Miss Daisy's aim was to create a village nursery school in the heart of London, where the education offered is a balance between formal learning and learning through play. KIDSORTED spoke to Miss Daisy Harrison, owner and founder of Miss Daisy's Nursery, on her inspirations, achievements, motivations and advice to parents. Truly, she is an educator at the very heart of education.
Why did you decide to open a nursery and how did you go about starting it?
I began my teaching career at Thomas’s Battersea before moving to Garden House Boys School. It was whilst at Garden House that I became involved in the boy’s assessments and began seeing that many children were not as properly prepared for the school experience as they should have been by that stage. With this in mind, I began visiting nursery schools in the area and noticed many were located in uninspiring, dark halls and staffed by underqualified and inexperienced teachers who did not recognise the importance of nursery education in a child’s social and educational development. It was then I realised there was a need in London for a high quality, traditional nursery school that offered a stimulating environment. I myself had been lucky to attend the most wonderful nursery school in Fulham and I recalled those days as some of the happiest time in all my years at school – it was at this nursery that I had learnt to read and write and most importantly made wonderful friends, many of whom remain the dearest of friends. I wanted to take my personal experience and professional expertise and create a nursery school that would instil a love of learning in each of its pupils and prepare every child for their first day at big school.
After some time dreaming of this venture from my desk at Garden House, I finally took the courage to resign and in September 2007 I opened the doors to my first nursery school, Miss Daisy’s Belgravia. Garden House was incredibly supportive of me as were all my teacher friends throughout London who all offered valuable advice and recommendations of what they felt was needed in a nursery school. In those first few years I was the Headmistress, teacher, bursar, registrar, school secretary and cleaner!
If you had not become a nursery head and entrepreneur, what else would you have dreamt of doing?
I am passionate about health and wellbeing so maybe something in that world. I truly believe however, working with children was always my vocation as from a young teenager, I enjoyed regularly babysitting for family and friends and nannying over my school holidays. Working with children and seeing them grow in character and skills has always been a joy to behold. I am also a great believer in supporting women in business as it can be very lonely and tough, so I do like to support other female entrepreneurs.
Miss Daisy's is very popular and greatly oversubscribed: What do you think makes you so successful? What differentiates Miss Daisy's from other nurseries?
A country/village nursery school in the heart of London, we are immensely proud of the reputation each Miss Daisy’s Nursery school has gained over the years and the unwavering support we have from the families who join us. Recognised as a warm, nurturing environment in which children flourish, we provide a balance between formal learning and learning through play. Integral to the success of Miss Daisy’s Nursery School is the highly qualified and experienced teaching team. Well established and with an unrivalled passion for education our team ensures every child is guided and given the necessary support to discover their own unique talents and in turn grow in confidence.
What is your selection process?
When allocating places, Miss Daisy’s Nursery looks as a variety of key factors including but not exclusive to, boy: girl ratio, the age distribution as well as the proximity of the family home in relation to the nursery school.
Integral to the success of Miss Daisy’s is the country/village feel it fosters in the heart of London – by selecting children within walking distance of the nursery we are able to create a wonderful and unique community spirit at each of our nursery schools. Playdates can be easily arranged and children and parents are able to form strong friendships that continue long after they leave Miss Daisy’s.
How do you prepare children for assessments for school and the transition into pre-prep?
Every part of the Miss Daisy’s two year programme is tailored to prepare the children for the assessments and their transition into pre-prep. During my time as a Reception teacher, I had children in my class who I did not feel had received the best preparation from their nursery school for pre-prep so I took all this into consideration when I developed the curriculum and programme for my schools. From day one at Miss Daisy’s, we encourage the children to shake hands on the door with their teacher, we encourage eye contact and put a great emphasis on good manners and kindness, we really help develop the children’s communication and language skills and most importantly we develop their confidence amongst their friends and teachers. We offer a full day the year prior to joining school which is hugely important for the transition into big school. My experience as a Reception teacher helped show me what we could do at Miss Daisy’s to ensure the children have a smooth and happy start at their future school and that they are fully prepared. Whenever I speak to Heads and teachers from the future schools, I am immensely proud as they always comment how well the Miss Daisy children are prepared for the routines of school life.
What made you most proud at school in the past year (special achievement of a child e.g.)?
Charity is an important part of the educational offering. Each year our nurseries select a charitable organisation to that our teachers, children and parents raise awareness and monies for. This year we chose Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, an extraordinary charity that supports sick children and their family. Together, Miss Daisy’s Nursery arranged a family fun day, wrote our very own book and arranged an elegant drinks event all of which raised £50,067.20 – enough to completely pay one nurse for a full year including all their training and ongoing costs.
What is your tip for parents when little ones have a hard time separating from their parents in the mornings?
My number one top tip would be to work alongside your nursery school. Each school has their own settling in process and it is important to take this into account when choosing your child’s nursery. If you support the school and teachers settling in methods, you will find that your child will settle in to school life much faster. Your child’s teachers are fully trained and very experienced in this and really do know how to support a child who is struggling with their new routine. I would always encourage a happy, confident farewell and then the parent leaves - the longer a parent stays the more it is like pulling a plaster off very, very slowly for the child. After a few weeks, if your child is still distressed at drop-off and shows no signs of settling, then this is an indication that your child is not ready. Firstly, do not fret - all children develop at different stages and it is far more sensible to delay your child starting nursery school until they really are ready. Even a few months later can make a huge difference in their development and remember you want nursery school to be the happiest experience, not a traumatic one!
If parents have 1 hour in the evening to spend with their children, what activities would you recommend to them?
Talking, talking, talking!! As young children have more access to the likes of television, iPads and computers, speech and language skills have really declined in the last five years and one of the main reasons is families are spending less time talking whilst at home. Verbal interaction is vital for your child’s development. I would always recommend a parent reads a story book to their child every night, prior to bed.
How do you help parents find the school that is most suited for their child?
We offer a huge amount of support and guidance for the parents throughout the assessment process. I always recommend parents speak to their child’s nursery school teacher and really listen to what their child’s teacher has to say, likewise parents should seek advice from the Head teacher about the type of school they think would best suit their child.
The home environment is very different to school and it is vital to take all factors into consideration when choosing a future school for their child. It is important parents remember, to select a school that is going to be the best fit for their child even though it might not necessarily be right for the parents. I believe that by listening to their child’s teacher they will choose a school where their child will be truly happy and thus succeed and thrive at school.
What do advice do you give parents dealing with toddler tantrums?
I know it is very hard but it is best to ignore bad behaviour at home and only reward the good behaviour. It is particularly hard for toddler’s as they haven’t developed their language skills yet to express themselves, hence why they have tantrums. I would always recommend a good routine at home as children really do crave structure and this gives them great security.
Tell us something about yourself that nobody else knows.
I don’t like party games!!
Can you share a funny story that made you smile lately?
Recently at school I was wearing a long cardigan that tied at the waist and one of the children asked me why I was wearing my dressing gown to school!! That is what I love the most about children, they always tell you what other people are thinking!!