Our reviewers were pleased to be invited to visit this Early Learning Centre, it being one of the largest and newest of the recently amalgamated Blossom/Babilou nursery group and one of only a few nurseries in the local area.
It's a new start for Blossom as a group with its recent merger with Babilou, however for most of its nurseries it is very much business as usual.
The Blossom Early Learning Centre is situated behind the KHDA building in Academic City, making it an ideal location for parents working or studying in the area. There is plentiful free parking nearby.
On approaching the nursery the first thing our reviewer noted was the use of recycled water cooler bottles to form the fencing to the play areas.
We felt this was innovative and eco-friendly (the Blossom group promotes themselves as ‘eco nurseries’ – something we have seen in action all of their branches) functioning both as a reminder to children and parents to recycle and forming an effective and secure fence.
The doors to the nursery are CCTV monitored and gated and our reviewer was required to buzz to request entry. Parents leave strollers outside as they drop off - there is plenty of space.
Our first impression was that this is probably the largest nursery/early learning centre we have seen in Dubai. Classrooms are situated off long airy corridors and the central reception area is a welcoming and light space.
Most classes are ‘double’ rooms – i.e. one room separated by a folding wall in the centre. At present these large spaces are used by just one class, but when the nursery is eventually full to capacity (the centre is currently around half full) there will be two groups of children in same area. We advise parents to consider space as an important factor when choosing a nursery .
The baby room was peaceful and had excellent age appropriate resources. The room also has an adjacent sleeping area.
There is a well-equipped drama and music room for all age groups, with an interactive whiteboard.
Décor throughout is simple (mostly white with bright accent colours) and highlights the cleanliness of the nursery, which we felt was excellent. Beautiful displays of the children’s art work were hung from the walls and ceilings wherever we went.
We meet Katya Deere, Centre Director. Katya is from Mexico but lived in the UK for many years before moving to Dubai. She holds a Degree in Education and has worked in a number of other Dubai schools and nurseries before joining Blossom. Katya welcomed us warmly and gave us very thoughtful answers to our questions.
This is an EYFS curriculum (LINK) Early Learning Centre, with licenses from both the Ministry of Education and the KHDA and catering for children aged 4 months to 6 years.
We asked Katya how she and her team approached the three prime areas (LINK) of the EYFS curriculum – these being Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language and Physical Development.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Katya feels that self-esteem and independence are key to this area of development. She asks all of her team to role model respect for others and self-confidence. Also important in fostering this area of development is relationships with parents, which Katya believes is one of the key areas of the success of the Blossom group.
Communication and Language
Katya told us that she and her team are ‘always talking and always listening’ to the children. A love of books is encouraged with regular visits to the library (which we found to be a well-resourced and welcoming space for children of all ages), the use of story sacks and with a high quality second language programme (children receive one hour long ‘immersive’ language lesson per day, either in Arabic or French). There is a technology area where children can use ipads to support learning in this and other areas.
We were impressed by the outdoor space here, although we did feel that one of the climbing frames was very high for younger children. Whilst this was a concern, we recognise that this is an Early Learning Centre catering for children as old as 6 and the staff need to present age appropriate risk and challenge for older children too. Safety procedures/careful monitoring of the children were evident as we toured the area.
Katya showed our reviewer the outdoor splash pad area, sandpit and grass areas which are all used as often as the weather permits. Inside there is a fantastic, spacious soft play area which will ensure that children get lots of exercise even in the hottest weather.
Optional (additional fee) extra-curricular activities are available, these include ‘Monkeynastics’, ballet and football.
Healthy eating is a focus across the Blossom group. Snacks are prepared in house and hot lunches supplied by external caterers. We thought that the (regularly updated) menu was varied and imaginative.
Class ratios here are in line with international best practice and as follows:
Rooms are staffed by qualified teachers (the minimum requirement for teacher qualifications being a Cache* 3 diploma), a Senior Educator (Cache 2 as minimum) and Educator. There is a DHA registered nurse on site at all times. There are a number of ‘supernumerary’ staff members who ensure that ratios are maintained in the event of a member of teaching staff being absent.
[*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).]
We spoke to Katrina, teacher of one of the FS1 classes about her experience of life at Blossom. Katrina has been with the Blossom group for just over 2 years, having previously taught at the well regarded Children’s Oasis nursery in Umm Suqeim. Katrina is currently studying for her Cache 5 management diploma and feels that a position as a Deputy Manager might be the next step for her career. She told us that she felt that Blossom was supporting her career development and that there were opportunities for her own learning. Katrina herself is considered something of an expert in sensory play by her colleagues and delivers training sessions on the subject to her team and to others in the wider group.
Katrina feels that relationships between staff and children here are ‘brilliant’. She clearly had great respect for her colleagues, referencing the strength of the team several times in our chat.
This centre is ‘all inclusive’ and Katya told us that they are well equipped to support children with additional needs, having a one experienced teacher acting as ‘SENCO’ (Special Education Needs Coordinator). Blossom are open to the use of shadow teachers in class if deemed necessary.
Children tend to progress to a variety of local schools – notably Kings Al Barsha and GEMS Wellington Academy in Silicon Oasis.
Overall, we felt that this was a high quality offering from the Blossom group. Resources are excellent and staff are qualified, experienced and passionate about the children in their care. The management team is well organised and innovative.
The centre also has the benefit of a high quality management and teaching team who should be well able to ensure that quality is maintained. We would advise prospective parents to keep this in mind as they make this important choice for their child.
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