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Safa British School Dubai first school in the world outside the UK to achieve Great Britain’s SMSC Quality Mark – and achieves highest Gold rating for extraordinary quality of school, culture of caring and kindness.
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Safa British School in Dubai is the first school outside Great Britain to have been awarded the UK’s prestigious SMSC quality mark. The award, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year has, since September 2017, seen 850 primary and 450 secondary schools being considered for the award, of which only 240 have achieved it. To date the award has benefitted more than half a million young people.

The SMSC Award requires schools to consider the kind of people we aspire to be, the kind of world we aspire to create, and the kind of education we aspire to provide. SMSC stands for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural education. It is valued exceptionally highly by schools regulators in the UAE including the KHDA and ADEK as well as OFSTED in the United Kingdom. OFSTED describes SMSC as:

“central to the development and growth of pupils as people and at the heart of what teachers would say education is [truly] all about.”

SMSC has been part of a British education since the 1944 Education Act and in earlier forms before that. Inspectors look at the curriculum in its broadest sense, including the impact of activities outside the classroom on pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. They will look at the behaviour, safety and achievement of pupils. They also focus on links with the community and the way schools engage parents.

Key elements looked at include:

  • Spiritual – developing an understanding in children of the non-material aspects of life, focusing on personal insight, values, meaning and purpose. Beliefs that help provide perspective on life. Creativity and imagination is seen as exceptionally important, as is inspiring in children a sense of fascination, awe and wonder.
  • Moral – developing in children an understanding of choices, their impact, behaviour and how to lead a good life. This area considers personal and social values; understanding the reasons for them; the consequences of decisions we make, the importance of recognising other people’s needs; and the spectrum of ways we can all learn from experience, including our mistakes.
  • Social – developing in children effective ways of working together, relating well to adults and participating in the community.
  • Cultural – developing in children respect and appreciation of different cultures, the wonders of the world and different ways of approaching it. It looks at how schools inspire an understanding of, and children feeling comfortable in, a variety of cultures. It covers aspects as diverse as theatre and the Arts, to travel and music.

Safa British School in Dubai the first in the world outside the UK to be awarded the prestigious SMSC Award in October 2022

In an extraordinary statement from both the Verifier of the SMSC Award, Victoria Quijada and Chair of Panel, Yvonne Richards, Safa British School, was praised not only for its quality of school, but the exceptional kindness deeply embedded throughout the school:

“This building surpasses any other school I have ever seen with regards to facilities – from the rooftop netball court to a fully equipped car body shop, where the children are building an actual car, to a swimming pool and an outdoor space with children’s sense of fun central to its creation.


However, the care and warmth that I felt from the staff team and the children could allow your SMSC provision to flourish in a hut!

Safa is a school where it appears everyone from the owner Sameer Merchant to each pupil, genuinely cares about each other and work together as a team to spread Safa’s purple kindness.”

Quality Assurance Panel. SMSC Report. Safa British School. October 2022

Safa British School children were described as:

“all so eloquent, confident, honest and a delight to speak to.”

SMSC Gold for a culture of kindness at Safa British School in Dubai

As part of the process for achieving the Award, children are spoken with directly. It is here that the SMSC Panel were particularly moved:

“One girl explained how she has grown as a person thanks to Safa. She commented, ‘Safa has validated my voice.’

Another girl replied when asked, what would you change if you had a magic wand? ‘I wouldn’t change anything because what I would have changed has already been done, because we are listened to.’

Quality Assurance Panel. SMSC Report. Safa British School. October 2022

The Award is granted for three years from October 2022 to October 2025.

Further information

Cerificate Zara Harrington Safa British School Award Best Principal in the UAE Top Schools Award 2022

Safa British School has achieved is a shortlisted Top Schools Award winning school. In 2021-22, Zara Harrington, Principal, won the hugely prestigious Top Schools Award for Best Principal in the United Arab Emirates. Read more about the biggest education awards in the region here.

Read our review of Safa British School here.

Main buildings at Safa British School in Dubai. Architecturally and thematically we rate this the most beautiful school in Dubai.

Visit the official Safa British School web site here.

Download the official SMSC award letter.

Visit the SMSC Quality Mark web site.


© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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