The British Orchard Nursery Al Mankhool is one of 15 branches of British Orchard Nursery that are located across the UAE. A strong team and teamwork is very evident at this particular branch.
We visited the Bur Dubai (Mankhool) branch to see what goes on during a typical British Orchard day.
We are met by Rebecca Barker, Principal. Rebecca is British, and has a degree in Sports Science. Rebecca originally joined as Head of PE, spending seven years developing the PE curriculum (and in particular gymnastics) for the group. She remains very proud of the group wide gymnastics programme, telling us that her goal was to take children “beyond the outcomes” for physical development stipulated by the EYFS . Rebecca is working on her Cache* Level 5 Nursery Management Diploma at present.
[*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).]
As we chatted to Rebecca her thorough commitment to the children was absolutely evident. Her description of the nursery’s process for identifying children with additional needs was truly “all inclusive”, with Rebecca highlighting how they will select the right class for each child depending on their developmental stage, not simply their age. She passionately believes in the importance of early intervention, and gave us a detailed overview of the British Orchard screening and development programme.
The group uses the “Ages and Stages’ questionnaire, a professional screening programme which has been developed to accurately pinpoint developmental progress for children aged one month - 5 years. The results of the questionnaires are fed to the management and to the school nurse, who will ensure that early intervention programmes are developed in conjunction with parents and external professionals.
We also found Rebecca to be a real champion of her international team of staff. She employs a highly multi-cultural team and all teaching staff are qualified with a Cache 3 Diploma as minimum. Rebecca repeatedly refers to her ‘unbeatable’ team as we tour the nursery and warm working relationships are obvious.
Rebecca was keen to point out the lengths to which she and her team go to support their community. When it was noticed that the nursery was becoming popular with the local Chinese community, Rebecca appointed a Chinese member of staff who now acts as a translator. Registration packs and other documents have also been translated.
We spend a few minutes with Rachna, a teacher who has been with the British Orchard group for 9 years. Rachna tells us that the friendships she has made at British Orchard have been a really special element of her working life. Rachna feels that there is great communication here, not only between staff but also between nursery and home. She has been supported in her career progression and is now undertaking a Cache assessor course and will eventually work with the British Orchard Teacher Training Academy as well as in the nursery.
This is a spacious nursery presented across two villas. The classrooms vary considerably in size. We did feel the décor in places was quite dated, however the rooms are well equipped. The gym has plentiful equipment for the gymnastic programme and other activities, and the outdoor areas have a variety of challenging equipment. As well as them gym, there is a large indoor play room with a variety of role play equipment – even some real chairs from an airplane – great fun! We were given a warm welcome wherever we went and the children were all at ease and enjoying their day.
Regular Arabic and French lessons are offered and included in the standard tuition fees.
Rebecca tells us that she is ‘overstaffed’, meaning that she rarely has to worry about maintaining ratios in the event of staff being absent. Staff:child ratios are very good in the younger groups in particular:
All children wear a uniform, which was well liked by the parent we met. Maha is Mum to a 2 year old in the toddler class. Maha’s older child had been through the nursery some years previously. She had chosen the nursery based upon reputation and recommendations, and she had been very happy with it for both of her children. She liked the uniform which she felt was hardwearing and washed well. Her child did not generally use the bus service, but when they went out for trips she was happy to find that car seats were used. Maha also complimented Rebecca, saying that ‘the Principal knows every child’ – something that she felt really added to the family feeling here.
This branch can accommodate children from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm daily. Rebecca was keen to point out that the afternoon sessions were ‘not just daycare’ – children had the same carefully planned balance of child / adult led activities, led by a rotation of the qualified teaching team. During the weekends and afternoons, the nursery is also open to children from the community who want to participate in the gymnastics programme. Rebecca told our reviewer that they aim to be as flexible and supportive as they can for working parents.
The children here progress to a wide variety of schools, notably a number of the GEMS schools, Kings' Umm Suqeim and Hartland.
Overall we found this to be a warm, well run nursery. In need of some TLC décor wise, but nonetheless a place where the children receive good care from an organised and dedicated team.
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