Reflecting on our inaugural International Teachers Exchange Programme

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Busy Bees nurseries in Derby (Heatherton), Solihull (Blythe), St Albans (Hospital) and Mardley Hill were our first UK nurseries to welcome visiting childcare professionals from their sister nurseries in Singapore and Malaysia, since our international expansion in 2015.

The seven qualified childcare practitioners from Singapore and two from Malaysia who visited the UK were selected primarily for their exemplary practice and willingness to share their high-quality standards in all aspects of nursery life. They stayed in the UK for a month, giving them a chance to get to know more about their Busy Bees peers overseas and sharing best practice.

After introductions, socialising and respite, our visiting group of Teachers, Principals and Curriculum Specialists spent time at Busy Bees Latchford House where they learnt more about Early Years Foundation Stage, UK Compliance, Policies and Procedures and our fundamental understanding of how here, in the UK, we encourage our children to ‘learn through play’.

Khor Hui Fen Chloe, a Principal, who spent time working closely with staff and children at Busy Bees nursery at Mardley Hill, said: “Before we came here I didn’t think there was going to be such a huge difference between my school back home and the schools here. The idea of a preschool that I have in my mind is teaching children about language and numbers. Whereas here at Busy Bees, children are given more flexibility to choose what they want to do, using learning through play to explore their individual interests.


“In the UK, you ask children simple questions about what they would like to do or what their favourite toys are, and then you use this to engage them in an area of learning. This is very different to what we do back at home. Over here it’s much more about the children themselves and their interests.”


Nursery Vice Principal, Yim Yong Hui Genevieve, who visited Busy Bees at St Albans, said: “In Singapore our days are far more structured in terms of class room layout and activities carried out at their tables. Here, in the UK children have the freedom to choose what they want to do and whether they want to be inside or outside and their practitioners guide and enhance their extended learning using the child’s interest.  In Singapore, because of the culture and often the expectations of the parents, our curriculum is different.  When we get home we’re hoping to incorporate the children’s interests into our daily structuring more, so it’s been useful for us to see how this is done in the UK. We will definitely be taking some ideas on how to give more children more freedom and control over their style of learning, back to Singapore with us.”


Principal, Ann Gomes, who also visited Busy Bees nursery at St Albans, said: “I think this flexibility is good for the children because the main thing you notice is how well they interact with each other socially. There’s a freedom of interaction that we would like to start to introduce back at home.”


Yvonne Smillie, Busy Bees International Project Co-ordinator, has been instrumental in developing the first of many international projects and has worked alongside pivotal colleagues within Busy Bees Singapore Head Office.  Of the experience Yvonne said;


“Busy Bees was founded by six teachers, 34 years ago, who wanted to make a positive difference to young children and working families in their community.  As we’ve grown, we have taken great care to ensure we are a National Network of local nurseries rather than a generic chain, where each and every nursery operates on the basis of serving its immediate community. We are now an International company and our ethos remains exactly the same. It’s vital as we continue to grow that this core message is at the heart of every nursery whether it be in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia or wherever we progress across the globe.


“Going forwards, our International Teachers Programme will be available to many more of our staff across the globe. We believe that sharing ideas and practice methods, and creating opportunities for thought provoking discussions are vital in providing a well-rounded training experience. We also want it to be a culturally immersive experience.”


Each practitioner also undertook a project while in the UK, which focused on raising standards and sharing practice, not just in their own nursery but also across their region. The projects cover essential aspects of childcare including Forms of Imaginative Play, Exploration of Outdoor Learning, Child Development Analysis and Education and Care for Children Under two years of age.


This exchange programme was the brainchild of June Rusdon, CEO Busy Bees Asia, whose vision stemmed from a desire to create opportunities for her dedicated staff teams. June said:

“An exchange programme like this is only at the very beginning. If we want the best talent to join the industry, we must be an institution with the right values, environment and culture that resonates with their beliefs. To attract and retain talented educators is imperative to our vision, and to our commitment of a quality education for children. When educators have the opportunity to experience and appreciate other cultures, they will inevitably pass this value on to the children they educate.

I see this investment as bigger than just Busy Bees- it is an investment in the early years industry and an investment in the type of world we want our children to be living in.”

We look forward to our next International Exchange Programme soon!