Children are as independent

as you expect them to be

About Montessori

Dr Maria Montessori was born in 1870, and 26 years later went on to become the first woman in Italy to become a qualified doctor. After qualifying she was appointed assistant doctor in a clinic within the University of Rome, to work and observe children in a scientific manner. Without the usual pre-conceived educational ideas, she was able to create new techniques of education, which would emphasize the ‘unique’ development of each child. This has led to the Montessori Approach believing strongly in spontaneity and independence whereby the child is encouraged to select their own activities to explore and manipulate for themselves.

Research into this approach has shown that the earlier a child learns to interact with others, the more developed their social skills and confidence is in the future. A Preschool of good standing – like SMILES Montessori – has been proven to aid greatly in the development of the child. “All children have an innate desire to learn”, this philosophy enthused by Dr. Maria Montessori, is practised by the whole nursery through three traditional Montessori principles. These are:-

•  Observation

•  Individual freedom

•  Preparation of the environment

These three principles guide teachers to “control the environment” and not the child. To look at the child as an unknown entity or being and allows the child’s true nature to freely emerge.

Our Story

Smiles Montessori Pre-School first opened its doors in January 2003, within six months we were almost at full capacity with 64 children per day ranging in age from 3 months to 5 years. The nursery has since served the community of Harlow and its surrounding areas.

Over the years, the nursery has progressed to obtain an Outstanding Ofsted inspection three times over. The Management team have a strong passion for training and consistently train in-house as well as sending staff on outsourced courses to ensure that their knowledge is always improving.  As a result, we have a confident and competent team.

In January 2017 we opened our purpose built sister nursery in Newhall. We had been in a temporary nursery since 2013, and since the move, the nursery has gone from strength to strength.

The ethos that Julia developed at Smiles Bush Fair has carried through to Smiles Newhall and as each year passes the nurseries continue to strive for excellence, holding high expectations for both children and staff.

The Montessori Method is embedded in the Smiles name and the children thrive in a setting that encourages independence at every opportunity.

Julia Jeffrey


Julia Jeffrey is the owner of both our sites she has always had a passion for working with early years, Julia has always been committed to life long learning and is part of many groups within the community to help raise standards. Julia has gained all her qualifications including a Degree in Early Years Education, Early Years Professional Status and the Montessori Diploma. She has been working in the sector for over 20 years and has played a key role in the ongoing success of both nurseries.

Julia leads and manages the current team effectively and is a great motivator, displaying a shared sense of direction, pride and energy.

Deena Sims

Manager of Smiles Montessori Pre-School

Dee has been at Smiles Bush Fair since 2015 and started off as a newly qualified assistant, after a few years Dee then moved to preschool as room leader in 2016.

Dee trained under both Hollie and Julia to become a motivational and forward thinking deputy Manager in 2018, Dee then stepped into the Managers role in 2022.  Dee strives for outstanding care and education for all children that use the setting. She is passionate about leadership and good quality care for both children and staff.

Dee has gained many qualifications during her career, including her Level 4 in Childcare and Management in Education, as well as specialising in Safeguarding and Health and Safety.

Dee has a passion for Early Years and a commitment to training to allow herself to have the most current knowledge to help drive her team forward.

Hollie Cox

Manager of Smiles Montessori Newhall

Hollie Cox is the Manager of Smiles Montessori Newhall.

Hollie has been part of the Smiles Team since 2005 and began her career as an apprentice at the Bush Fair setting.

Hollie has worked her way up through the setting to become Manager of the Bush Fair branch, before relocating to run the Newhall setting.

Hollie has gained many qualifications during her career and is qualified to Level 5 in Childcare and Education, she also has her full Montessori Diploma. Hollie also specialises in SEND, Safeguarding and Health and Safety.

Hollie is a very proactive Manager who strives for an outstanding environment for both the children and the practitioners within the setting.

She is dedicated to her role and to the children within her care.