The Developing Child Centre is a nursery and school for children with additional needs age 2-8 (typically 6). Situated in a quiet Umm Suqeim Street, this centre offers wide ranging support to children and families.
The Developing Child centre supports and educates children with additional needs age 2-8. Staff are highly qualified in a number of disciplines and many children have transferred from other nurseries and preschools who have been unable to cater for their individual requirements.
Situated on a quiet street in Umm Suqiem (just behind the popular Home Grown Nursery, Al Sanbook Street). Parking is plentiful (although busy at peak times – the centre provides a parking guard to ensure everyone is parked safely and efficiently) and on foot access is via a double gated security door.
Housed in a series of low rise buildings, the centre feels ‘similar yet different’ to the many nurseries and preschools our Early Years team have visited. Similar in that there is the bright chatter of young children all around and lots of good quality play equipment, but different in that the centre has been decorated in such a way as to create a feeling of simplicity and calm throughout.
Colours are generally kept neutral, there are lots of beautiful plants around and in the classrooms there are simple white walls and wooden furniture. Rugs and other decorative touches are again in neutral colours. Centre Director, Tracey Warren, tells us that this air of calm is by design – to help children who struggle with overstimulation in brightly decorated and fussier rooms. The garden is a wide open space, well shaded and with a variety of high quality equipment.
Tracey has been with The Developing Child Centre (TDCC) since it first opened in 2013. Tracey is British and was a primary head teacher (at the tender age of 32, at the time the youngest ever head in the UK!) before becoming a Senior Leader in six behaviour intervention programmes.
Tracey clearly has a strong bond with her Deputy, Jolene Palmer, as our reviewer quickly noticed them finishing each other’s sentences! Jolene is South African and has a real breadth of experience and qualifications in this field – holding a B’Ed in Educational Psychology and having undertaken a Masters scholarship progamme in the US. Jolene’s own nephew was diagnosed with Autism at an early age, something that inspired her to focus her efforts on working with this age group.
TDCC uses the English EYFS as a basis for their curriculum, but teaching staff are given freedom to adapt the curriculum to suit the children in their care. Some of the developmental goals from the EYFS are used to help parents to understand what it is that the team are working towards with the children. Teachers work alongside parents to develop an Individual Education Plan for each child. Tracey and Jolene both emphasise the importance of strong bonds with families in supporting children with additional needs – a holistic approach is needed to produce the best possible outcomes.
The team at TDCC have experience of working with children with many differing challenges – communication problems, autism and issues around physical development are some of the commonly supported needs here. Teachers have different and complementary skills, experience and qualifications including Educational Psychology and Special Needs Educator. There are other specialists working here too - we watched an Occupational Therapist deliver a lesson aimed at developing balance and coordination. This multi-disciplinary, specialist support is undoubtedly a real strength of the centre.
As we toured the facility we were extremely impressed with how the teachers interacted with the children. We felt lots of warmth, saw lots of cuddles and watched as teachers projected calm and consistency in the face of some very challenging behaviours.
We met with Arisha, a teacher who had been working at the centre for 3.5 years. Arisha felt that the individual approach towards each child was the key strength of the TDCC. Arisha is passionate about the importance of play therapy and expressive arts therapy – aspects of her career that she is keen to develop further.
Arisha suggested that parents of children with additional needs “come and see the difference” at TDCC. She felt proud of how she and the team at the centre shared their knowledge and worked together to support each child. Arisha hopes that TDCC continues to add to the range of therapies they are able to provide.
Classes are kept very small, with a maximum of 10 children in each spacious room. Teachers are supported by assistants and there are two qualified nurses between six classes.
Educating parents and other adults involved with the children’s care is very important here. There are regular parent education workshops and parents are very much involved with their child’s day to day experiences. One parent told us that she received feedback ‘every day, sometimes more than once a day’. The Individual Education Plan for each child is regularly updated and adapted depending on progress.
Each classroom has a small adjacent room where parents, teachers, support staff from home and visiting professionals can observe children using a two way mirror. We met two nannies who were watching children in order to pick up some tips to help at home. Teachers from primary schools are also invited in to use this facility to conduct assessments when children near school age or readiness. Parents who might want to watch how their child is progressing are always welcome to do so.
We received very passionate feedback from parents of children at TDCC. One parent told us that “from the moment I stepped in, everything seemed right and since that moment our life changed to the best. They made us feel at home, welcomed and that we are not alone. It is the first time that I feel we are not isolated from the world, and that my daughter will be in good hands. I gave TDCC one very unhappy child and because of them my child is finally happy”.
Beautiful praise indeed, and reinforced by another parent who said that the team were ready to “help me and my son at any time” and simply that, “they love him”.
Given the varied nature of the needs and developmental progress of the children here, there is a wide variety of ‘next stage’ schools that children tend to move on to. In fact, Tracey and Jolene stress that when helping parents to select a school for their child, they focus not on the school itself but on the quality and effectiveness of the Inclusion Officer and team. Children who are not able to move into a mainstream school will often move to a number of other centres including Modern Alternative Education, a facility offering academic and vocational education and Widad - a centre for children with disabilities and specialising in child development.
The TDCC operates three terms, plus spring and summer camps, meaning that they are able to accommodate children almost all year round. Children who do not usually attend the centre are welcome at the Spring and Summer camps and will be offered intensive support that they may not receive in their mainstream school.
Children wear a simple uniform of orange T Shirts which parents report being generally happy with.
The fee structure is dependent on the support each child requires. We recommend contacting the centre for more information.
Our team felt that we really experienced the commitment and quality of support and education available here. The team were open and welcoming and despite the fundamental challenges that some children here experience, there was an atmosphere of fun, happiness and warmth.
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