The founder of the two British Rose nurseries in Sharjah, Edie Rayson-Basha is a highly experienced nursery owner and manager, having opened her first nursery in the UK in 1988. We visited her in the first of her two Sharjah nurseries to see what type of early education her breadth of experience and love for the industry has led her to provide here in the UAE.
British Rose Nursery in the Al Nekhilat area of Sharjah is housed in a converted residential villa, set back from the S130 road and behind a wall which encloses the entire outdoor area and ensures privacy.
We entered into the main outdoor play area. One side is newly renovated with lots of natural materials, greenery, a mud kitchen and simple yet challenging play equipment. Most of the outdoor area is shaded. On the other side of the garden there is a climbing frame and slide, although later Edie tells our reviewer that this area is due for renovation and renewal during summer 2018.
Edie welcomed us into reception and we sat down over a coffee to talk about life at British Rose. Opened in 2000 and originally in a different building, the nursery was created as a home and distillation of all that Edie had learnt of UK best practice during her then 18 years of nursery leadership.
We were joined by Chelsea, a teacher who has been with British Rose for five years. Both Chelsea and Edie cite low staff turnover as one of the key factors for success in the nursery. Many of the staff have been here for more than 10 years – something almost unheard of in our dynamic and ever changing society. Chelsea describes a ‘true family dynamic’ and tells us that she is very happy with the relationships between management and staff.
Chelsea told us she feels free to interpret and use the EYFS curriculum to suit the needs of the individual children in her class. Edie added that encouraging curiosity and independence is key to classroom activities. Whilst teachers do use ‘topic’ based activities, which are pre planned – they are free (and indeed, encouraged!) to go off topic and follow the interests of the children in their class. This style of teaching and learning is very much in keeping with international best practice in early years education.
Chelsea loves to take her classes on trips, saying that they regularly visit some of Sharjah’s many attractions - such as Al Fish Park, Sharjah Aquarium, Sharjah Discovery Centre and the Arabian Wildlife Centre. The one small improvement Chelsea would suggest for the nursery would be an outdoor sandpit area, which she feels her class would love.
The nursery has a homely and approachable feel. Classes are spacious and open plan and have lots of natural light. Equipment is mostly wooden and several of the classes have a cosy ‘home corner’. As we toured the building we visited Chelsea’s class where children where engrossed in a messy play activity involving dinosaurs and having a good giggle with their teacher! Mostly yellow and white paintwork gave the room a warm and welcoming feel. There was lots of space and lots of different and thoughtful activities on offer.
An open plan reception area in the centre of the building leads to a role play room, which again Edie tells us is on her list for a summer refurbishment. Regular updates to the facilities are important to Edie and her team and are often a family affair, with Edie’s daughter having redesigned the outdoor area.
Also in reception is a huge pile of Ramadan gifts, items which the nursery families have donated to be passed on to charitable initiatives in the local area. Community connections are important, Edie believes, and are important to help both expat and local children feel a part of their hometown.
Before going upstairs, we stopped to appreciate the artwork on the stairs. Each rise has been painted as the spine of a book – it looks great and reminds everyone here to read – young and old alike!
On the first floor, a large group of children are engrossed in creativity in the open plan art area. Edie tells us that she encourages teachers to allow children lots of time over their creations, often revisiting work to add to it and make changes. Rather than typically spending only one creative session for one piece of art, Edie likes the children to have time to really think about what they are doing and the processes needed to create something. The children we saw were certainly engrossed!
We especially enjoyed watching children seated on the floor, painting on paper attached to an upturned table – a great way to build muscles in the arms and hands – ready for handwriting at a later stage.
All indoor and outdoor areas are monitored by CCTV.
Also upstairs, another group of children were enjoying snack time, and were open and friendly to our reviewer – lots of smiles and hellos and descriptions of their yummy food! Healthy eating is taught during the first term – and healthy food from home always encouraged.
Most children wear their smart British Rose Nursery uniforms of polo shirt and shorts.
Edie aims for this to be an inclusive nursery wherever possible. At present the team are happy to be positively supporting a deaf child and a child with an autism diagnosis. Shadow teachers are welcome. The layout of the building means that there is no wheelchair access, however.
We saw lots of very happy and engaged children at British Rose, and Edie is keen to point out that behaviour is managed proactively and positively – with no ‘time outs’!
British Rose Nursery Al Nekhilat is open from 7am to 5pm daily and offers care over three terms, plus camps for Spring and Summer. At present there are no extra curricular activities, though these are planned for the next academic year. The nursery is closed for the month of August each year.
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