Dovecote in Jumeirah is part of the Evolvence Knowledge Investments, a group which includes Repton Schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Foremarke, Dovecote Muscat and the Humpty Dumpty nurseries in Abu Dhabi.
Dovecote Nursery is housed in an attractive and cosy villa right on the border between the popular residential areas of Umm Suqeim and Jumeirah. Parking is easy to find on the quiet residential street. Entry is via a security gate and we are welcomed in reception by Nursery Manger, Mena Press.
Dovecote is affiliated with the Repton and Foremarke schools in Dubai, and is a feeder nursery for the schools. With such a pedigree, we were intrigued to see how its Early Years education is interpreted and delivered.
Mena Press, Nursery Manager at Dovecote Jumeirah is a Columbian national who lived in the UK for 16 years prior to moving to Dubai. Mena undertook her initial childcare training and education with the highly regarded Chiltern College in the UK. Chiltern College is a well-known, ‘premium’ Nanny and Childcare educator, who prides themselves in providing a childcare qualification that is ‘over and above’ the statutory Cache* Level 3 Early Years Educator qualification. Mena is now studying for her Cache Level 5 Early Years Leadership qualification.
[*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).]
Before moving to Dubai, Mena ran a well-regarded nursery in Oxfordshire for 14 years. Initially employed by Dovecote simply to set up the nursery, she quickly found somewhere where the values ‘aligned with her own’ and has now been with the group for six years (Mena also oversees Dovecote Nursery Muscat).
Mena says that she fundamentally believes in ‘letting children be children’ and as such there is a strict ‘no IT’ policy throughout the nursery. ‘Here, we play’ says Mena, saying also that she was very much focussed on creating a ‘home away from home’ for children. Mena has also been responsible for a number of curriculum initiatives including a weekly Spanish class for all children. In terms of working with children with additional needs, Mena confirms that the nursery is 100% inclusive ‘we don’t even ask’ she added, when considering their assessment and admissions process. She sees the nursery’s role as ‘to guide and support’ families wherever possible.
Class sizes are smaller than average at Dovecote Nursery. Ratios and maximum student numbers are as follows:
Our reviewers certainly felt that Dovecote had a homely air. Smaller and more intimate than many nurseries in Dubai, we definitely liked the ‘feel’ of this once residential villa.
In contrast to the cosy indoor space, Dovecote has an expansive and well thought out garden. On the day of our visit the weather had just turned cooler, and almost every child was outdoors, happily engaged in a mixture of adult led and child initiated activities.
On our visit, we saw outdoor art projects, cars and bikes charging down a mini ‘road’, splash play and planting. We also observed many warm and authentic interactions between staff and children. Large, established trees provide much of the shade and the garden is mostly covered in real grass, with lots of plants and shrubs ready for exploring. There is also a standalone building holding a gym/soft play area for the hotter months and a sweet climbing frame in the shape of a train in the front garden area.
We liked how the classrooms have a careful balance between bright colour displays, bamboo style wooden flooring and natural resources. Although not large, the rooms have been carefully planned and are all stocked with high quality, predominantly wooden, toys and resources. Each room had a messy play activity ready to go and underway. The room for the youngest children has solid wooden cots, one allocated to each child. Most of the rooms have sofas/comfy seating, adding to the homely feel. Downstairs, there is a kitchen where food deliveries are prepared for the children.
Lead Teacher Linda Lewis has been with Dovecote for 5 years. She says she is ‘proud to work here’ and she is clearly proud of the cohesive team. Linda describes Dovecote as ‘having the magic ingredient that really makes things work’. Throughout our chat, Linda refers to the ‘amazing children’ for whom ‘we simply have to have it right’.
Linda describes the Dovecote approach as working in sync with families, and aligning home and nursery routines as of paramount importance. She also told our team that they truly listen to parents and embrace their ideas and input, adding ‘we want to look after the whole family’.
This positive and thoughtful relationship with parents was echoed by the panel of parents our team interviewed. One Mum, new to Dubai, had viewed more than 20 nurseries in the hope of finding something very special. ‘Dovecote was clearly the best. I instantly felt my child would be safe and cared for’. She described the nursery as ‘small, intimate and personal’ and praised the focus on small (but important) details such as table manners. She also liked the huge variety of activities and celebrations and the ‘nurturing’ style of teaching.
Another Mum had seen two of her children pass through Dovecote Nursery. For the second, the choice was ‘automatic’, but for her first she had also researched the choice very carefully. Mena, the Nursery Manager, played a large part in her initial decision (‘I felt comfortable with Mena automatically’) and had been instrumental in maintaining a continued happy relationship with the family. The very low turnover of staff created a special atmosphere ‘they all really know us as a family’ she said.
Our third parent interviewee praised the regular parenting talks given by visiting experts. Recent topics had covered sleep, eating habits and healthy eating. Parents were welcome to give their suggestions for topics to cover. She had also appreciated the gentle approach to settling in, which had really helped her daughter to adapt. A teacher herself, she said that Dovecote often gave her ideas to take back to her own classroom!
The nursery does have an option for food deliveries, although many parents send in packed lunches and snacks. Those parents who use the food delivery service reported good quality food and a wide variety of options.
Children attending Dovecote Nursery are afforded preferential access to assessments for both Repton and Foremarke Schools. If not departing for these schools, children tended to go to local schools such as JESS and Kings Dubai.
We felt that Dovecote Nursery is an expertly run nursery with a homely, child centred and traditional feel. We saw many happy and contented children and the very positive parent feedback reflected this.
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