We visited the Downtown branch of Babilou to see how this French childcare group is serving its local community and to determine if and how the recent merger with the local Blossom nursery group could be impacting its day to day operations.
Many families who use the nursery already live in the building, but those who do not can take advantage of 15 minutes free parking outside for drop off and pick up. Parents who want to stay longer can use local parking bays or one of a few allocated spaces in the basement. At present there is no bus service (due to lack of demand).
The nursery is split into two zones, with the older children in one area and the younger children in another. We began our visit in the younger rooms (Babilou Downtown can accommodate children from two months to four years) and were met by the smiling and very friendly Nursery Manager, Aysel Farhad. Aysel is Turkish/Azerbaijani and speaks fluent Turkish, Azerbaijani and Russian. She hold a degree, a Cache 3 certificate and a Cache 5 certificate*. We felt that Aysel was both knowledgeable and caring.
[*Cache qualifications are qualifications awarded by the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education - the UK's leading provider of vocational qualifications for those working in the care and education sectors. Cache qualifications are divided into five different levels, ranging from Level 1 (entry level) to Level 5 (for experienced professionals).]
Aysel tells us that she feels the real strengths of the nursery lie in the dedicated team and the language provision. All children receive daily French lessons (delivered by the Lebanese/French Deputy Manager) and there are plans to add Arabic soon. In addition, the fact that food is provided (and freshly prepared in house daily) is a great bonus for working parents. Food costs are included in the regular fees. The nursery is open daily from 7.30am to 6pm and only closes for public holidays.
Aysel also tells us that she asks her team to focus on communication and language skills, by encouraging imaginative role play, performances and public speaking. Children are gently encouraged to pick their own activities and follow one teacher led topic per month.
Entrances to both zones are by either thumb or pass scanners with automatic doors. There is also a CCTV system, which is monitored in the manager’s room.
At present Babilou Downtown has three classrooms open – one for babies, one for toddlers and one for pre-schoolers. There are currently 30 children enrolled and Aysel tells us that their maximum capacity would be 65.
This is a small setting and we did feel that the available space would be really challenged by having 65 children enrolled. We recommend that prospective parents explore this issue with the management team.
The baby room has an attached sleep room, a ball pit and age appropriate toys. It was a shame the room did not have much natural light, however it was very clean and the staff were warmly attentive to the children.
Bathrooms are of a very good standard and clean. There is a breastfeeding area for Mums who want to visit and feed their baby during working hours.
One unused classroom is reserved as an additional play area with role play equipment, a play house and a selection of toys. Next to this is the toddler class room which, being on the outside of the building, has much more light. In the small corridor area outside there are some trikes which the children are encouraged to use to burn off some energy.
Aysel and her team recognise that space is the key constraint here. There is no outside area or garden. For this reason, staff encourage a minimum of ten minutes active time per hour – either in one of the play areas or using music and dance in the classrooms. At present there are no extra-curricular activities but this is something that the team hope to introduce soon. The first will be regular music lessons.
There is a clean and well equipped nurse’s room, with a full time, qualified nurse on site at all times. All staff have first aid training and are required to complete 40 hours per year of continual professional development.
We chatted to two members of staff, Mary and Ibitssem. Both were highly enthusiastic and keen to sing the praises of the team and the children in their care. Mary felt that there was lots of love and affection in staff – child relationships and both mentioned special events such as Halloween and Christmas as their favourite activities.
We also chatted to a parent, Ozge, whose 18 month old son had been with Babilou Downtown since he was five months old. As working parents, Ozge and her husband really valued the convenient location, food provision and year round opening. They told us that their son is always happy and smiling at drop off and that they felt the nursery was supporting his development. Space constraints were a slight concern, but so far they felt that the team were able to overcome this.
The preschool classroom is much more spacious and has an attached art room for messy work and a play room where five children at a time can go to get some physical play. At present, an unused classroom can be opened up to extend the space. In the play room, there are some small slides and climbing equipment. Again, we felt is a shame that there was only a little natural light in this room. That said, the children were happily singing and laughing with their teachers when we arrived. Seated around a table, the children were waiting for their snack to be delivered from the kitchen – what arrived looked healthy, balanced and appetising.
Ratios here are as follows:
2 months – 1 year – 1:3
1 – 2 years – 1:5
3 – 4 years – 1:7
At present there are 2 qualified teachers shared between the three classrooms, assisted by 8 Junior Teachers. As the setting grows we would hope to see one qualified teacher per classroom as a minimum.
Overall, this is a setting staffed by warm and dedicated people. We saw lots of smiling and happy children. Our concern was the available space. We hope that the team here continue to do their best to overcome this, and look forward to seeing future developments and improvements.
|What we loved||The teachers and managers, qualified and warm·
A location that is convenient for local parents
|Points to consider||We feel that the nursery needs to plan the available space carefully as the number of children attending increases|
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