There’s an air of anxiety at the nursery gates. Many parents of three- and four-year-olds are struggling to get their child into pre-school classes at ‘big’ school this coming September. Some are even having trouble getting their names onto a waiting list. It’s a huge worry, and there’ll be a lot of nail-biting before September when the dust dies down and places are finally allocated. Fingers crossed, there’ll be a mad scramble at the start of term then it will all work out fine in the end, but if it doesn’t, what are the alternatives?
Plenty of nurseries offer pre-school programmes for kids aged three, but only a limited number cater to kids aged four and above. However there are a few which could help bridge the gap until you can get your child into your school of choice.
The Children’s Garden (TCG)
A bi-lingual preschool in Jumeirah and The Green Community, TCG offers the International Curriculum for Language and Creative Arts (ICLCA) for kids aged two to six years. Different to the usual English and American curricula, TCG concentrates on brain development by emphasising languages, creativity, music and movement, promising a stimulating and exciting programme for your child. Some parents who are more familiar with the English national curriculum may worry that this creative focus is to the detriment of reading and writing development, but Director Birgit Ertl says this is not the case. ‘Don’t think that reading and writing are not taking place at TCG. They are. We’re just saying that social, emotional and academic development is equal.’
Birgit has spent the best part of three decades researching and working in early childhood education and is a firm believer in the holistic development of a child. ‘It’s different nowadays to when we went to school,’ she says. ‘Kids need other skills besides maths and English. They need confidence, they need to be able to communicate well, preferably in other languages, and they need to be creative thinkers who can solve problems. In early childhood there is an opportunity to explore, to enjoy, to laugh and to just be allowed to be a child. And remember, happy children are always good learners.’
The facilities at the schools are superb – think lush adventure gardens, plenty of play equipment, a race track and sandy areas, plus a reading majlis and lots of opportunity for artistic expression. Every child from three years old learns in two languages, with English, French and Arabic taught at the Jumeirah school and English, French, German and Arabic (as a second language) at TCG in the Green Community.
The Jumeirah branch is opening six new classes in September – two each in nursery (ages 3-4), pre-school 1 (ages 4-5) and pre-school 2 (ages 5-6). As a Taaleem school, it guarantees places at its sister schools – Jumeira Baccalaureate School in Jumeirah (see p40) and Greenfield Community School in The Green Community – for kids who complete pre-school 2 at TCG.
Four- and five-years olds must enroll on a full-time basis (8.30am-2pm, five days per week, Dhs42,000 per year.) Three-year-olds must enroll for five days with the option of half or full days (8.30am-noon or 8.30am-2pm, Dhs38,600-Dhs42,000) Two-year-olds can enroll for three or five days a week, half or full days (Dhs26,800-Dhs40,000 per year) www.tcgjumeira.ae; 04 349 2985 (Jumeirah); www.childrensgarden.ae; 04 885 3483 (Green Community).
Blossom Children’s Nursery & Blossom Village
These two Umm Suqeim nurseries centre their programmes around the British Foundation curriculum, incorporating Reggio Emilia’s theories on the organisation of a child’s physical environment. To that end, the facilities are stunning, with lovely bright buildings and lots of natural light. Spacious classrooms are packed with multisensory equipment for all sorts of activities including dance, drama, music, the environment and languages. There’s a large custom-designed gym and sensory space with climbing and sliding equipment, while the substantial outdoor space features shaded fun activity zones, such as a ‘dinosaur dig’ sandpit, a turf lawn for play and ball games, a bike track and paddling pool with fountains. The Blossom Nurseries offer all sorts of options for busy parents, including flexible all-day/all-year classes, snacks and meals and accept children until their fifth birthday.
Choose between two, three, four and five day options, costing Dhs7,300-Dhs10,300 per academic term (8am-1pm) and including a morning snack and lunch. Early drop off, afternoon sessions, late pick up and additional snacks and meals are available, at a charge. www.theblossomnursery.com; 04 348 6275 (Blossom Children’s Nursery, Umm Al Sheif); 04 394 8837 (BlossomVillage, Umm Suqeim 1)
The Kensington Nursery
This Umm Suqeim nursery accepts children who are four years old on or before September 1st and combines the principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach (focusing on self-guided exploration and discovery) with the British Foundation Stage Profile in its double-annex, single-storey villa. Small yet beautifully designed, the nursery has an outdoor play area especially for infants/pre-nursery, with more adventurous equipment in a separate section for older kids. All children share a delightful sensory area and garden, as well as a petting zoo with turtles, guinea pigs, rabbits and more. The nursery also provides breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
Children aged three and above can attend for two, three, four or five days per week, although a minimum of four days is recommended for kids aged four and above. A full-week, half-day programme (7.30am-2pm) costs Dhs9,000 per term including breakfast, snack and lunch. A full-week, full day programme (7.30am-6pm) costs Dhs10,500 per term and also includes afternoon tea. www.thekensingtonnursery.com; 04 394 4473.