Edinburgh nursery hailed by posh ‘bible’ Tatler

Nursery owner Alison Hawkins plays with Leo Gilmour, Audrey Forsyth, Aaron Hawkins and Emilia Douglas-Home. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Nursery owner Alison Hawkins plays with Leo Gilmour, Audrey Forsyth, Aaron Hawkins and Emilia Douglas-Home. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A West End nursery has starred in the April edition of Tatler’s guide to the top nurseries for so-called “alpha toddlers” – the only one in Scotland to make the grade.

Wester Coates nursery school, run by the “remarkable” Alison Hawkins, follows the philosophy of Friedrich Fröbel, the German educationalist who invented kindergartens and offers youngsters poetry readings – from William Wordworth’s Daffodils to popular works by Julia Donaldson – as well as baking lessons and plenty of outdoor play.

Daily fees for the mornings-only nursery in Wester Coates Terrace, which opens its doors at 8.30am and runs until 12.15pm, are £30, including snacks.

Only eight nurseries made it on to the list, which includes The Minor, the £2950-per-term alma mater of Princes William and Harry and the bookies’ favourite for Prince George.

The Tatler guide says there is a “very real madness surrounding the nursery-school landscape”, with parents fearing they are letting their children down if they don’t beat off the competition to bag a place at their chosen nursery. It advises parents to put their baby’s name down from birth for Wester Coates.

But Mrs Hawkins, who opened the nursery 25 years ago, said her nursery is run strictly on a “first come, first served basis” with priority only being given to siblings and cousins. She said: “I’m delighted we’re in Tatler, it was a real surprise. I think one of the mothers recommended us and the first I knew was when I was contacted by an editor at the magazine.

“We’re very keen on children enjoying their day-to-day life and being happy and secure. I don’t mind what children I teach and parents certainly don’t need to panic and contact us the moment their baby is born. With families moving in and out of Edinburgh, it’s always worth giving us a ring.

“I had a maiden aunt who lectured in Fröbel methods at Moray House and my methods are moulded on that.

“He believed in young children being educated through creative play. For example the children learn maths and manual dexterity through playing with blocks but with lots of outdoor play so that education ‘flows’ outside.”

Mrs Hawkins added that annual trips had included outings for children and parents to locations such as Aberdour Castle, the Seabird Centre in North Berwick and the grounds of Cramond Kirk.

Tatler quotes an Edinburgh mother who e-mailed saying: “One day when I must have been looking like a particularly hopeless new mother, a lovely barrister (now friend) swooped down on me and said; ‘I only have two words of advice for you: Wester Coates!’ – and she was right!”

The nursery, which has 26 places, also offers places to children with additional needs such as those who may have greater difficulty fitting into a group or may be on the autistic spectrum.