At WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, our review visits are not unannounced, which does allow nurseries and schools to prepare a little. That said, it is always interesting to see how nurseries do handle the unexpected – which happened within minutes of our team arriving at Blossom Downtown.
As we chatted to Centre Director Tamara Stubbs, the fire alarm sounded and it was all hands on deck.
We are happy to confirm, via very personal experience, that Blossom Downtown is very safe and well organised.
We were in fact wowed at the calm and efficient way that more than 100 children were evacuated in less than one minute. This was an unplanned fire alarm – most definitely not a drill!
Blossom Downtown is situated in a traditional, Arabian style and pedestrianised courtyard in the Old Town area of Downtown Dubai. There is underground parking nearby but most parents we saw arrived on foot with children in pushchairs. This gave the nursery the feel of a real ‘community hub’. When we arrived, one class were marching (and singing!) their way over to the community playground, just a few metres from the entrance to Blossom. We noticed that the staff head-counted the children on exit from the building and into the play area.
Tamara holds the Centre Director title for three nurseries in the newly merged Blossom/Babilou group: Blossom Downtown, Babilou Downtown and Blossom Marina. In each setting, she is supported by a Deputy Manager. In another unplanned twist, Tamara’s Deputy in Blossom Downtown was covering for a sick teacher – one of the ways that the team ensure that child:adult ratios are maintained at all times.
Tamara is Canadian and holds the Early Childhood Educator qualification from Canada, as well as the British Early Years Professional (EYP) status gained during a 5 year stint living and working in the UK. Tamara worked for the highly regarded Busy Bees group in London.
When Tamara arrived in Dubai she spent five years working in another industry, as she felt unable to find a nursery which aligned closely with her personal values and high standards for quality. However, when she came across the Blossom group and CEO Zahra Hamirani (see our interview with Zahra below) she felt a real understanding and connection and soon returned to early years work.
Tamara clearly has a real depth and breadth of knowledge about the Early Years industry. Our conversation ranged from quality in the sector, child initiated learning, to new innovations, to diversity and supporting parents and more. Tamara clearly loves her industry.
And her team: Tamara spoke with pride about their qualifications (all with a minimum of the Cache 3 diploma*), their diversity (they come from all over the world) and how long they have been at the nursery (most since it opened four years ago).
[*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).]
On our visit, we met with Kristina, an 'Educator' (as teachers are known here) for one of the youngest classrooms. Kristina felt that the curriculum, the EYFS, and planning/assessment cycle were particular strengths at Blossom, as well as the close knit and loving team. Kristina has recently started using a new app to communicate with parents, something which she feels really benefits staff and parents alike. She was enthusiastic about Blossom’s commitment to professional development, saying that she receives around 40 hours training per year.
We later took a tour of the facilities. This is a fairly compact setting, with some classrooms smaller than average for nurseries in Dubai. Given the Downtown location it is perhaps unsurprising - it's a reflection of the community's real estate. Staff: child ratios are, however, good (1:3 for children under 2, 1:5 for children over 2) and the space they do have has been well thought out. Still clever interior design or no, there is no escaping however that space is clearly the compromise made here.
Classrooms still manage to be airy and colourful and covered in beautiful art work. As we have seen in other Blossom nurseries, there is an emphasis on green issues and ‘upcycling’ – one classroom we visited had ceiling lights with shades made from recycled water cooler bottles. There is an ‘upcycling station’ in one of the communal areas.
We visited during ‘Arabic week’ and there was lots of Arabic themed resources and art work in each classroom.
Outside, there is a play area with climbing frame and slide and lots of resources for different activities. As we saw when we arrived, the children also have the community play area to use. The local area being pedestrianised means that staff can take the children out on walks on a regular basis.
With space being a constraint, Tamara and her team have implemented extra classes focused on physical development – these being yoga and gymnastics during core hours and karate, ballet and rugby as (paid) extra-curricular activities in the afternoons. Children who live nearby but are not enrolled in the nursery are able to join the afternoon extra-curricular activities, something that Tamara sees as another way for Blossom to be a hub for the local community.
Parents can enrol their children for term time only programs or year round. Blossom Downtown closes for just two weeks a year during December. Provision is available from 7.30am to 6pm.
This nursery is clearly a ‘well-oiled machine’. Staff make the best of the space available and the children are thriving. As Tamara said, parents should ‘come and meet our kids – the proof is in our children’.
|What we loved||Faultless fire evacuation!·
Highly organised and dedicated management and staff·
The commitment to diversity and continuous professional development
|Points to consider||Small classrooms, lacks a gym or indoor play area|
An interview with Blossom's CEO - FB live!
Blossom'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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