Jennifer Blain, Founder and Principal at The Denning Montessori School
Hi, my name is Jenny, I founded the Denning Montessori School in 1991. Even though it is now well over a quarter of a century ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Since as early as I can remember, I have known I wanted to work with children, it feels as though working with children is a part of my life purpose, I love it as much now as I did when I first started.
I remember at 15 yrs old, choosing to stay with my Godmother to be with her two-year-old daughter, so I could get some experience first hand and enjoy her company. When I was 16, I applied for a highly oversubscribed two-year nursery nurse course (NNEB). There were so many applicants and so few places, I was delighted when I was one of the few to be offered a place. It meant leaving home, where I lived on a dairy farm in Devon with my three siblings, and moving into a hall of residence. I just loved the course and the experience and knowledge it gave me.
I moved to London at 18 years and took up my first job as a nanny, around the Hampstead area and later in the Kensington area. One job gave me the chance to also take a morning job in a Montessori school. This is where I decided that the nursery school I wanted to set up, would be Montessori. I just loved everything about Montessori, it felt so natural, so perfect, so amazingly clever and well thought through, This was to become a turning point in my life, after a year travelling around the world, including spending time in Sydney working in nursery schools. I returned and attended a college in London, to study and qualify as a Montessori teacher. My college lecturer offered me a job, in her Montessori School in Marlow, after six months I was promoted to Head Teacher. I later decided Henley was a great place to set up a Montessori school and found Fawley village hall which offered close proximity to Henley and offered the countryside experience for the children.
I remember my first open day so clearly, one of my first visitors in 1991, who was a teacher herself sat on the floor chatting about Montessori. Both her children came to the school, and one subsequently came back to the school as a grown-up and trained to be a Montessori teacher herself. She became and remains a good friend, as do countless families whose children have attended the school. Henley is a small place, and it remains a continual joy to see the young children that we once looked after and nurtured, develop and grow up into fantastic young people and adults.
All over Henley and the surrounding area are parents and their children who came to the Denning Montessori School, who still enjoy reminiscing about the wonderful times that they had at the school. It is surprising just how many parents and their children, credit their subsequent success in life to their time at the Denning Montessori School. Tom who was once a pupil and is now grown up, trained as a tennis coach and gives children tennis and ball skills lessons, at a private tennis court, and also helps out sometimes at our annual sports days. My oldest two daughters have also started to help out at sports days and other events. Our alumni of ex-pupils is really amazing, I love meeting ex-pupils and their parents and hearing about what they have gone on to achieve, and what impressive people so many of them have become, from Head Boys and Head Girls to Harvard University to TV Stars, running their own business and Montessori Teachers, and so much more. Our school's motto is "Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow", it is lovely to see it happen and to have the context to the importance of your children's early years.
It is with huge pride that I look back on all that the school and it’s pupils have achieved, but it is not something I have done alone; over the years I have had some wonderful, dedicated staff, who shared the same simple goal, to offer children the very best nursery education and start in life. My staff and I just love what we do, we are passionate and enthusiastic about our work, we are forever pushing ourselves to be better, to learn, to grow and develop. I believe there is an energy and deep sense of caring about everything that we do, that just shines through, we have been fortunate to attract parents who really care about their children's preschool experience, who understand the value of what we deliver, and we have created an ethos that continues through the generations and a partnership with parents that is so rewarding. We feel privileged to have every individual child in our school.
Over the years the regulations have changed, but our simple goal of offering the very best nursery education to the children has remained the same. There is a passion, energy, enthusiasm, caring, dedication and commitment at the Denning Montessori School.
It was exciting to bring Montessori to the Henley on Thames area, we also brought Forest School for this age group into the area. We were the first nursery school in Henley on Thames to be Montessori accredited, the only school to receive the Buckinghamshire Quality Award. We aim to be leaders and pioneers, we always strive to be better and improve what we do. We have access to a unique and simply wonderful, private, and safe forest, which the children really enjoy. We believe that our spectacular outdoor environment and access to the natural world gives the best experience Denning children. Come and visit us, we would love to show you around, tell you all about the amazing experience your child would have with us. You can speak to existing and past parents or follow on schools; we have an enviable reputation, of which we are very proud. We never stand still, we are always improving, developing, growing and pushing ourselves to be ever better.