Kidville Nursery, Al Safa, Jumeirah
Note: the following review is for historical information. Kidville Nursery, Al Safa, has now closed.
For most prospective parents exploring nursery options for their child(ren), one of the most important considerations will be price. There is simply no point for many parents in exploring options outside what is affordable.
But if price guides consideration in building a shortlist – we believe that the two most substantive considerations in choosing nurseries within that shortlist must be a view on the quality of teaching faculty and supporting staff – and the choice of curriculum.
Teaching staff are critical in any nursery – but absolutely critical in a nursery like Kidville, where there is such a strong focus on the use of music and the broader arts in education to build each child’s capacity and learning. The core driver of Kidville’s approach is a belief that engaging each child’s senses (“children speak 100 languages”) is the most powerful way to then engage intellect and the broader soft social skills that are fundamental to any pre-school.
The wider context of this approach is drawn from Reggio Emilia in which parental participation (required at early stages of the Kidville Grad programme), the context of education (quality and diversity of facilities) and an emphasis on children guiding their own learning rather than its being imposed by teachers are key presumptions of an effective early-years education.
The philosophy and practice of education and classes reflects this through an “Emergent” (rather than linear) curriculum in which children are the agents of their own learning and teaching and lessons follows each child’s interests, passions, strengths and needs rather than a text book structure which ignore these in the interests of getting “from A to B”.
In the following we will outline in broad strokes the Kidville pre-school offer, Kidville University, for children between 6 months to 4 years – its history, what sets it apart, and its core strengths.
This background in place, however, it is critical that prospective parents understand that it is the calibre of teaching staff that must be a key focus of any decision, and in turn the relationship they are able to strike with each individual child. This is true of all nursery schools. It is imperative that prospective parents visit each nursery shortlisted and interrogate not only the passion of teaching staff – but their talents across languages, music, instruments, ability to engage and inspire children, and, as importantly, their commitment to the company they work for. The Regio Emilia approach is particularly demanding of teachers – and works at its best with very high ratios of teacher to child provision.
Staff retention provides a very telling measure of how valued teachers feel in any organisation. Prospective parents, we believe, should never discount this. Even the most passionate, vocationally committed teachers can be driven out of organisations by poor management and a lack of investment in them whether financially, in terms of recognition and/or their professional development.
In this area we have to leave it to parents to interrogate nursery provision on the ground for all shortlisted nurseries. Many parents choose a nursery based on their experience of teaching staff on visits, only to find that those teachers have left after a few months…
Staffing must be a key focus for prospective parents in making the final decision from their list of shortlisted schools because, however good the facilities of any nursery may be, and however affordable its provision, teachers that lack the talent to engage, the vocation to inspire or who have no passion for teaching the children under their care, will never get the best of children at such a critical age of development.
With this background in place, and we would advise prospective parents to consider our review of Blossom found here for more key questions to ask prospective nurseries, we turn to what sets Kidville apart.
The first thing to understand is context. Kidviille in Dubai is a US franchise. The positives of this are an ongoing requirement to meet the requirements of the US owner – and the promise of a tried and tested approach to nursery provision. To a greater extent than self-started new nurseries, Kidville promises consistency and a history of delivery that will give many parents confidence.
Franchises, however, at least logically, should increase costs for parents – the franchisee has significant capital investment costs to repay and ongoing license fees. To remain competitive, something has to give. If fees, as is the case with Kidville, are broadly in-line with premium alternative providers, and given that, by a very long way (in some estimates up to 90%), the most expensive on-costs of any nursery are in staff salaries and benefits, our recommendation is for parents to interrogate staffing.
The balance to this logical increase in overheads is that the best independent nurseries face the same ongoing costs of staffing, similar set-up costs (dependent on quality) and, whilst there are no franchise fees, there is arguably a much greater requirement in ongoing professional development.
At this stage it should be stated that we found a very good level of staffing provision (between 1:3 and 1:5 depending on phase), and high levels of commitment from teachers at Kidville. We cannot however, with any nursery, guarantee this will be the case over time – and there are no KHDA reviews of provision at this age to provide independently verifiable staff turnover rates. Again parents need to interrogate this.
The franchise is owned by Monica Malhotra, (Managing Director), and Doug MacLennan, (Chief Executive Officer), a husband and wife team who met whilst studying business at Stern New York University. They later became intent on bringing what they perceived as the best nursery provision in the world to the UAE – but nursery provision with a twist because Kidville, unlike traditional nurseries, also teaches the spectrum of music, drama, learning and other engagement/enrichment classes separately that parents normally have to source from multiple schools and providers, as well as event themed “occasions” for children including birthdays – and holiday “camps.” The concept is very much one of providing a one-stop-shop for the education, enrichment, inspiration and celebration of pre-school children.
“Working with young, creative and formative minds of little children is a unique challenge. Kidville is a personal investment for me. I feel great working with toddlers and watching them grow. Other kinds of businesses do not quite touch you in the same way.” Doug MacLennan, Chief Executive Officer, Kidville Dubai
As well as the extended four semester Kidville University nursery programme, Kidville offers developmental classes ranging from Little Maestros, Run Wiggle Paint & Giggle to My Big Messy Art Class, Big Muscles for Little Babies and Kidville Gymnasts. There are too many programmes to references here – but, in the context of our review of its nursery provision, the range of programmes on offer is telling of the inherent range and breadth of offer – and teaching skills required to deliver it. These necessarily feed into the core Kidville University nursery programme so that it can, as per the Emergent Curriculum, meet the individual neds of each child. Education at Kidville thrives, and depends, on breadth of programmes – and the teacher talent to deliver them.
Kidville locations all feature, light, colourful classrooms (as standard with the Reggio Emilia approach), indoor ‘soft play’ playgrounds, “Big Muscle Gym” gymnasiums, shaded outdoor play areas include garden, sand and water play areas and riding track, all focused around activities to build each child’s social skills, cognitive thinking ability and emotional development. Other features include a “Tumbl Trak”, indoor swings, and lift, carry, lift and stack giant blocks, obstacle courses, recreational basketball, beams and bars, rings and springs, Kidville Soccer, balls, bats, hoops, clubs, racquets and sticks.
The approach is collaborative and social, rather than top-down – see below, so environment matters.
The first Dubai branch of Kidville opened in 2010 in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), Dubai Marina and today two further branches have been established in Mirdiff and Central Jumeirah. The plan is over time to open branches across the GCC.
“I have always dreamt of building something that will last beyond my lifetime – a project that is a sheer positive for the community and provides an affirmative contribution to the growth of society. I see Kidville as such a project.” Doug MacLennan, Chief Executive Officer, Kidville Dubai
Recruitment of teachers focuses heavily on both experience and qualifications including a requirement, according to seniority, for a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Early Childhood Education Diploma, CACHE or Arabian Child Early Years Certificate. Staff to student ratios are high with three children to one teacher (12-24 months); four children to every staff member (two-three years); five children to every staff member (three-four years) – and at younger ages this support is further strengthened by the presence of a parent. All classes for newborn to 2 year olds are taken with the parent/caregiver; all classes for 3 year olds are separation optional; and classes from 4 years are without parents. The aim is to build separation slowly and in-line with he needs of individual children.
The full-time nursery Grad programme takes children through developing classes from around 6 months to 4 years. The KV University preschool program is for 2-4 year olds only.
One critique we have of Kidville is the transparency of its communications. Its web site is unnecessarily complex, probably the most complicated of any educational provider at any phase we have seen in the UAE, and it would appear this results from trying to meet franchise requirements of blending US and local information. The result, for us at least, is that it is almost impossible to clearly make sense of the offer. There are so many courses and programmes, many of which are simply not available (presumably because over-subscribed), no clarity in fee structure, no information about staffing – and a significant number of links go nowhere. The complexity of membership schemes and options only adds to the sense of muddle.
This is a real shame as many parents will simply be put off. As it stands, prospective parents will have no choice but to visit the Kidville nurseries to begin to make any sense of availability, options and pricing. To its credit, Kidville offers many free classes. We would advise parents to attend at least one of these and not be dissuaded by the web site. Our advice to Kidville is to simplify its front facing communications and remove the muddle of US links and pricing. Ironically, central to the Reggio Emilia approach is localisation of curricular to individual children and cultures – something that seems to have been lost outside the classroom in its communication with parents.
Pricing is almost too complicated to offer clarity, but we calculate that parents should expect to pay between 11,950 AED and 12,575 AED for each of the 4 semesters (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring), equating to between 47,800 and 50,300AED per year. We calculate this is around twice the cost of equivalent provision in the US but very much in-line with alternative premium providers in the UAE. The Summer semester offers 8 weeks of lessons, Fall 15 weeks, Winter 12 weeks, and Spring 12 weeks. This equates to 47 weeks of lessons, around two weeks less than some alternative premium providers. Pro-rata this raises the Kidville headline prices by comparison and parents should be careful to check the number of weeks of education on offer when drawing up their shortlist. Kidville pricing is also based on a four-hour teaching day (8:30am – 12:30pm), this less than some other providers who offer five hours including lunch (generally 8:00am to 1:00pm).
The final decision parents must make when deciding their nursery provider is curriculum. We shall be adding curriculum information to our guides section shortly…
In all this complexity, there is one constant: How each child feels – how engaged they are, how much they look forward to going, how it adds to their lives. You cannot garner this in a review – all children are different. We think the Kidville offer is, as a whole, a fabulous one. In its breadth of provision, its environment – and the inspiration it clearly brings to children’s senses, and the investment in teaching staff, many of whom are multi-talented across music and the arts, it has much to recommend it. We particularly like its provision of free classes and welcome to parents – and their child(ren).
But deciding whether it is “the one” requires a visit, with your little ones, and many questions. And it is infants and children, ultimately, to a greater or lesser degree according to their age, that must surely be part of, if not the one to make, the final decision, as they show or otherwise a fascination and love for what they see.COMING SOON on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
0-1 YEARS: KIDVILLE UNIVERSITY KVA BABY™ 11,950 AED - 12,575 AED per semester [Sun-Thurs provision over 4 semesters (8:30 am – 12:30 pm) for 47 weeks]*
1-2 Years: KIDVILLE UNIVERSITY KVU® JR™: 11,950 AED - 12,575 AED per semester [Sun-Thurs provision over 4 semesters (8:30 am – 12:30 pm) for 47 weeks]*
2-3 Years: KIDVILLE UNIVERSITY KVU®: 11,950 AED - 12,575 AED per semester [Sun-Thurs provision over 4 semesters (8:30 am – 12:30 pm) for 47 weeks]*
FS1 PRE-SCHOOL ALTERNATIVE (KIDVILLE UNIVERSITY (KVU)®): 11,950 AED - 12,575 AED per semester [Sun-Thurs provision over 4 semesters (8:30 am – 12:30 pm) for 47 weeks]*
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
* Note: Nursery also quotes a $5,690/AED20,900 option which extends provision to 5:00 pm.
Reggio Emilia (Emergent Curriculum)
0-1 Years:1:3 (with parent)
1-2 Years: 1:3 (with parent)
2-3 Years 1:4 (separation optional)
3-4 Years 1:5 (without parent)
(1) All teachers have 2 - 5 years experience in teaching and/or working with young children from 12 moths and upwards.
(2) Lead Teachers hold university or college degrees and applicants with post-graduate degrees, and specialisation in early childhood teaching, are prioritised in appointments.
(3) All teachers must be fluent in English and priority is given to teachers with proficiency in Arabic, Russian, French or other languages.
Phased openings since 2010
(1) Dubai Marina Nursery: The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina, Dubai
(2) Jumeirah Nursery: 38 35th Street, Al Safa, Jumeirah, Dubai
(3) Mirdif Nursery: Grand Piazza (near Spinneys), "Uptown" Mirdif, Dubai
British (largest nationality)
MAV Nursery / VAMM
Monica Malhotra, Managing Director
Doug MacLennan, Chief Executive Officer
Mirdiff: +971 (0)4 236 3648
Jumeirah: +971 (0)4 394 6066
Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina: +971 (0)4 440 1220
• Inspirational, 360 degree, vibrant environment designed to speak the 100 plus languages of all children across their senses
• Certainty of a proven US franchise with strict requirements to meet a defined quality of provision
• Deeply committed, genuine owners driven to deliver their image of the perfect pre-school nursery education for toddlers, infants and young children
• One of the largest choiced of enrichment classes, themed activities and lessons under a single roof of any provider in the UAE
• Trial lessons to help parents gauge the “fit” of the Kidville approach to their child(ren)
• Investment in maintaining a high proportion of teachers to children
• Very careful and kind programmes to ensure that separation from parents when it does occur meets the needs of each individual child
• Reggio Emilia approaches are designed around teach child building their own education without pressure of meeting defined curriculum phases. For many parents this gentle approach protects childhood.
• Oversubscribed across many classes
• Terribly complicated information provision that will be beyond the comprehension of many parents
• The Reggio Emilia approach will not suit all children – or parents; views of the purpose of a nursery education
• Borderline premium plus fees will be out of reach for many parents