What to expect from early years education

UAE-based teachers on how you can expect to see your children change at school

1 – Nursery

Aimee Collet, manager and owner of Paddington Nursery in JLT, Dubai


How do children change and develop at this age?
As children play, we see them develop new social and emotional skills to come up with their own ideas and solutions. The changes are huge from the day a child starts with us to the day they ‘graduate’. It is wonderful to watch and be part of!

What fears do they tend to have?
Children tend to feel anxious and not want to separate from parents at the start of the day. This usually continues for a week and with support and a warm, friendly teacher, your child will be feeling relaxed and confident when arriving at nursery.

What motivates the children?
It depends on the age, but I find that if you encourage children to attempt new activities and experiences, all children will become motivated and independent learners. Free-flowing classrooms and stimulating daily activities will ensure a child is successful.

How would you describe friendships at this age?
Most children don’t tend to form ‘real’ friendship until they are a little older. Once a child is about three, they tend to have a small group of like-minded children that they approach to play with or naturally sit next too at lunch.

What is it like teaching this age group?
Highly rewarding! Being able to watch a child grow over a period of time is rather special and makes me feel very proud.

What advice would you give to parents?
Relax. I know this is hard, but if you have faith and trust in your nursery, all will be fine. Ensure you keep communication flowing and that you support your child’s teacher by continuing the learning process at home.


2 – Early Primary

Catherine Williams, year one teacher at RAK Academy

How do children change and develop at this age?
Children develop socially as they extend their language skills and make new friends in the classroom. They become more eager to ask questions and gain confidence to answer them. They also become more confident emotionally throughout the first term, allowing them to be ready for the challenges of the year ahead. Educationally they are like ‘sponges’, absorbing new facts and skills.


What fears do they tend to have?
The children tend to have fears of not being with their friends from their previous class or those that have left school, and about how they will fit in. They may also have a fear of getting to know their new teacher and teaching assistant in an unfamiliar classroom, with a new routine to learn.

What motivates the children?
Stickers! Stickers! Stickers! Children at this age thoroughly enjoy receiving stickers for great academic work, good behaviour choices and being helpful to others.

How would you describe friendships at this age?
Friendships are starting to develop into groups, but are still flexible allowing them to play with children they know from other classes in the playground. The children make friends easily due to the transient nature of living in the UAE, so groups are made, but not solid.

What is it like teaching this age group?
An amazing experience! The children are enthusiastic to learn and want to know about everything. It is so rewarding for me to see their faces ‘light up’ when they are enjoying lessons and learning new facts or new methods.

What advice would you give to parents?
Encourage your children to be self-managers. This allows them to follow and stick to the routine of each school day and become responsible (for example, not losing belongings, completing daily tasks, and tidying up).

The children become more settled at school and thrive from the responsibility, whilst also gaining confidence as they grow up.


3 – Later Primary

Thomas Bates, year five teacher at Regent International School, Dubai


How do children change and develop at this age?
I see a dramatic change in the children socially and emotionally. At the start of the year, the children are intent on seeking my approval and attention, but as the year progresses they become a lot more independent. The children still confide in me for support, but they have definitely started to exhibit their own personalities, choices and ideas.

What fears do they tend to have?
I think the children’s main fear is being socially accepted. Children can be brutally honest and ‘fitting in’ becomes more and more important. Finding their own personality and fitting in at the same time can often be a difficult and somewhat scary experience for children.

What motivates the children?
Children respond well to free time at school, extra break times, or rewards such a class trips. We have an end-of-term celebration where we invite the parents to see what we have been learning throughout that term. The children really enjoy showing what they have done and are highly motivated by their parent’s presence.

How would you describe friendships in this age group?
The children have forged strong relationships. Some have one particular ‘best friend’ whilst others spend their time in close-knit groups. This year I have found that friendships between the boys in my class were very easy going, whereas the girls in my class can sometimes have quite combustible relationships. Fortunately any ‘fall-outs’ are short-lived!

What is it like teaching this age group?
I find it highly rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable. The children are discovering their individuality, whilst still holding a level of innocence and sense of childlike fun. The challenge is motivating every member of the class equally with such a range of personalities and interests with the classroom environment.

What advice would you give to parents?
Allow children to explore hobbies and try new things. Schools offer important opportunities for children to find areas in which they can excel, whether it is in sport, artistic or academic avenues.

It is important to try things they haven’t done before with full support from school and home.

Paddington Nursery, www.paddingtonnursery.com; RAK Academy, www.rakaonline.org; Regent International School, www.risdubai.com

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