Maelys de Rudder, Founder and Director, Bloom Sarajevo

Blooming Child pre-school opened in Sarajevo in September 2008 with around 50 children. Blooming Child primary school followed quickly in September 2009. The first two years, teachers and management relied heavily on the expertise of an in-house trainer, Florencia Rodriguez, who lovingly shared her knowledge and passion for the Montessori Philosophy and Method. Florencia initiated the school s first contact with MCI, discussing our progress with Barbara Isaacs whenever she was in London. It was very reassuring to know that we could turn to Mrs Isaacs with our questions and that we were not completely on our own.

The beginning years were hard and very intense. We were building the school from scratch and learning every step of the way. Local bureaucracy was a nightmare. We needed to earn the parentstrust and educate them at the same time. Quality educational resources in Bosnia and Herzegovina were scarce. Montessori material and books had to be imported at huge cost. Training was not available either. And it was not easy to find English speaking teachers.  

The biggest challenge of all was to build the right team. We needed people who had enough open-mindedness, were passionate, committed and able to take risks. We needed most of all people who were ready to accept a radical shift in their mind-set and work very hard in unknown territory. All that with no local Montessori expertise and such a tight budget that many of us were working on a voluntary basis. During the first two years, the school loss was covered by private funds. It was a huge leap of faith.

From the very beginning, I knew that Florencia s commitment could not exceed two years. But when she left, I didn t sleep for weeks. How could the school move forward without her knowledge and dedication? How could we consolidate our young experience and continue to develop a strong and solid foundation for the future?

All this was for my children. I wanted them to have a different educational experience and I was determined to achieve my goal. The dream had come true and many families had started to believe in it. But I couldn t do this on my own. The school needed to become part of some larger organization or network. We needed to find a group of people that would continue to challenge us and lead us towards excellence and quality.  

In autumn 2010, I decided to write to Barbara Isaacs telling her I wanted to be accredited and that I needed help to prepare the school towards this goal. Mrs Isaacs wrote back very quickly with wonderful news. One of UK s top Montessori experts, Mrs Wendy Compson was available to come for a week long visit to Blooming Child. Mrs. Compson arrived in April 2011. How excited but oh so stressed we all were. Little did we know that this was the beginning of an extraordinary journey that would create heartfelt bonds and lead to Blooming Child s accreditation in June 2013.

We are extremely proud to have become an official member of the MEAB family and we are eternally grateful to Wendy Compson and Barbara Isaacs for nurturing us and believing in our commitment. Blooming Child is also their baby.  

Mrs Beata Doody, Manager, Nightingale Montessori Nursery

We had our Ofsted inspection on 6th October 2011. As our last inspection graded us only satisfactory in March 2007 we were really keen to get a better grade. We went through the MEAB accreditation in March 2011 and received our accredited status in July 2011 (the whole team turned up to the MSA conference). I was hoping the MEAB scheme would help us to get a better grade as many parents still rely on the Ofsted report to make a judgement call on a nursery.  
 
I am happy to announce we were graded outstanding, not only in the overall effectiveness of the early years provision but in all the other areas. The report is now on the Ofsted website too.  
 
I can’t put into words how happy and proud I am as I think Nightingale Montessori Nursery has come a long way. I have been working there since 2003 but I only become the manager in 2009. It was definitely the right decision to go through the MEAB accreditation as it helped us to become not just a better Montessori nursery but now an outstanding nursery even in Ofsted’s eyes.  
 
The inspector pointed out how well she thinks we implement the Montessori philosophy. She took home to read my Practical, and Sensorial life files and the Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage in Montessori Settings. She came back to give us the feedback (and the files) the following day. My deputy jumped up and hugged her. We had three Montessori students from MCI (Natalie, Kathryn and Wioletta) in on the inspection days and she talked to them too. She complimented us on the studentssubject knowledge and understanding of their role at our setting.  
 
Please pass my thank you on to the accreditation team and to our MEAB assessor who helped us to get our MEAB accreditation (we also improved our record keeping and staff appraisals with her advice).

Ziba Rashidian, Owner, The Montessori Nursery School

My reflection on our accreditation

A personal view from Ziba Rashidian

The Montessori Nursery School was established in 1990 in a village hall in South Oxfordshire. Eighteen year later, when I took over in 2008, there were three dedicated staff, one of whom had been running the nursery as the manager since 1997, when the owner had moved away. The setting was running very smoothly, but as an outsider coming newly coming in, I could observe that there was a lack of support and understanding of how Montessori had progressed during the past years. The staff team was very devoted, consistent, but in need of embracing the challenges of change. Also, the introduction of the EYFS in 2008 was overwhelming for all.

I stood back for a term and observed to see how I could support my team without disrupting and jeopardizing their dedication. Slowly and gently I discouraged circle time at the beginning of each daily session, when children had to be seated until all had arrived. I then encouraged more time towards free play (work cycle) extending to 2¾ hours. Gradually in a couple of years we, as a team, had come a long way and I was proud of my staff and how they had adapted. However, I knew that there was still room for improvement and now that I am no longer an outsider, I needed guidance from a higher ranking.

With support and advice from our Montessori Schools Association (MSA) regional head, who is also an assessor for the Montessori Evaluation and Accreditation Board (MEAB), and with the support of all my staff, who were by now more confident in the changes we had made, I decided to contact MEAB for the nursery to become accredited. This was mainly because I wanted to make sure that the support and encouragement I had given my staff was appropriate and what more we could do to deliver Montessori’s ethos and philosophy appropriately. I admit, it was daunting but at the same time it was exciting and challenging. Once I made the telephone contact, I was told that there is a form to be filled out. At that moment I thought “oh, no, not another SEF”, as I had filled out one a month before. To my surprise, the form was simple and straightforward: no confusing questions or repetitions. When I sent back the forms, I received a confirmation and was given a choice of dates for the assessor to visit. To confirm the visit, I received a call from the assessor introducing himself and informing me of the time of his arrival and making me feel very relaxed by exchanging information and confirming what he wanted to look at.

It was an exciting day. I had to support and encourage my staff by remaining relaxed, strong and not showing any sign of anxiety myself. I was not sure what to expect but I thought I would treat the assessor as one of my visitor parents and be proud of our achievement. When my staff realized I was calm and greeted the assessor with ease, they all relaxed. I showed the assessor the nursery and once he had set up, he joined us and sat at a corner observing the morning session.

After lunch, the assessor and I sat together for a feedback. He was full of praise on the behavior of the staff with the children and many other aspects of the nursery, which made me feel proud. He made a couple of suggestions, which we took on board. One was the way we were observing the children and the format we were using, which could be improved. The second was our outdoor area, which needed to cover all areas of learning.

Both suggestions were addressed with the support of the assessor and when he made his second visit, we had attended training to improve our observations and jointly, with all the members of staff, had put in place different activities to cover all areas of learning outdoors.

On reflection, I am convinced that had we not gone through the accreditation process, which gave us the assurance of our good practice, and had we continued with our prior ways of observations, and not converted our outdoors, we would not have been awarded ‘Good’ from Ofsted. The inspector only had good words for our practice, was impressed with the way we do our observations and also our outdoor area was not an issue.

Three years later, when our second accreditation was due, I applied with no hesitation or apprehension due to our previous positive experience and outcome. We all looked forward to receiving our assessor and appreciated and welcomed suggestions, which were given to us. The suggestion of a small change in practice has made an enormous impact, which perhaps we would never have thought of.

Also, as an accredited setting, we take advantage of attending the leadership conferences, discounts on training, using the logo, and are absolutely proud of being a member of an extremely reputable worldwide organization.