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Al Qasimi Foundation Supports Grassroots Development Effort for Early Childhood Education Providers

Al Qasimi Foundation
June 20, 2015

Known for offering professional development courses to local educators from Ras Al Khaimah’s primary and secondary schools, the Al Qasimi Foundation has recently extended its capacity development support to local nurseries, at the initiative of Ms. Gemma Mullins, owner and founder of Little Treasures Private Nursery School.

“Local private nursery schools are becoming more common in Ras Al Khaimah, but training and qualifications for their professional caregivers are lacking. For nursery staff, standardizing training needs to be a priority,” says Ms. Mullins, “and that’s where the Al Qasimi Foundation comes in.”

When Ms. Mullins began establishing her Ras Al Khaimah-based business over two years ago, the process proved quite challenging.

Having gained much of her own experience in Europe, Ms. Mullins spent months learning about the correct procedures, regulations and legislation, and training criteria needed to set up a nursery in the Emirates.

Eager to provide courses that focused on early years education, Ms. Mullins approached the Foundation with a proposal for facilitating workshops that focused on a variety of topics, including settling into a nursery setting, making the most of circle time’s learning potential, storytelling, and policy and procedural basics. In response, the Al Qasimi Foundation offered its facilities to help educate local nursery staff and provided certificates of participation to workshop attendees.

“One of our biggest concerns in Ras Al Khaimah was that there were staff members who had worked as nursery assistants for years and were fantastic caregivers but understood very little about the development milestones of children and the early years system. The staff were motivated and committed but lacked essential childcare skills,” reports Ms. Mullins.

“For example, we desperately needed to implement health and safety and pediatric first aid training for staff. We organized courses in collaboration with First Security in Dubai, which is certified by Highfield in the United Kingdom and the Dubai Ambulance Service. We managed to run two successful pediatric first aid courses for parents and nannies in our own nursery facilities, but it was clear that we would need assistance if training was going to continue in the future.”

Up to 100 participants took part in each of the four workshops, which were held in the Foundation’s largest training room, and there was often standing room only at the sessions.

“Though this series of workshops may seem like a modest initiative,” says Mr. Luke Zimmermann, Program Manager for Teaching and Learning at the Foundation, “such movement toward professional development for early childhood educators benefits the local community by lending structure to Ras Al Khaimah’s nursery education system.”

Ms. Mullins views these workshops as a step in the right direction for local nurseries, who she believes can and should be working off the same platform, which would help to raise standards in early childhood education across the board.

Ms. Mullins’s sister, Sarah, who has worked at Little Treasures since its inception, adds, “We need to raise the bar: parents need to know that not only are their children being cared for in a safe environment but that the staff who are engaging daily with their children are qualified to deliver social interaction and to stimulate learning.”

To that end, Ms. Mullins is also working to improve the system for local pre-school training by trying to set up an advisory committee that would offer educators access to standardized policy and procedural documents, troubleshooting guides, best practices outlines, and other information relevant to early childhood education. 

Although a long way from having a dedicated professional development program tailored to nursery professionals in place, Ras Al Khaimah is closer to addressing the need for early years education training thanks to the determination of Ms. Mullins and the support of the Al Qasimi Foundation. 

“One of the things that makes the Foundation—which is fundamentally a research body—special, is that we were created and continue to engage the community in our work,” explains Executive Director Dr. Natasha Ridge, “and we couldn’t be more pleased to help residents of Ras Al Khaimah invest in the education of our youngest learners.”