Sunmarke School, Jumeirah Village Triangle- The Review
• On completion, the school will offer the broadest curriculum options of any school in the Emirates
• Eventual outstanding IB Diploma, Career-related Programmme, BTEC, A Level and IGCSE options
• Opportunity for parents and students to be part of an important new school from launch and co-guide its evolution
• Strength from Fortes 20-year history of school provision in Dubai across all phases
• Combination of new and existing schools allows seamless transition from Nursery to Y13 from Day One
• Outstanding facility provision competing with Tier 1
• Broad-spectrum whole child curriculum
• Extended school hours offering genuine integration of extra-curricular and focused academics
• Committed, passionate, outstanding school leadership
• High value fees for the sector with generous discounts in opening years
• Some logistical concerns for existing parents with children divided between two schools
• A 3,300 capacity school is large by any standards and will not suit all children, notwithstanding RIS reputation for low teacher: pupil ratios of provision historically
• IB approval has not been secured and the details of how A Level and IBDP provision will operate from 2019 are in planning
• Concern that a current Regent School International Teacher:Student Ratio of 1:13 is set to rise significantly to between 1:22 and 1:26
Updated April 2017 – Sunmarke School provsion
Sunmarke is a 3000-student capacity English National Curriculum based British school, opened by Fortes Education in September 2016. Three factors strike SchoolsCompared.com as being of note.
First, the Sunmarke School is being built because Fortes believe that existing provision at secondary phases has outgrown students at its existing Regent International School [RIS]. Our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has praised the move by Fortes; a number of existing schools in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have clearly outgrown their facilities after rapid expansion and have either refused, or deferred building new schools to the detriment of pupils. Fortes has responded to the challenge in an exceptionally powerful way to ensure the quality of education its schools are able to provide to children.
Second, and substantively much more important, on the basis of its current advertised plans, Sunmarke School will offer the broadest choice of curriculum of any school in the Emirates.
Why is this important? The broader the curriculum options, the more able any school is to respond to the individual needs, potential, talents and ambitions of each and every child. The school will offfer IGCSE, A Level, the broadest range of BTEC technical stream options available in any school – and the choice of IB Diploma (IB DP), IB Career-related (IB CP) programmes and Individual IB courses. The IB component is subject to acceptance by the IB following the school’s application this year for accreditation. This breadth of choice, if achieved, will be groundbreaking for the Emirates – and is likley to result in welcome pressures on other Tier 1 schools to up their game. We have long campaigned for technical education provsion and schoolscompared.com has been a vocal proponent of the IB Career-related programme. For a school to achieve this breadth of provsion is quite something. Of course, the devil will be in the detail – and the degree to which each option can be made available for each individaul child’s portfolio. The greater the availability, the inherent requirement on the school to invest in larger numbers of faculty, wide -ranging expertise – and of a very high calibre. We return to this later.
Third, based on the above breadth of curriculum offer, and notwithstanding Sunmarke School will eventually be an exceptionally large school, fee levels offer exceptional value; this is a Tier 1 school across facility provsion and investment. These range from 44,900 AED to 72,900 AED , some 22,000 AED lower than KHDA’s approved tuition fees for the school.
As it stands, all secondary students of RIS moved to the new school in September 2016. Regent International itself has returned to focusing on EYFS and Primary provision exclusively, an area where the school has built its reputation over more than two decades since the school’s foundations in a villa school opened by Fortes current owners, the Mankani family. Our review of Regent International can be found here.
This move also accounts for why the school did not need to stagger its secondary phase launch, as is the case with other school openings. Because all secondary-phase staff and students transferred automatically to the new school, Sunmarke, rarely for a new school, was able to open offfering seamless educational provision from nursery through to Y13.
As a matter of historical record it is worth noting that the move was not without controversy amongst existing parents, mainly because the project was announced to RIS parents in November 2015 only after the decision was made. The new school is built some 12km away from the existing Regent International School. Many parents chose Regent initially because of its proximity to their homes, or purchased/rented homes near the school and the new school site added to travel times, and imposed particular complexity for parents who have children split between the two schools. This point is important because communication is exceptionally important for any school – and lessons will need to have been learned as the school moves ahead on its still complex journey to come. Notwithstanding the ambition of Sunmarke’s launch, parents have to be brought on the journey of any school rather than having decsions imposed without consultation. This is as true of a school in launch as it is of any school moving forward.
This said, Parents Feedback scores – found on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com here – remain impressive. The school scores well across metrics such as whether a parent has thought about changing schools (below the UAE average have), to how much their children enjoy going to school…
Sunmarke launched with a clear ambition to be an unequivocally top tier Outstanding KHDA school from launch. RIS, in distinction, has been a consistently rated (only) “Good” school by Dubai’s Inspectorate, although one with a number of outstanding features, particularly relating to the school’s ethos and child centred focus. With Sunmarke the aim is to significantly ratchet up whole child development. It is aiming to achieve this not only by investment in a very broad spectrum and high quality of facilities provision, but also by extending the school day by one hour with attendance now required between 7:30am and 3:45pm – and, as above, most importantly by providing extraordinary breadth of curricular provsion.
The rationale is to maximise opportunities for all children (it should be noted that the school is fully academically inclusive) and raise standards. Extra-Curricular Activity [ECA] will now fall within the school day and become compulsory for all students. Sporting engagement will become a clear new focus for the school.
Parental concerns at the length of the new school day, it should be noted, has seen some revision by Sunmarke of the approach to younger children, and potentially middle school children.Some changes are inevitable in a new school as it beds in provsion – and these are actually good, and balancing, examples of the school being responsive to the needs of parents.
One driver of the new hours has also, however, been to try and make transfer between the two schools workable for existing parents. Maintaining existing parents’ ability to manage students across multiple sites is no small challenge.
Fortes cannot be faulted for trying to ease the transition, including entrance examination and registration fee waivers, significantly discounted fee provision, up to 25% for some phases, and, transitional bus arrangements. Although for some parents a little late in the day, impressive levels of genuinely two-way, communication directly with families, have followed the launch of the school. Fortes argued that its decision not to consult initially with parents reflected the complexity of decision making in Dubai and they did not want to engage with parents before all relevant permits, funding and strategies were nailed down. We have some sympathy with this rationale and Fortes has now managed, not least on the exceptional strength of the new school’s offer and significant existing parental happiness at RIS, to bring many parents on-board.
It should be noted that Sunmarke has not simply imported existing pupils and parents into a “skin deep” shiny new facility. The school has embarked on substantive changes to educational provision founded on significant investment in (weekly) ongoing professional development of existing teachers to enable them to adapt to the new academic and extra-curricular opportunities opened up within the new school.
Sunmarke, whilst initially continuing with existing A’ Level provision at secondary phases, as above, aims to move to dual stream IBDP/A-Level provision by 2019. The new whole child approach will see a strengthening of its STEM academic offering [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] combined with a focus on imagination and creativity with the Arts, both combined under its own new “Multi-Smart Learning” based curriculum approach combining academics, ECA and child value, leadership and character development. BTEC provsion will include Business Studies; Creative Digital Media Production; Hospitality; Information Technology; and, Travel and Tourism options. The exceptional breadth of technical choice will also bring life to the IB Career-related programme on its launch.
Facility provision at Sunmarke School is excellent. By global, rather than Dubai standards, there is an exceptional breadth and quality of facilities within a premium, rather than elite fee structure. The three year discounted rates offered by Sunmarke School to founding students offer exceptional value, particularly when combined with generous sibling discounts.
Facilities at Sunmarke School include large, well-resourced, IT enabled classrooms; dedicated 6th Form Blended Learning Zone; Activity Rooms for co-curricular activities; a large and inspiring Discovery Centre for EYFS children; 9 Science labs with large resource banks; 5 manufacturing and design focused Technology Labs offering specialist provision in ‘electronics & robotics’, ‘food technology’, ‘resistant materials’ and ‘textiles & fashion’; to promote product design and manufacturing skills; 4 ICT Labs; Digital Library; Wi-Fi enabled campus; 3 Fine Art Labs; professional Dance Studio; dedicated Drama Studio where students learn the craft of acting; a (fabulous) Black Box’ Studio for drama, performances and public speaking; 600 seat Auditorium built ground-up to meet thee requirements of theatre and the wider Performing Arts; 4 Music Labs; TV Studio; Radio Production Studio; Video & Multimedia Studio; IFA-18 sized football pitch; 5-a-side football pitch; athletics running track; swimming and learner’s pools; tennis, basketball, volleyball and netball Courts; 2 multipurpose halls for gymnastics, sport & game activities; shaded outdoor Play Areas and gardens; 3 Multiple Activity Rooms; 3 Library Media Centres (one for each phase of the school); 2 student Cafeterias for Primary Dining & Secondary Dining; 6th Form Common Room; Careers Centre; Parents Association Office; Teacher Training Centre; “Achievement Centre” for EAL, G&T and SEN provision; Counsellor’s Office; Medical Bay and meditation and prayer rooms.
On our visit (April 2017) to Sunmarke School we noted a number of stand-out features. We really liked one thoughtful component of the school’s solution to the perennial problem of parking – it has a dedicated area for faculty parking on a separate raised area on the first flooor of the building. This evidences really goood school design and attention to detail. Bespoke desks have been designed in ‘segment’ form offering really good flexibility – several can be arranged in a circular configuration to enable teachers to create lessons and inspire engagement based on the type and subject matter of lessons being taught. The school’s “Parent Room” offers an important small cafe style area for parents to engage – parents are very active through the PTA, Advisory committee and strands of governance. We really liked the choice of the school to enable parents to purchase uniforms at the school rather than through treks to external providers.The Recording / Media area is absolutely first class – equipped with all the latest equipment including film cameras, multiple lighting rigs, green screen room and mixing desks for audio. The facilities will be an obvious asset to the BTEC in Media which is offered at 16 plus – again this is a really good example of both the investment of the owners and the attention to detail. Facilities are also not simply there – they are being used. Year 12 have entered the Dubai Childrens Film Festival and have been shortlisted in the final 25 of entrants – quite something for a new school. We looked at two Music Rooms – again equipment levels are Tier 1 with traditional keyboards and PC-based digital keyboards interchangeable in cleverly designed pullout shelves. Peripatetic music is being offered from September 2017. The school also has a multi-media soundproofed room in addition to a Black Box drama / dance room. These are all small parts of a bigger picture that adds up to a very well thought out school. We struggled to find any evidence at all of corners being cut – the ambition here, and delivery, is stand-out Tier 1.
Sports areas at Sunmarke School are comprehensive and have been designed partially on terraces around the school buildings as well as at ground level. There is also access to some of the areas within Jumeria Village Triangle (for eample, the community Tennis Courts and grass area). Currrently 55% of students actively participate in sport at Sunmarke. The pool is 25M with 6 lanes, is shaded, and has a solid roof with largely open sides and integrated seating. There is also a separate Fitness Studio with weights, running and rowing machines.
Dining areas are really pleasant – we found a good range of hot and cold food on offer – and we really like the option that children can bring packed lunches as a matter of course. Secondary students have their own dining area and the freeedom to enjoy lunch outside.
There are too many other of Sunmarke School features to list in full, but another good example of the thoughtfulness and functionality of the school can be seen in the ICT Suites. These are arranged so that student screens are angled in order to be visible to the teacher to ensure that progress and the activities of students can be monitored remotely at any given time. Another stand-out feature for us is the Secondary Library. This has beeen designed to encourage a cyber cafe atmosphere with desk areas, seating and an impressive array of books and PC’s – the aim is to make learning enjyable and inspiring. The 16+ common room mirrors this philosophy and is similarly spacious with a small kitchen area. There are two dedicated offices for emotional counsellors and a staffed Careers Advice centre – another feature of schooling we belive critical. Two further rooms within the library space are set up for student collaborative work, conferencing or study.
There are eight very well equipped Science and Technology Labs and supporting resources, not limited to CAD, 3D Router and 3D Printer, are outstanding. There is a dedicated Product Design and Graphics area as well as Textile Design, Food Technology and Design and Technology facilities.
Finally, as an example of the stretch at play in facility provision at Sunmarke School, a (fabulous) Organic Garden is currently being created. On this note, the one major piece of infrastructure still in construction, the auditorium, will eventually provide 350-capacity theatre facilities. This is perhaps smaller than we would have expected for an eventual 3,300-capacity school.
Primary ECAs are elective and take place at lunchtime. They include Origami; Coding; Digital Literacy; Tag Rugby; Choir; Swimming; Yoga; Creative Club; Multi-sport; Art Attack; Irish Dancing; Football; Debating; Creative Writing; ‘Dancercise’; Fitness Club; Arabic Reading; French; Guitar; Destination Imagination; Arabic Singing and Dancing; Arabic Calligraphy; Makaton Club ( sign language); Film making; Manga Drawing; Computing in Arabic; Drama; and, Graphic Design.
Secondary ECAs at Sunmarke School include Arabic Dancing; Board Games; Lego; Maths Magic; School of Rock; SWAG; World Scholars Cup; Yoga; Art Club; Chess; Coding; Cross Stich; Drone Club; Guitar Club; Robotics; Sustainable Fashion; CREST awards; Creative Writing; Film Club; English G+T; Irish Dance; Stretch; and (currently) a Wizard of OZ Performance Group.
We also particularly liked the extensive program of after-school intervention classes for Year 11 students to supplement their GCSE subjects. These are available in English; French; Arabic; Spanish; Mathematics; Computing; Islamic; Business Studies; Economics; History; Geography; Psychology; Sociology; PE Theory; Biology; Physics; Chemistry; Astronomy; Art; Music; Resistant Materials; Graphics; Electronics; Food and Textiles.
Founding Principal Keith Miller brings close to four decades of experience to the role, latterly for GEMS where he was the Founding Principal of Cambridge International and GEMS Wellington International School. These roles followed around thirty years educational experience in the UK. Feedback to both ourselves, and our sister site, whichschooladvisor, has been outstanding.
School transparency and the richness of information provided to existing and prospective parents is exceptional.
Sunmarke School – in its combination of planned curriculum breadth, responsive whole child provision, Tier 1 facilities and enhanced curriculum – has the promise to set new benchmarks for educational provsion in the Emirates.
Potentially this is a ground-breaking school.
On the basis of our visit (April 2017) everything is in place to deliver a quite exceptional education for students.
If there is a weakness it is in the inevitable trade-off that comes with any school of this eventual capacity. A 3,300 role school will not suit all children.
The benefits though that come from a large school – here in (planned exceptional) breadth of curriculum, very high calibre school leadership, experienced faculty and fee propostition, are very powerful draws.
Sunmarke School, for us, is a very convincing school.
Whilst an interim judgement, this is a potentially quite extraordinary school and unequivocally recommended for shortlisting by parents for the education of their child(ren). There is much we have not covered in this review, including the fundamental “Positive Education” and “MultiSmart” learning ethics and approaches that underpin its approach to whole child education. These, we believe alone, warrant a visit from prospective parents to the school to appreciate and explore in greater depth. Recommended.
Prospective parents should note that where we have scored the school it is provsional, based on a school in launch and on independent feedback from parents and students, data from whichschooladvisor, and independent visits by schoolscompared.com. Comprehensive scoring will follow in 2017-18.Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the INTERVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to HARD HAT TOUR on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to LAUNCH READY on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Forthcoming September 2016
FS1: 55,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
FS2: 60,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 1: 65,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 2: 65,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 3: 67,500 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 4: 67,500 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 5: 70,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 6: 70,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 7: 80,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 8: 80,000(excludes founders’ discounts
YEAR 9: 80,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 10: 90,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 11: 90,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 12: 95,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
YEAR 13: 95,000 (excludes founders’ discounts)
National Curriculum of England ((I)GCSE))
International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB DP)
International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IB CP)
Currrent role: 750
1:24 (FS2 - Y2)
1:26 (Y3 - Y13)
Jumeirah Village Triangle, Dubai
British (largest nationality)
80 plus nationalities
Fortes Education, Fortes Holdings
Separate canteen provision for Primary and Secondary students only
+971 4 391 8886