Grassland Daycare and Nursery is a small setting in the busy DIFC area. Catering mostly to families who live in the Emirates Finance building or parents who work close by, Grasslands certainly scores highly for convenience. But what of the other factors that make a great nursery?
Our team meet Penny Moorton, the manager of Grassland. Penny has recently joined the nursery, having gained most of her Early Years qualifications (she is a Montessori specialist) and experience in the UK.
Grassland is an EYFS nursery, offering Montessori style ‘vertical age groups’ as is often the case in this curriculum. This term means that children are grouped together purposefully in order to enable peer to peer learning (the babies do have a small segregated space for safety). Advocates of the Montessori system believe that children have the opportunity to learn social skills, manners and conflict resolution from older children.
Grassland is a very small setting with just one classroom making this style of teaching an obvious and convenient choice.
Penny tells us a little about the day to day activities at Grassland. The team use the Jolly Phonics system for teaching early literacy and the day always includes ‘lots of singing and lots of music’. French and Spanish lessons are given to all children at regular intervals during the week (there are also plans to have Arabic classes in future).
Grassland is somewhat restricted in terms of supporting children’s physical development. This is really a one room setting (there is a small sleep room, clinic and reception area, but just one classroom) with no outdoor space.
The space does not have windows for natural light, however the staff have covered the walls with bright displays of the children’s art work and it is well lit. The room is well stocked with a range of toys and the flooring is padded to prevent bumps and bruises from the inevitable falls and trips!
Children are taken for daily walks to an outdoor area in the building, and in cooler times they will stay there for around 30 minutes for play and story time. These walks and outdoor times are obviously weather dependent and not possible in the very hottest months.
Staff do their utmost to mitigate the lack of space by keeping the children as active as possible when indoors. One teacher offers a regular Zumba type class and children are encouraged to move around every 10 minutes to ensure they are kept active. Lot of small, fine motor skills activities are planned each day.
There is a separate sleep room for babies, who each have their own labelled cot. The nursery provides bedding, which is changed weekly.
The nursery takes part in fire drills with the rest of the businesses in the building and the security teams are on hand to help the children evacuate. All staff are paediatric first-aid trained and there is always a registered nurse on site.
Ratios here are good, with the babies cared for in groups at 1 adult to 3 children and older children 1:4 (the nursery can cater for children from 3 months to 4 years).
Teachers are all minimum of Cache* 3 qualified. We spoke to Tina, who has been with Grassland for 1 year. Tina feels that the small size of the nursery has created a real family feel, with everyone knowing all the children and families very well. We spoke to one Grassland Dad, who also appreciated the ‘cosy, sweet and family feeling’ of Grassland.
[*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).]
Grassland Daycare and Nursery is open from 8am to 7pm daily, although earlier drop offs are available. The long opening hours will certainly appeal to working parents and the nursery is open all year round. Parents can park outside (free of charge) for 15 minutes for drop off and pick up.
In terms of fees, this is a very flexible setting - charging 35dhs per hour (minimum of 5 hours per day). Parents can pick and choose their child's hours with a greater degree of flexibility than in many nurseries.
This is a small nursery with very pleasant staff and a new manager with lots of fresh ideas. We felt that the staff were doing their best with the limited space, but we did feel that the lack of outdoor space combined with no windows and natural daylight was a significant issue.
We were pleased to see that children get an outdoor walk each day, where possible. Parents who choose this nursery should consider how much time their child spends outdoors in their ‘home’ life to ensure that their child is benefiting from a balance of indoor and all important outdoor play and exploration.
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