Curricula
Now Reading
Safa Community School, Arjan, Al Barsha South – The Review
Arts, Music and Drama
0
Review

Safa Community School, Arjan, Al Barsha South – The Review

by July 12, 2017
Strengths

• One of the most intelligently designed schools in the UAE, balancing small-scale warmth, and educational delivery without over-the-top “bells and whistles”
• Radical structuring of educational delivery by year groups, each with their own resources, creates warmth, human scale and student identity
• A school seemingly investing in staff – and the commitment to those staff to recognise all of their roles on-line
• Excellent school transparency thus far
• Mooted outstanding breadth of IGCSE and International A Level provision
• Founding children and parents have a genuine opportunity to contribute to the culture and dynamics of a new school
• Outstanding enrichment and Performing Arts provision in the pipeline
• For our Inspectors, a Dubai Best School in the making

Weaknesses

• No published bursary or scholarship provision
• All schools launching will face teething problems
• No in-house cafeteria provision, arguably something parents expect at this level of fees – and important for children
• Safa Community must build on the lessons of its sister school if it is to meet the clear potential for Outstanding schooling in place thus far

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

Clever, exciting, professional, innovative - and warm – Safa Community has all the makings of an Outstanding school. Yes, these are early days in a phased launch. But what has been achieved thus far is beyond legitimate expectation, and already, in places, outstanding and setting new benchmarks for educational provision in the Emirates. Maybe the real test is to come, but we would not bet against the commitment and passion of these owners and their hugely driven Principal. Very highly recommended.

A-
Our Rating
A
User Rating
You have rated this
Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
65%
In my Top 5
20%
Shortlisted
20%
A possibility
10%
Pass
0%
No way
0%

Updated July 2017 – Safa Community School Visit and Inspection

New sister school to the Safa (British) School in Al Quoz, and originally named the Safa British Academy, Safa Community School is an all through British School currently offering English National Curriculum based provision from FS1 to Year 8, with Years 9 – 12 opening in phased launch from 2016-18.

Safa Community School welcomes children of all nationalities, and aims to be engaging and genuinely inclusive.

Where to start?

First, there is a buzz about the school – and a really lovely, warm atmosphere. This is a school that exudes happiness in a very rare, and actually quite moving way. Children at the school are a delight, demonstrating a curiosity to learn, a sense of fair play and smiles to boot. It’s something to behold.

An aerial view of Safa Community School in Dubai highlighting the Antoni Gaudi inspired architectural curves and the importance of design to the school's vision for children

The design of the school is a plus. Safa shines a light on the importance of school design in creating an environment in schools that in its own right inspires children to excel. Buildings matter – and Safa is an example school in this regard. Large and colourful terraces, outdoor race track for little ones, complete with scooters – and an excellent, well thought out range of play equipment , are real show-stoppers – a few adults are likely to be “wanting a go!”

The architecture uses curved buildings rather than blocks, with columns and shade-sails providing a rainbow of colour at regular steps. Railings around all the upper floors create the sense of children being on a cruise ship. The proximity of the phased senior school (and future Arts hub) gives the sense of three ships sharing the waters on a dynamic journey – the horizon filled with the etching of the sea and the peaks of Dubai’s not too distant skyline.

As is probably clear, we think the architecture just works, and does so without any need of too much glass and steel. It feels rooted. Of course, outside this, there are many other parts of the jigsaw. Facilities and buildings provide just one part of the framework. Teaching, the quality of the curriculum (and how it meets the needs of individual children), how outward looking is the school (does it provide bursaries and scholarships for example to ensure the mix of children), school leadership and governance – all of these have a vital role to play in a school being outstanding. Get one wrong and there will be an impact that compromise successes in other areas.

 

Safa Community School SchoolsCompared.com Independent Visit and Inspection July 2017

Our third visit to the school reminded us just how much Safa lives up to its name as being a community school – the sense you get visiting Safa  is authentically one of collaboration, engagement and enthusiasm from the moment parents drop off their children to the energy of the children as they rush to class. The staff are evidently valued and looked after and this clearly impacts on the atmosphere in the school, and the classrooms – there is a lively, lovely energy and dynamic throughout.  It’s no surprise that Safa Community School came top of an independent Mystery Shopper Survey recently conducted at the school with a focus on the entire enrollment process from a parental perspective.

Young children have a race on bouncing toys at Safa Community School in Dubai

A note on the owners of Safa Community School. Sameer Merchant and Louay Khatib work from modest offices to be found at the entrance of the school and are deliberately accessible. They both have children at the school and Stephen Duckitt, the school’s wonderful engaging Head, made no secret of the fact that the owners are creating something they wish to hand down through their family as a legacy. Tellingly they own another alternative curriculum school in Dubai, one very deeply rooted in community, which has a reputation for looking after families in distress, making sure that in hard times children are never prevented from going to school by financial worries. Mr Duckitt, in our conversation with him, explained that his ethics, to ensure that the school celebrates failure and success equally (we cannot learn without trying and failing and the courage of endeavour in children must always be celebrated and nurtured on that basis) are fundamental to the happiness and sense of purpose amongst children so evident around us. Mr Duckitt is also deeply committed to innovation in the classroom and discussed with us at length his ambitions for the school moving forward. It was impressive stuff.

Staff had recently returned from a fact finding trip to Finland to learn from the many successes achieved within the Finnish system – one known for its child-centred approach to creative learning and deep structural commitments to community and the interlinked role of parents in the life of schools. It’s an approach that, at Safa Community School, finds particular voice in the emphasis the children on providing inspirational lessons with an exploratory style of learning. Equally, it is a school promise that teachers and leadership will always be available to parents, whatever the issue, no exceptions. The Senior Leadership Team are present at the school gates in the mornings to meet and greet families and regular coffee mornings both buid links and ensure the open door for effective communication. Workshops are run for parents, the most recent being on Emotional Resilience. On this note, innovative GRIT Awards are run in school for students and teachers who have been determined and overcome odds stacked against them ( big and small).

Parents at Safa Community School were concluding a Pilates class at school as we toured the premises and there is a Parents Cafe with its own access from outside which sits adjacent to the school dining room. Arabic lessons are also offered to parents during the school day and an application has been made for Eco School accreditation with community and school Eco Promises based on conserving water and the use of plastics.  Sibling club allows for parents to bridge the gap between pick up times for different ages.

Facilities at Safa Community School are Tier 1. The new shared third building, currently being completed, mirrors the architectural curves of the 4-tier “upper” and “lower” schools. The Global Learning Centre contains a landmark Performing Arts Centre (including a 500-seat amphitheatre), multiple dance and drama studios, band and practice rooms, library, café and LEGO Robotics Lab.

A photograph of a child competing in swimming at Safa Community School in Dubai

Sports facilities within the centre include indoor multi-purpose courts for basketball, netball, badminton and indoor cricket, and the centre edges the existing 25M main and learner pools, outlying FIFA football field/ground and planned tennis courts. The aim is that the centre becomes a hub for enrichment and self-guided learning across the spectrum of sport, Science, the Arts and Performing Arts that reaches out and infuses across the whole campus.

We particularly like the clustered approach to learning Safa Community School adopts internally, with each Year Group’s facilities, classrooms, café areas, project zones and various reading and social “nooks” grouped around a central common area in which children can coalesce for activities. It’s hard to describe, but extremely clever – creating a real sense of year group identity.

The classrooms at safa Community School flow onto the deck terraces of the “ship” too, which furthers the sense of drama and highlights the impression that this is a school looking outward. It’s a radical approach to school design with open spaces replacing traditional corridors and communities built in year groups rather with “ownership” of their own facilities. The only weakness of this approach is the current lack of a whole school cafeteria. Currently the school provides no in-house (or out-sourced) prepared food for the children, something we feel that is important, particularly beyond FS stages. It is not clear whether this will be addressed in later building and development.

The school has three existing buildings and the fourth, now almost complete, has a foot print larger than the existing three combined.  To create a small school feel, in a big campus, the classes have been paired very effectively into ‘mini school’ spaces by pairing year groups.  FS1 and FS2 have their own areas with some great outdoor play space, both with equipment, and really imaginative landscaping features for them to explore (including The Avenue of Trees and The Shallow Wadi (brook)).

The new Safa Community School building will have minimal corridors, favouring instead open access areas where the theme of paired year groups will continue with Years 1 and 2 in the ground floor, Years 5 and 6, Years 7 and 8, Years 9 and 10 all occupying the additional 3 levels.  Secondary class size will be deliberately capped at 18.  Currently FS1 have 20, FS2 have 22 and Years 1 to Years 6 have 24 max class sizes.

The existing dining room at safa Community School is bright and functional with a good range of hot and cold meals available for children from Year 1 if they chose it over a packed lunch. FS children can have packed lunches or elect to have meals from the canteen but, thoughtfully and tellingly of the care of the school,  they are delivered to the classrooms to avoid the little ones being ‘Little Ones’ in the dining room.

An indoor football stadium is being created right next to the school, and permission has been sought for it to be available for school use during the day – this will be a significant additional facility for the school and the community.

The Safa Community School Sports Hall is light and large, there is an additional Dance Studio with a very active program for boys and girls in a lovely Dance Studio.  There is a small pool, and a 8 lane 25M pool for swimming which is extending to emerging water polo and occasional synchronised swimming.

Language is well catered for with Mandarin, German, Arabic, French and Spanish currently being offered throughout the school with the suggestion that Cantonese might be introduced.

The Safa Community School Design and Technology room was vibrant and the children were all engaged in making their puzzles, the Laser cutter and other equipment is fully utilised and there were some lovely clocks and lanterns being produced.

The existing facilities for FS will be extended next year to develop the water play and mud kitchen; the existing sand pit was very popular as were the climbing equipment and trikes with their own small road network.  Currently there are 5 FS1 and 7 FS2 classes.

Whilst not yet launched, it’s worth noting that mooted subject breadth at both IGCSE and International A Level at Safa Community School is outstanding. A Levels in outlier subjects, for example, like Philosophy, Psychology and Media Studies, generally only provided in Tier 1s looking to provide the most extensive academic reach, are telling of the school’s commitment to meeting the gifts and talents of all children. If they meet their promise they will equal or exceed provision at the benchmark British school for subject choice, Jumeirah College. Quite something.

The school’s secondary language offer across French, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic and German, matches the breadth of subject provision elsewhere – but we particularly like the implementation of language lessons for parents (above), a move that reflects the school’s community focused DNA, but also its investment in parents and children sharing in language journeys. We think more schools would do well to pick this one up.

A brief note on teaching faculty at Safa Community School. There is a real integrity about the staff and their aims which permeates the school and heavily contributes to the atmosphere and sense of a school that is so alive!  There is a clear culture of listening and valuing thee thoughts of others  throughout lessons. It’s not seen by parents, but there is also very active Continuing Professional Development (CPD)  at Safa which reflects in the attitudes and energy of the staff we met. Too few schools properly invest in their most important resource – teachers.

We, and our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, have long campaigned for school transparency and enhanced levels of communication for parents – existing and prospective. It is critical that parents can properly understand and benchmark a school’s provision.

This can show itself in a myriad of ways, from transparently publishing, and explaining, school examination results, to publishing the bios of individual staff members across the school (and not just the Head.) Bios demonstrate that a school invests in staff – and is generally telling of a school not fearing staff-turnover.

In this area Safa Community excels – with every member of staff given their place on-line and recognition for their role in the school’s journey. This is matched by completely transparent publication of Board minutes, owners and governors/board members and (interesting, well thought-out) newsletters giving a genuine insight into the school’s approach across academics, PHSE, enrichment, sport and community.

It’s also worth noting that considerable thought has been invested by the school’s owners in recruitment of Safa Community School Principal, Stephen Duckittt. Mr Duckitt, a scientist by training, brings a wealth of experience from the UK independent sector (including Ballard, St John’s Prep and latterly Bournemouth Collegiate), and is professionally driven by the challenges of start-ups and trouble shooting. He is on record as absolutely committed to inclusive, non-selective co-educational education – a perfect fit for Safa. We would like to see this mapped into broader provision of scholarships and bursaries, one weakness, we feel, of of the school to date, but mid-way through launching there is still time.

Bottom line? It is worth repeating the results of the first whichschooladvisor.com visit in full:

“A very exciting, forward-looking community school in an excellent location, Safa has a lovely welcoming feel with highly motivated and enthusiastic staff throughout. As a new school you would expect it to have good equipment but the standard here was well above that. SCS is led by a dynamic Principal who also teaches. The specialist departments are standout.”

Our own SchoolsCompared.com Inspector noted:

“An absolutely gorgeous school, genuine to its core and with an integrity that shines throughout school life. The willingness to listen to parents,  teaching staff – and the children – is not skin deep but built into the school’s vision to excel for children and families. There’s a real ‘can do’ pioneering spirit at Safa Community School – no wonder our feedback has been so warm and complimentary. An amazing school across the board. This is a best school in Dubai in the making.”

Very highly recommended.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.

Request School Information

 

 

Details to consider
2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Good
Notes
(1) This is, in all but exceptional circumstances, the highest rating that is awarded to a school in its first inspection as insufficient flight path, progress and attainment data is available to calculate values over time to ascertain higher scoring.

2016/17 Rating Primary / Elementary

Good
Notes:
(1) FS Very Good

2016/17 Rating Secondary / Middle

Acceptable

2016/17 Post 16 / High

In launch

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

New School

Type of school

Private, for-profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 47,000
FS2: 47,000
YEAR 1: 49,000
YEAR 2: 49,000
YEAR 3: 49,000
YEAR 4: 51,000
YEAR 5: 53,000
YEAR 6: 55,000
YEAR 7: 65,000
YEAR 8: 65,000
YEAR 9: 69,000 (2016-17)
YEAR 10: 72,000 (2016-17)
YEAR 11: 74,000 (2016-17)
YEAR 12: 76,000 (2016-17)
YEAR 13: 80,000 (2016-17)

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Examinations [CIE]

Number of A Levels offered

24

A Levels offered

English
Mathematics
Physics
Chemistry
Biology
Arabic
Arabic AL
French
Spanish
German
Mandarin
Geography
History
Music
Drama
Art and Design
Business Studies
Economics
English Literature
Philosophy
Psychology
Media Studies
Further Mathematics
Computing /ICT

A Level A* to A

Phased launch 2016-18

A Level A* to C

Phased launch 2016-18

IGCSE A* to C

Phased launch 2016-18

IGCSE A* to A

Phased launch 2016-18

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

24

I/GCSEs offered

English
Mathematics
Physics
Chemistry
Biology
Arabic
Arabic AL
French
Spanish
German
Mandarin
Geography
History
Music
Drama
Art and Design
Business Studies
Economics
English Literature
Philosophy
Psychology
Media Studies
Further Mathematics
Computing /ICT

Selective

Inclusive
Notes:
(1) Entrance is by application followed by whole-child assessment over a period between 40 and 60 minutes. The assessment is designed to be stress-free and may be conducted individually or within a group.
(2) The school will observe communication skills, social development, behaviour, attitude, manners, physical development (large and fine motor control), academic levels and specific talents in any field – musical, sporting, artistic and/or academic.
(3) Assessments for Foundation 1 and Foundation 2 are based primarily on observation of the child at play. Subject to availability of a place, there are no limitation on entrance subject only to the school being able to meet the needs of the child.
(4) Assessments from Year 1 include basic mathematics, reading and comprehension, drawing and writing.
(5) The school does not have provision for English as an Additional Language [EAL] so students will need to have a level of English language ability appropriate to their age on entry.
(6) SCS has extensive Special Education Needs provision [SEN], including in the areas of Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD); Speech Language and Communication Difficulties; Epilepsy; ADHD; Autism; Visually Impaired; Hearing Impaired; Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) including Dyslexia and Dyscalculia; and Asperger’s Syndrome. Only in exceptionally complex areas should SEN provide a bar to entry.
(7) Parents will be contacted within 1 week of the assessment for any year and advised whether or not the application has been successful.

Waiting list

No

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Capacity 1000+
2016-17: 750+
2015-16: 520
2014-15: 120

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:14
Notes:
FS1: Maximum class size 20 students (with teacher and teaching assistant)
FS2: Maximum class size 22 students (with teacher and teaching assistant)
Years 3 to 9: Maximum class size 24 students (with teacher and shared teaching assistant)

Largest nationality teachers

British

Teacher turnover

Not published
Notes
(1) School in phased launch so turnover may be higher
(2) Teacher turnover at sister school 20% which may be indicative

Year opened

2014-15

Location

Dubai Motor City, Al Barsha South, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality): 38%+
Total nationalities: 30
Expat: 95%
Emirati: 5%

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

No
Notes:
(1) No provision in FS-Middle School phases
(2) Not published whether planned to launch with Senior and Post-16 facilities/provision from 2017

Owner

Education Capital (Holding) W.L.L.
Mr. Louay Khatib – 050 6252814
Mr. Sameer Merchant – 050 4618093

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0)4 385 1810

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

75%

Attainment Pri SEM

75%

Attainment Sec SEM

Phased launch 2017-

Attainment Post-16 SEM

Phased launch 2017-

Progress Nur SEM

75%

Progress Pri SEM

75%

Progress Sec SEM

Phased launch 2017-

Progress Post-16 SEM

Phased launch 2017-

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

50%

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

Phased launch 2017-

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

Phased launch 2017-

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

50%

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

Phased launch 2017-

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

Phased launch 2017-

Islamic St. Primary Results

50%

Islamic St. Secondary Results

Phased launch 2017-

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

Phased launch 2017-

Leadership

100%

Community

100%

Facilities

75% (phased launch/build)

Quality of teaching

75%

Student personal responsibility

100%

Quality of curriculum

75%

School Governance

75%

SEN Provision

62.5%

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Acting Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and the International Editor of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

Leave a Response

Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities