Safa British School, Al Meydan Street
• Students genuinely enjoy school and have very positive attitudes to learning
• Genuinely inclusive school with children achieving/progressing above expected baseline flight paths
• Effective, successful teaching methods enable students to reach above average levels in English, Mathematics and Science by the end of Year 6
• The curriculum is well-planned and engaging
• A wide range of additional activities contribute to both academic and personal development
• Physical education facilities are excellent with large multi-purpose auditorium, covered outdoor sports areas and two sheltered swimming pools
• School leadership is determined and focused on ensuring all children meet their potential
• Students’ personal development is a particular strength of Safa’s provision
• Students with Special Educational Needs are identified quickly. Empowering and inclusive school vision of, 'Every Child an Achiever' which is now showing significant improvement in school provision, matched with ongoing investment in SEN to respond to KHDA reviews
• Students show an outstanding understanding of their responsibilities as members of the community, exemplified by their dedication to preserve the environment and conserve its resources
• Outstanding whole child focus
• Ongoing investment and strong support from committed Safa Friends
• Newly appointed innovative Principal driven to bring Safa up to Very Good school status, and beyond, swiftly guided by a "child first" underpinning of whole school provision
• Islamic Education and Arabic language lessons are weaker than comparable lessons in other core subjects (a typical failing of British schools)
• Facilities do not match the bells and whistles of the Tier 1s
Updated to reflect SchoolsCompared independent inspection December 2016
“Safa British School is a genuinely inspiring, and lovely, school. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the ultra-premiums. But what we learned, above all else, on our inspection is that beauty can be skin deep, and a school with heart and soul does not need them to flourish for its children. There is a palpable sense of purpose afoot at Safa under its new Head, Daniel Sutton, and, on the basis of our inspection, and from the outstanding feedback we have received subsequent to his appointment, this is a school very much to watch. Recommended.” SchoolsCompared independent Inspection. Safa British School. December 2016.
Established in 2004, Safa British School is an English National Curriculum school following The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework for Foundation Stage learning (FS1 and FS2). Located in Al Meydan Street (it relocated in September 2012) the school was historically also known as the Al Safa Private School. Originally established with just 200 children, today Safa is attended by over 900 children in 41 classes offering Kindergarten and Primary education to students between the ages of three and 11 years. The school is British Schools Overseas accredited.
Safa offers automatic transfer from Year 6 to its sister, Safa Community School, local in Al Barsha, ensuring continuity of its English National Curriculum education from Foundation Stages to GCE O’ and A’ Level.
In total 49 different nationalities are represented at the school, with the single largest demographic from the United Kingdom (around 30%).
The school is commended as a “Good” school by the KHDA, a standard it has maintained consistently for four years, including this year (2016) which has seen a considerable across the board lowering of scores across all Dubai schools to reflect the KHDA Dubai school inspectorate’s new six-point grading structure which now runs from “Weak”, “Very Weak” and “Acceptable” to “Good” Very Good” and “Outstanding.” Al Safa comfortably sits within the “Good School” class which is the minimum (but high) standard of quality school provision expected by the KHDA of all schools in the Emirate.
The school has a parent to teacher ratio of 1:17 a figure excluding Safa’s (large number of) 30 teaching assistants. There are on average 24 children in a class and between 3 and 7 parallel classes per year group. Teacher are mostly recruited from the UK.
The school currently has a teacher turnover in the higher range, currently 38%, this resulting in part from the appointment of a new Head (see below) with a steadfast determination to improve and res-structure the school to achieve “Very Good” school status or beyond in the shortest possible time frame.
Safa has, in general, good facilities, including a (pretty) shaded 25M pool, a smaller square training pool, sports grounds, music and ICT rooms and good PE facilities. The school is colourful in its design, spacious, bright and genuinely friendly. The outside area at the school is fairly bijou by Tier 1 standards, but is of a good standard and sufficient. It includes a climbing frame outside which is allocated on a rota basis from Year 1 – Year 6. The FS area has been redesigned to benefit from far more open areas and activity spaces for the children to play and learn. These are quite charming and the spaces have been designed intelligently to flow from classrooms and are well utilised. A new climbing wall is currently being prepared, funded by “Friends of Safa.’ A fairly typical range of sporting activities and squads are on offer including swimming, netball, football, basketball and Cricket. The Sports Hall is multi-purpose, including Auditorium seating enabling swift conversion to provide a theatre and assembly space.
The Library space for the main school is creative and well designed and currently has 7000 books. There is also a dance studio – ballet and dance are both taught from FS phases. Broader provision for STEAM is very much in evidence and the Design and Technology [DT]/Engineering space benefits from a 3D printer which had produced some fabulous models of the Burj Khalifa and other notable landmarks in Dubai. ECA’s run to between 30-35 choices and the clubs are thoughtful, with clear briefs to extend children’s knowledge and skills for improving performance in core subjects.
Stand-out, however, for us is the growing SEN faculty which will see an almost doubling of staff from four currently to seven by the end of the year. As the new staffing beds in, Safa will be able to draw on expertise including OT, Educational Therapy as well as an in-house Psychologist. This reflects a swift response to KHDA praise that the school is at a stage now where the quality of SEN provision justifies an expansion of SEN provision and broadening of access. Impressive stuff. A good example of the drive for inclusiveness within the school is no better evidenced than in main hallway of the Administration offices leading to the classrooms. These are now treated as a gallery and showcase for the children’s work and the intention is to have examples of attainment of every child in the school individually at some point in the year – the standard of work we noted was high, and in some cases outstanding.
Another stand out feature of the school is in its focus on the bigger picture of whole child development over and above academics. In this area the school has been justifiably, we think, awarded “Outstanding” by the Dubai Schools Inspectorate. There is a palpable focus on the children taking ownership and responsibility for all aspects of school, keeping areas tidy and organising themselves efficiently. One particularly inspiring example of this focus on children, in this broader context, is the new “Vacancies Board”, which advertises positions for children within the school, including Headships, Prefects and Monitors. Each includes a clear job description explaining the responsibilities and role. The procedure for appointment mirrors that of the ‘real world’ where applicants submit their CV and are then called for interview. Should they choose to resign the post they have to do so in writing and work a months notice (not that anyone has to date!). This, amongst a plethora of other initiatives, may represent a small shift in the approach from the school but it is hugely impressive in its impacts – and more importantly, has inspired the children.
Core academics are kindly taught with a strategy that ensures each child is given individual attention. This is not a hot house school. For parents seeking academic attainment at all cost, there are certainly better schools. However, the approach at Safa is a balanced one. We believe that, for parents who believe that a child’s happiness and being inspired to love leaning rather than see it as a chore at an early age is the key priority, will find much in this softer, more balanced approach to inspire them. A really lovely example of this is in the way each topic taught is self assessed by the children with a Learning Grid to reflect the level of understanding. This enables children to understand properly what they have achieved and how to improve it. We have not see this approach quite so comprehensively used before – and it works. The initiative goes beyond even this this though – children are encouraged to support one another in the classroom: when a child needs more time to grasp a concept there is a culture of their asking amongst their peers, “who can help me?” This ‘phone a friend’ approach is quite inspirational when you see it working – building a sense of community within the school and within children an understanding of how important kindness is in shaping the world. As our inspectors noted: “…it’s a very creative, supportive and responsible approach to teaching that is extraordinarily effective and inclusive.”
It is worth noting noting for parents that it is important in understanding KHDA reports to focus less on initial attainment scoring than progress. Progress scoring represents how far the school is able to take children from their starting points and improve their education. A low initial attainment score simply represents that children arrive at the school from a low starting point. What is important is how well a school takes that starting point and improves the flight path that would normally be expected. Safa is rated “Good” across the board in transforming the educational experience of children from low starting points of attainment to achieving above the baseline flight paths that would be expected to follow.
The broader sense of community, and the links the school is building with parents to underpin the education of its children is another stand-out area of the school – and again an area in which Safa punches at the level of the Tier 1s in scoring an “Outstanding” rating from the KHDA.
In all these areas it is clear that there is a transformation taking place under the new Head, Dan(iel) Sutton. Described by our Inspector as ” down to earth, hard working and visionary and someone whose ideas and approach are deeply impressive and inspiring,” Mr Sutton brings with him considerable experience from UK primary schools including the accolade by OFSTED of being an “extremely effective headteacher.” His appointment at Sherard School developed his passion for inclusive schooling and community, its facilities including two specialised units for children with special educational needs that operated very much as the heart of the school. His headship of The Abbey Academy saw him developing the strengths of a UK Academy school that had emerged from special measures. This experience has clearly guided him in his conviction of delivering what works, and what is important. Mr Sutton’s approach is very personal; he is about as far away from the office bound Principals of many schools as you can imagine – walking with him through the corridors, each child is greeted by name and with genuine warmth.
Bottom line? Inevitably a review can only give snapshot of a school, and even then, only at a moment in time. But there is absolutely no doubting that this is a very different school to that independently visited by the school experts at our sister site whichschooladvisor some 12 months ago. Our finding is that this is an exceptional school in its child focus and the ways in which the new Head is seeking to inspire community within the school – and to building bridges with parents and the broader Arabic context outside. The word holistic, used often in an educational context, captures less well what is being achieved than the concept of the “whole child” because everything at Safa is now grounded in what is going to work best for children – and then making everything link back to that. The attention to detail, and human touch is everywhere to see. And the new innovations, whether in the classroom, corridors, relationships between teachers and students, or students themselves, and in the links to create community – may be incremental and small in isolation – but they add up to something, as a whole, much bigger, and, we feel, very special indeed. We think parents would do well to visit the school. Look beyond bells and whistles and we think there is much to discover and admire. Highly recommended.Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Under review 2017-18
FS2: 3: 6962
YEAR 1: 36962
YEAR 2: 36962
YEAR 3: 36962
YEAR 4: 36962
YEAR 5: 36962
YEAR 6: 36962
YEAR 7: 39879
YEAR 8: NA
YEAR 9: NA
YEAR 10: NA
YEAR 11: NA
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA
National Curriculum of England
Not published (whichschooladvisor projected HIGH)
14:1 (2015) increasing to 17:1 (2016)
20% (2015) increasing to 38% (2016)
Al Meydan Street, Al Quoz, Dubai
British (largest nationality)
(1) Emirati: 16
(2) Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND): 41
Education Capital (Holding) W.L.L.
Mr. Louay Khatib – 050 6252814
Mr. Sameer Merchant – 050 4618093