Harlequin Montessori Nursery was opened in Billericay by Ann Arber over 20 years ago. Ann studied for her Advanced Montessori Diploma and has been successful as a trainer and assessor. Through her love of Montessori, Ann established this thriving setting which has received many accolades through rigorous accreditation inspections. Although refurbished and modernised, the original Billericay children’s house continues to care for children and their siblings whose parents chose us year after year. We pride ourselves on our low staff turnover, in fact the new faces are extra staff required over the years as this busy setting evolves and expands
Five years ago Ann appointed Joanne Williams (BA Hons) who had recently achieved advanced Montessori status. A new injection of fresh ideas gave Harlequin a new direction. Ann and Joanne created Harlequin Training Centre which offers their own staff, as well as staff from other settings and parents, the opportunity to gain Level II Montessori status. They are also CACHE accredited and run various Level II childcare courses. The centre plans on running Empowered Parenting courses in 2011 to give parents an overview of Montessori and provide practical tips on supporting the curriculum at home.
In the meantime, government changes to childcare meant that 2 year olds could now enter nursery full time. It was immediately realised that our younger children required more pastoral care and research was undertaken to find out how we could further support these children and their families as they enter nursery for the first time.
Small Wonders, a parent and baby/toddler group, was initially offered as one session for children aged between 6months and 2 years. A calm and relaxed environment was created for children to experience freedom to explore our treasure baskets, heuristic play and early Montessori activities. This group proved so popular that another one was created. This unique approach to childcare allows the child to build a relationship with the same teacher at Small Wonders who will greet them on their first day at nursery. As the child develops, our specialist teachers ensure that stage appropriate activities are provided to prepare them for their big day. It also gives us an opportunity to discuss Montessori philosophy with parents/carers and explain the unique activities, as well as giving practical tips on supporting this type of play at home (and as one parent found out – on holiday!).
Montessori philosophy insists that we listen and observe children to provide an environment tailored to their needs. But as our relationship with parents grew, they suggested a two hour session straight after Small Wonders where the children could play without them . It was quickly realised that this session was exactly what the children needed to ease their transition into nursery. Little Explorers was born! The session has a high staff ratio (1:1.5) to provide extra support and comfort as the child experience separation from their parent/carer for what maybe the very first time. This can only enhance their growing confidence and their new experiences at Harlequin.