Top Schools Awards 2021. Results Live. Little Land Awarded The SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Award for Best Early Learning Centre in the UAE 2021-22.
The SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Awards 2021-22 Award for Best Early Learning Centre and Nursery in the United Arab Emirates is awarded to:
Little Land Nursery Dubai
In this category we had seven hugely credible, inspiring finalists – all deserving of their finalist status.
But, this was, ultimately, for us a choice between three nurseries.
And in many ways they could not be more different – and therefore the decision was difficult.
Ultimately our winner in this category is Little Land – almost beyond words, the calibre of teaching, investment, and achievement, for children, here is stellar. It’s traditional, by the book – and delivers at just about the best standard you could expect from any nursery operating anywhere in the world.
Its survival during Covid 19, when so many others have fallen, is a testament to the conviction educationalists at its heart who fought against almost every conceivable odd.
But in this category we do want to speak a little first about two other nurseries – and we are certain that Little Land will not mind us sharing their limelight to do so.
Future International is an extraordinary nursery in so many ways, not least in its ambition to deliver a beyond-outstanding, and workable, English-Arabic joint language education for its children. Finally, Creative Nest. Well, the word that captures it best is, simply, “spectacular.”
Little Land Nursery Dubai – Our Winner
WSA Rating: Outstanding+
SchoolsCompared Rating: Outstanding+
Parents’ rating: 4.9 out of 5 based
Curriculum: EYFS and Montessori (offered in separate classrooms)
1:4 (18mo – 2 years)
1:5 (2 year olds)
1:6 (2.5 year olds)
Minimum Cache 3/Montessori Diploma for lead teachers. Assistants Cache 2 or 1 as appropriate
2.5% staff qualified to Cache Level 5 (or equivalent) and above.
21% staff who hold Early Years degrees or EYP/QTS.
Staff qualified to Cache Level 5 and below undertake a minimum of 30 hours of CPD each year.
Staff who hold Early Years Degrees or EYP/QTS are required by KHDA and MOE to undertake 18 hours of CPD each year. All staff undertake more than this required minimum.
Average numbers of years’ experience in qualified teaching held by all faculty in the nursery with teaching children: 11.5 years.
Fees: range from AED 22,665 per annum for 2 days a week/year to AED 37,785 per annum for 5 days a week/year. There is a AED 525 Application Fee, non-refundable if a place is offered. Uniform costs AED 115.
Our experts consider many factors vital in defining an outstanding nursery. The first, and most important, is the health, safety and wellbeing of the children. Without this, nothing else is meaningful. We consider staff to child ratios, health, hygiene, emergency evacuation protocols and health care (including first aid training). We take a detailed look at how effective security measures are. Once this firm foundation is established, we look for the hallmarks of excellence in Early Years education: a focus on child-initiated learning through play and positive relationships between staff and children. For learning through play to be truly effective, your child must be surrounded by highly skilled professionals – which is why our next focus is staff qualifications and continuous professional development. Lastly, we observe staff and child relationships, looking for natural warmth, empathy and how well staff know each child as an individual.
The physical environment of a nursery is not only important for health and safety, but as many Early Years experts agree, ‘the classroom is the third teacher.’ We look for superb facilities, high quality toys, books and resources and a good balance between indoor and outdoor space.
So how did Little Land begin? Inspired by the founder’s desire to provide high quality education and the best outcomes for all children, Siog Moore wished to enable her own children to have the best start in life, through experiencing a warm and inclusive learning environment, provided by knowledgeable professionals.
Her vision in 1994 was to provide high quality early years provision for all children, which was safe, stimulating and caring, allowing each child to grow to their full potential. This vision still guides the daily practice:
“The owner and fully engaged manager, Siog Moore, set up the establishment in 1994 so she has more than 22 years’ experience. Children from the age of 14 months enjoy an exciting and play-centred traditional nursery experience while those two and a half to four years old explore learning through the Montessori system.”
The belief is that every child is unique. Little Land gives each child the opportunity to develop independence and freedom in way that respects the self, others and the environment. The warm, welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment plays a key role in supporting every child’s individual needs and offers continuous provision for extending his/her development and learning.
The Centre provides a rich, varied and safe space where children are free to play, learn and explore. A proven strength of the nursery is its strong, positive partnership with parents, practitioners and professionals within the community. This further supports the child’s development and progress towards the outcomes of Every Child Matters – being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and emotional wellbeing.
The is adapted every day according to the child’s interests – a rare feature in nursery provision. The Centre follows the EYFS Development Matters Curriculum aligned to Montessori principles, maintaining a play-based approach, with the key focus of following the ‘unique’ child’’ and encouraging the development of self-confidence by promoting independence. Underpinned by child development and psychology, the Montessori approach is play and activity based, and gives a child voice, choice and agency.
Well-thought-out and stimulating classrooms have six Montessori learning areas suited to the age/development and appropriate level of complexity for each child: Creative, Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture which includes geography, nature and science. They are well equipped with age-appropriate materials, toys and equipment, which are kept sanitised and are constantly renewed. In an enabling ‘prepared environment’, much thought is given by teachers to make sure that learning happens, whatever the interests of the child. Each child is supported, at their own level, to complete activities once started and to embrace responsibility for their environment.
The curriculum is delivered through play-based, child-friendly pedagogy. This includes specially designed, hands-on learning materials, art and music materials, gardening, and nature activities. Engaging role play centres for play and imaginative play are available.
Cosy, reading corners are well stocked with fiction and nonfiction books allowing children to develop a love of reading as well as enjoying quiet time. Science experiments are undertaken depending on the current theme, allowing each child to develop curiosity about the natural word, while developing good communication skills and enriching their vocabulary. Sensorial activities offer an introduction to early mathematical concepts that fuel curiosity and confidence with numbers and concepts of shapes, space and measures.
The Centre emphasises that a broad balanced curriculum is “every child’s right” and supports a firm foundation for skills and future development of character, ethics, identity, individualism and world view.
“We observed a spectacular variety of playful learning including painting, squishy shaving foam trays, Play-Doh rolling and cutting out along with fun using yellow colour mashed potato to simulate ice cream being spooned into cones. In fact everywhere we looked the variety of different activities on the go at the same time was astounding.”
“There are colourful climbing frames, Wendy houses, bikes, a tent and several areas for sand and water play. A cute, grassed area for the little ones known as the Teletubby garden has been developed. It has tunnels for them to climb through, huge palms trees for shade and a wall painted with pretty desert and sky mural.”
“We asked parents why they had chosen Little Land. Parents described the nursery to us as ‘head and shoulders above the competition’ and evaluated that “it was not run as a business but by a leader with passion and integrity to improve the lives of children.”
Inspirational leaders are key to the Early Years industry and Siog’s constant attention to detail and passion for professional development has created a unique community around Little Land nursery.
Offering top notch facilities in a homely environment, we rate the warmth and care of children at Little Land outstanding plus.
Positive relationships, warmth and a strong sense of community are the hallmarks of any great nursery, and Little Land has all these and more in abundance.
This is a beautiful, in many ways quite exceptional, nursery that is focused on implementing a truly child led and holistic programme, with superb, committed and qualified staff and very strong ROI for parents.
Siog Moore opened Little Land as a standalone nursery focused on the tailored development of individual children by well qualified staff. She promised parents then – and promises them now, that the nursery will never be a baby-sitting facility and there would be ‘No nannies’, ‘No screens’ and ‘No external fieldtrips.’
In 27 years of operation, this has not changed.
This is a Nursery which, almost uniquely in the UAE, resists any interventions that will take time away from the teacher being with the child(ren) under their care. The objective is a‘child-centred, open communication, empathic, everlearning’ system that prepares all children emotionally, physically and cognitively for the modern world appropriate to their age and stage of neurological development.
Everything is built around delivering this:
“For 27 years now, we have been at the heart of early years education in Dubai, lovingly sharing our expertise with over 2,500 families many of whom still stay in touch with us.
Our 25th Anniversary party, attended by 400 people, was a great celebration and recognition, of how our sustained achievements and fundamental values have built a solid community of supportive teachers and families. We cultivate long term relationships with paediatric specialists, and we call on them regularly for support and training.
Our mission is to help children develop self-esteem, resilience and independence while reaching their best potential socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically. Our philosophy is to nurture all of our relationships in an environment of trust and support in order to provide the optimal surrounding for children to achieve their potential.
When selecting our teachers and staff, we first look for appropriate qualifications and then we get to know them – we look for Ladies whose values are aligned with ours – who are curious and passionate, lifelong learners, who reflect and show how they have developed over the years. Our values are always based on respect for others.
We show respect by honouring our promises.”
Siog Moore. Principal and Founding Partner. Little Land Nursery.
We were inundated with support for the nursery:
“LittleLand is the closest to a village nursery you might find in your home country. In fact… better than that, as the learning experience overall is way beyond what you would get at home.”
“I believe Siog cares about the lives and development of my children and has the power to ensure that the nursery has that as its core purpose.”
“It takes a village to raise a child – Little Land is the village that we searched high and low for when looking at nurseries in Dubai (and thought we would never find). From the first day Little Land felt like our family and our home, with the addition of qualified teachers who are passionate educators of children in this most crucial stage of development.”
“My twins attended Little Land for almost 3 years. They leave it not only knowing the usual things like counting, seasons, planets, dinosaurs and how to hold a pencil, but also with a confidence and sense of self that only comes with being treated with kindness and respect.
Instead of trying to make children fit into a certain mould, the teachers at Little Land have instead been keen observers and active collaborators, allowing my children to continue to develop their own unique personalities and to grow into confident and curious children.”
“My children have developed a genuine love of education and learning at Little Land. On weekends the first question they would ask when they woke up was “Is today a Little Land day?” Try as we might to create fun adventures for them, they much preferred their Little Land days.”
“Siog and all of the teachers (not only those who taught our children), have also been a great support to us as a family. The door was always open for advice on different developmental stages – or even just to help me get my twins to the car, as it was often difficult to convince them to come home in the afternoons.
We feel privileged to have been a part of the Little Land community these past three years and grateful that our children will be starting “big” school with such a solid foundation to continue building on.”
“There is sense of calm when you enter the nursery.
You feel welcomed and accepted straight away.
The facilities are fantastic and allow for children to grow and develop at their own pace while also being part of a special classroom with children of similar ages.
My favourite area is the butterfly garden.
All staff, from office management to cleaning assistants, create the unique family that we are part of at Little Land.
I am able to freely communicate with staff members via phone, email and WhatsApp. Any questions I have had over the years have been answered promptly.”
“Siog is like a mother to the mothers at Little Land, and she encourages parents to create friendships that will grow as our children grow. There are so many examples where Siog and her team have gone above and beyond for me over the years. As a mother with three kids under 5, I have at times needed help carrying items to the car while juggling a baby and a toddler, there has always been a staff member ready and willing to help with any physical task, and then of course the advice and recommendations for things outside of nursery such as extracurricular activities, and even tips of how to manage challenging toddler behaviours.”
“As a parent I want to walk away knowing that my child is safe and happy, and that is precisely the feeling I have every day at Little Land. My youngest child is now due to start too in the coming months, and I feel so grateful that all three of my children will have had the same beautiful environment during these precious early years. This is an investment in their future that I simply cannot put a price on.”
“Of the Montessori Nurseries that I have taught in, both in London and the UAE, Little Land is the nursery that I have enjoyed working in the most. The warmth, energy, and caring expertise that the owner, Siog Moore, brings to Little Land, is reflected directly in the exceptional teaching staff that Siog employs.
These teachers are not just experienced, dedicated and passionate about extending the very best learning and nurturing experience for the children; they are warm hearted individuals, who work as a team and think nothing of going the extra mile for the children in their care.
This engenders a vibrant community feel within Little Land, amongst both the teachers and the parents. It is clear to see, that for parents new to parenthood and whom are often far from their home country, this sense of support and connection in a safe, welcoming environment, offers a lifeline.”
The nursery is housed in a bright well-maintained villa with wide open outdoor play spaces and generous private parking in a quiet residential street. The reception area is welcoming and secure, with the principal’s office overlooking the entrance.
Classrooms are a good size, colourfully decorated and beautifully equipped with little tables and chairs. Shelves, bathrooms and sinks are ideally sized for children. The shelves are filled with an extensive variety of activities, from Montessori equipment, paint supplies, soap-grating, spaghetti grass and homemade volcanoes. Dinosaurs are familiar friends and can be found between the sea life and jungle creatures.
“Children become familiar with the world around them through exploring the jobs we do, the continents and it’s a regular treat to hear them tell us all about the planets in space. To support playful learning, our capable teachers observe the changing interests of children and utilize the variety of resources from our well-stocked storerooms and a generous monthly expense budget for consumables.”
Spacious well-maintained shaded outside environment provides all age-groups the opportunity to run, play and learn. The outdoor areas are furnished with high quality safety flooring, climbing frames, slides, cars, bikes and scooters, ramps, balance garden, colourful Wendy houses and picnic roleplay.
These are supported by an, in our view magical, “Teletubby” natural grass garden with its own play tunnels and a children’s arbour encased by climbing foliage. Messy play and waterplay are enjoyed with a huge sand pit, vegetable garden, water tables, diggers and tools. Outdoor play helps children build confidence, spatial awareness and physical strength and provides appropriate risk-taking opportunities while promoting social development as the children develop a rich language for playing and negotiating in their community.
The teaching team is made up of educators who are experienced, lifelong learners and passionate about early childhood education and are child centred in their thinking. They are assisted by experienced teaching assistants. Worth noting that no nannies are employed at Little Land (one way that other Centres reduce costs).
Little Land Nursery teachers have a minimum of a Cache Level 3 or Montessori International Diploma pre-school teaching qualification and Assistants are also encouraged to and supported in gaining these qualifications. Teachers are seen by the Centre as “the vital catalyst to translate the facilities and resources into enabling children to reach their full potential.”
The Centre works with the Early Years Educational Services Centre and QuEST Direct Professional Services, who advise on ensuring that, as the Centre grows, effective consideration is made of the cultural context and broadest needs of children and families. The Centre is a member of the Montessori Network. In 2021, Little Land were invited to attend the Early Years webinars of the BSME on the revised EYFS. All Little Land teachers undertake Paediatric First Aid, Fire Safety every second year (as the certifications last 2 years) and, this year, Covid-19 training. The Centre showed us an effective plan responding to feedback received from inspections by the Ministry of Education, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Health Authority and the KHDA respectively. The Centre has a strong and supportive network of expert external advisers built up over 27 years.
We believe that there is merit in the Centres view that investment in teachers is a key differentiator. Staff are not only qualified and supported by investment in CPD, but are happy. Staff and family retention we rank outstanding.
Provision during Covid we rate outstanding.
“2020 was unimaginably different – and difficult. Many nurseries closed across the UAE. The strength of our Little Land community was shown by the way we survived the economic stress of being closed for 8 months, retained our team, our families, and our premises.
Our resilience and ability to adapt was tested and we championed, successfully developing appropriate online learning and support processes for our children and parents for Term 3 of the academic year 2019/2020.
We believe that children have vivid imaginations and memories can influence subconsciously for years and may cause post trauma stress reactions. Our focus during this time was on ensuring the safety of the children, physically and emotionally and supporting their parents with regular communication.
We developed fun strategies to keep the children safe and help them enjoy their world and develop with confidence.”
Parent referrals and Google reviews are uniformly positive, and in a significant number of cases outstandingly so.
In 2019 Little Land celebrated its 25th anniversary and was a much deserved finalist in the Top Schools Awards 2019-20.
Our congratulations to Little Land Nursery, recipient of The SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Awards 2021-22 Award for Best Early Learning Centre and Nursery School in the UAE. This is an inspirational, quite exceptional achievement for everyone at Little Land – but also a message to all of the nurseries that fought so hard, and at great cost, to survive the impacts of Covid 19 for their children. We lost some of the best…. As we have always argued, this is a sector that deserves all our support, appreciation, recognition and support. Little Land today is, and remains, this year its very, very brightest star.
Our final words go, fittingly, to a Little Land parent:
“When Covid came everything in our lives fell part.
We worried that Little Land would go to. Without it we simply would not have coped.
But it stayed with us, every step.
In so many ways Little Land saved our family – and our daughter’s education and future.
I just don’t have words…”
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