One of the most well known nursery groups in the UAE, with 21 locations across the emirates. Despite the size, the group has managed to retain a consistency in delivery, and continues to score high satisfaction ratings from its parents. Here we visit the Karama branch.
Parking was plentiful the day we visited and the area is well served by public transport, with both buses and the Dubai metro accessible from the nursery. Many children arrive on the school bus, which is offered free of charge for the first two months (chargeable thereafter, but in some branches of this group the bus is always free. Amazing!).
We are greeted by a uniformed security guard who showed our reviewer through to the bright reception area. There we are welcomed by a smiling Ms Roshi Tandon, Managing Director of the Chubby Cheeks group. Roshi has assembled a selection of her management team to accompany our tour these being:
We start by finding out how Roshi came to be the leader of such a large group of nurseries. She tells us that the idea for Chubby Cheeks began when her own children were young and the family were resident in the densely populated area of Discovery Gardens. When looking for nurseries it became apparent that most were situated inconveniently far from the Gardens area, and so the idea for a local nursery that was both high quality and great value was born.
Roshi tells us that Chubby Cheeks was the first nursery in Dubai to take space in the retail units of an apartment building, something that many parents find very convenient. Six years, seven branches and 250 staff later and Roshi is in possession of a thriving business.
Roshi and her team are clearly very proud of Chubby Cheeks and the Karama branch certainly had a happy, vibrant buzz on the morning we visited. The lead teacher (Curriculum Manager) of the branch, a highly enthusiastic and personable Miss Jamila, led our tour as we discussed the Chubby Cheeks and what makes the Karama branch unique.
Chubby Cheeks Karama accepts children from age 1-4 years. The current maximum class size is 24 for the oldest group (the FS1 class). A total of 145 children are currently enrolled, although not all will attend each day (most do). The nursery is able to cater for 170 enrolled children. At present around 40 children attend for the afternoon sessions. Staff:child ratios are in line with KHDA requirements, being:
Teachers are minimum Cache Level 3 qualified and are all fluent English speakers. There is a clean and well equipped clinic which is staffed by a DHA registered nurse. The nurse was not present on the morning we visited, but we were told that the group employs ten nurses over the seven branches, making it easy to cover such absences (the same system applies for teaching absences). In addition, all staff are CPR First Aid trained and each branch has Fire Marshalls trained by Dubai Civil Defence.
We visited each age group as we toured the nursery and found each class engaged in interesting activities. One group was painting with food colouring frozen in ice cubes and one making papier mache hot air balloons. In most of the classes we visited all of the children were engaged in the same activity. Behaviour was very good and we were welcomed with a lovely chorus of “Good morning” by the older classes.
Wall displays are a combination of printed/adult created learning materials and a selection of the children’s artwork. Safety has been considered in the classrooms with corner bumpers and soft matting on the floors.
There is a large, well -resourced indoor soft play area for physical activities, but at present there is no outdoor space for the children to use (plans are in place to develop this). Classes do not have attached bathrooms but there is a large and clean communal bathroom off the main corridor, which has both boy and girl stalls.
Miss Jamila showed us the detailed communication books that are sent home with each child. These are very well designed, making it easy for parents to see exactly what their child has been doing each day. The very youngest children have a more detailed book. In addition, each teacher will call a selection of parents each week for a more detailed chat about the child’s progress. Termly written reports are also sent. Lastly, the nursery uses the popular D6 Communicator app for additional information.
Parents are given updated copies of the Parent Handbooks (detailing all the nursery policies and procedures) each term.
In addition, most of the older children have a “workbook” which they will spend some time on each day. This contains worksheets designed to aid literacy and numeracy and is sent home each week for parents to see progress. Not being truly a “child led” activity, the use of worksheets is somewhat unusual in an English EYFS curriculum nursery, but as Roshi explained, many of the children will progress to Indian curriculum schools where similar activities are given from an early age. In this way, the nursery is adapting the EYFS to reflect the needs of their community.
In addition to the communication books, there is also a Chubby Cheeks App, which is used for real time updates and photo sharing.
The entire group uses the Jolly Phonics programme for the teaching of early phonics. This has been adapted into Chubby Cheeks workbooks for both teachers and children.
Chubby Cheeks takes the personal, social and emotional development of the children in their care very seriously. Kindness is encouraged and modelled throughout the nursery. One recent internal training course for staff was dubbed “The Power of the Smile!” During Ramadan, a programme of “30 Good Deeds for in 30 Days” had been rolled out throughout the group, where children were encouraged to use good manners and to think of others in new ways each day.
Extra-curricular activities such as karate, yoga, ballet and taekwondo are offered. Prices are very reasonable with four classes per week costing just 100dhs per month. Arabic and French lessons are embedded into the morning timetable at no extra charge.
After our tour we were able to look at the branch “Event Plan” for April – June 2017. Each month the children have a new topic (When I grow up, Once Upon a Time, We are Safe) which is broken down into weekly and daily special events and learning opportunities, all planned well in advance for each age group.
We were able to meet Shagon, a young Chubby Cheeks Mum whose 2 year old child attends the nursery. She chose the nursery based upon personal recommendations and has been delighted with her choice. She would recommend Chubby Cheeks to anyone as the ‘best nursery!’ Shagon felt that the nursery offers excellent value for money and that her child was thriving there. Particular strengths were the atmosphere, curriculum and staff. She loved the uniform (T shirts and shorts or skorts) and felt that it was great quality and washed well.
This nursery will see children move on to many different schools. We were told that the nursery has informal admission arrangements with Fortes Education, Sunmarke School and Dovecote School amongst others.
The group has also recently (2020) purchased its first school - Deira Private School.
This is a well organised nursery run by a highly organised and dedicated group of staff. Children are happy and well cared for and given a good grounding for entering school, especially into the Indian system.
In total CCN now operates 21 nurseries across five emirates. A number are located in Government buildings, but those operated privately include Al Taawun (Sharjah), Discovery Gardens, Dubai Investment Park, Business Bay Al Quoz, International City, Mankhool Bur Dubai (Orange Tree Children's Nursery), Barsha Heights Tecom, Skycourts DSO Dubailand, Al Nahda Deira, Al Qusais (Indigo Valley Nursery), RAK Mina Al Arab, Abu Dhabi Mushrif, and Ajman (Wonderkids Nursery).
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