There has been a recent spate of new nurseries opening in purpose built accommodation all over Dubai. We have visited several and although many house high quality nurseries with excellent facilities, we have often noticed small aspects of the design which limits the day to day life of children and curriculum in one way or another.
As a new nursery in its own purpose built and very much designed building, we were interested to visit the Blossom branch in Mudon, which is housed in an unusual building that appears almost completely circular from the outside, adjacent to the Mudon shopping centre.
Parents who arrive by car use the shopping centre parking to access the nursery, and Blossom has a number of allocated spaces. The parents we spoke to reported finding parking fairly easy, if a little busy at prime drop off and pick up times. The nursery is however, very accessible to the local community and we saw a few families walking with their children to the pre-school.
We entered the building into a spacious reception area, recognisable as part of the Blossom group with its eco themed logo and lots of white décor and clear spaces. There is CCTV monitoring of the entry and a buzzer system for guests.
Aurore Robinot, Centre Director welcomed our reviewer. Aurore, who is French and began her career by qualifying as a nurse, moved to Dubai eight years ago, and used the opportunity to retrain in Early Years work, something she had always wanted to do. Aurore now holds a Cache Level 3 certificate, a PGCE and a Masters degree.
We were incredibly impressed by Aurore's obvious work ethic – especially impressive given that this education coincided with learning English too! Aurore is now completely fluent, and an experienced Nursery Manager – having worked with the British Orchard and Raffles groups before joining Blossom three years ago.
Aurore tells us that the nursery offers the EYFS curriculum and that its primary focus is the Personal, Social and Emotional development of the children in its care. The team offer lots of one to one attention, especially to new children as they settle in. Staff give parents plenty of time to talk and use an app to send updates, reminders and photos. All classrooms have CCTV, which is played out in real time in the main reception area. Parents are welcome to drop in and view their child at any time, and we saw a few parents making use of this.
As with other Blossom branches, there is a regular programme of languages at Blossom Mudon. English is the main language, but children are offered French or Arabic immersion classes on alternate days. On the second language day, the children have an alternate teacher and the entire day is delivered in either language. Teachers plan together to ensure that the topic of work is continued and that equivalent vocabulary is delivered. Teachers use the Letterland phonics scheme during English days.
Ratios are good here, in line with international best practice and improving on the requirements of the Ministry of Education. Ratios range from 1:3 in the baby room to 1:7 for children aged 30 months to 5 years.
We were incredibly impressed by the overall design of this setting. The circular building comprises 12 classrooms, allowing the nursery to care for children aged 6 months to 5 years old. The baby room has a peaceful sleep room attached, with Perspex cots – one allocated and named per child.
In the centre of the building, there is an open courtyard with a range of play equipment, water play and sand areas. All classrooms have doors onto the courtyard. There is also a smaller grassy garden on the exterior of the building, used for picnics and gardening activities. We saw children using a gym room for Zumba classes, a library area and ICT area with ipads integrated into desks at child height. Some children wear a uniform, but it is not compulsory. As we have seen in other Blossom nurseries, there is an excellent food option, with hot and cold food delivered each day from a very healthy, wide ranging menu. Again, this is not compulsory and is charged separately to tuition fees.
The only complication we observed regarding the design of the premises, was that the toilet areas are not adjacent to each class, meaning that some children had to go quite far to use the bathroom! At the time we visited it was nearing snack time and the bathrooms were extremely busy with children washing their hands before they ate. Staff had found ways to work around this, taking each class as a whole to use the bathrooms at allotted times. Still, it would be preferable for each class to have nearer or adjacent washrooms.
Aurore told us that hygiene was very important to her as manager, as we felt that this was reflected throughout – the nursery was clean and well organised.
We spoke to Vijaya, parent to a 2 year old boy at Blossom Mudon. Vijaya looked at a lot of nurseries but for her, the location, staff and facilities of Blossom Mudon stood out. She loved the fact that all the staff knew all the children’s names, a small point that really makes everyone feel welcome. Communication with parents is good, and Vijaya felt that staff had taken lots of time to help her and her son during the tough settling in period. Vijaya would happily recommend the nursery to other parents.
A teacher of one of the toddler classes, Anna, told us that she was really enjoying her career with Blossom. She said she would like to see more challenging outdoor play equipment for older children, but other than that she thought the nursery had excellent facilities. The Blossom group had now reached a point, she said, where the name ‘speaks for itself'. Staff and children, she added, are supported to flourish and fulfil their potential.
Two other areas Anna noted were a focus for the group. Firstly, the EYFS curriculum and child development are taken very seriously at Blossom and, secondly, career development. All staff had opportunities for professional development. Teachers at Blossom must have a minimum of Cache* Level 3, although many also have degrees in Early Years or Education.
[*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).]
The nursery aims to be inclusive for children with SEN, but this will depend on whether it feels it can really support the child. Each case is evaluated individually and Aurore told us that the nursery was happy to allow shadow teachers where necessary.
We saw lots of happy children at Blossom Mudon, and plenty of warm interaction between staff and children. We were generally very impressed with the design of this new facility, the issue of the bathrooms aside. Staff are supported by a strong manager and as part of a large group (Blossom has recently been acquired by Babilou) staff have lots of room to progress their career. Overall, we feel this represents an excellent options for parents and families in and around Mudon.
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