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Safa British School, Dubai, Al Quoz

Safa British School, Dubai, Al Quoz

Al Safa British School has recently changed its name from Al Safa Private School, Dubai. No reason has been given for this, although a new headmaster in Dan Sutton and a new logo will no doubt mean a fresh start for the school- see the results of our visit below.

Located in Al Quoz (it relocated in September 2012) Al Safa British School,is a British National Curriculum. It is currently attended by 860 students between the ages of three and 11 years. The school is rated Good overall. The last 2015/16 inspection was carried out under the previous principal’s tenure, and Mr Sutton told us one of his main aims is to move that ranking up to Outstanding.

Mr Sutton is already making the school “more fun” according to pupils we spoke to our our visit: ‘He knows kids’ the head boy and girl told us on our JWI inspection. Currently 49 different nationalities are represented at the school , but the single largest demographic remains from the United Kingdom (around 30%). Approximately 1% of students at the school are Emirati, while 8% of students have been identified as having some form of Special Needs (SEN).

The school has a teacher to student ratio of 1:17. That’s mid to top end of the spectrum, but Al Safa’s 58 teachers are aided by a large number of teaching assistants (30 in 2015/16). There are on average 24 children in a class and between 3-7 parallel classes per year group. Teachers are mostly recruited from the UK.

The school currently has a teacher turnover in the very high range – currently 38%. This should be of some concern to parents looking for stability. In 2014/15 turnover ran at 20% – the Dubai average.

The school’s latest KHDA report notes that students make good progress and attain good standards in English, mathematics and science. Their progress and attainment in Islamic Education and Arabic is less satisfactory – a common issue for Dubai private schools. Students’ personal development is said to be a significant strength. Pupils are very well behaved, with extremely positive attitudes and want to learn. There is effective teaching which in most subjects motivates students to do well. The curriculum is applied in ways that increases students’ enjoyment of learning and their achievement.

Students needing additional help are identified quickly.

Arrangements for health and safety are highly effective and the school demonstrates strong leadership, good management and productive relationships with parents.

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The school’s 2013/14 and 2014/15 KHDA reports noted improvements  in both the SEN provision and the teaching of Arabic and Islamic studies,- however the school has a way to go, and in these areas the school has a list of recommendations to achieve. The latest 2015/16 report makes it clear further improvements are required: The school needs to “build on the improvements made in Arabic and Islamic education [and] improve further by applying the good teaching practice and higher
expectations from other departments”. Safa also needs to “broaden the admission criteria to enable more children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) to enter the school”.

The school has, in general, good facilities for its students, including a shaded pool and a smaller training pool, sports grounds, music and ICT rooms, PE facilities are said to be “first class”.

The school also boasts a large library and an auditorium.

Premises are spacious, bright and extremely well maintained with wide corridors and additional large spaces

Safa British School also offers over 40 extra curricular activities.

Safa British School prides itself on being one of 93 schools abroad to be found to be fully compliant with British educational standards. It is a member of  British Schools Overseas, as well as of British Schools of the Middle East. Safa British School students tend to continue their education at the newly established Safa Community School located in al Barsha.

Fees at Al Safa British School for 2016/17 start at 26,510 AED for FS1, and move to 39,329 AED until Year 7. Full details of tuition fees may be found below. Note, there is also a non-refundable registration fee of 500 AED.

 

Safa British School, 12th October 2016

A new head has injected a lot of enthusiasm as he moulds an old favourite into fresh shape. ‘Traditional with a modern twist’ is what Dan Sutton is looking to achieve.

He’s ambitious to take Safa to high levels of achievement through all areas of the school. Parental involvement and support is clearly evident and the word ‘community’ is one you hear frequently from teachers, parents and pupils.

Safa British School is a popular school within the Dubai community. Previously it was a small villa school founded in 2004 but it has grown and developed, moving to a much larger set of buildings right next to the Meydan Road.

The entrance is hidden by a high set of trees and wall behind which is the impressive, colourful central round block which accommodates the reception and office areas. Either side of this are large white two storey rectangular blocks housing the classrooms.

Meydan Road is a very busy highway linking Sheikh Zayed Road and Al Khail Road but the position of the school makes it easy to find and it is convenient for parents at drop off and pick up. They are fortunate for now to have a large sandy parking area alongside but this is soon to be developed.

We were greeted by Julie Francis, the headmaster’s PA and shortly afterwards by Dan Sutton, the head himself, who welcomed us and showed us into his office. He is new to Dubai and only began at Safa this year. His enthusiasm and passion for education came across almost immediately. He had other job options here but he chose Safa because of ‘the family feel of the school’. The owners he felt were ‘always on-side’ and there was ‘great management experience, a strong and happy leadership team, the staff were lovely and children so proud of their school’.

Mr Sutton has ambitions to develop the school and their main aim at present is to achieve the KHDA ‘outstanding’ rating as well as ‘getting all the right things in place’. He stressed the importance of having a shared vision in the school among staff, parents and children. He appears thoroughly involved in the day-to-day running of the community and keeps a keen eye on everything that goes on with regular observations of lessons or ‘drop ins’. The learning process he has evolved is modern in style but has grown from more traditional methods. Programmes are used such as My Maths and Flip learning so that children feel they have ownership of their learning. The new principal describes this as ‘traditional with a modern twist’.

In this regard Mt Sutton says he likes the idea of role reversal in the classroom where a child may be asked to teach a topic he/she has just learned and the teacher sits down with the rest of the class. He likes the idea that teachers should be flexible in the classroom and have the ability to think on their feet. The school has also introduced a jobs board for children where many positions of responsibility are advertised and pupils have to formally write a letter of application explaining why they’d be best at the job. Salary is paid in house points.

Dan claims the school is truly holistic and that it is a truly inclusive school. However occasionally they have to turn students away if there is a significant learning difficulty. The SEN department is proactive in both English and Arabic and students pursue personal learning plans and/or courses for the gifted and talented.

There are strong links with their sister school Safa Community School on Umm Suqeim street with students visiting one another and sharing facilities.

We were eager to see the school in action and were able to walk into classrooms, chat to children and ask them questions. Corridors are wide and shared areas open plan and well-organised. There is ample play equipment such as giant dominoes as children are encouraged to learn through play but are expected to tidy up and put everything away. Several walls are decorated with huge colourful, musical themed murals around the music department and action sporting figures around the PE areas.

In FS1 and 2 classrooms there are generally seven learning stations and the children rotate from one to the other. The teacher traces each child’s progress every day using the Tapestry Programme on the iPad. They take photos of the children while doing each activity and can access progress in a clear and simple way.
When we visited they were working on a project ‘Me in the UAE’ which allows the children to express their individuality, their own culture and personal tastes. Many walls were used to exhibit pupils work and are described as ‘working walls’. They change week to week as different topics are covered. Artwork, for example, is framed to look very professional and written work is neatly displayed under giant hanging pens.

The outdoor facilities are great with a wonderful new sandpit. There is covered climbing equipment and a little road with lots of mini bikes. A 25 m swimming pool is in regular use along with a learner’s pool next door. There is a large football pitch along with basketball and netball pitches.

We later met two year 6 pupils who have recently been appointed head boy – Fisher – and head girl – Anwesha. Both raved about how they loved Safa and said that the family feel atmosphere along with ‘very nice teachers’ were the highlights. They were also excited by the changes taking place in the buildings and found this ‘amazing’ and ‘inspiring’.

Sport in Safa was another area they loved – both enjoyed competing in the BSME competitions and said they were proud to be Safa students.

Both pupils chose the school trips they had made to Ras Al Khaimah as their favourite experience. A whole school week was spent in the desert, camping, hiking and other exciting outdoor activities. Fisher’s favourite moment was winning three headmaster’s awards in a week when in year 4. Anwesha’s favourite moment was winning Top Reader of the Year and getting to see Nick Arnold, author of Horrible Science during the Emirates Lit Fest. They loved the cafeteria, which they told us sells great paninis.

We were given the opportunity to ask two parents, who both work at Safa School, why they chose the school. Both liked the ‘relaxed feel’ and ‘holistic approach’. One mentioned that you could ‘feel the atmosphere’ when you walked through.

The children mix well throughout the year groups and play well together. One parent had previously lived and educated her child in New Zealand in a private school. She explained that through the years Safa has become as good as her home country school. We asked about practical details that parents have to consider. Sometimes pickups and drop offs are a bit tricky but are managed by the school as best as possible.

The school uniform is purple and white striped dress/shirt and is provided by Stitches. The extra curricular activities are varied and the choice is improving according to the parents. The majority are free and are run by teachers but several are paid for and outside providers come into the school at additional cost. These include ballet and hip hop at foundation, then karate, robotics and 3D modeling higher up the school.

The parents also said that the recent changes were ‘really nice’ and that Mr Sutton is always around the school and approachable to the kids.

 

The WSA Visit, January 2016

Safa Private School is a great ‘work in progress’. The school is led by an ambitious head who sets high standards. The emphasis on creative and performing arts is evident and these are conducted to a high standard. There is a lovely community feel to the school.

Safa Private School is fronted by two white double-storey block like buildings either side of a tall, curved central structure painted in the school’s colour scheme of yellow, light and dark purple rectangles. There is a wall of thick tall trees at the front which along with a concrete wall protects the school as it is very close to the very busy Al Meydan Street.

Parking is reasonably easy at this stage as there is quite a large free sandy parking area right beside the school but who knows when that may be developed? The drop off and pick up times are certainly pretty hectic as they clash with other busy commuters around the area.

The security were alert and we were asked to sign in but no ID was requested. We were greeted by the helpful receptionist who informed the headteacher of our arrival.

We waited briefly in the large bright and light reception area which was filled with colourful photographs of children enjoying themselves around the school. There was a homemade ‘Welcome to Safa’ sign and hundreds of children’s self portraits strung along the corridor like bunting for a festival.

Mrs Maureen Chapman is the dedicated and highly enthusiastic headmistress. She was obviously proud to show off the establishment. There was so much to see but one particular point stood out – for such a large campus it has a cosy, small school feel.

Safa follows the British National Curriculum and is part of the BSO organization. The staff are from many different backgrounds and range from the very experienced who’ve taught for many years there to newly qualified young teachers from the UK.
Mrs Chapman is very keen to meet applicants face-to-face before they are offered a position at the school.

Classes range from 22 to 24 children and at the lower age range there is always a teaching assistant to support the class teacher. We were extremely impressed by the sensible behavior, politeness and eagerness of the children we came across.
Pupils at Safa do have homework such as reading and consolidation tasks but they have begun a new system which they feel will benefit learning in every subject – ‘Flipped Learning’.

This is a style where children receive an introduction to any new classroom topic via video made by their own teacher introducing them to the new area they will be studying. This can be viewed at home with Mum and/or Dad and repeated if necessary. The idea is that children can take it in at their own pace and are already prepared for the actual lesson in class.
Library resources are excellent with loads of books within easy reach and colour coded for the appropriate reading level. The children are encouraged and rewarded for the variety and number of books that they read. They have a ‘Millionaire Certificate’ prize which results in book token treats. IT is an integral part of the library as the children take a fun quiz type test after reading each book which is logged individually.

Music and drama are a crucial part of the children’s education. The music studios are well stocked and we got to hear some of the students musical efforts. For us the art around the school was outstanding and we later learnt that they have a part-time art specialist leading the way. We spotted mosaics, Henry Moore inspired sculptures and numerous murals around the corridors. In fact each classroom had evidence that a specialist had helped and inspired the class teachers and children in their creative displays.

The extra curricular activities are numerous ranging from swimming their 25 metre pool to football, netball, rugby, hockey and many other choices both run by the teachers and by paid outside organisations. There are many school buses serving the communities further afield and children from as young as FS1 can use this service.

Learning support is an important area for this community and they aim to run programmes for gifted and talented children plus support for those who may have academic, social or emotional difficulties.

Professional development is an ongoing process for teachers and assistants who can update their cvs as they work within the school. Mrs Chapman is very proud of her team and what they have achieved over the past 18 months. She explained that her aim is to see every child reach their full potential by the time they leave the school.

The classrooms clearly looked vibrant, cheerful, full of creativity and the work is clearly that of the children (not parents!). Teachers seemed enthusiastic and knowledgeable and when asked in one lesson the children could clearly explain and demonstrate the principles of the electric circuit which they were experimenting with.

During our tour with Mrs Chapman there were many encounters with classes and individuals. The children were incredibly well behaved and the Head knew everyone’s name.

There is an active PTA where parents are invited to get involved with activities such as concerts and set design. A cafeteria is available for parents and staff who can meet to have informal get-togethers.

Mrs Chapman has introduced a Monday ‘Open Session’ where for an hour each week she is available to parents to discuss school issues. Personal issues are dealt with one-to-one but this open slot is a chance to discuss problems in a constructive and productive way.

All facilities in the school look well maintained – bathrooms clean and the grounds look safe and inviting. There are some great outdoor play areas with climbing equipment and soft flooring underneath. A large astroturf pitch is available with floodlighting where necessary. They have set up a small scale road with signs to enable children to ride their bikes safely around the track.
Arabic is taught to all alongside French, Spanish and Islamic studies where appropriate.

 

Fees – 2016/17

FS 1 25,510
FS 2 39329
YEAR 1 39329
YEAR 2 39329
YEAR 3 39329
YEAR 4 39329
YEAR 5 39329
YEAR 6 39329
YEAR 7 39329
After School Club (FS1): AED 3,000.00/term  (Paid for the full term even if the child does not attend every day). Learning Enhancement: AED 2,600/term (Numeracy and Literacy) (If the child only receives support for one, the price is AED 1,300/term

 

KHDA Reports

2008-2009 Good click here
2009-2010 Acceptable click here
2010-2011 Acceptable click here
2011-2012 Acceptable click here
2012-2013 Good click here
2013-2014 Good click here
2014-2015 Good click here
2015-2016 Good click here

 

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If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any factual inaccuracies, or would like to update any information, please do not hesitate to contact us at editor@edu2021.com.

 

Update on November 22, 2016 | Reviewed by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com on July 7, 2013

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