Sunrise English Private School, Shabiya, Mussafah
Sunrise Private English School presents us with many difficulties in making sense of its offer. There is no question, in terms of the school’s exceptionally affordable fee structure, that it represents good value for money. It is also classified, in part given its fee context and in part its commitment, as a Highly Performing Band A 3 School by the Abu Dhabi School Inspectorate.
Make no mistake, An A3 grading is a real achievement. It is particularly impressive too given that in 2014 the school received an equivalent C6 “Unsatisfactory” grading indicative of a school very significantly failing its children.
However, newly secured “Good” school rating notwithstanding, the picture is not clear cut.
To start with the school states that its “primary aim” is: “To keep alive the spirit of learning through moulding the total personality of the students in perfect discipline.” We have been unable to decipher what this means. What is “perfect discipline”?
The reality is this is not a school set on forcefully moulding children at all – at its best, it is actually trying to do the opposite in helping children find their own journey, their own potential – and enable them to develop as individuals with their own gifts.
There is simply a problem with the school’s ability to communicate to prospective parents exactly what it stands for, and how it educates. The web site, something that should be a real focus of any school’s communication, is wholly inadequate with links going nowhere, advertised newsletters in fact not existing, extremely confused messages and information, and gaps in information including a complete absence of any guidance on facilities, admissions, SEN or faculty. Some, although not all, of the language used to describe the school is simply archaic and meaningless.
This said, the school is clearly trying to get its house in order. The school has developed a much more coherent sense of purpose, its aiming to…. “foster excellence in educating young people through collaboration, informed decision-making and continuous improvement. Our learners will be well-prepared and responsible citizens to meet the further global challenges.”
This still raises more questions than it answers, but it makes, at least, some form of sense. The truth is though, for a school teaching English, and with English in its masthead, it is simply not good enough.
If this seems harsh, we do have to balance our view with its fee context – and try and pull together a clearer picture of how, and why, Sunrise English Private School (SEPS) has come to achieve its very creditable rating from ADEC – the Abu Dhabi School’s Inspectorate is notoriously stringent in its requirements and does not award “High Performing” school status easily.
Firstly, fees. Ranging between 7,200 AED at FS phases to 10,700AED in Grade 12, this, on its balance of ADEC rating to fees, is one of only two ADEC “Good” schools in the Emirate bringing in graduation year costs at under 11,000 AED. To put some context to this, standard fees for an ADEC “Good School” across all curricular range between 20,000 AED at FS Phases to around 55,000AED in Grade 12/13, at its least around a doubling of Sunrise fees. On this alone, the value proposition is high, although this is an Indian CBSE school and fees in this sector are the lowest of the curricular, mainly because of the much lower salary overheads of Indian teaching staff. It is also clear, (see below), that what parents are paying for are not facilities or enrichment.
In terms of offer, just because it is an ADEC “Good School”, prospective parents should not infer that this is, in terms of infrastructure and facilities, a high performing school. It isn’t. It is not very badly equipped – and recent investment, particularly in Science Labs, has made a market difference to provision – but this is neither a bells and whistles school or a well-equipped one.
Do not expect, for example, a swimming pool or playing fields. The nearest swimming pool is available through the kindness of (relatively) nearby Bright Riders school in Mohammed Bin Zayed City.
The nearest students get to a playing field is a rolled out piece of artificial turf used for a makeshift cricket pitch.
You would not want your child to fall over on the expanses of harsh, colourless concrete that define outside provision. Do not even expect coloured shade-sails which would at least bring some vibrancy to the general sense of being in car park, albeit one with some white markers etched on surfaces to indicate play/sporting areas.
Technology provision is basic at best – and not at all integrated within the curriculum. Do not expect iPad provision or even a BSOD strategy – the school, in terms of technology, is seriously behind sector average and not at an acceptable level. It should be noted however, the school continues to invest in laptops and there is some progress in IT attainment – but having tools is not the same as using them, or knowing how to use them, effectively.
On a positive note, buildings, and classrooms themselves are well maintained, and have some design flourishes that lend a little more atmosphere than the most basic characterless boxes definitive of the value sector as a whole. There is also considerable pride in children’s work – with displays and colour around every corner. The school is also large, even given its role – this is not an overcrowded school that accepts children simply to drive up income, whatever the impact on crowding. The opposite is true. For the most part the sense is of space – and with a teacher to student ratio of provision of 1:16 there is no compromise on investment in faculty. Teaching staff too are qualified, and, more importantly, committed. Where there are weaknesses, which is generally in Middle phases, the impacts are caused by professional development needing more time to bed-in investment.
The over-riding sense is of a school making the best of the very limited resources it has. One example of good school transparency, for example, in which Sunrise openly publishes the availability of books by subject and phase, simply advertises the inadequate, hugely varying provision of basic text books between subjects and phases. It is hard to conceive how a school of this size can manage with only 13 Senior Library French text books in Year 10 for example. Whilst core subjects are gaining investment, enriched areas like music still suffer. Sporting facilities too, in their quality, range and impact, are borderline unacceptable and failing children.
The school is also confusing in other areas. ADEC, for example, praises Special Educational Needs provision as a highlight of the school, describing support as “particularly good.” However, in a school of 2810 students, there are only, implausibly, 15 children identified with SEN (at least up from only 8 students in 2014) – this calling into question the inclusivity of the school and/or its ability to identify need – both raising significant concerns.
Prospective parents may appreciate, however, that this is not a new school, built for that purpose and run by a major educational group. In fact, Sunrise began as small villa school, established in 1988, and has grown from tiny roots to what is today a large school by any standards, this made possible by its move from Al Dhafrah to its current home. Expectations must be adjusted. This is a school that has had to fight to survive the villa closure programme that has (correctly) seen the wholesale closure of many schools simply not fit-for-purpose.
And it is in this context its Good school rating, we believe, must be contextualised and understood. This is a school firing on all cylinders to make the best of what it has. In 2014, Student’s attainment and progress was unsatisfactory in all core subjects apart from English, Islamic education and Social Studies – and even here Sunrise just secured a barely satisfactory rating. In just two years the school has now secured a scattering of good ratings in Science, English and Mathematics across phases of provision and the lowest rating it secures is now acceptable. This is a fundamental, serious transformation in provision – the commitment to improve is evident and impressive. Already in 2014 the school had begun investing in professional development to train its teaching staff – it continues to invest in the external resources to build capacity. The school Principal, Dr. Thakur Mulchandani, in post now for three years, knows what he has to do, and within the limits he confronts, is actively doing all he can to deliver. His impact on the school has been tangible and inspirational.
“I believe each and every child has the potential to bring something unique and special to the world. I will help children deliver their potential by believing in them as capable individuals. I will assist children in discovering who they are, so they can express their own opinions and nurture their own ideas. I have a vision of a world where people learn to respect, accept and embrace the differences between us.” Dr. Thakur Mulchandani, Principal, Sunrise English Private School
Schools that seek to improve – and build the capacity to improve, deserve considerable credit. New investment in specialist rooms for Science, ongoing investment in electronic whiteboards and technology, investment in teachers and their professional development (reducing serious problems with faculty turnover); expansion of subject options (including, for example, psychology at Senior grades); and significant improvement to library provision – all are examples of a school receiving the investment it needs – and one with the leadership to structure and prioritise that investment. It is telling that school governorship too is now being transformed under the Chairmanship of the respected and influential Saeed Omeir Yousef Ahmed Almheiri, this highly suggestive that the capacity for transformation will be built on further.
So our view? As it stands it is not easy to recommend this school without qualification. What we have is a school that is very much at the beginning of a journey that, if continued with the same levels of (serious, credible and impressive) financial investment, leadership drive, teacher passion and governor vision, has the opportunity to establish in real terms what we would describe as comprehensively good school provision.
Sunrise needs serious new investment in proper sporting provision, fields to replace concrete, expansion of enrichment to include dance and music facilities, further investment in labs (including robotics) – and serious integration of technology. It also needs cosmetic investment in shade sails, FS play areas and outdoor areas to create a welcoming, functional and inspiring place for students – cosmetic investment reaps immense rewards; the students and teachers need to see, and feel, investment beyond simple basics and functionality. And it needs, urgently to get its front-facing information provision for parents and prospective parents improved – and at least making sense and complete. Making a start in properly celebrating the many achievements of its students through on-line newsletters would be an obvious place to start.
Sunrise is not there yet – but, we think, on the basis of all that has been achieved thus far, and in such a short space of time, it’s time will surely come.FULL REVIEW coming soon on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the 2016 SCHOOL FEES on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Private, for profit
YEAR 1: 6,800
YEAR 2: 6,800
YEAR 3: 6,800
YEAR 4: 6,800
YEAR 5: 6,800
YEAR 6: 6,800
YEAR 7: 7,600
YEAR 8: 7,600
YEAR 9: 7,600
YEAR 10: 7,600
YEAR 11: 10,700
YEAR 12: 10,700
YEAR 13: NA
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi
(1) Admission to KG and the primary phase is inclusive
(2) Admission to Phase 2 and Phase 3 is by application and interview. (3) Preference is given to siblings and family members of existing students and this generally results in very few places being made available each year.
(4) Whilst the school claims to be inclusive, its very limited numbers of children with SEN, around 0.5% of role, suggest that the school in practice restricts its intake (or is not able to identify students with SEN effectively)
(5) ADEC notes that, for those students identified with SEN, the quality of support provision provided by Sunrise is "particularly good."
No (fully subscribed)
(1) The school is full and admissions pro forma have been removed from the web site
Shabiya, Mussafah, Abu Dhabi
Sri Lankan: 1%
Emirati: 0 students
Primary School: 1244
Middle School: 862
High School: 505
Special Educational Needs: 15
Gifted and Talented (G&T): 7
Mixed (some segregation)
Chairman: Saeed Omeir Yousef Ahmed Almheiri
+971 (0)2 552 9989
• Capacity, drive, commitment and determination to improve
• students’ educational achievements
• Students’ personal and social development
• Impact of school leadership - and ongoing clarity of vision
• Provision for SEN - where it is recognised
• Identification of SEN
• Weakness in sports facilities and uninspiring concrete environment
• Middle school teaching playing catch-up with the best teacher successes
• Significant gaps in provision remain, some serious
• Very poor school transparency and information provsion