Changes are afoot at Indigo Valley Nursery. What has been something of a stalwart in the local area nursery scene has now reopened under new management. Indigo Valley Nursery has been acquired by the Chubby Cheeks Nursery group and we were keen to see what was new over in Al Twar.
Indigo Valley Nursery (IVN) has joined the Chubby Cheeks Nursery (CCN) group, becoming the 10th nursery in the chain and is located in Al Twar, a convenient location for families in nearby Al Qusais, Al Warqaa, International City and Festival City/Garhoud.
First impressions of this nursery – it is certainly big! A low rise building, with 12 classrooms, and almost completely surrounded by a garden and outdoor play areas. There is also a large adjacent and private parking lot.
We are greeted by the full time security guard and then welcomed into an open plan reception/administration room by manager Christina Davidson and Chubby Cheeks Nursery CEO, Roshi Tandon.
The entire team are clearly excited by the latest addition to the Chubby Cheeks brand, and are keen to tell us how they plan to keep the ‘soul’ of the old Indigo Valley, whilst tweaking the facilities and curriculum to ensure that it becomes a recognisable member of the Chubby Cheeks group. Staff comprise a team of new hires mixed with experienced employees from other branches.
Joining a large group does have certain advantages – parents are now able to take advantage of the CCN in house Speech and Language therapist (charged separately at 500 AED per month for weekly small group sessions) and there are plans to hire a Behavioural Therapist to offer a similar service.
IVN was previously a ‘Reggio Emilia’ inspired environment and although the team plan to retain elements of 'Reggio' in day to day activities, the teachers will be delivering the EYFS curriculum across all age groups. Able to accommodate up to 300 children from 45 days to 4 years, and with a huge amount of both indoor and outdoor space, this nursery is a definitely a new venture for the Chubby Cheeks brand, with many of their previous settings being in smaller premises in more densely populated areas.
We liked the layout of this nursery, classrooms have walls to just 2/3rds ceiling height, and most having both internal and external windows. The space feels bright, homely and airy. We did feel however that when full to capacity the open plan layout could mean the nursery is fairly noisy. The management team area aware of this and have plans to raise some of the walls a little higher to combat this potential issue.
Shared spaces are a particular strength. There is a kitchen (where all children age 1-3 will have a weekly cooking class), a large indoor soft play area for physical play when it is too hot to be outdoors, a large and well stocked library, music area, role play room and lots and lots of outdoor space! There is also a huge multipurpose room which will be used for sports activities, performances and parent events.
Each classroom has doors which open out onto a small dedicated garden area, and there are many more shared play spaces filled with play equipment, planting areas, trees, bikes and trikes and places to explore. There is even a mini basketball court! The outdoor space is a definitely another strong point of the nursery.
The classrooms at IVN are very large and this enables teachers to provide many varied activities and give the children lots of independence and choice. Children are not compelled to join group activities such as Circle Time – if they want to be up and about and active they are simply offered an alternative, and the large rooms mean that they can do this without disturbing other children. Each room has a cosy home corner for quiet times, lots of books and equipment and those all-important doors out onto the outside space.
The baby room is a good size, with a quiet area for sleeping and lots of soft matting and age appropriate resources. Staff to child ratios here are 1:3, rising to 1:4 for children age 1-2, 1:6 age 2-3 and 1:8 for the Foundation Stage classes age 3-4.
The regular EYFS curriculum is augmented by lots of extra-curricular activities, some free and some at an additional cost (contact the registrar for details). ECAs include the Little Muslims Islamic Education programme, Arabic and French (twice weekly lessons), ball skills, Tae Kwon Do, Ballet, Yoga and Gymnastics. There are plans for a Mandarin language class in response to parent demand.
All members of the classroom teams at Chubby Cheeks hold a minimum of Cache* Level 1, for classroom assistants (though many are now working on their Cache 2 award) and lead teachers a minimum of Cache 3, with many also having a B’Ed from their home countries. The CCN group work with the training and qualifications company Arabian Child, and the group has recently achieved the Arabian Child JADWA Quality Improvement Programme Award.
[*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 in management roles).]
Free bus transport is available to all children, this being a fundamental feature of the offering in every Chubby Cheeks nursery.
Teaching staff seems very enthusiastic about their new role and location. We spoke to Sahar, a teacher of a preschool class who has transferred from the Karama branch. Sahar feels happy to be working with the ‘amazing’ resources here at IVN and loves her spacious new classroom. The children in her class were clearly settled and enjoying their day, just a few week in to the new term. Sahar feels that parent/teacher communication is a real strength here, saying that the parents feel up to date with the curriculum and activities via the strong relationships and regular newsletters.
At the time of writing (September 2018), the nursery is not yet full and parents seeking a nursery space for their child should be successful in securing one. As a ‘new’ nursery, joining a larger group seems to have paid off – we found the team to be confident and assured and felt the nursery had the air of a ‘well-oiled machine” despite the recent changes. In an area of Dubai where many nurseries lack outside space, Indigo Valley Nursery is a good alternative for local parents.
IVN is open all year round from 7 am to 6 pm, barring public holidays and staff training days.
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