Victory Heights Primary School – KHDA, exclusive 2018-20 SchoolsCompared.com visits, award-winning school leadership, the Story of the Bear – and SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2021
“We absolutely adore this school. Have been happily part of it for 4 years. No other school can compare, Miss Sasha knows EVERY child’s name and [is] passionate about their performance. We are very blessed to be a part of such a great and caring school.”
Parent Comment. SchoolsCompared.com – see below.
You know, every day I get up and just cannot get to Victory Heights soon enough … for the children and my amazing teachers.
Like many Heads, although perhaps we don’t admit it, I worry about how good I can be all the time.
But I think that it is only by questioning everything, that we all learn. Even Head Teachers should never stop learning.
I cannot ever give anything but my best because children depend on that.
And I think that children should be encouraged to question everything too – we must encourage their curiosity and infectious love of learning. Children enable us all to think differently – and often better – if we listen to them.
We should all listen to children more ….
At Victory Heights our whole approach is built on listening – giving children a voice.
You ask me about Victory Heights Primary School….
Victory Heights is absolutely extraordinary. The children are absolutely extraordinary.
I would like to think that every child here loves coming to school each day. I believe that we are giving them everything they will need – and more – to make a difference in the world as they grow up.
I want for each one of them to be confident in their gifts, and have the skills and self- awareness when they leave us to grow as young men and women, fulfilling their own dreams potential and ambition.
If we have secured the foundations of a child’s future – and given them the confidence and educational foundations to thrive in their school years when they graduate from Victory Heights we shall have done our job.
At Victory Heights Primary School we achieve for all our children – and in a caring, happy school that I believe is absolutely second to none.
Sasha Crabb. Principal. Victory Heights Primary School
Founded in 2013, Victory Heights Primary School has very rapidly established itself within the top tier of outstanding go-to British primary schools in the UAE. After only its second formal inspection by the KHDA in 2016 it secured Good School status, its ratings jumping up by between 20% and 40% in key categories of inspection in a single year. The Good School status came with both a number of identified “Very Good” and “Outstanding” features. It is not surprising then that its 2017/18 rating moved up another notch to Very Good with Outstanding features.
The key pointer prospective parents should take from this is that headline Inspection gradings must be understood in context. This rate of progress made by Victory Heights Primary School across all phases, subjects and management indicators, is indicative of a school with significant potential across the board.
In our view, Victory Heights Primary School is already operating as an outstanding school. This is a school that sets very specific new benchmarks for primary school provision in the UAE, these flowing from the exceptional impact of the school’s Principal, Ms Sasha Crabb, on the culture of the school, child welfare and the quality of each child’s education. We were not surprised to learn of her receiving an industry award for Principal of the Year in 2017-18; it’s an award that was certainly, in our view, very much deserved.
The Story of the Victory Heights Bear
Perhaps the best way to capture the heart of this stellar, award-winning primary school, is through the story of the Victory Heights Bear and how every child adopts their very own bear on joining the school to share their academic and whole-child education. Every child’s Victory Heights Bear plays a vital role in linking children, their families and parents, the school and its teachers throughout their time at the school.
SchoolsCompared.com visits 2015 – 2020
During the course of twelve major visits to the school since its launch our team of journalists have never been less than impressed. This is reflected in powerful, independent feedback from parents:
- “I have never seen such happy children in any school we have visited.” SchoolsCompared.com visit December 2016
- “The lesson planning here is first rate. The quality of lessons and engagement of children outstanding.” SchoolsCompared.com visit March 2017
- “Professional development of teachers is of a high quality. The warmth of children and their inspiration in lessons at this school is quite exceptional. SchoolsCompared.com visit May 2017
- “This is a school that never lets us down. Faultless – and so much to think about.” SchoolsCompared.com visit December 2017
- “That is what outstanding school leadership looks like. If we could bottle this for other schools ….” SchoolsCompared.com visit September 2018
- “The perfect school for our children. Absolutely stellar teaching and care.”SchoolsCompared.com visit September 2019
With new and established schools, it’s really telling to look at the reasons behind their being founded – and also to look at the level of investment evident in both start-up and ongoing phases. In both these areas Victory Heights Primary School has quite a story. Both founders of the school are educationalists driven by conviction and vocation. You often hear of Founders being driven to “make a difference” but here it’s a description that carries real authenticity. Dinesh Kothari is best known for the DPS Group of Schools which educate around 11,000 children already in the UAE:
“In the business of education, you must not be in a hurry and to see a successful educational structure, you must focus on quality and you will see the numbers go up automatically. Schools must not be run for profits, and whatever you earn from the school must be invested in increasing the salaries of teachers.”
Dinesh Kothari. Chairman and Co-Founder. Victory Heights Primary School.
Vinetta Nayyar is known for The Wonder Years Nursery (neighbouring Victory Heights and providing its direct entry infant slipstream)
“I always wanted to create a school with soul – an institution at the heart of the community.” Vineeta Nayyar. Managing Director and Co-Founder. Victory Heights Primary School.
Victory Heights Primary School Design
In terms of design, the brief by both founders was to create something that would act as a trigger to inspire children to learn, discover and explore. They wanted the feel of a “children’s village” that would fire children’s inquisitive nature, empowering each child to learn naturally, and to develop a love of learning in its own right. The attention to detail is a stand-out feature of Victory Heights Primary School across its 1.5 acre site.
The architects deliberately avoided the standard quadrangle in favour of “an arrangement of clusters that are strung together around different ‘Pods’ of interaction” but with a central courtyard for all ages of children providing a natural heart to the school.
Colour abounds across the glass walls of the ground floors, canopies and in the playground – and the stone facades “take cue from the shifting sand dunes of the desert.” This local context extends to the traditional ‘mashrabia’ which portray the familiar Islamic geometric patterns across the bridge that links blocks and the staircase between floors. The aim is a British School, but one in the heart of an Arabian context. And we think, and more importantly it is clear that the children think, that it works beautifully.
The knock on effects of good school architecture should not be under-estimated. It’s not only, for example, that natural light is so important in any learning environment (and relatively easy to achieve) – but an inspirational learning environment achieves something that also drives teachers and management to “feel” the identity of a school – with all the cascading down benefits to the children on which everything is focused.
Our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, describes the end result as a school that is “fundamentally child centred… with a focus very clearly on the children.”
Victory Heights educates around 800 children (up from its opening role of 220 students, and over 100 on last year) between FS1 and Year 6 with a staff: student ratio capped at 1:15 and a maximum class size of 25. Whilst Victory Heights Primary School is selective and streams students by ability, it is resolutely inclusive and does not charge for language support (EAL role is around 10%) and only in exceptional cases Special Educational Needs [SEN] support. Investment in both is significant with dedicated language and “learning enhancement” faculty.
All teachers have a degree and PGCE Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Impressively, Victory Heights Primary School provides photographs of all its teaching staff on-line. We wish schools would do this more. It is indicative of both a school’s transparency, commitment to and celebration of its most important asset – and telling of a school driven to retain staff. On the note of transparency, Victory Heights has one of the most clear, comprehensive and genuinely open web sites of any Primary in the UAE – from open publication of Governor minutes to regularly updated news and photography. We couldn’t find any obvious gap in the information any parent requires to properly benchmark the school – and the clear attention and passion of the school to deliver for its children comes across in spades. Impressive.
|Year Group||Term 1
|Foundation 1||14,630||10,973||10,973||36,576 AED|
|Foundation 2||15,960||11,970||11,970||39,900 AED|
|Year 1||17,291||12,968||12,968||43,227 AED|
|Year 2||17,291||12,968||12,968||43,227 AED|
|Year 3||18,621||13,965||13,965||46,551 AED|
|Year 4||18,621||13,965||13,965||46,551 AED|
|Year 5||19,951||14,963||14,963||49,877 AED|
|Year 6||19,951||14,963||14,963||49,877 AED|
Fees, running from 36,576 AED to 49,877 AED, are low-end premium – but this is a high performing, premium school and we do not have an issue with ROI for those parents who can afford the fees. We do think, however, all schools should have dedicated bursary and scholarship programmes and hope that this will be adopted by Victory Heights Primary School as the school evolves over time. Bursaries and scholarships are part of the inclusivity equation and we think an important and telling indicator of a mature school’s genuine commitment to community and enriching its role to the benefit of all children.
Facilities at Victory Heights Primary School are excellent. They include a dedicated, self-contained Foundation Block (5 classes and with a slightly later start-time to avoid traffic congestion as much as possible); dedicated FS1 and FS2 learning clusters; central indoor activity area; shaded FS outdoor play centre; dedicated and independent Key Stages 1 and 2 clusters with shared indoor play areas for each year group; controlled Internet equipped digital classrooms and campus wifi; (fabulous) indoor, competition-length 25M swimming pool; dedicated Junior Gymnasium; playing field for football, rugby, and hockey; outdoor multi-purpose court for tennis, basketball and netball; multi-purpose gymnasium/hall with staging (Phase 2); library; science labs; Music Room; dedicated ICT Suite; central “Pod” overflow areas for classrooms, providing further access to the play areas externally and additional resource for small groups; and, canteen. Cross country is conducted in the surrounding neighbourhood of Green Park areas in Victory Heights ‘Estella.’
Internal ECA options at Victory Heights Primary School are free of all charges. Three extra curricular activities (ECAs) can be chosen including Arabic as the third option. They include U9/11 Girls Football Squad; Football Squad; Girls Netball; U11 Touch Rugby – Squad; Synchronised Swimming Selective; Computer Science; Construction Club; Art; Puzzle and Brain; Experimental Music; Spanish; Traditional Games; Origami for Beginners; Choir; OT; Touch Typing; Experimental Music; Origami for Beginners; Spanish; Lego; Enterprise Club; Animal Rights; French; OT; Touch Typing; Debating; Blue Cross Stitching; Fashion Design; Critical Thinking; Homework Club; Roof Swim Squad Year; Quaran English; Hadith (Arabic & English); Arabic Drama; Islamic Art; Arabic Stories; Arabic Art Deco; Arabic Games; Cross Country Club; U11 Football; U9 Touch Rugby Squad; Playdough; Jigsaw; Craft Club; Story Telling And Role-Play Club; Scrapbooking; Speed Stacking; ELLI Textiles and Play; Art; Happy Hearts Singing Project; Poetry; and, In the News Club. These choices are supplemented by a very well chosen range of paid-for ECAs.
It is worth commenting on the impressive range of Arabic ECAs. Victory Heights Primary School is genuinely committed to all children developing an appreciation of the cultural context of the school. In this context, it is telling in impressive and rare praise from the KHDA that the school library has “sufficient books for the FS and primary phases and for all subjects, including Islamic education and Arabic.” (Emphasis added). This is surprisingly rare in British schools.
Victory Heights Primary School features
During our inspections we noted the following stand-out features and initiatives of the school:
- The ‘Sandy Seeds’ project, one that originated from a KHDA conference, has seen investment in a garden designed to awaken children to the idea that “a seed well-planted can grow into something beautiful anywhere.” The project is having extraordinary effects on building a sense of shared purpose within the school and both a hands-on love of science and appreciation of food and both its origins and importance.The project was recognised by Dr Abdulla from the KHDA through a plaque in October 2016.
- Victory Height’s Enterprise Week in October sees production of a ‘Dragons Den’ styled event where children presented their ideas to the Head, before going on to implement them and to raise money via a school market day
- Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) is evidenced throughout classrooms and common areas the school
- Staff turnover of between 5% and 13% is exceptionally low by UAE standards and teachers are clearly nurtured and invested in through on-going mentoring and Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
- We particularly liked the weaving area set up in the school’s ‘Well of Positivity’, this designed for children who wish to pursue quieter activities at break time or lunch
- The Student Council is genuinely given a voice and has been able to, and supported in, bringing about changes, including provision at the School Canteen
- Homework is not simply given, but thought through with options for parents and students advising them of what “MUST”, “SHOULD” and “COULD” be completed. This demonstrated to us significant thought by the school. To define three options requires significant investment in teacher time – but also provides a pathway for children of different abilities and a means for parents to be much more engaged with their child’s learning
- The school has a Charity Box – with the purpose of creating an on-going empathy for children who are less fortunate and to inspire a sense of the ‘bigger picture’ outside the walls of the school.
Another lovely example of the way in which Victory Heights Primary School innovates can be found in its reading programme, which seeks to engage and inspire each child’s love of reading in and outside school:
Both we and our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, have received outstanding independent feedback for Victory Heights Principal, Sasha Crabb, from a broad spectrum of families and teachers. Ms Crabb was the recipient of the SchoolsCompared 2019 Award for Best Principal in the UAE 2019, this the unanimous, independent decision of judges drawn from across the educational sector and after a 12 month process that drew from an original list of more than 600 school leaders. The Award was presented at a glittering ceremony at the Raj Mahal Theatre in Dubai to an audience of 800 drawn from the emirates highest performing schools.
Descriptions of Ms Crabb range from “genuine” and “exceptionally kind” to “passionate,” “inspirational” and “driven.” She is also well known for her steadfast belief in investing in the Continuing Professional Development [CPD] of teachers – and her conviction both that no child should be left behind and that every teacher should know each and every child in her school, including, and beyond, their names.
“The decision about which school is perfect for your child is amongst the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. We know that every child is unique and has a different learning style and pace. We believe that every child, in their own way, is capable of learning – and capable of succeeding. Every child deserves a school that never gives up on them and takes the time to understand them. At Victory Heights everyone knows everyone’s name. The teachers and the staff know your child personally. We are a village school that is invested in your child’s education and well-being.” Sasha Crabb, Principal, Victory Heights Primary School
Ms Crabb draws on more than two decades of experience working across the UK and Middle East, including specialist work as a literacy advisor.
Our inspectors noted:
“In each classroom at Victory Heights Primary School we entered the children were quietly and industriously engaged in the activity, with a cheerful, bright and eager approach. “Miss Sasha” received smiles and a very positive response from the children when we opened each classroom door, and even a few hugs. There is a bubbly, brightness and lightness about the relationships between the Head, teachers and generally within the school. We sensed that there is a genuine respect between the teachers and Ms. Crabb which extends to the students; we really felt there was a genuine affection in all directions.”
Victory Heights Primary School bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2020
It’s heartening to be able to be so positive about a school. Everything within Victory Heights primary School is so sensitively and creatively thought through, a good example being the official Victory Heights Primary School teddy bear that is given to every child during their first few days at their new school so that the sense of home continues through their times at school, and equally the love of learning continues at home.
It is helpful to repeat another paragraph from one of our earlier visits:
“We were really impressed with Victory Heights Primary School – schools can sometimes be guilty of doing things for effect, rather than in a sincere and genuine way. We had no sense of anything at our inspection being contrived. In fact, VHP has a very clear direction and every development is very clearly underpinned with purpose and clarity.
The feel of Victory Heights Primary School is that of an outstanding UK Primary – but with the richness that comes from the multicultural environment unique to Dubai – one that has been seamlessly and carefully integrated into the fabric of school life.
More than this, we had a real sense of this being a not-for-profit in its ethic, something that we understand has been commented on previously. There is a striking sense of warmth and cohesion that the not-for-profits are often better able to address and garner – it’s rare to find it so transparently, as here, in a for-profit school.”
There is just so much to like about this school and to admire in the achievements of both its owners and Headteacher, who are clearly working in unison.
The school’s owners’ launch of South View School now provide a natural slipstream for parents of children at Victory Heights. Our review can be found here.
Of course, there is no such thing as the Best School for all children. But, for a British primary school education where the happiness of children is put centre stage, and a love of learning literally lights up the corridors in the infectious enthusiasm of children, it’s nigh on impossible to visit Victory Heights Primary School and not be moved and impressed.
The calibre of leadership here is absolutely top notch – and the teaching faculty are clearly driven, committed to children and accomplished.
Sash Crabb thoroughly deserved receiving The SchoolsCompared.com Top Schools Award for Best Principal in the UAE 2019-2020 – something made more meaningful by the outpouring of support for her receiving the Award from her leadership peers across schools UAE-wide, as well as students, teachers and parents at her school.
There are an extremely small number of Tier 1 dedicated Primary schools in Dubai – all are over-subscribed. In many ways Victory Heights is the newest school of these “on the block.” On those terms alone it is much needed.
It’s differences are its charm. Expect bustle, laughing, excitement, rushing, creativity and flair around every corner – this is a school that celebrates expression and children.
It’s very rare to be able to unequivocally recommend a school.
Our recommendation for Victory Heights Primary school could not be any more powerfully stated.
This is a school, under its extraordinary Principal Ms Sasha Crabb, that deserves shortlisting.
© SchoolsCompared.com 2020
Very Good with Outstanding features
Very Good with Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Private, for profit
Under review 2019-20
YEAR 1: 42,350
YEAR 2: 42,350
YEAR 3: 45,607
YEAR 4: 45,607
YEAR 5: 48,865
YEAR 6: 48,865
YEAR 7: NA
YEAR 8: NA
YEAR 9: NA
YEAR 10: NA
YEAR 11: NA
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA
Emirati Student Discount available
Sibling Discount -Emirati Families - 25%( youngest member) duration 2 years
Academic excellence - Emirati Families - AED 2000 (2 students among all families)
National Curriculum of England
Early Years Foundation Stage [EYFS]
Key Stage 1
Key Stage 2
(1) Wonder Years Nursery students are given priority places
(2) All children are screened for speech and language so that intervention and support can be offered from the outset
(3) There is a child protection team within the teaching cohort and 4.5 SEN teachers to support approx 20% of the 725 students.
(4) There is one classroom assistant per class at the lower end of the school, reducing to shared support as the children get older.
(5) The school's slipstreams include DESC, DC, JESS, DBS and Safa. There are a number of very capable children in Years 5 and 6 and an active Gifted and Talented (G&T) child programme.
Not published (High)
(1) 55 Nationalities including UK (345) S.Africa (46) and Australia (42) [November 2016]
(1) Maximum class size: 25
(2) FS1 to Year 2: teacher plus teaching assistant [TA]
(3) Year 3 to 6: teacher plus shared teacher assistant [TA]
Dubai Sports City, Dubai
British (largest nationality 55%+)
Emirati: 6 (<1%) Australian (<6%) South African (<6%). Special Educational Needs and Disability [SEND]: 31 students English as an Additional Language [EAL]: 10%
(1) Approximately 50% boys, 50% girls
Dinesh Kothari (Chairman)
Vineeta Nayyar (Co-founder)
+971 (0) 4 423 1100
• Outstanding child care and focus
• Award-winning, Inspirational leadership with outstanding independent WhichSchoolAdvisor.com and SchoolsCompared.com feedback from parents, children and teachers - as well as from teachers and school leaders from other leading UAE schools.
• Impressive school architecture designed to inspire children’s love of learning
• A KHDA Outstanding school in the making
• Consistent and genuine investment in the Arabic cultural context
• Outstanding school transparency and information for parents – both for those with children at the school and those considering it for their children
• Much loved school by parents, teachers and 'little ones' - community and parental relationships are sincere, meaningful and highly developed
• One of our top recommendations for the best British primary schools in the UAE
• Weaknesses in Arabic subject provision, endemic to British schools
• We would like to see bursary and scholarship provision