The nursery, which is set in the grounds of GEMS Primary Academy, will offer 44 registered places as well as wraparound care arrangements and after-school clubs for children from the primary school up to the age of 11.
Hatching Dragons Twickenham will also offer an immersive Mandarin holiday camp looking after children over the summer and maintaining their exposure to Mandarin language and culture.
Liberal Democrat leader and local MP Sir Vince Cable (pictured below) attended the official opening, which followed a series of free fun days over the summer which used shadow puppetry, Chinese calligraphy sessions and Chinese music to promote the new nursery to over 130 families.
Half of the new nursery’s staff is Mandarin-speaking while the other half has English as their first language. Members of staff whose first language is English are offered Mandarin lessons.
Around 50 per cent of the children currently attending Hatching Dragons have Mandarin as their first language.
Each child is supported by a ‘dual buddy system’ which sees their key worker speaking one language but ‘buddied’ with a secondary worker who speaks the other, to ensure consistent exposure to both languages.
Hatching Dragons founder Cenn John explained, ‘At Hatching Dragons, we want to create a family environment and emulate bilingual families by using both languages alongside each other within our nurseries.’
The group is looking into the possibility of running a longitudinal project with a research institute on the subject of early years language acquisition.
Hatching Dragons, which already owns a setting near the Barbican, plans to open another nursery in Westminster by the end of this year and is in the final stages of discussions about a new setting opening in Canary Wharf in 2018, with the ultimate aim of owning ten settings in London.
Mr John said the expansion proved London parents recognised the importance of preparing children for an increasingly interconnected world.
He said, ‘We have always believed in the value of a bilingual education for young children. The cognitive benefits are obvious and now well documented. And I don't think it’s ever been more important to nurture intercultural understanding in our young people to show them that there is more that brings us together than drives us apart. At Hatching Dragons, both language and cultural awareness are equally important and I see it as our mission to nurture children to become better global citizens for the future.’
Mr John, who has a Masters in Modern Chinese Studies, added, ‘I set up Hatching Dragons for my son. I had struggled to learn Chinese throughout my twenties and after he was born, it struck me that the best gift that I could give him, and other children, would be command of a language and knowledge of a culture that might make a difference to his future at an age when it was most natural to acquire.
‘I’m glad to see the success we've achieved with our latest cohort of children graduating from our Barbican site with spoken Chinese and complete listening comprehension, and look forward to delivering the same for the families of Richmond.’