to pay for additional activities, such as swimming lessons, or karate, ballet etc.

These have been my views on the three schools and a description of the process we went through. I would very much like this to be a forum for comment on all schools in the area, good and bad so that anyone reading this afterwards can get a good, impartial idea of what our education establishments are really like. Please add a comment at the bottom.

11 thoughts on “Fish Hoek Pre-Primary Schools- The Final Option

  1. Vanessa says:

    I read your article completely by accident and feel I need to comment. My son is very happy at Milkwood and we are extremely happy with the school. He is well looked after and taught by caring and professional teachers. He learns something new everyday.
    My biggest surprise was your comment on parent participation.We are not overwhelmed with fundraising at all. Quite the opposite. The open day is the only such event all year.
    The fees are fair and include playball which other schools charge extra for.
    If you make use of the after care the children are provided with a sandwich.
    The school grounds are well maintained and safe.
    I too looked at various schools in the area,. I would say it comes down to which is the best fit for your family. For us that school is Milkwood!

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Its always good to get feed back- it gives things a balanced opinion. Our search for a school for our daughter was a tough one, and I have to say that part of my cynisism comes from a bad experience with her first creche, which was all roses and chocolates when we looked around (and we got a lot of positive feed back from other parents) but we ended up changing due to several negative experiences. This has made us a little wary. I have to also say that we have been to several birthday parties at Milkwood and found the place to be very popular with the kids. We also know a few of the teachers indirectly. What it all comes down to is a that at some point you have to make a gut decision and then live with that decision there after. I think that I was also tainted by the fact that two of the other schools we looked at were very similar to the nursery & infant schools that I attended.
      I am glad that your son is happy at Milkwood- it is supposed to be the best feeder school in Fish Hoek for the Junior school. We made our decision and hope that it is the right one for our daughter. Unfortunately someone forgot to put the instruction manual in the box when we got her so we are making it up as we go along!

  2. Tammy says:

    Hi There do you have a number for Fledglings?

    Many thanks

    Tammy

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Hi Tammy

      yes, its 021 7852873 and you need to speak to Hilda Boyd.

      My daughter has been at Fledglings now for six months and still looks forward to going to school everyday there.

  3. teacher says:

    If you were from this country then that would have been a great sign that this would be the right start, parent involvement is not a forced requirement but something that is part and parcel of a well run school, sounds like you will always look for the negatives so perhaps go back to England and join the local school for free.

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      I will ignore the unfriendly attitude that I should leave these shores (for holding a view on what school I think is best to send my daughter to) and explain my stand point on parental participation in schools in South Africa. Perhaps my education would have been better if I were raised in South Africa, and then my article would be less ambiguous.
      My impression of this school was based on a visit and the fact that a choice had to be made: you may know better, and good for you.
      Participation is an integeral part of ensuring that a child gets a good level of education, endlessly providing items for a school to sell at fetes is a hidden cost of sending your child to that school.
      I am in no position to say the exact extent of such things at any school other than the one my daughter attends. My views and opinions are clearly stated as being based on a single visit and a personal impression.
      As for that I am always looking for the negatives, please re-read the article because I also said a lot of good things about this school. As for your assertion that parental involvement is not forced- that may be so, but it is also very difficult to say no!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Hi there!
    I’m looking for a play school/group for our little boy in fish hoek (or noordhoek)
    He’s 1 year 5 months and we live in fish hoek.
    Would appreciate any feedback.
    Thanks!
    Suzanne

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Hi Suzanne, I think the pre-schools in my articles are all from around 3 years old, so your son is still way too young for them. My daughter went to Green Beans on Kommetjie Road, (but I think it has just closed down0 it wasn’t a great experience and we ended up taking her out and putting her with a day mother. Our experience was that being in a smaller group was very good for our daughter. She seemed to be constantly ill at creche and dropping her off every morning was a bit of a battle.
      There are a lot of different little day care and creches in the valley, many of which do not advertise, so if any one works at or runs such a facility add a comment here and maybe pick up some business.

      1. Anishka says:

        HI Russell, i must say i find your article very interesting and enjoy the fact that you point out both the positive and the negative of all the schools. I would like to put my son in a pre-school in 2014 as its important for him in so many ways. My son now 3yrs old was also in Green Beans up until June 2012 when i decided to take him out due to numerous problems with them. i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to share an excellent Au Pair with another couple and now the two boys learn so much and have so much fun together. I am so glad i made the choice for more one on one attention but next year i feel will be the right time for him to be part of a school system which is why i am so glad i came across your article.

        Thank you & Regards
        Anishka

  5. Sasha Hitchner says:

    Russell, Great that someone took the time to open this door. I have a grandson who has just turned one year and I was wondering what was available in the little-lee venues.

    I had to put my kids in crèches when they were little and illness was a big thing. A lot, a lot.

    I know our lad has a way to go before we can think of where to send him, and a lot can change in that time, but it was good to read your piece. Thank you.

    I think you did a good job. I think you look with the same eyes as I do and I am not from anywhere, but here.

    Thanks again.

    Sasha Hitchner

  6. Jo-Ann says:

    Hi Russle, I have found your articles very helpful! My son is 2 and a half and I have been looking for a play school for him, also tough decisions, I think I have decided finally to send him to baba Pauliie which is the play school at Paul grayling… I didn’t even know about it till a few weeks ago. We went to visit it on a normal school day, and immediately my son ran off to go play! That was a good sign for me! They were so friendly and informative, and what I really liked was that outside where all the kids were playing, there must have been about 5 woman out there watching them and playing with them! They have a 5 to 1 ratio. Everything was very neat and clean and the kids just got to play and socialize with children their own age, which is exactly what I’m looking for right now. There prices are good and it includes lunch and a snack with juice, my son would only be there from 8 till 12 but they also offer a 7 to 5 option for working parents. It is safe and friendly, and I’m quite excited to start him there soon x x x

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