Opened in 2017, Amity Early Learning Centre in the Emirates Hills area of Dubai is one of a limited number of ELC's permitted to educate children aged 3-5 years in addition to babies and nursery-age children. It is one of a few Early Learning Centres currently authorised both FS1 and FS2 in a pre-school environment.
The story so far..
Established by Amity Education, a not-for-profit Indian based group that educates some 150,000 students globally, from babies to PhD students, Amity Early Learning Centre opened in the Emirates Hills/Jumeirah Islands area in 2017. The ELC is one of five operations in the UAE - the others include Amity University at Dubai Academic City, UK curriculum Amity International School in Abu Dhabi and CBSE curriculum Amity School Dubai, based in Al Ghusais and Amity Private School in Sharjah.
Find out what parents think of Amity Early Learning Centre here!
Early Learning Centres have had a somewhat chequered history in Dubai, with a number having opened between 2014 and 2018, before the initiative was put on hold by the KHDA whilst clarification of a UAE-wide approach was sought. For those that did open, ELCs aim to bridge the gap between nurseries and Early Years education, where in the UAE at least, the official age to start school is during the academic year in which a child turns six years of age.
Whilst it is the norm in the UK, for instance, for children to begin their formal school education at the age 3, in many European and Southern hemisphere countries (notably Australia), school often does not begin until age 6 or even 7 years. An Early Learning Centre provides a smaller environment, whilst offering the same Early Years curriculum offered in school.
With the KHDA now having taken over responsibility for Early Years Education (including nurseries and Early Learning Centres), there has been a move towards the establishment of more Early Centres which we would expect to see continue. This is reflected in the most recent move towards the provision of both FS1 and FS2 (pre-KG and KG1 equivalent) in an Early Learning setting.
Amity ELC says that it offers a "friendly, caring community where children learn by having fun". It aims to ensure that children are able to be happy and have fun, whilst learning through play, allowing each child’s imagination to run wild.
The designation of Early Learning Centre should not, however, be confused with a Nursery environment, although Amity ELC caters largely to the same audience. This is a large centre with 23 classes divided into six different age groups. These include babies under 1 year, those aged 1-1.5 years, 1.5-2 years, 2-3 years, 3-4 years and 4-5 years.
The capacity of the centre is 250 children who come from 38 different nationalities. Over 50 staff are all qualified Nursery or Teaching professionals, qualified to Cache Level 3 or with teaching qualifications. Half have pediatric first aid training. The teacher:student ratio is 1:3 in the Baby section, 1:7 in the Toddler & Pre-School and 1:10 in FS1 and FS2. Whilst average class sizes are 17 in the Early Years section, the maximum is 20 (with two teachers). This is not dissimilar to the norm in the Foundation Stage of a school, though set within a different environment.
The staff believe that integral to the child's development, he or she must feel safe and secure, by being supported and feeling valued as an individual and that each child should stay healthy, through developing an understanding of healthy eating and the importance of exercise.
What about the curriculum?
Amity ELC follows the British Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, incorporating best practices from Reggio Emilia and the Montessori system, with the aim of developing an all round love of learning from an early age. The Centre encourages interaction with the natural environment and, respecting the multicultural society of Dubai, has designed a “Peace Programme” which encourages collaboration and understanding through play.
Children as young as 45 days (six weeks) to FS2 (aged 4-5 years) are accepted at the Centre. Children are organised across 5 separate sections within the Centre, with babies from 40 days to "Confident Walker" joining the Babies Room where the Sure Start Birth to Three programme is followed. Once the child is confidently walking, he or she will move to the Toddlers' Room where the focus is on the development of fine and gross motor skills through programmes of art, circle time, story time and outdoor play. Two to three years olds join the pre-school programme, where the child will learn to develop their social skills and vocabulary, and build his or her independence through play-based learning.
Three to four year olds join FS1, moving on to FS2 between the age of four and five following the EYFS curriculum. The aim of the EYFS programme is to help every child to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes: Staying Safe, Being Healthy, Enjoying and Achieving, Making a Positive Contribution and Achieving Economic Well-Being. Topics and learning focus are based upon the children’s interests through Child Initiated Learning.
In addition to the play-based learning programme, children in Toddlers & Pre-School have one lesson of Arabic, whilst children in FS1 and FS2 have two lessons per week. One lesson of French will be additionally offered from 2021-22 to children in Pre-school, FS1 and FS2.
The seven key areas of learning of EYFS are Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Literacy, Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy, Knowledge and Understanding of the World, Physical Development and Expressive Arts and Design. Children following the programme at Amity ELC will be able to join Primary school at Year 1 (KG2) if this is their parents' preference.
The ELC also offers extra-curricular activities including Yoga, Tennis, Soccer, Gymnastics and Ballet.
Amity ELC employs a SEN coordinator qualified to Cache Level 3, and a substantial number of staff have SEN training. The facility is purpose built with disabled access.
What about facilities?
Located in a purpose-built facility at the edge of Jumeirah Islands, and surrounded by greenery and waterways, the playrooms and classrooms are provided with plentiful natural light and each looks towards an outdoor space. With a number of themed gardens, and grassy banks for play and picnics, a Sand Play Area and Outdoor Play areas, children enjoy plenty of fresh air. A shaded outdoor water 'Splash Pad' play area with colourful equipment is also an exciting play space.
A Performance Hall encourages creativity and builds each child’s confidence as they take part in small plays and assemblies for parents. A library encourages a love of stories and reading from an early age whilst the indoor gym helps with to develop motor skills and provides an active indoor space during warmer weather.
Other facilities include a Music Pod, Mark Making Areas, Sleep Rooms (for Baby level children), a Parent Lounge and Clinic.
Whilst WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a relatively limited number of responses from parents to our Survey, those who have shared their experience have been largely positive.
All the parents who responded feel that their child has a sense of belonging and enjoys Amity ELC either quite a bit or tremendously. All are satisfied with the academic performance of the centre, as they are with the level of feedback and discipline. Not only would all recommend Amity ELC to other parents, but even the usually niggling issue of fees does not appear to be a concern, with all agreeing that they represent value for money.
If you are a parent or teacher at Amity ELC, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey.
We asked the team at Amity Early Learning Centre to tell WhichSchoolAdvisor.com what made their centre so special...they told us:
- At Amity ELC our children are encouraged and supported to become empowered, be creative and step into the belief that ‘anything is possible’.
- We are passionate about creating the next generation of change makers and provide a stimulating, imaginative, nurturing setting which establishes ‘out of the box’ thinking and at the same time develops the emotional well-being of the child.
- Our teaching and learning practices are based on the Early Years Foundation stage (EYFS) British Curriculum, however we take inspiration from best practices around the world such as ‘Reggio Emilia’ and the Scandinavian countries.
- Our staff are experienced and talented Early Years practitioners, who are skilled at ensuring young children make outstanding progress in all areas of learning.
- To complement our inspiring educational philosophy, we offer facilities that are unique and of outstanding quality. From our splash pad, to our creative music studio to our spacious sports hall, our environment develops every child as a whole and gives them an opportunity to develop and follow their passions.
For families who want or need a premium, purpose-built and highly professional Early Learning environment from the youngest age to those seeking a later school start, there is no question that Amity Early Learning Centre is a good option. Staff are highly qualified and this really is very similar to a school environment on a much smaller and less formal scale.
Parents considering the option of Amity Early Learning Centre should not expect this to be an extension of Nursery from a fees perspective.
This is certainly not a cheap option, with fees being in line with or above Foundation/KG fees in many schools. Fees are standardized across the ELC at AED 45,480 for 45 hours per week tuition, based on 3 terms, in FS1 and FS2.
A wide range of timing options are available including from 8am to 2pm for five days per week (there is a three day option). Additional extended options are also available, with an early start programme from 7am to 8am, and the option for children to remain from 2pm to either 5pm or 6pm. Of course, these extra hours come at a price - an additional AED 15,000 per year for the later afternoon session.
There is also a very hefty non-refundable application fee of AED 2,500.
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