Mindchamps Nursery Abu Dhabi (and it’s soon to open sister nursery in Safa 2, Dubai) are part of the Bloom Education Group, which operates Brighton College in the Bloom Gardens development in Abu Dhabi.
Situated adjacent to this campus, Mindchamps Nursery is housed in a brand new building that has been purpose built for the pre-school, with plentiful parking outside.
We were welcomed by a polite female security guard, who checked our credentials before allowing us access to the building. Inside we were greeted by a receptionist who politely asked to take our temperature, using a no-touch forehead thermometer.
This is an element of Mindchamp’s stringent health and hygiene protocols.
Thankfully, our reviewer had arrived in Abu Dhabi in fine health and was allowed to pass reception and meet Stephanie Morrison, Nursery Manager.
Stephanie is from Ireland and has had a very international career so far – having taught in Sweden, Scotland and Australia before arriving in Abu Dhabi to open Mindchamps. Stephanie holds an Early Childhood Degree and tells us that she was attracted to join Mindchamps by the curriculum and pedigree of the brand.
The Mindchamps brand hails from Singapore and was born from research driven by the group’s founder, David Chiem and Dean of Research Brian Caswell. Together, Chiem and Caswell wrote a book ‘The Three Mind Revolution’ upon which philosophy and curriculum of the group is based.
Stephanie gave our reviewer interesting insights into this philosophy which revolves around the ‘three minds’: ‘The Learning Mind, the Champion Mind and the Creative Mind’.
With these areas of focus, the group has developed not only an entirely bespoke curriculum (the SMILES curriculum – an acronym for Sensory, Motor, Intellectual, Linguistic and Emotional learning areas), but a highly detailed enrichment programme which includes ‘Neuro-Moves’ (a gym programme which includes a series of very specific movements designed to promote brain function as well as support physical development), ‘Gourmet Moments’ (a cookery programme), Music for the Mind and ‘Creative and Theatrical’ Studies (which is designed to encourage confidence and public speaking).
Throughout our visit, all the staff we met demonstrated a clear understanding of the curriculum and enrichment programme and we were able to see a wide range of thoughtful, child led activities in progress.
Every staff member we came across emphasised that their focus was on supporting the process of learning, not the ‘end result’. Our reviewers look for this approach in nurseries, as it tends to suggest an understanding of international best practice in Early Years education.
Stephanie guided us around the building. Being brand new and purpose built, everything we saw felt fresh and rooms thoughtfully curated. Walls are painted white and although bright colours are used, they are kept to a minimum – giving the entire nursery a sense of calm.
The baby room had very good quality wooden toys, and age appropriate soft play equipment. We liked the floor to ceiling windows (equipped with sun shades for the hottest part of the day) and adjacent sleep room with good quality cots. The baby room is also equipped with a milk and food prep area.
This is a new nursery, and not all classrooms are yet open. There was a fairly quiet atmosphere as we toured the building, but we feel this will change as the nursery becomes busier and more widely known. At present, the children benefit from lower than usual staff:child ratios and lots of space!
Once full the nursery will operate with the following ratios:
We were impressed by these ratios, which are lower than many nurseries we have seen in, and lower than that required by government guidelines. Heather Duncan, Director of Nursery Operations for the Mindchamps group told us that the primary concerns here were safety, well-being and learning, all of which she felt were optimised by low ratios.
The nursery will operate three terms with camps available during the holidays. At present care is available from 8am - 6pm.
Preschool rooms are on the second floor, and children have a great view of the nearby air strip. Stephanie told us how much fun the children had listening to and watching planes take off and land. Classrooms are bright and light and for the older children each room has an interactive white board. Upstairs there are two open plan areas which are used for free flow time as well as quieter activities. There is also a spacious gym, used to deliver the Neuro-Moves enrichment programme as well as other physical activities.
There are two outdoor areas – one equipped as a sensory garden to the front of the building and a spacious main play area to the rear of the building. Again, we were impressed by the very high quality equipment and thoughtful planning of the space. We saw areas of challenge for both the youngest and oldest children. We also saw a toddler class outside having lots of fun, most wearing the red Mindchamps uniform (this looked hardwearing and practical, but is not compulsory). A corner of the play area is soon to be developed as a vegetable garden. We did feel that the whole nursery could use some ‘softening of the edges’ by using plants and flowers – so we were glad to hear this development is planned.
Teachers and Teaching Assistants are very well qualified here, all having a degree in Education from their native countries. Class teachers are an international group, with teachers from New Zealand, Finland, South Africa and Ireland. All educators are required to undertake 200 hours per year of training - an impressive commitment to continuous professional development.
We were able to spend a few minutes with Ann-Marie, Lead Teacher of this branch. We felt that Ann-Marie had a beautiful turn of phrase when it came to describing her work and we could have spent much longer listening to her describe her passion for Early Years education!
She described her team as ‘pioneers’ who were embarked upon ‘a day of discovery’ each day with the children. Ann-Marie felt that Mindchamps offered a balance of formal and informal, child led learning that was ‘just right’. She was looking forward to the nursery becoming a real community hub and, as a newcomer to Abu Dhabi, Ann-Marie was enjoying learning about new cultures and her new home from children and their families.
As yet, Mindchamps does not have any formal relationships with schools, but given its focus on quality and close proximity to a number of new schools, this can surely only be a matter of time.
Overall, we felt this was a beautiful nursery offering a high quality curriculum. Staff are qualified, dedicated and excited by this new project.
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