Established in 2009 and located within Umm Al Sheif (not Downtown!) Blossom Burj Nursery may be one of the older nurseries in Dubai, but that's not stopping it continually coming up with new ideas...
Part of the new merged Blossom/Babilou group (watch our interview with Blossom CEO, Zahra Hamirani below), this nursery is housed in a spacious villa directly opposite to Horizon International School, not far from the Al Thanya Street exit to the Sheikh Zayed Road.
We were impressed by the warmth of the welcome we received. When we arrived several members of staff were outside with a class and we were greeted with a cheerful ‘good morning!’ by each of them.
The children were playing happily and seemed relaxed with the staff.
On our tour we saw children having a picnic snack time in the outdoor play area which is spacious and equipped with Little Tykes brand plastic play equipment.
There is a small (gated, locked) swimming pool which was not currently in use due to the cooler weather. We did think that the outdoor areas could benefit from more plants, trees and general greenery throughout. That said, it gave children lots of space to play and explore.
Inside we met with Hajer Saidi, Centre Director for this branch of the Blossom Group. Hajer has been with the Blossom group for a little under a year, having previously been Head of Early Years for The Children’s Garden a Taleem school), Al Barsha. Hajer has been in education for 16 years and also has experience of teaching older children at a French School in Riyadh.
We felt that Hajer was well qualified, had a real depth of Early Years knowledge and a modern approach to working with young children. The Centre Director clearly believes in the power of creativity in early learning, and throughout our visit stressed how keen she is to use creativity and art to extend learning in all areas of the curriculum (Blossom Burj offers the EYFS) and for all age groups.
Art is a passion of hers and she encourages creativity wherever possible.
With Hajer we spent some time looking at how Blossom aims to cover the three prime areas of the EYFS curriculum. The first of these is physical development – an area that Hajer feels is going to be greatly enhanced by a new team member, Kristina. Hungarian born Kristina has studied the importance of movement for young children for many years and, impressively, has authored a book on the subject.
She and Hajer agree on the importance of allowing risk and challenge for young children and of the interlinking of gross and fine motor skills to promote later life learning such as handwriting.
An important facet to physical development here is the swimming pool. Swim teaching is delivered by the class teaching teams, but with staff to child ratios moving to 1:1 when the children are in the water. In cooler months there are lots of splash play sessions in the play area.
Communication and language development is given prominence in each room with lots of space for books and in the use of the Letterland phonics programme. Teaching staff role model good communication skills and work on extending the children’s vocabulary by using “In the Moment Planning’ - a way of building and extending children’s knowledge by following their interests and ideas in the moment that they arise. In the Moment Planning is designed to ensure that children are fully engaged and learning wherever possible.
On the day of our visit the team were completing the transformation of a classroom into a Language Room. The Language Teacher was busy preparing lots of Arabic resources ahead of a big National Day celebration. Arabic or French are delivered on a daily basis. Hajer and her team believe that persistence is the key to language acquisition, so the programme is delivered for all age groups throughout the nursery. Arabic and French are also available as additional extra curricular activities.
In terms of personal, social and emotional development (another prime area of the EYFS), Hajer believes that the fundamental values of the Blossom group underpin the experience of the children here. Teamwork and collaboration are important, with Hajer telling us that they encourage children to be mentors and facilitators for younger or less able children. Teachers try to create opportunities for children to share and see the benefit in kind, thoughtful behaviour. There is a mixture of free play and guided play in every session to allow this.
We then took a tour of the premises. The main nursery building holds the classrooms, whilst a second outdoor room has a soft play area, divided into sections for older and younger children. We are certain that this would be a great resource in the hotter months.
Classes are generally spacious and airy. There are many improvements underway – some areas and décor did look a little tired so we were glad to see this.
In the youngest classroom there is a row of (individually named) clear Perspex cots for sleeping – all situated within the room itself. This may mean that all the children have to keep to the same nap schedule (something that can be avoided with a separate sleep area). We recommend that parents investigate this if they feel that it would be an issue for their child. Baby and toddler rooms are well equipped and of a good size.
The nursery caters for children up to the age of four and classes for the older children are mostly found upstairs. Hajer guided us through a bright free flow area which the staff have recently updated to include a music zone (we noticed some built in ipads, presumably for listening to music online).
We really liked that everywhere we went in this nursery we saw staff working on new ideas and improvements. Upstairs, as well as the new language room, staff have turned an unused classroom into a sensory room. This room is relatively dark, with twinkling lights and allows children to experiment with and explore their own senses. We were told that at Blossom they run their own sensory based curriculum, Skygarden (alongside the EYFS) and the purpose of this room was to help fulfil this area of learning. Hajer told us that "the room is set up evolving around one theme and the different equipment/ resources are meticulously chosen to help direct the children’s focus and encourage them to feel, touch and explore their environment without being overwhelmed."
As with other Blossom nurseries, the Blossom Burj team speak of an inclusive approach to children with additional needs, and try to work with parents and external professionals to ensure a holistic ‘joined up’ approach wherever possible. Collaboration with parents is key here, Hajer tells us.
Unusually for Dubai, there is a cook on site who prepares all of the food for the children. We saw children tucking in to a healthy snack of melon and plums. The menu looked appetising, healthy and balanced. Parents are sent the menu on a annual basis so that they can see what their children will be eating. The food service is not optional (and is paid for alongside regular fees).
We are told that staff here all hold a minimum of a Cache Level 3* diploma, or a Bachelors degree in Education. Hajer spoke warmly of her team and their ideas for developing the nursery further. A mixture of nationalities, Hajer says the team ‘reflect the mosaic society of Dubai’.
[*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).]
Ratios here are:
As we ended our tour, we spent a few more minutes with Kristina. She told us that the support she receives from management has been brilliant and that she feels her ideas are taken and worked upon. Staff use peer observations as a training tool and look to learn from each other as much as possible.
Overall, this is an older nursery (by Dubai standards!) with a good solid team, a committed manager and good facilities. Many improvements are in the pipeline and we look forward to seeing the impact on the surrounding and (most importantly!) the children.
An Interview with Blossom's CEO
Blossom Burj Nursery's fees are highly customisable and parents are able to create a plan that really works for them. To illustrate the costs however for 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year, from 8 am to 5 pm, with breakfast and lunch included the fee would be, just under, 60,000 AED per year. Parents can choose less days, and less - or more - hours in a day with early drop off, and late pick up options.
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