British families often remark that the English Garden Nursery and Pre-school seems as if it has been transported over from the United Kingdom which reflects the English Garden’s motto “A British Style education in an International Atmosphere!”
The English Garden Nursery and Pre-School reflects the changing character of Budapest. It is located in the eighth district which has seen huge public and private investment, transforming an area once known for derelict and abandoned buildings. Both the Nursery and Pre-School reside in charming houses in the tranquil and relatively hidden quarter of Tisztviselõtelep, which translates into Garden City, offering a peaceful green quarter rarely found so close to downtown. It is one of the few kindergartens in the capital that has permission to teach solely in English, and in this case, following the early years curriculum of the United Kingdom. The children in the kindergarten come from Hungarian families, from established resident minorities such as French, German, Italian and Chinese but also from countries whose connection to Hungary is more recent, such as the US and India.
As with many international kindergartens, children stay for a couple of months or for several years; “we have always had families from international companies, nonprofit organizations and embassies but more recently, we have seen a rise in families coming short term for purposes of study or to work on films being made in Hungary. Because of the recently opened Nursery that can take in babies from as young as four months old, it is possible for children to have seven years at the kindergarten. According to Head Teacher, Sam Cartwright, a working mother with three children, “the need for high quality childcare for babies has become important following the changes in return to work opportunities for Hungarian women as well as the number of professional expatriate women required to return to work within the first year of motherhood.”
The Nursery is in a separate building from the Pre-School, but one that has a warm family feel with everything at an adorable miniature size. Special attention has been given so that the babies and toddlers have reminders of home; photos of family are just one of the many little things to provide a bridge between Nursery and home. The Nursery is bright and spacious, providing the perfect place for little ones to grow in confidence, play and interact safely. “We recruit only the best and most dedicated Early Years practitioners – the Nursery is only as good as its staff team; with the ratio between 1:2 and 1:4 the babies and toddlers get plenty of attention. Our staff have formal qualifications in childcare and many have years of experience working with children. All our staff are trained to extend each child's learning, giving them added confidence and a valuable head start for when they go on to the pre-school at two years of age”.
One thing that stands out when visiting the neighboring Pre-School is that all the children are in uniforms which parents support - “we liked the fact that The English Garden had uniforms, because we feel that way the children see each other more as equals and as belonging to a group.” This is important for many reasons, not least because the pre-school provides a number of free and subsidized places to disadvantaged children from the eighth district. “It’s great that we give these children a chance to be part of such a great community” said one staff member.
The English Garden Nursery and Pre-School prides itself on being an academic institution, using well known British Curriculum resources such as Jolly Phonics, Oxford Reading Tree, Maths Makes Sense and Jolly Music. These provide a solid foundation for children’s education through the use of lively and exciting learning materials. For one happy parent, “teaching kids through play allows space for them to think, act and develop individually in all dimensions (mentally, physically and socially).”
Because the Pre-School offers education at the same level as Years 1 and 2, children will often not transfer until they are seven and a half and ready for Year 3 at the British International School or Britannica School. Of course, some children go to Hungarian schools or to the American, French or German International Schools. Wherever they go onto, every child is equipped with a passion for learning and the idea that education is an adventure. One Italian mother explains: “The English Garden Pre-School prepares kids to be independent thinkers, to express themselves, and to respect other cultures. They organize a lot of activities inside and outside the kindergarten, which helps the children question things and understand the world around them. They learn through expressing creativity in games, and at five years old are capable of reading, writing, and doing basic math.”
The English Garden offers part time and full time places up to the age of four, although most children attend full time even before it becomes compulsory. As another mother points out “In the beginning we enrolled our son for half days and once we saw how happy and settled he was, he started to attend full time. He has now been at English Garden for one year and at the end of the year I was very pleased to see all that he could do.” In the Nursery and Pre-school each child has a "Portfolio" in which the teachers keep a record of their achievements, photographs and “work”. At the end of each year the parents are presented with this as a reminder of their child’s educational development.
Parents are informed about what goes on day to day through social media. There is a weekly Learning Journey Blog which provides highlights from each class’s week, showing what was being taught. On the webpage there is also a News page highlighting events from birthdays to trips around Budapest. There is a virtual gallery where parents can see the latest artworks by their little ones. Meanwhile when dropping off or collecting their children, parents have their “Parent’s Centre” where they can chat over coffee or use the Wi-Fi for work between meetings. “Giving parents their own place is particularly important when new families arrive because they have a chance to share information and make friends in an informal setting” explains Sam Cartwright.
Children who do not speak English as a first language, soon pick it up. The fun, English-only learning environment nurtures their interest and develops a good foundation in English. With the teachers planning thematic classes such as transportation or animals, the children are introduced to new vocabulary which advances their language skills week by week. “Our level of English is not high enough to advance (our daughter’s) level so we have chosen the English Garden for her to learn in an English speaking environment…..We believe that she has become part of a completely new world, this environment broadens her mind and her life will be greatly enriched by this experience and her new friendships” explains one Hungarian parent.
British families often remark that the English Garden Nursery and Pre-school seems as if it has been transported over from the United Kingdom which reflects the English Garden’s motto “A British Style education in an International Atmosphere!” As one Chinese family put it “the English Garden Pre-school has a lot of advantages since English education enjoys a good reputation in the world. But for us, the most attractive part is that all the teachers are so kind and caring; our children are happy and eager to get back there even after a two day weekend!”
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