WHAT'S DRIVING MISS DAISY
Miss Daisy's Nursery in Belgravia is one of the most popular in London. Nuala Cavli goes back to school to find out why.
It's little more than a year since Daisy Harrison took over Miss Morley's, one of London's oldest private nursery schools, and re-launched it under her name - but it has already become one of the most exclusive and sought-after in West london.
Tots must be signed up at birth to have even a hope of getting onto the waiting list for Miss Daisy's, but those who are lucky enough to succeed - and to have parents willing to pay the £5,400 a year school fees - could find themselves rubbing shoulders with the offspring of the rich and famous. The Ebury Square institution, set in a modest basement, recently came top in an Evening Standard list of the most in-demand nurseries in the capital, despite never having advertised its existence.
"I think it's because we're very small and cosy, and in this part of London you have quite a few high-profile parents who like that," explains Daisy, who previously taught at Thomas's and Garden House schools.She spent last summer stripping away the building's old-fashioned decor and putting a youthful stamp on the interior. "Nothing had been touched for 30 years, so I got the builders in, gave the school a face-lift and brought in almost all new staff," she says.
"When we opened, we had no idea of the level of demand there would be. I think it's happened because there's such an influx of people moving to this area from abroad, and there's also a real demand for nursery schools with good quality teachers - and all mine have qualifications."
Key attractions include the links Miss Daisy's has with other top schools. Children have graduated to Eaton House, Knightsbridge and Thomas's, amongst others. "All of the children got into the school they wanted to go to last year," says Daisy. "When they come here we are very much preparing them for their next school and the interview process they will have to go through. Every day the children, who are aged from two-and-a-half to five, are encouraged to stand up in front of the class, talk about their latest "news" and answer questions, to get them used to speaking in public. Good manners are also considered of utmost importance, and the nursery operates a 'kindness code', with rewards for good behaviour.
"I grew up in Fulham and went to a very traditional nursery, and that's what I wanted to recreate here," says Daisy. "They have to say 'Good Morning, Miss Daisy' when they come in and say goodbye to me when they go home." Children are taught in groups of six to eight, and the whole school numbers just 30, in comparison to many nurseries which take 40 or 50 pupils. The nursery also brings in outside tutors to give afternoon classes in subjects including French, music, IT and yoga.
"Because all our parents are successful professionals themselves, they expect a higher standard of nursery education for their children," explains Daisy.