Prince George to start nursery in Norfolk in the new year
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son Prince George will begin his school life next month when he starts attending a Norfolk nursery.
The two-year-old will be enrolled for a few days a week at the Westacre Montessori School nursery near William and Kate's Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.
The nursery said in a statement: "We are looking forward to welcoming George to our nursery where he will get the same special experience as all our children.''
With the announcement came the release of a touching family photo of William and Kate and their two children George and Princess Charlotte in Kensington Palace's garden.
In the image they are crouching down and Kate balances her daughter on her knee while her son stands next to her - and all four smile for the photographer.
The royal couple are understood to be hugely appreciative of all the warm messages they have received about their family this year and are very much looking forward to their first Christmas as a family of four.
George will only attend the nursery while the couple are staying at their Norfolk home and will not be enrolled in classes when they are in residence at Kensington Palace in London.
Montessori is an approach to educating children developed by the Italian educator Maria Montessori.
It is founded on the belief that within each person is untapped potential that needs a fertile environment and it aims to develop the whole child naturally, with the period from birth to age six seen as when children have the greatest capacity to learn.
George, who will be begin attending nursery before the end of January, is following in the footsteps of Princess Eugenie who attended the Winkfield Montessori School, in Berkshire, when aged two in 1992.
The picture of the Cambridges and their children was taken in late October by photographer Chris Jelf who said: "I thoroughly enjoyed photographing a very lovely family, although you have to be sharp as you don't have long when there are two young children involved.
"I hope everyone enjoys this photo and I am honoured that the Duke and Duchess have decided to share it with the public.''
The photograph of the Duke and Duchess and their children will be used on their official Christmas card.
The card will be sent to organisations and individuals the royal couple are associated with.
In the image a red toy train can be seen at the feet of the foursome in the grass, likely to be one of George's favourites.
Produced by the family-run firm Orange Tree Toys it is a described on the company's website as a steam train pull along from its vintage collection costing £14.99.
A spokeswoman for the company, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire said: "We're delighted that George has one of our trains in his toy chest and we're really pleased they have gone for something really traditional."
George may be joined by either Kate or William at the nursery before his first full day, so he and his parents can get to know the environment and staff, a nursery expert has said.
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: "Going to nursery will be a great move for Prince George.
"He'll be just over two and a half when he starts and at that age it's all about free play - sand and water, dressing up, painting and making things, just getting stuck in and getting messy.
"He's had nannies so he's used to being with other people but being at nursery will be very different for him because he'll be socialising with all the other children, making friends and learning to share and developing his communication skills.
"Most nurseries invite new starters to play with a parent, and then on their own, a few times, before their first day at nursery. That allows the child, their parents and the nursery staff to get to know each other."
George's nursery has been rated as "Good" after an Ofsted inspection in June, the same grade it received following the last inspection in 2008.
The report stated: "Children are interested and motivated to participate in activities. Staff have a secure knowledge of how children learn and develop. Children make good progress given their starting points and capabilities."
But it said the nursery was not yet rated as outstanding because: "Staff do not always seize opportunities to promote children's learning and deeper thinking skills to the highest level.
"Strategies to build on and develop the good teaching practice further are not yet fully established."