Green Grass Nursery, Al Manara
Green Grass Nursery in Al Manara addresses a very real need for many families in Dubai by blending the highly regarded UK Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework with elements of the Reggio Emilia approach and, uniquely, a fully bilingual Arabic and English programme. This sets it apart from other nurseries not only in its catchment area but across most of the UAE, making it a desirable option for any family who wants their child to enjoy the popular play-based EYFS approach in a diverse, international environment, while also being wholly immersed in two of the major languages spoken in the UAE.
Opened in 2021, Green Grass Nursery Al Manara is the sister branch of Green Grass Nursery Jumeirah, which opened its doors in 2013. While both branches put an emphasis on languages, Green Grass Nursery Al Manara is unique in its fully bilingual approach – wherein half the activities are delivered in English and half the classes are delivered in Arabic, every day. The curriculum gains its core and visible strengths from the British Early Years Foundation Stage, but it is built on expertly and given a strong and appreciative cultural context that celebrates the Nursery’s location in Dubai.
The Group CEO and General Manager of Green Grass Nursery is Arwa Naccho (pictured left), an educator and mother-of-three from Syria who noticed that there were very few options when it came to Arabic provision in private nurseries in Dubai:
“Either Arabic classes would be very limited and delivered in a totally different style – often relying heavily on worksheets and being less engaging and interactive than the rest of the teaching. Or the nursery would be exclusively Arabic and very much about religious instruction.”
Ms Naccho designed Green Grass Al Manara to fill this gap in the market for a nursery that would embrace both English and Arabic equally: championing the Arabic culture as well as the language, while still delivering lessons in a child-led, play-based way that is informed by a robust educational framework. In the process we think that she has developed one of the most beautiful nursery schools and Early Learning Centres in Dubai.
Arwa Naccho is Group CEO and general manager of Green Grass Nursery Al Manara, as well as the sister nursery in Jumeirah. Her passion for early childhood education is evident throughout our conversation, and she takes a warm, heart-on-sleeve approach that the nursery parents we met on our tour value highly.
Having graduated in French literature and language, Ms Naccho went on to qualify in Early Childhood Education, becoming a French language teacher, and then a Nursery Principal.
The teaching staff she hires are diverse mixture of nationalities, hailing from the UK, Lebanon, and Turkmenistan to name a few, with her focus always being to find those for whom teaching is a passion and vocation.
Ms Naccho is committed to offering an authentic, personalised ‘home from home’ experience in her nurseries. “It’s about knowing each and every child individually. I want everyone from the teachers to the nursery manager to be able to tell the parents details about their child’s day, even down to how much they drank from their bottle of water. Having that close partnership communication with the parents is crucial for me.”
Green Grass Nursery Al Manara is located in a welcoming converted residential villa in the quiet Al Manara neighbourhood of Dubai. There is ample shaded outdoor space – something that Ms Naccho feels passionately about and is part of her Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy where “the environment is the third teacher”.
As well as an outdoor playground and climbing equipment, trike track, mud kitchen and organic vegetable patch – where the children themselves tend to the plants – there is also a tortoise pen and chicken and pigeon barn.
The Chicken and Pigeon Barn proved itself a wonder for the little ones on our visit.
The children are able to interact with and feed the animals, and the chickens provide fresh eggs for the children’s meals, which are cooked and served on site. We particularly like the thoughtful and significant investment in safety flooring throughout the main outdoor play areas – it’s expensive but important – more Early Learning Centres and Nursery Schools should be doing this:
Inside the nursery there are six classrooms, divided by age, from 4 months old at the baby stage to 5 years old at FS2. The rooms are modestly sized at around 5M X 6M, but airy and awash with natural light. The roleplay and dress-up area, indoor play gym and extensive Arabic and English library ensure that every bit of indoor space is maximized.
Each classroom has easy access to toileting facilities, which fits into the ‘Child-Oriented’ (CO) potty training method that the nursery practices.
It’s clear that an effort has been made to focus on sustainable, natural materials throughout the nursery, with an emphasis on wood, cardboard, and crafting materials that have some connection to nature.
It is also clear that the bilingualism of the nursery is woven into the very fabric of its facilities, with all signage comprehensively written in both English and Arabic.
Investment in classrooms extends to outside too with areas set aside for learning in shade and surrounded by greenery:
The nursery operates a no-shoe policy and the high cleanliness and hygiene standards are something that the parents we spoke to found impressive and reassuring.
Adult to child ratios
At the time of our visit in September 2022, the nursery was just six months old with fewer than 50 children in it – meaning that staff to child ratios are often well above what is required. The nursery has a maximum capacity of up to 120 children.
|Age Group||Adult to Child Ratio||Maximum Class Size|
|Baby classroom (4 months – walking stage)||1:3||10|
|Pre-toddlers (12 months – 24 months)||1:4||12|
|Toddlers (24 months – 36 months)||1:5||15|
|FS1 (3-4 years)||1:6||15|
|FS2 (4-5 years)||1:6||15|
All Green Grass Nursery core early years practitioners are KHDA-approved educators with Level 3 and early childhood degrees.
Fees are payable termly and they work out as Dh3,34 per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to Dh5,6771 per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
Green Grass Nursery takes an eclectic, child-led and play-based approach to learning that is inspired by various educational methods, most notably by the British Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. It uses the same rigorous EYFS framework that any British-curriculum school or early learning centre would do, which covers seven key points of learning and development: communication and language; physical development; personal, social and emotional development; literacy; mathematics; understanding the world; and expressive art and design. The Art curriculum we rank particularly stand-out in in brining the key themes of learning together.
It also uses a project-based approach, and on our visit there was evidence of several project-based initiatives that had been inspired by the children’s personal interests, including an investigation into the life cycle of a tortoise, and a Dubai-skyline inspired construction project.
The Reggio Emilia method is another influence on the Nursery’s approach, as evidenced by the many sensory stations and the focus on child-led learning that is shaped and informed by each individual child’s passions.
The bilingual approach
The clear USP of Green Grass Nursery Al Manara is its bilingual Arabic/ English approach. The days are divided in half, with the first part of the day being delivered fully in either English or Arabic by one teacher, and the second half of the day is delivered in the other language by a different teacher.
This has proven to be very effective, says Ms Naccho, and has been more successful than the alternate-day approach, which they previously found could sometimes upset the children.
In the split-day approach every child is greeted and welcome by the same ‘key person’ every morning, so that they form a consistent emotional bond. By the time the teachers swap over in the middle of the day, the children have been settled for a few hours and do not mind the change.
Other telltale signs of the nursery’s bilingual approach are the dual-language signage, and the extensive Arabic-language story and picture-book presence in the library.
The food policy
Time-strapped parents will be relieved to hear that no lunch-box prep is required: Green Grass Nursery offers homecooked meals that are prepared and provided on site. Arwa Naccho, CEO, explains:
“Green Grass Al Manara introduced meals this school year to all students as a complimentary item in the nursery. We carefully listen to parents who are struggling with the morning routine, especially when it comes to working mums. Policies we follow in food are the Healthy eating policy, Food Policy Food hygiene policy accompanied by Allergy and intolerance policy, and Health and safety policies.”
“Meals are nutritious and dietary balanced and created with the support of a Nutritionist. Every month we try to improve our offer of meals and snacks for children, taking into consideration team members’ suggestions, observations, and findings as well as parents’ input.”
The approach to drop-off and separation anxiety
One of the key challenges for any parent choosing a nursery is ensuring they pick somewhere they feel confident enough in to leave their child without a second thought. As a mother-of-three as well as experienced Nursery Principal and CEO, Arwa Naccho understands the parental anxiety, and has shaped a detailed approach:
“For many parents, the first day at nursery will have been in their minds for a long time. Leaving their child, particularly a baby, for the first time can be heartbreaking to a new mother.”
“We show them empathy and respect; we are aware that listening is a key to understanding. We validate their feelings and show genuine concern for their fears.”
“We ask lots of questions! In-person! We do have a questionnaire in place before joining, but the importance of bonding and gaining trust must be in face-to-face talk. This shows genuine interest and, importantly, the parent is reassured that we have heard them. We encourage the parent to ask anything that is on her or his mind, especially something she or he feels might be silly to ask – it is often these points that bother them the most so we strive to have conversations with parents frequently.”
“Comfort objects: we do support children having transitional items when joining the nursery. After years of experience in early years settings, we are sure of the benefits comfort toy can have on children’s separation anxiety.”
“We also have the ‘Green Grass Key Person,’ in which, essentially, a key person becomes a replacement attachment object for the child, so they must form a good bond with each other. We encourage both the parent and child need to meet the key person several times before starting the nursery. We have a display of all our staff profiles in the reception areas so that parents can show to children their teachers and create a visual bond.”
“Overall, we are transparent and honest and we show a lot of flexibility; this doesn’t mean we do not have policies we follow, but we seek every opportunity to speak with parents openly and improve the situation for a child.”
The approach is reinforced by inspiring hide away spaces of calm in which children can be looked after individually as part of an overall philosophy of caring at the centre of school life:
The approach to potty training
Another formative milestone that nurseries often oversee is the switch from children using nappies to using the potty or toilet. This can be a particularly anxious element of the early-years period for both children and parents, and delayed toileting is often one of the reasons that a child might be kept in a nursery environment for a longer period of time instead of going to a school. Ms Naccho explains:
“We provide training to all our teaching assistants on the Brazelton child-centered approach to potty training. Paediatrician T. Berry Brazelton developed a “Child-Oriented” potty training (CO) method because he was concerned that parents were pushing their children and the nursery settings to potty train before they were ready, and using rigid, sometimes harsh, tactics. This wasn’t good for the child, he argued and proposed another way. CO potty training is a gentle and gradual approach that is considered gentle and highly effective. However, it may take longer than other methods and involve starts and stops.”
“CO is gentle because it respects the child’s readiness for each new step, and it’s gradual because the child sets the pace; parents do not force new steps if the child pushes back.”
What the parents say
We met three mothers while on our review tour, all of whom raved about the nursery’s bilingual approach. One Emirati mother mentioned that she wanted her child to speak better Arabic, as they often spoke purely English at home. Another mother, a Northern European married to an Emirati, said that she wanted her children to identify with both sides of their identity. And a Lebanese mother delighted over the diverse and multicultural approach taken by the nursery, and its enthusiastic and enriching celebrations of everything from International Day to Eid, Diwali and Christmas.
What does a Green Grass Nursery graduate look like?
Arwa Naccho, Green Grass CEO says:
“We hope to raise confident and lifelong learners , who are independent and eager to learn children . We have a strong emphasis on forming the necessary set of skills for smooth transition to the primary school.”
Schools that GGN children go on to include: Repton school; Etihad school; Emirate’s international school JBS; Horizon International or English Schools; Kings schools and Clarion.
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared verdict 2022-23
A moment in time of child engagement as they tend to the vegetable patch during our September 2022 visit to this beautiful nursery in Al Manara.
It is rare in life for us to be surprised – but Green Grass Nursery in Al Manara is one of those exceptional centres of early learning that has the capacity to take your breath away. Utterly beautiful, and with an attention to detail and investment in children that should be treasured, this is a school that brims with the trademarks of having been built as a labour of love.
Around every corner there is a moment of discovery, and everywhere you find discoveries to be made the attention to ensuring the care for children is absolutely stand-out. Every possible area in which a child could trip is designed to offer protection; shade abounds wherever children gather, each facility is a spectacle of colour and beauty – and the upkeep is stellar. Walls are whitewashed to perfection. the choice of learning tools too is considered and expert, with investment in man-made materials and nature demonstrative of the Reggio Emilia approach guiding learning.
The British EYFS teaching pedagogy is beautifully applied, but rather than being rigid, it ebbs and flows with the school’s other great commitment making languages natural and inspirational. The Arabic language here becomes enjoyable and second nature at a time that is critical in preparing children for its many challenges later. Commitments to learning here are substantial and a million miles from being ostentatious or showy. Children clearly matter here.
Visit the official Green Grass Nursery web site here.
© SchoolsCompared.com. A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.
Baby: 3,344AED per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to 5,6771AED per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
Pre-toddler: 3,344AED per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to 5,6771AED per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
Toddler: 3,344AED per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to 5,6771AED per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
FS1: 3,344AED per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to 5,6771AED per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
FS2: 3,344AED per month for the minimum of three days per week, 8:00am – 1:00pm, and ranging up to 5,6771AED per month for the maximum of five days per week, 8:00am – 6:00pm.
British EYFS, Reggio Emilia blended
Fully unambiguously inclusive
1:3 to 1:6
Al Manara, Dubai
Green Grass Nursery Group
+971 (0)4 295 8024
• Impressive and caring school leadership for whom nursery education is a vocation and children the centre of everything
• Inspired blending of British EYFS, Reggio Emilia philosophy and language scaffolding create a truly inspired learning environment for children
• Tier 1 facilities built to stretch the imagination and create a warm environment for young children
• Commitment to the care and safety of children second-to-none
• High levels of investment in qualified (and passionate) teaching faculty
• Small class sizes at all phases with exceptional attention given to the needs of each individual child
• It's hard to find gaps here, but, at a push, we would have liked to see greater investment in water play. This is however, quibbling over details. This is a fabulous nursery without qualification.
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