The Wonder Years Nursery Remraam is a purpose built nursery set in low rise buildings directly opposite from South View School.
Situated in the popular new community of Remraam and opposite to South View School is the striking The Wonder Years Nursery. Both the school and the nursery are in the heart of this new community and many parents take the opportunity to bring their children to nursery on foot – a refreshingly ‘green’ experience in car reliant Dubai. The exterior walls are bright white and accented by the nursery’s cheerful logo.
Both branches (Remraam and Sports City) of The Wonder Years Nursery are owned by Interstar Advisory Services DMCC, along with Victory Heights Primary School, South View School and Delhi Private School (Dubai and Sharjah). We hear several times during our visit just how much the nursery benefits from close links to these schools.
We enter a spacious and light reception area and are greeted by Nursery Manager, Corinne Glauser. Corinne has been with the Interstar group for more than five years, having previously been founding Manager of the Sports City branch.
Hailing from Switzerland, Corinne was originally a Secondary Home Economics teacher. Having realised her passion lay with working with much younger children and now living in Dubai, Corinne studied for both Cache* 3 and 5 Early Years qualifications. Before joining the Interstar group, she worked at the German School in Dubai. Corinne clearly has a passion for her role and is an incredibly enthusiastic tour host for our visit. She is also very keen to reflect upon day to day life at the nursery and asks our team thoughtful questions and for ideas for ways to keep making improvements in their practice.
[*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).]
Corinne forms a closely knit team with Claire Jones (manager of the Sports City branch), and Hannah Hepworth, Head of Early Years at Victory Heights Primary School. On our visit to Sports City, the three leaders described where their roles merge and how the school and nurseries interact to raise standards in both settings. Hannah takes on a training and advisory role, visiting the nurseries regularly to ensure that the curriculum is implemented in line with that at the schools (both the nursery and the school offer the EYFS).
Staff often swap ideas and share professional development sessions. Recent topics for training have included providing risk during play, planning and fine motor skills (the happily named ‘squiggle while you wiggle’ class!).
The remainder of the team are well qualified, with lead Teachers needing a minimum of Cache 3, Teaching Assistants Cache 2 and Nursery Assistants needing significant nursery experience or Cache 1.
We enter the nursery through a security gate, walk through a small area of garden and enter via class double doors. We are greeted by Corinne and her friendly receptionist. Our first impression is of space and lots of glass! Directly ahead is a corridor with glass walls to either side, giving an open and modern first impression of the space.
As we tour we see that the classrooms are well equipped with high quality toys (some have interactive white boards) and resources. All are of a decent size. We visit on a fairly quiet Ramadan morning so class groups were small: this nursery is some way off being at full capacity. Like the exterior, classrooms are painted bright white and use carpets, wall displays and furnishing for colour. We like this approach – the rooms feel calm yet uncluttered. That said, we did feel that some of the rooms felt a little bare and could do with some ‘cosier’ spaces for children to rest and be calm between activities. The children we see are playing and snacking happily and obviously have a great rapport with their teachers.
Also inside is (by nursery standards) an enormous gym, ready for sports, extra-curricular activities and a great space for when the heat makes outdoor play impossible. We also see a sweet sleep room for nap time. This is adjacent to the clinic, where a full time nurse works.
The outdoor space at The Wonder Years Remraam is the nursery’s real strength. There are several outdoor spaces, some to the rear of the building and some in courtyards dotted around and in between the classrooms, meaning that all classes have direct access to the outdoors. We see a sensory/gardening area prettily decorated with bunting and with wind chimes providing some gentle noise. There is also a huge climbing frame/slide/wooden play house and swing area, all shaded with sail shades. The floor is covered with safety matting. Adjacent to this is a pretty lawned area where staff are working on growing a planted tee-pee! Smaller outdoor areas next to the classrooms are used for messy play, art work and outdoor play when the weather allows. There is a water play area which the team hope to develop into a 'splash pad' soon.
Corinne and the team are keen to point out that relationships come before the curriculum here. The transition to life at nursery can at times be a tough one (for parents and children alike!) so The Wonder Years Nursery team try to make it as gentle as possible, with children coming for very short sessions with their parents to begin with and slowly building up to independent days.
The EYFS curriculum is implemented in as child-led as manner as possible and Corinne tells us that they are “working towards” planning in the moment which is a popular style of “scaffolding learning rather than teaching” that many leading nurseries have adopted worldwide. There is some timetabling of shared spaces but children are given the freedom to follow their own interests for much of the time. If this looks messy or untidy – well, so be it! Children have regular Arabic lessons during curriculum hours and the nursery employs a specialist music teacher.
The relationship with the schools in the group comes in to play again should a child at the nursery have any additional learning needs. The team find the expertise of the team at VHPS is incredibly useful and that the close relationship has helped many children to make a smooth transition into school. “We can work on any issues as a team” said Hannah, “and we are prepared for the children once they arrive at school”.
Physical development is further enhanced by a number of extra-curricular activities. These currently include soccer tots, Karate and dance and the team tells us that the range of activities is “always evolving”.
Although Victory Heights and South Views Schools are linked to the nursery, children leave for other schools too. Safa Community School, JESS, Jebeli Ali, South and GEMS Metropole are also local and popular schools.
The core curriculum hours of the nursery are 8am – 1pm, although wraparound care is available from 7.00am to 6.00pm. The nursery closes only for Spring Break (two weeks) when all maintenance and deep cleaning works are scheduled.
We received feedback from two parents with children currently attending the nursery. They were unanimous in their praise for the staff and facilities, with one saying that;
“This is a great location with fantastic facilities. The teaching team are great. They have a genuine love and interest in kids”.
Parents also liked the (optional) food delivery services, which is provided by “Yum in the Box”.
With these important basics clearly covered, the parents did have ideas for how life at The Wonder Years might improve. The key areas for change were:
• Communication. Although the nursery uses the popular ‘Seesaw’ app to communicate, parents feel that communication is a “challenge” and needs improving. This extends to day to day matters and long term things communicating such as dates for events and invoicing. At present, parents say that the nursery communicates with them “twice a month”. This is especially an issue for working parents as the children are cared for by TAs in the afternoons. Teachers finished much earlier than pick up time and this could cause gaps in the communication. Overall, parents thought communication needed to be “much more structured”
• Parents also felt that the nursery needed to take leadership on the traffic issues nearby. “Drop off could be a lot safer” one Mum commented, continuing that “there are speeding drivers and a mix of drivers and pedestrians on the road”
• Finally, parents would like to receive progress feedback from the extra-curricular activity providers
This is a nursery primed to to be a great 'hub' for the Remraam community, in partnership with sister school South View. It is perhaps not quite there yet, but with a committed leader, a great team and superb facilities we believe that The Wonder Years will fulfill this potential soon.
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