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Sharjah English School, University City – THE REVIEW 2021
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Background and Headline Findings: Sharjah English School 2021

Reading in EYFS at Sharjah English School

 

“This is an outstanding school.”

Darren Coulson, Principal, Sharjah English School

Established as a primary school in 1974, today Sharjah English School [SES] provides the full spectrum of educational provision to children between 3 and 19. A traditional British school, SES follows the English National Curriculum to GCE A’ Level and BTEC, eschewing recent trends to diversity post-16 provision with the International Baccalaureate. The school is situated in (beautiful and inspirational) grounds and buildings near University City and has both a breadth and quality of facilities to compete well with Tier 1 schools. What, however, makes the school stand out is its rare combination of small school dynamics, Ivy League not-for-profit dynamic, relatively affordable fee structure (for a Tier 1 Premium school) and easy commutability from Dubai. Its a potent combination and this results in the school being consistently oversubscribed.

 

Fees, which run from AED 26,400 in FS1 through to AED 67,600 in Year 12 Sixth Form offer significant ROI when compared with its UAE not-for-profit peers. Commutability from Dubai, depending on location, runs to less than 20 minutes. For many parents the school commute to Sharjah English School is faster than any competitor. Not-for-profit underpinnings ensure that every dirham of fees is invested in children, not profit. Small school dynamics gifts a school with a role that meets the overwhelming call for parents for smaller schools. Capacity is just 950 students. This follows through to small class sizes – at A Level, many classes offer a stellar, and almost unheard of, teacher to student ratio of 1:6. All Year 1 and 2 classes have a Teaching Assistant, ensuring that every child is given the individual attention they require.  Investment in British teachers is significant – and the school does not recruit NQTs. Despite this extraordinary level of investment in teachers, Sharjah English is (by far) the smallest not-for-profit Tier 1 school in the UAE.

FOS-In-Article-safa

 

Facilities

Facilities include a sports hall, swimming pool, (truly impressive and extensive) grassed playing areas for rugby, cricket and football; 500-seat performing arts auditorium and suites, library, ICT Suite, learning support rooms, dedicated music rooms, gym, running track; extensive design and technology suites; sport grandstand; swimming pool; and prayer rooms, the latter a key lever to improve and enhance Islamic educational provision. These do not (quite) match the breadth of the most facilities-rich Tier 1 school in the UAE – but what shines through here is both quality and investment. There may not be a planetarium – but for many parents such facilities are only icing on a cake rather than integral necessities of a Tier 1 education. A gift of HRH Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, the school occupies landmark, beautifully landscaped grounds amounting to some 25 acres – extraordinary by any standard and the largest grounds of any school in the emirate.

 

Feel

A house system, typical of English public schools, divides students into four houses, these named after Charles Doughty, Richard Burton, TE Lawrence and Baroness Wentworth. The result is not simply word play but a real foundation stone of the school’s warmth and fellowship, one upon which much of the school’s atmosphere hangs and takes its force.

With less than 900 students, and notwithstanding its announced plans to grow, the school has all the qualities of the best small schools including genuine warmth, intimacy and a genuine and palpable sense of community. Its winning combination of facilities, leadership, intimacy, (significant) academic success and small school feel make it a compelling option for prospective parents. The school sits comfortably top of many parental shortlists, and particularly those of British children, for good reason.

 

School Leadership

Current school leadership we rate outstanding. Mr. Darren Coulson, Principal, Sharjah English School, has been in post since August 2021, taking over the helms from the respected John Nolan following his retirement after 15 years leading the school.

Darren Coulson Sharjah English School Principal

Mr Coulson joined the school from Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches- where he led the school for 9 years. In total Mr Coulter invested some 22 overall years at JESS, one of the UAE’s flagship Tier 1 premium schools. It says much about the quality of Sharjah English School that it was able to attract Mr Coulson. As Mr Coulson explained to SchoolsCompared, it took a very special school to inspire his move from one of the most loved and respected schools in the UAE. It is telling that both JESS and Sharjah English School are ethically and commercially not-for-profit.

 

GCSE Options 2021-22

Sharjah English School GCSE Options Prospectus2020-21

 

Sixth Form – (Traditional) British A’ Levels and BTEC

 

The Sharjah English School Sixth Form opened late in the school’s history in 2008 (Sharjah English School is one of the UAE’s oldest schools, with a history stretching back to  its founding in 1974). As above, class sizes are small, a real positive, but compared with Dubai’s new Tier 1 schools, and to some degree by the schools (I)GCSE standards, subjects are surprisingly limited. In our last review, we critiqued a relatively limited range of A’ Level options – but today these have been addressed with inclusion of both Economics and Psychology – both subjects that we thought should be offered. In fact, more than 16 subject options at A’ Level are available to students, with further BTEC Level 3 options in both Business and Sport. Worth noting that A Level structure is linear, conforming to the exact shape of A Level provision at home in the UK, rather than the split approach of the international A Level format of study.

Full A Level and BTEC options information follows:

Sharjah English School A Level and BTEC Options 2021

Examination results rank in the top 3 school in the UAE.

In 2021, 26% of results were secured at A* (26%), with 51% of entries awarded A-A. 96% of entries were ranked A-C. In 2020, 90% of grades ranked A* to B and 54% of grades awarded ranked A*A.

 

Fees

Ultimately as parents we choose the best school we can based on what we can afford. This means that discussion of affordability is relative and unhelpful. As above, we focus on ROPI metrics. In these terms, comparatively, the value of fee offer here we rate exception.

FEES TERM 1 TERM 2 Term 3 ANNUAL
FS1 / Pre-KG 10,560 7,920 7,920 26,400
FS2 / KG 1 15,080 11,310 11,310 37,700
Year 1/ KG 2 15,400 11,550 11,550 38,500
Year 2/ Gr 1 15,400 11,550 11,550 38,500
Year 3 / Gr 2 16,640 12,480 12,480 41,600
Year 4 / Gr 3 16,640 12,480 12,480 41,600
Year 5 / Gr 4 16,640 12,480 12,480 41,600
Year 6 / Gr 5 16,640 12,480 12,480 41,600
Year 7 / Gr 6 21,200 15,900 15,900 53,000
Year 8 / Gr 7 21,200 15,900 15,900 53,000
Year 9 / Gr 8 21,200 15,900 15,900 53,000
Year 10 / Gr 9 22,680 17,010  17,010 56,700
Year 11/ Gr 10 24,960 18,720 18,720 62,400
Year 12 / Gr 11 27,040 20,280 20,280 67,600
Year 13 / Gr 12 27,040 20,280 20,280 67,600

Admission is competitive and there are waiting lists in some year groups. The school openly advertises that priority may be given in the application procedures to UK passport holders (as well as families of its sponsoring companies and children with siblings already in the school). Admissions open each January for the following school year. The school weights highly the attitude (commitment and passion) of children, whether internal or external applicants, in weighing up whether to accept them for Sixth Form. Wanting passionately to come to the school is given at least equal weight to academic metrics at younger age – which is as it should be in our view.

 

History and scale

Historically the school has been open about its challenges, particularly the financial constraints that result from its size although another identified challenge, that of providing an effective Arabic curriculum within a British school, is repeated across the sector. The first has begun to be addressed in growing the school. Normally this would result in potential concerns that any state of flux risks impacts on both the dynamic and feel of the school, but also student attainment. Sharjah English School, under excellent leadership, has consistently ensured, however, that growth is managed, incremental and “safe.” The trade-off has proved worthwhile. A school of less than 600 students, at these fee levels, and even a not-for-profit, inevitably had to compromise. This is a school that does not want to compromise on giving the best education to its children – and growth in numbers was the only level available to deliver the required economies of scale and income. This said, the school remains steadfastly almost tiny by competitive school standards.

 

Transparency

Since our last review, in which we critiqued the lack of transparency, things have significantly changed. From a position in which examination results were never published, today the school celebrates the (exceptional) achievements of its students. This openness carries through across the range of school activities celebrating children.

 

BSO 2019-20

Sharjah EnglisBSO Report Sharjah English School 2019 20

 

Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2021

There is much to recommend Sharjah English School. For its combination of scale, academics, NFP dynamics, commutability and cultural Britishness it operates, in our view, as an absolute one off in the UAE – it is unmatched.

For many parents, that uniqueness makes it no less than the “dream school.”

Add to this, reputation – something that comes only with age; stellar, proven leadership; beautiful facilities, top-3 UAE examination results and, for us, most importantly a culture of care and commitment to child happiness and care (one in which no child is left behind) and it’s very hard to find fault. This is a hidden gem in the UAE – one that many parents ignore because of its location in Sharjah, not realising its close proximity than many Dubai schools.

Sharjah English School is a gem of a school and, our view, a shortlisting must.

If there is a critique it is availability of places. It is not, however, if places are available, that refuses children based on on academics. The defining approach here, instead, and hugely creditably, is that all children are gifted – and it is a school’s role to nurture those gifts, and ensure that no child is refused the chance to realise their ambitions and potential.

That counts for something. Perhaps, everything.

Highly recommended.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2021. All rights reserved.

Details to consider
Type of school

Private, not-for-profit

WSA Good School

Yes

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 21,000
FS2: 21,000
YEAR 1: According to application
YEAR 2: According to application
YEAR 3: According to application
YEAR 4: According to application
YEAR 5: According to application
YEAR 6: According to application
YEAR 7: According to application
YEAR 8: According to application
YEAR 9: According to application
YEAR 10: According to application
YEAR 11: According to application
YEAR 12: 70,000+
YEAR 13: 70,000+

Curriculum

National Curriculum of England

External Exam Boards

Assessment and Qualifications Alliance [AQA]
Edexcel

Number of A Levels offered

17

A Levels offered

Art, Craft & Design
Design & Technology (Product Design 3D)
Biology
Business Studies
Chemistry
English Literature
French
Geography
History
ICT
Mathematics
Music
Physical Education
Physics
Economics
Computer Science
Drama
Psychology
BTEC Level 3 Sport
BTEC Level 3 Business Studies

A Level A* to A

40% (2019)
26% of results were secured at A* (2021)
51% of entries awarded A*-A (2021)
90% of grades ranked A* to B (2020)
54% of grades awarded ranked A*A (2020)

A Level A* to C

84% (2019)
96% of entries were ranked A*-C (2021)

IGCSE A* to C

98% (2018)

IGCSE A* to A

56% (2019)

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

19

I/GCSEs offered

Note: GCSE only.
Core Subjects (5):
English Language
English Literature
Double Award Science
Mathematics
Options (4 Chosen):
Chemistry
Physics
Biology
Art, Craft & Design
Business Studies
Computer Science
Design & Technology (Graphics Products)
Design & Technology (Product Design)
Drama
Economics
French
Geography
History
Music
Physical Education

Selective

Selective

Waiting list

Yes

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Capacity: 950
Current role 800+ (2021)

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:6 to 1:22

Largest nationality teachers

British

Teacher turnover

Not published (low)

Year opened

1975 (Primary) 2005 (Secondary)

Location

University City, Sharjah

Student composition

British (largest nationality)

Gender

Mixed co-educational

Owner

Not-for-profit

Admissions Telephone

+971 (6) 558 9304

Web Address
Leadership

100%

Community

100%

Facilities

90%

Quality of teaching

90%

Student personal responsibility

100%

Quality of curriculum

90%

School Governance

100%

Strengths

• Intimacy
• Exceptional ROI on fees
• Rare, small school operating existentially above its weight
• Excellent academics competing with the very best schools across the UAE
• Fabulous British feel and dynamics driven by a properly integrated public school house system
• Effective, nurturing and conservative leadership
• Evolutionary, measured expansion in scale and student numbers
• Outstanding and proven school leadership
• Ivy League not-for-profit

Weaknesses

NA

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
A+
B+
Value
A+
B
ExtraCurricula
A
B
Languages
A-
B-
Sports
A-
B+
Arts & Drama
A-
B+
Teaching
A+
B+
Communications
A+
B+
Warmth
A+
A-
Differentiation
A-
B+
SEND Provision
A-
A-
Scl Community
A+
B+
Scl Facilities
A
A-
Opportunities

Top tier school that has finally secured the small, but necessary increase in numbers to deliver economies of scale. The result? Significant expansion of subject breadth including Russel Group proffered subjects at A Level and BTEC - and ongoing investment in school facilities. Small school intimacy remains, with warmth and high quality facilities in abundance. This will be the dream school for many parents - and it is commutable easily from much of Dubai. Very highly recommended.

A+
Our Rating
B+
User Rating
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Top of shortlist
73%
In my Top 5
6%
Shortlisted
6%
A possibility
6%
Pass
3%
No way
12%
About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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