Paddington Nursery is located in cluster P of Jumeirah Lakes Towers. We did wonder whether P was for the famous bear, but alas – no!
Situated on the ground floor of one of JLT’s towers and overlooking the local greenery, this is a spacious nursery comprising five classrooms, two large indoor play areas and a small outdoor play space. The classrooms all have large floor to ceiling windows, allowing for plenty of natural light.
Paddington Nursery is led by Laura Barton-Toyne, who greets us with a smile and the offer a cup of tea as we arrive. Laura has a relaxed and natural warmth and an impressive depth of knowledge and experience of working with children.
Having obtained a degree in Social Work in the UK, Laura worked in a Children’s Respite Home (for children with Special Educational Needs) for several years, before moving on to a new career in nursery management. Laura spent much of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, and was delighted to move back to the region with her own family. Laura’s two year old son attends Paddington Nursery.
Laura is a qualified Cache* Qualification Assessor and as we talk, it obvious that she keeps her knowledge of Early Years best practice current and up to date. Every aspect of the nursery curriculum (Paddington offers the EYFS) comes back to learning through play, and Laura is proud of her diverse teaching team, most of whom have been with Paddington for a number of years. Low turnover of staff is clearly fundamental to making constant improvements here. Staff are given lot of opportunity to develop and improve their own teaching, with courses and training often available.
*[*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).]
Although outdoor space is somewhat limited with just a small play area outside the nursery reception (equipped with a wooden play house), the nursery does have access to a nearby park, a safe open space the children visit often during the cooler weather.
Back inside the nursery, there is a large gym with lots of equipment and a central play area with cosy nooks for reading, plus toys and a role play area. We watched the children enjoy story time snuggled into a sweet little play house.
Children at Paddington Nursery receive regular instruction in Arabic and French, given by an Early Years trained language teacher. Languages are delivered in just the same way as the rest of the curriculum – through play, together with lots of singing and games and rhymes.
Drama is important in every aspect of learning here – the staff have created a ‘silly box’ full of role play props and costumes to encourage dramatic play.
Laura and our reviewers talk briefly about Behaviour Management – a question that often comes up for parents of young children. The Paddington team prefer to think in terms of Behaviour Guidance, and share their strategies with parents to ensure consistency between home and nursery. It certainly seems to be an approach that works and we noticed a distinct air of calm throughout the nursery, despite visiting on a busy morning!
Parent feedback was largely positive, with the larger class sizes for older children (ranging from 20 to 25 in each class for children over 2) and the loss of one much loved teacher being the only negatives raised.
Parents praised the regular communication (mostly via an app – Parent Zone), the positive and friendly atmosphere and the attentive staff. One also loved the large windows, she said allow all the classrooms to have lots of natural light.
Laura’s varied background and depth of Early Years knowledge has seen her create a gentle yet thorough approach to working with children with additional needs. Laura cites the need for ‘honest and open relationships with parents’ as key to successfully supporting all children. She has trained her team to ‘keep observing, keep communicating’ and to look at each child an individual. The intention is for Paddington Nursery to be 100% inclusive (so long as they feel able to support each child’s individual needs).
Laura also notes the importance of building relationships with other nurseries and service providers to support families and children. She believes in being able to recommend other settings should Paddington not be able to work with an individual child’s needs and has reached out to other nurseries in the community to create these relationships.
Teacher turnover is a perennial issue for nurseries in Dubai, but one that Paddington seems largely to have avoided. We spoke to teacher Mishkah, who has been with Paddington for 3 years. Mishkah felt that team work, openness and honestly were the key strengths of the staff here. She had been able to progress her own career and qualifications with support from the management team. Mishkah would love the nursery to have more outside space, but recognised that this was a restriction of the location and was pleased to have the option of the local park.
There are five classes in total here, some with larger than average maximum class sizes (though not all are full at present, and ratios are aligned with Ministry of Education requirements). Classes are structured as follows:
Typically, parents choose Paddington Nursery for the close proximity to their work rather than home. Families come from a wide radius but in particular Emirates Living (The Springs, The Meadows and The Lakes) and Jumeirah Park. This spread of families sees children leaving for many different schools, including Safa Community School, Foremarke, Kings Al Barsha, Raffles, Dubai British Foundation and Dubai British School.
This is a true community nursery in expert hands. Whilst space and resources may not be ‘premium’, the low turnover of staff, strong leadership and focus on learning through play are Paddington Nursery's real strengths.
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