Blossom Nurseries – Various locations
• Outstanding facility provision
• Exceptional staff training and retention programmes
• Outstanding independent feedback
• Deeply committed, accessible owner and CEO
• Bursary programmes
• Unique curriculum balancing EYFS, Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Sky Garden elements
• Added value, environmental, food Program; "Blossomersion" and "Skillplay" programmmes
• Blossom provision is not yet available across all parts of Dubai
• Fees, whilst aligned with Tier 1 provision, will be out of reach for many families
Blossom Nurseries currently operates five nurseries:
- Blossom Burj Nursery, Umm Al Sheif
- Blosssom Viillage Nursery, Umm Suqeim 1
- Blossom Mudon, Al Salam Town Centre, Mudon
- Blossom Early Learning Centre, Dubai Academic City
- Blossom Downtown, Yanzoon 7, Al Manzil
A sixth, Blossom Marina, is in phased launch to open at Dubai Marina in September 2016 (more information can be found here.)
The Blossom Group was established in 2009 and combines an EYFS core English National Curriculum with an in-house developed “Sky Garden” approach to teaching through the senses (which combines elements of Montessori and Reggio Emilio philosophies). Blossom Nurseries offer provision to students between the ages of 4 months and four and half years. Education is formalised around children between the ages of 4 months and 22 months (“baby”); 22 months to 33 months (“Toddler”) and 33 months to 54 months (“Pre-school”). The Blossom Early Learning Centre in DAC offers an extended programme to six years in preparation for direct entry into Year 1 classes in American or British schools.
Whilst the core “academic core/sensory delivery” approach is uniform across the nurseries, each has a distinct identity, and prospective parents are advised to arrange to visit with their children to understand the dynamics of each. The findings of an independent WhichSchoolAdvisor.com walk-in inspection conducted at the Blossom Village Nursery in Umm Suqeim can be found here.
We believe that there are a number of key questions that prospective parents should ask nurseries, but only after identifying, during a visit, whether the children seem genuinely inspired, cared for and happy. If a nursery is not delivering on these basics, it is better to walk away.
Our sister team found Blossom Nurseries meeting these fundamentals. It is clear that children are very well cared for and that the learning programmes are planned, children happy and lead and supporting staff committed to child development and welfare. Of course, given the dependency of quality on teaching staff, and the limited scale of nurseries compared with schools, any verdict will only be as valuable as the last inspection.
In terms of questions to ask, and assuming that there are places available at any given nursery, we believe that the following should give parents at least the foundations upon which to make their decision at a British nursery:
- What is the staff to student ratio across the nursery and the minimum and maximum class size?
- Are staff trained in the curriculum – and how/where? Ask to see staff portfolios including certificates.
- Where are teaching staff from; how long have they been employed – can you speak to them?
- Can I speak with support staff?
- Do you have specialist music, language and Special Educational Needs staff?
- Can you see copies of two lesson plans and the one you are watching during the visit?
- Ask how the school differentiates visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners?
- Ask the teacher to explain to you the six elements grounding the EYFS curriculum (literacy; numeracy; creativity; PHSE; physical development; and, knowledge of the world)
- Do you provide daily and term reports for parents?
- Ask if you can see one child’s individual workbook.
- Ask to see where children can nap.
- Ask for policies on television and ICT.
- Check to see that staff are speaking with children by name and ideally at eye level.
- Ask if you can check toilet provision.
- Ask for a tour of the nursery and look for individual, themed places of learning.
- As for the balance off time children spend at nursery and on visits and other activities.
There are many other questions that will relate to individual child(ren), but how a school responds to these questions should guide prospective parents to a view of provision and the warmth of the nursery. We recommend that parents should allow for at least one hour to be spent at each nursery visit.
Like many nurseries, Blossom offers a broad choice of parental options, of which we identify two below for comparison.
Option 1: Academic Term
Baseline fees for nursery provision between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm are 36,930 AED based on three, 12-week terms, including all language and music classes (and the spectrum of added value Blossom provision). 10:00am snacks and lunch provision are charged at an additional 3,420 AED per annum.
Option 2: All Year Term
The 49,800 AED premium fees provide for full time, 5-day provision, based on 49 weeks per annum, between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm, and include a 10:00 am snack and lunch, as well as all language and music classes.
Timings can be extended from between 7:30 am to 6:00 pm to cover afternoon programmes including dance, cooking, drama, music, sport, ICT and water play programmes with an associated increase in the fee. Options also exist to pay per visit.
A 1000AED annual fee covers Blossom educational resources, books and a portfolio that each child will use during the course of each year.
Facility provision is generally very good, and the basic offer is consistent, with some tweaks, across all nurseries. They include dedicated free-flow areas; a gym; language and computer stations; central area for linked activities; themed spaces by phase, year and EYFS focus; 3 (or more), age-appropriate learning zones for each baby, toddler and pre-school phase; fingerprint entry system and CCTV for security; lead-free paints; multi-sensory classrooms; “Blossom Jungle Gym” with slides and yoga balls; minimum 5000 square feet outdoor shaded activity and play zones including silica sand pits, peaceful cot bed areas, mini turf pitches; and water play areas including paddling pools and dancing fountains. All nurseries include a number of “added-value” activities through “Blossomersian”, “Skillplay”, food and environmental programmes.
Lead teaching staff at Blossom must be able to read and speak in English proficiently, have at least a Bachelor Degree from a recognised university and have a minimum of two-years work experience with children. All staff must “have a warm and friendly personality, be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, be able to relate well to children and employees, be willing to fulfil responsibilities in accordance with the school’s educational philosophy, love and care for our children and have the capacity to create magical experiences for children every day.” Specialist teachers are employed in the areas of languages (French, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin according to centre); Music; Physical Education, Art and ICT.
The schools were founded, and are still (very actively and passionately) run, by Blossom’s founder Zahra Hamirani. A (Columbia educated) lawyer by training, Ms Hamirani has worked in both corporate and humanitarian legal fields in the UK and US, as well as a visiting Professor in Law at the University of Dubai, Swiss Business School & Chifley Business School. She describes herself as an “Educationalist and Passionate Propagator of all things Children” with absolute conviction in ensuring that her centres offer a “secure and stimulating environment where each child will blossom.”
“Initially I set up Blossom as a safe early years space with pediatric first aid trained staff, a strong focus on learning with programs such as Oxford’s “First Friends” and Cambridge’s “Math Champions” along with our holistic Skygarden approach to playing, making friends and allowing imaginations to soar.
“We follow the British EYFS – but want children to leave us with a real “knowledge destiny”, with wide ranging thinking and learning on important issues in place.
“Most importantly – we focus on each child’s individual journey in education and teach that in a world where you can be anything – be yourself!”
Zahra Hamirani, Founder, and CEO, Blossom Nurseries and Early Learning Centres
One of the most impressive, but less known features of Ms Hamirani’s nurseries, is their bursary and scholarship program for staff children, with fee remission ranging from 35% to 100%. This is important because building links between the teachers, their children and the nursery not only strengthens retention, but also forges teachers own investment in the nurseries.
Ms Hamirani is also deeply committed to HH Sheikh Mohammed’s wider call for bursary and scholarship provision within all schools, and runs a bursary programme to help a number of disadvantaged families in hardship who would otherwise not be able to afford the fees.
Our bottom line? The early developmental years are such an important part of every child’s education. The benefits of structured, professional and caring nursery provision set the foundations of each child’s academic journey much later – and their way of structuring relationships with their peers. Nursery provision is expensive, however. It requires much more intensive staffing than equivalent later schooling – and the best educators ensure the qualification, retention – and as importantly commitment and empathy, of their staff.
In the absence of formal annual published inspections by the Inspectorates, this is a part of the education sector that requires parental scrutiny to a very high level. No one can do the last mile of research for you. However Blossom makes this as seamless and easy as it can be for parents with transparency of its approach to child development (within a play centred EYFS curriculum), and the availability, accountability of Blossom staff. That said, we can and do recommend you take the next step and assess whether its nurseries are right for you and your child.UMM SUQEIM FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UMM AL SHEIF FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to Downtown Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Private, hybrid for-profit/community interest (Triple PPP)
FS0: 48,900 (5 days, 49 weeks, 8:00am to 1:00pm, including 10:00am snack and lunch)
FS1: 48,900 (5 days, 49 weeks, 8:00am to 1:00pm, including 10:00am snack and lunch)
FS2: 48,900 (5 days, 49 weeks, 8:00am to 1:00pm, including 10:00am snack and lunch)
YEAR 1: NA
YEAR 2: NA
YEAR 3: NA
YEAR 4: NA
YEAR 5: NA
YEAR 6: NA
YEAR 7: NA
YEAR 8: NA
YEAR 9: NA
YEAR 10: NA
YEAR 11: NA
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA
National Curriculum for England:
Blossom Burj: 210 capacity, current 180
Blossom Village: 225 capacity, current 175
Blossom Mudon: 160 capacity, current 80
Blossom Downtown: 125 capacity, current 125
Blossom Early Learning Center DAC: 250 capacity, current 200
Capacity Blossom Marina: 140 capacity
(1) Some children are part time (2 day/3 day/4 day) so average daily enrollment reduces by between 20% and 30% according to the centre
Toddlers 1:4 - 1:6
(1) Total staff range from 1:3- 1:8 as a maximum in classes.
(2) Average overall is 1:4 based on approved staff hired.
(3) Blossom has 3 staff per classroom, normally with specialists in full time employment that conduct French, Arabic, sign language, music and other specialty work.
(4) Most staff have cache 3 and many are in level 2,3,5 training through its affiliated training centre www.beeacademy.org.
(5) Blossom Burj: 10 lead and 24 support teachers
(6) Blossom Village: 10 lead and 23 support
(7) Blossom Mudon: 5 lead and 10 support team
(8) Blossom Downtown: 9 lead and 20 support
(9) Blossom Early Learning Centre, DAC: 14 lead and 20 support
(10) Minimum class size is 12 and maximum is 24. Average class size is 14.
Varies by centre
(1) Lead teachers nationalities: British, Canadian, French, Indian, USA, Australian, South African, Egyptian, Filipino Lebanese, Polish, Pakistani; Dutch, South American
(2) Most teachers have UK accreditation certificates or equivalent degrees and / or are enrolled in cache.
(3) All teachers have training-based contracts and undergo paid on-going professional training
(4) Assistants are predominately from the Philippines with attested degrees. The majority have expertise across a range of specialist areas including education, nursing and pediatrics.
(5) Nationalities: 25
(1) Of the 18% (approx. 36 staff) - 25% relocating out of the country/ change in family circumstance; 10% spouses job loss; 25% poor performance/ attendance; 20% pregnancy/new parents; 20% other.
(2) 50+ staff members have been with Blossom over three years. The majority of Blossom staff complete their contracts
(3) Blossom provides windows of time for resignations to ensure there is limited impact on children.
(4) Blossom benchmarks to provide industry leading pay and conditions to retain staff including medical insurance, subsidized childcare, training benefits, transport allowances and an Ambassador program for those who remain with the nurseries for more than 3 years.
Umm Al Sheif, Dubai
Umm Suqeim 1, Dubai
Dubai Academic City, Dubai
Al Manzil, Dubai
Dubai Marina, Dubai
British (largest nationality): 25%
Significant minorities: other EU; Egyptian; Jordanian; Indian; Canadian; and, American nationalities as significant.
Breakfast, lunch and tea is provided according to plan (including hot food)
Blossom Nursery Group / Blossom Early Learning Centre Group
Zahra Hamirani Founder and CEO
+971 (0)4 348 6275: Blossom Burj Nursery, Umm Al Sheif
+971 (0)4 394 8837: Blossom Village Nursery, Umm Suqeim 1
+971 (50) 208 3721, +971 (04) 551 6729, +971 (04) 551 9330: Blossom Mudon, Al Salam Town Centre, Mudon
+971 (0)4 421 4458: Blossom Early Learning Centre, Dubai Academic City
+971 4 448 7661: Blossom Downtown, Yanzoon 7, Al Manzil
+971 (52) 853 1447: Blossom Marina, Dubai Marina
Music (including instrument lessons according to centre)
Core languages (English, French, Arabic)
Optional languages (according to centre): Russian, Mandarin
Foundation world knowledge (mix of geography, history, religion, culture)