Part of the Beautiful Minds group, Yellow Brick Road nursery is a hidden gem - tucked away on a Garhoud backstreet.
Tucked away in a quiet road in Garhoud, Yellow Brick Road is a purpose built nursery that has been in a stalwart on the Dubai early years scene for nearly 20 years. Part of the Beautiful Minds group, the nursery uses the motto “Love, Faith, Hope, Courage and Inspiration’. We were intrigued to see if the facilities and team live up to these grand words.
Yellow Brick Road is not far from the airport and within striking distance of Festival City, Deira and Mirdiff. The nursery is also convenient for the Emirates Training College and Headquarters, and the nursery offers a special discounted rates for Emirates families.
We arrive early in the morning and find plentiful parking surrounding the nursery. A security guard is present outside and allows our team access via the security gate.
As we enter, we are immediately impressed by the outdoor area. There is a huge space divided into several smaller areas, all decorated with imaginative and beautiful materials and art work. Children are playing happily in a wide variety of activities, including sand and water play, construction and outdoor story time. There is a pretty fairy garden and a growing area in raised beds at child height. Staff later tell us that their own team of carpenters create the play equipment to match the ideas and specifications of the staff.
In the large reception area we are welcomed by the busy administration team who introduce us to Reema, Curriculum Manager and Loudes’ D’Cunha, Nursery Manager. Both are excited to have Which School Advisor visit and are keen to showcase a nursery which they are both clearly extremely proud of. Both Reema and Lourdes are long term Yellow Brick Road employees, and both hold education degrees plus their Cache* 5 diploma from Early Years Educational Services. They are also proud to tell us that they hold accreditation from the UK’s Pre-school Learning Alliance, a well-regarded not for profit organisation.
[*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).]
Most of the nursery interior is painted a warm yellow colour, which is bright and cheerful yet not over stimulating. Reema begins by taking our team on a tour of the facility. Many of the classrooms here are are not fully enclosed, having only a half-height wall separating the spaces. We like how this creates a sense of collaboration between teachers and children in different groups. Despite the lack of walls, the nursery feels yet peaceful and not overly noisy.
We immediately notice that each class in the nursery is well stocked with interesting and quirky resources. For example, tea sets are metal Arabic style tea pots, cups and plates (sourced from the souqs) and there are lots of natural resources in each room (we see children using pebbles and pieces of wood as props for lots of different play activities).
One room has a fabulous wooden ‘tree house’ inside, and several have a ‘home corner’ in a traditional Arabic tent. The children in the first we room we visit are having their Arabic language lesson as we arrive, and most are singing along with their teacher. A couple of children do not want to take part and we were happy to see that they are simply allowed to choose an alternative activity, rather than being required to take part. In any nursery that claims to be child led, respecting children’s choices is essential.
Throughout the nursery there are displays of children’s work that are very clearly the children’s own work. We feel that this is important to point out as many nurseries still use templates and worksheets, something which industry experts now believe to be limiting to children’s innate creativity and imagination. At Yellow Brick Road, it is clear that children lead in many ways, not least in their creative endeavours!
As we tour the nursery, Reema tells us more about the philosophy and curriculum of Yellow Brick Road nursery. Offering the English EYFS, with a leaning towards the philosophy of Reggio Emilia, Reema tells us that the children spend much of the first term of each year focussed on their personal, social and emotional growth, something which she believes is the foundation of all learning. Independence is encouraged in many ways and the settling in period is managed in a team effort between nursery and home.
Staff qualifications are important here. Every member of classroom staff is designated a teacher, there are no nannies or helpers. Each member of staff is required to have a Cache 3 diploma or education degree. Of all the nurseries we have visited, this is one of the very best qualified teams we have seen.
Reema and Lourdes tell us that they take an ‘unhurried approach’ to literacy, with the focus being on confidence in communication and language acquisition. When children are ready, the nursery offers the Jolly Phonics programme and encourages mark making in many ways. Physical activities are interwoven with other areas of the curriculum – with an emphasis on outdoor activities wherever possible. Gardening is a regular activity and a community event – with parents invited in for ‘Arbour Day’ each year – a day where parents and staff prepare the gardens ready for the children to plant vegetables and flowers.
Community activities are highlighted many times during our tour, our favourite being the link between Yellow Brick Road and Al Mamzar Community Centre (a centre for the elderly). Children from Yellow Brick Road visit the centre monthly and the team report great success and happiness for young and old alike. The young visitors are prepared for interaction with older people in a gentle way – reading books, looking at photographs of elderly people – the team even borrowed a wheelchair so that children were not unnerved by the sight! We visited the nursery again two weeks after our review visit, to see the first time the elderly folk came to Yellow Brick Road to see the children in their environment – it was a truly lovely interaction – check out our video HERE.
Our tour through the nursery took a pit stop at the dining hall. Filled with pretty, tablecloth covered tables, the food is all prepared in house by a catering team who have been with the nursery for many years. Wherever possible, organic produce is used. We can confirm that the banana porridge is indeed excellent! When we later spoke with a group of parents, they reported extremely high satisfaction with the food, most admitting that their children much preferred the nursery food to home! The catering team regularly send home recipes for parents to try and the kitchens are used for the children to make muffins and other fun dishes with their classmates. Independence is encouraged, with food set out in self service areas and children required to clear away after themselves. All utensils, plates and cups are stainless steel, an effort to reduce plastic in this eco-conscious nursery. All children receive a healthy breakfast and lunch – a great bonus for working parents.
Leaving the dining hall we stopped by an open area where a toddler class were having an African drumming lesson. It look like enormous fun and children were singing along to classic nursery rhymes made more exciting by the drumming! The music teacher is an ex member of the Dubai Drums group, now employed full time by Beautiful Minds.
We met with two Yellow Brick Road parents, Reem and Saha, both of whom have had two children attend the nursery. They reported being extremely satisfied with the nursery and have a long list of reasons why! Reem felt that the nursery offered a safe, welcoming environment with a hugely positive, child focussed atmosphere. Saha felt that Arabic language lessons were excellent, but did wish that French was offered too. The high quality food was a huge positive and something they missed for the older children now in school. Hygiene was rated as excellent and both mothers liked that the nurse takes the temperature of all children as they arrive. The parents said that their older children loved revisiting Yellow Brick Road, and that the whole family felt part of a real and long lasting community. Uniforms are optional and only really worn on field trips, both parents preferred this approach.
Teachers also reported very high satisfaction with Yellow Brick Road, and management report a very low turnover of staff. Lourdes herself has been with the nursery for 16 years! Something of a feat in our ever changing expat city.
Shaista, a teacher of 2-3 year olds told us that the nursery has a ‘special magic’ about it. We also spoke to Malin, who was very happy with the opportunities for her own personal development. Both praised Bernadette King- Turner, the founder of the group, for her hands on and personal approach. All the staff we spoke to felt that her positive leadership style trickled down into classrooms.
Yellow Brick Road nursery is able to accommodate children from 7.00am – 6.00pm, making it a good option for working parents. Unusually, children who attend for mornings only stay from 7.30am – 2.30pm - some might feel this is a long day for part time children (nurseries typically offer 8.00am-12.30pm). Food is included in tuition fees, which we felt were very reasonable. Babies are accepted from 35 days old and children can remain here up until the age of 4 years. Ratios are excellent, being:
Maximum class sizes are 20-22 children.
Overall we felt that Yellow Brick Road nursery offered excellent care and education, superb facilities and a beautiful environment for young children.
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