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.