When weighing up the differences between free and paid nursery management software, it’s important to bear in mind that no two platforms are the same.
While some softwares may provide the same benefits, as a nursery practitioner, you must identify the software with the features that suit your nursery best.
Some softwares will have a bigger impact on saving your time and improving parent partnerships, whilst others will focus on helping children to thrive through tracking and observation.
Therefore, it is an important part of your role to determine the benefits and drawbacks of different software platforms, to find the most suitable choice.
This post will act as your complete guide to the different uses of nursery management software, including what to consider before signing up and what each type of software can offer.
What Is Nursery Management Software?
Nursery management software can help you devote more of your time to providing care and support for the children in your nursery.
The software you choose can help take care of tasks such as storing data securely in one place and tracking each child’s development.
In turn, by signing up to a nursery management platform, this allows you to spend more time creating an enabling nursery environment for learning and development as software can manage tasks for you and save you time.
There are both free and paid options available, both of which can provide useful features to help make your life easier as a nursery practitioner.
However, there are a few things to consider before rushing into signing up, so let’s take a look…
What to Consider Before Choosing Your Software
When you’re in the process of deciding which nursery management software is best, it is important to think about your priorities and the essential requirements you need.
Before jumping into weighing up the differences between paid and free software options, there may be a few things that you don’t want to compromise on.
For example, some aspects such as taking control of admin are essential in ensuring that the software is helping to save your time overall, giving you more time with the children.
This list of conditions may include:
- Considering if the parents will be happy with the platform
- Guaranteed platform training
- Ease of use
- Demonstrations and free trials on request
By creating a list such as this one, it allows you to begin nursery management software research with an idea of what you need a platform to provide in order for it to be successful.
Benefits of Using Free Nursery Management Software
Ultimately all nursery management programmes should save you time by streamlining your daily processes.
Aside from this, platforms should include unique features that further help to make the lives of carers easier, for example, being able to conduct group observations instead of doing this individually.
One benefit of free nursery management software is obviously the cost, so this type of platform may work best for your nursery if you only require the basics.
You might also want to test out different types of software, in which case you want to avoid extra spending. This is another benefit of free nursery management software, and below we explore these benefits in more detail.
The main advantage of free nursery management software is of course, that it comes at no cost.
Free software doesn’t add any pressure as you have no cost to begin with, and then no additional costs on top as you can get the basics of the platform completely free.
By avoiding costs for your software, this means you may have extra funds for new nursery equipment or activities depending on the overall scale of your nursery.
By implementing a free platform to help streamline your processes it means you are covering the essentials such as keeping individual child information secure, and creating a line of communication between your staff and parents.
The downside to a no-cost programme is that you will be limited to how much you can use the platform, as although the basics may be free, features such as unlimited storage and home learning pages may not be available.
The Basics Are Free
As we mentioned above, free nursery management software still provides you with the basics such as:
- Secure data storage
- Medical data
- Individual child habits
- Basic communication with parents and carers
This may work for your nursery if you are on a smaller scale, as you may still wish to use paperwork to record milestones, observations, and track children’s learning progress.
For example, for your nursery, software may be an added extra to keep track of data rather than to store photo or video evidence.
Another basic feature that is provided within a free nursery management platform is the support that is offered to help you navigate the platform.
Lines of communication such as live chat, instant messaging, and telephone support lines are usually provided within free software packages too, meaning you are not left to work out the whole platform without guidance.
Payments, Bookings and Registrations
As a nursery practitioner, there are several admin jobs that are your responsibility and using a management programme can be useful to collect important information in one place.
Recording and managing registrations, payments, and bookings is an important task that software can take care of for you, by providing designated areas for information and actions such as:
- Registration forms, portals and dashboards
- Booking links, digital sign-in and on/offline payments
- Payment summaries, direct debits and payment reminders
This can be useful as free software usually provides the basics, so including easier booking and payment methods is an extra bonus feature.
However, for some free software options, you will have access to all of this, whereas for others, it may come at an added cost.
Benefits of Using Paid Nursery Management Software
There are several benefits to using a free nursery management software, however, finding a free platform that meets your exact requirements can be challenging.
Often signing up to a platform that comes at a cost is more beneficial, as this way you don’t have to compromise on the needs of your nursery.
This is the top priority, as the learning and development of children shouldn’t be negatively affected by the software you choose. Instead, your chosen platform should enhance the experience of children in your care and should compliment existing processes.
Paid software can include additional features such as observations, customisable content, and unlimited storage, alongside the basics at a low monthly cost.
Individual and Group Observations
Using a paid nursery management software means you’re able to keep track of the individual details of every child’s learning and development journey.
This means you can go into a lot more detail for each child, as paid platforms can offer the feature of recording and storing individual and group observations.
For example, whether a child has reached a personal milestone such as independently creating an imaginative drawing or participating in group outdoor water play, this can all be recorded on a paid platform.
Therefore, this allows you to display children’s early learning journey’s in full for other members of staff and parents at home to access, all in one secure place.
Equally, this can make it simpler to identify gaps in learning for any child, as every aspect of learning is being monitored carefully.
Learning Journals can facilitate this as we have a dedicated ‘no observation’ column, to help you identify children who may have been overlooked and take action.
Free Trials and Demonstrations
Before signing up for a paid software, you will often be offered a free trial or demonstration of the platform.
This means you can test out the software before making a full commitment with no added cancellation fee.
For example, a Learning Journals demonstration will run you through:
- How the platform works
- How to access support
- All of the features included in the price
This is equally useful if you want to test out more than one platform at a time, as you are getting a full insight to exactly what each one can offer you.
Free trials are also useful for providing a better view of the platform, particularly if you have full use of the software for a period of 30 days.
This is a handy option as it allows you to test out a few platforms and see which one can cater to your needs the best over a short time period.
This means you can avoid signing up to multiple unpaid software options and avoid discovering they can’t provide you what you need.
Additional Useful features
There are softwares available that provide extra useful features for an added cost, however, there are others that will provide these extras under one monthly price.
Some of these additional useful features may include:
- Unlimited storage for information
- Individual and group observations
- Free trials and demonstrations
- Home learning
- Customisable frameworks
- Tracking and historical tracking
- More parental contributions
These features help to create a more personalised platform that takes each and every child’s learning and development progress into account, as activities can be moulded and adapted to individual progress.
Equally, not only is the communication between home and the nursery setting more streamlined, but every individual carer with access knows everything about the platform’s functionality.
Better Communication with Parents
A huge part of nursery management software is the improvement of communication between you and parents at home.
Having a strong line of communication means parents can feel involved in the development of their children without being present, and feel assured you are providing the necessary learning environment and support.
Through a platform such as Learning Journals, this kind of relationship can be facilitated and improved, as you can provide parents with unlimited access to updates on their child’s progress so they can be there even if they are working or at home.
Equally, paying a small fee for your nursery management software means that you can provide more than one avenue for communication, as some platforms will be accompanied with an app or parent messaging system.
These should be flexible and suited to both android and IOS users, meaning parents can communicate with you immediately about the needs of their child.
Free Nursery Management Software vs Paid Software Options
All software options should put your mind at ease by taking control of admin tasks, and storing parent and child data securely.
However, some platforms will offer more than others which can be beneficial when it comes to tracking the progress of children and facilitating better relationships between parents and nursery staff.
This post has contrasted the benefits of free and paid nursery management software, providing insight into how you can better understand which type of platform will best suit your nursery environment.
Using the Learning Journals platform can offer extra useful features such as custom frameworks and unlimited storage, meaning you get more than just the basics. We prioritise our users being able to create meaningful and personal observations with ease that parents can engage with anytime, anywhere.
If you feel our platform could be useful for your nursery setting, get in touch or request a free trial.