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500 Teaching Jobs, The truth about GCSE and A-Level grading, Derry Girls, Sheikh Khalifa’s education legacy, GEMS FirstPoint and New Safa Community School Sixth Form reviews, getting into Oxbridge – and why Harvard is now less expensive: What made the news in education this week…

500 Teaching Jobs, The truth about GCSE and A-Level grading, Derry Girls, Sheikh Khalifa’s education legacy, GEMS FirstPoint and New Safa Community School Sixth Form reviews, getting into Oxbridge – and why Harvard is now less expensive: What made the news in education this week…

by Tabitha BardaMay 19, 2022

The Schools Report brings you the official Weekly Briefing on the Hottest News in Education.

Every Friday we bring you the latest stories in education in the UAE and around the world in the last 7 days. Here’s what’s been happening this week…

This Week in Education. UAE Education News. First. Every Friday. Only from

Younger children most affected by Covid lockdowns, new research finds

Covid 19 and child isolation has been catastrophic on child mental health

Children who were just starting school when the pandemic struck are the age group most affected by the COVID lockdowns and disruption, according to a new evidence review funded by the Education Endowment Fund.

Current 6 and 7-year- olds – who were 4 and 5 when lockdowns first came into force around the world – are demonstrating a much lower educational attainment level and worrying mental-health symptoms, the UK-based study finds.

Aggressive behaviour such as biting and hitting, feelings of struggling in class or being overwhelmed around large groups of children were among the difficulties reported by teachers during interviews.

More pupils in the current Key Stage 1 cohort are also struggling to focus and retain information, according to teacher reports.

Claudine Bowyer-Crane, of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, said the findings are a serious concern: “Not only does it suggest that children who started reception (FS2) in 2020 are struggling in the specific learning areas of literacy and maths but also that a smaller proportion of these children are achieving a good level of development.”

The research – which reviewed multiple studies on student progress and wellbeing both pre-, during- and post-pandemic – found parents and teachers concerned that children in England were struggling with their emotional wellbeing as well as their ability to learn language and numeracy skills.

Teachers who spoke to the researchers said the disruption had left some infants with “low self-esteem and confidence”, and that more children than previously “feel overwhelmed” by learning.

Teachers reported that some parents were unable to help their children learn during the lockdowns, finding it difficult to teach reading and writing. “Some parents were very difficult to engage and maybe we should have tried harder to get those children into school as they are now significantly behind,” one teacher commented.

The study found that more children finished reception year behind in their expected goals than in pre-pandemic years, with the equivalent of three fewer children in every classroom not reaching expected levels of academic, personal and physical development.

Younger children most affected by Covid lockdowns, new research finds | Early years education | The Guardian

New Senior School and Sixth Form Centre launching at Safa Community School in Dubai this September

Safa Community School Dubai BSO ranked Outstanding across-the-board

Safa Community School has today confirmed the opening of an AED multi-million landmark, state-of-the-art, new secondary sixth form school project for Dubai. The new bespoke  “Senior Campus”, designed A to Z around the specific and very different needs of older students, is being purpose built to deliver a number of firsts for the region and to provide a qualitative benchmark for outstanding British Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 provision in the UAE.  The project will deliver a world-class secondary phase and Sixth Form at Safa Community School and will be known at The SCS Senior School and Sixth Form Centre. The building will on launch educate up to 500 students from GCSE through to a dramatically extended Sixth Form programme, one delivering every possible combination of core academic and technical stream pathway options for students across gold-standard A Level, BTEC and ASDAN pathways.

The Ship has Set Sail. Landmark New SCS Senior School and Sixth Form Centre, four years in the making, Launching at BSO across-the-board Outstanding Safa Community School September 2022. – Dubai schools, Abu Dhabi schools, Sharjah schools with fees, ratings and more –

GEMS FirstPoint Announces new Principal and CEO – Read our Full 2022 Review

Photograph of David Wade, Principal, GEMS FirstPoint School Dubai, celebrating the school's outstanding BSO rating in 2022

Ex GEMS Winchester and Harrogate Ladies’, new school Principal of GEMS FirstPoint David Wade has taken over the reigns from Matthew Tompkins – and he has big plans for one of the jewels in the crown in GEMS Education’s portfolio of outstanding British curriculum schools. GEMS FirstPoint offers exceptionally high ROI for families at its fee point – and is pioneering at the cutting edge of technical stream education in the UAE.

Read our full review of GEMS FirstPoint School Dubai here

GCSEs and A-Levels 2022: No school likely to exceed 2021 grades, says Ofqual

As UAE students and pupils all over the world prepare to take, or have already taken, their GCSE and A-Level exams, Ofqual’s chief regulator has said that she would be “really surprised” if any school achieves better results than it did in 2021, when teacher assessment was used to grade GCSEs and A levels.

Jo Saxton said she hoped students would achieve better results than the cohort in 2019 – the last time exams were sat – and she also advised schools not to attempt to work out what their Progress 8 scores might be this year.

In a new podcast interview, published by the exams regulator last week, she said that Ofqual has tried to “level the playing field” for the disruption that students have faced through Covid so that they get the grade they would have achieved had there not been a pandemic.

When asked if schools might be able to achieve better results in this year’s exams than through last year’s assessment, Dr Saxton replied: “I would be really surprised if anybody’s results are better than [in] 2021.”

Exams will be marked in the same way as in normal years but Ofqual has said exam boards are taking the impact of Covid into account when looking at grade boundaries.

Read more. GCSEs 2022: No school likely to exceed 2021 grades – Ofqual | Tes

How the late Sheikh Khalifa made the UAE an education hub

Photograph of the younger Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE, who has died today. Obituary.

While the UAE mourns the passing of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who sadly died on 13 May 2022, the education sector is acknowledging the rich legacy he leaves behind.

Sheikh Khalifa became President in 2004 after the death of Sheikh Zayed – who believed deeply in the power of education to help forge an inclusive and prosperous society in the UAE – and he played a pivotal role in making the UAE a regional and global hub for education, reports Khaleej Times.

The commitment to education helped diversify the economy and prepared a new generation of young people ready to compete in the global marketplace.

In 1975, the rate of adult literacy was 58 per cent among men and 38 per cent among women. Today, literacy rates for both genders are close to 95 per cent.

Under Sheikh Khalifa’s leadership, new initiatives have been launched at all levels of education

Some of the world’s best universities soon rushed to set up base in the country and established programmes across different disciplines, attracting talented students from the Arab world and globally to the UAE.

With scores of top universities such as New York University and Sorbonne University opening campuses in the UAE, the country soon took on the mantle of a regional hub for education.

The UAE has also revised its visa scheme to attract students from across the world to come and make the country their second home.

Under policy reforms issued in 2021, the UAE said it would offer longer-term residence visas to foreign students pursuing education in the country.

Sheikh Khalifa’s legacy: How the late President made UAE a global hub for education – News | Khaleej Times

Children grow faster during the school year

Obesity placing children's lives at risk

A recent study has claimed children grow faster during school term time.

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas have announced their findings from a five-year long experiment that included more than 3500 children.

In a study published in ‘Frontiers in Psychology’, scientists reported that first-year primary school students grew by an extra half a millimetre a month on average between September and April and claim the reason for this is because the routine of a school timetable helps children eat and sleep better. Scientists went on to note that “exposure to the daily light-dark cycle” – the amount of time spent awake during daylight hours – might promote growth.

The study also measured the children’s BMI – body mass index – to record weight gain in different body types and noted that 52.5 per cent of children were at a “persistently healthy weight” while 22.6 per cent were “chronically overweight or obese”.

Dr Debbe Thompson author and children’s nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine said, “This differential seasonal impact of height and weight on BMIz lead to a healthier BMIz status during the school year.”

While scientists could not find a clear reason for increased growth during the school terms, they noted children are at the greatest risk of becoming obese over the summer months as previous research showed children eat more junk and leave the house less during school holidays meaning they would put on the most body fat during this time.

New study finds children grow more during the school term – NZ Herald

Teachers use Derry Girls to explain politics to students

The emotional finale of the cult-hit sit-com Derry Girls was aired on UK television this week, and coverage of its acclaimed last season has highlighted its use as a teaching tool in both school classrooms and university lecture theatres across the world.

Set in Belfast during the political unrest of the 1990s, critics have been ablaze with adulation for the show and its masterful balance between history and humour, religion and the ridiculous, the violent Troubles of Northern Irish politics and the universal troubles of teenagehood.

The 45-minute final episode is set during the signing of The Good Friday Agreement on April 10 1998 – which helped to bring an end to the violence of the Troubles – and social media has been rife with comments from viewers on how much more they learnt about Northern Irish history and politics from watching the show than they ever did in school.

The series’ power as both a cultural touchstone and a vehicle for education has not gone unnoticed – literary critic and academic Caroline Magennis uses it in her module about Northern Irish literature called ‘Alternative Ulster’ at the University of Salford, she writes in The Guardian, and it has quickly become the most potent medium for explaining complex political, historical and cultural ideas to her students:

“My module covers all the texts you would expect, from the poetry of Seamus Heaney and the fiction of Bernard MacLaverty through to newer writing such as the short fiction of Lucy Caldwell. But in the last few years we also started talking about Derry Girls, and it soon became clear that this was the most powerful way to discuss the ideas I had wanted to convey all semester.”

“My students are from a range of backgrounds, but Derry Girls is an absolute hit for all of them. Especially at a time where British-Irish relations are at the forefront of the news agenda, it allows us to talk about some other important things: joy, resilience, 90s music and how Manchester is actually a bit like Derry.”

In our own troubled times of the pandemic, climate change, the Ukraine war and economic unrest, the world can sometimes feel too much to bear for students, teachers and parents alike. Derry Girls offers a comforting lesson on how to balance darkness with light, and how laughter can sometimes take you right to the heart of what matters.

More than 500 UAE teaching jobs up for grabs

Dubai nursery KHDA guide

It’s teacher recruitment season, and there are more than 500 teaching jobs in the UAE being advertised ahead of the new academic year.

Most jobs have May deadlines, and starting dates in mid August this year.

Jobs range from a Principal role for Aldar Education, to PE and Maths teacher roles at Brighton College Abu Dhabi, Physics teacher at Raffles International School, and Early Years teacher at Dubai International Academy. There are a whole host of jobs at every level advertised across the whole of the emirates.

Over 300 jobs are in Dubai, but there are almost 130 in Abu Dhabi, with the rest scattered across Sharjah and the Norther Emirates.

Salary ranges are not disclosed, but it is estimated that teachers can expect to received between Dh10,000 to Dh16,000 per month, plus housing allowance.

See which UAE schools are recruiting.

Abolish flawed GCSEs, says former UK PM’s son

Exams to be reviewed by OFQUAL to move exams online - the end of pens and paper and adaptive testing up for grabs

GCSEs should be abolished because they do not reveal who will go on to succeed or fail in life, Euan Blair has said.

The son of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the co-founder of Multiverse, which promotes professional apprenticeships, Euan Blair a conference held by The Times Education Commission this month that corporate graduate schemes were missing out on talented people.

Blair said that there was little or no connection between high GCSE performance and success at work. He said that although “we’ve had for a long time this obsession with the academic as a marker of potential and talent”, this did not mean there was a correlation between exam and job performance.

“So much of the best learning happens in an applied context,” he said. “Professional athletes don’t make their best breakthroughs in the classroom and the same is true of a lot of people in the workplace.

Blair said that leading companies such as Google and Morgan Stanley wanted talented apprentices but there was a “disconnect” with schools, which were not given resources to point people in the right direction. He added: “Pretty much every teacher went to university and so they’re often more comfortable promoting the route.”

Of GCSEs, he said: “I don’t think it would be a bad thing to get rid of them. We definitely have to make sure we are tracking people’s progress throughout the classroom but that doesn’t have to exist through this current obsession with GCSEs. You end up doing mock after mock and this becomes the end in itself rather than actually learning. When we look at apprentices, we’ve actually seen no difference between those who are getting Cs or Grade 4s in GCSEs and those who are getting As and A*s — in terms of the employer they go on to, how long they’re retained in their job, their performance reviews, their progression.”

Abolish flawed GCSEs, says Euan Blair | Education Commission Summit | The Times

Paying for Harvard now cheaper thanks to decades-high inflation

Harvard University - a top choice for UAE students looking for a US Ivy League university

Parents paying the full cost of Ivy League tuition this summer can take comfort in the fact that their bills will, for a change, not be ahead of inflation.

The cost to attend an elite school in the coming academic year is poised to fall by an average of about 5 per cent, when adjusted for the rate of price increases in the broader economy, a Bloomberg analysis of tuition data showed.

That’s the biggest drop in at least a dozen years.

The decline is being driven by a quirk of the economy: sticker prices at schools are rising less than the general rate of inflation. The eight Ivy League schools, as well as Stanford University and MIT, are planning to raise tuition an average of 3.3 per cent for the 2022-2023 school year. By contrast, inflation is running at 8.5 per cent.

Among those schools, Yale plans the largest tuition increase, at 4.3 per cent. Factoring in inflation, that works out to a drop of 4.2 per cent. The figures exclude other expenses such as room and board.

For decades, tuition has risen faster than prices, making college costs a flashpoint. Harvard tuition has surged 56 per cent since the 2009-2010 year, and the coming school year will cost undergraduates almost $53,000.

Even so, few parents pay full price at these schools, which are among the most generous in offering financial aid. Harvard points out that about 55 per cent of students receive need-based scholarships and 20 per cent pay nothing to attend.

Read more.

Call for national trial mocks to avoid online GCSE ‘disaster’

A national digital mock exams afternoon for Year 10 pupils should be held a year before the introduction of online GCSEs to find out if the move would be a “complete disaster”, a leading academic has said.

Speaking at a Cambridge Assessment Network seminar, John Jerrim, a professor of education and social statistics at the UCL Institute of Education, proposed a plan for what he would do if GCSEs were to go digital in 2025.

He said that a mock held the summer beforehand would allow policymakers to “back out”, if things did not go well.

Professor Jerrim also said that moving to digital exams would be a “logistical nightmare” but that, eventually, education leaders would have to “bite the bullet” and move towards them.

Recent surveys have found that more than half of teachers want online exams, while the exam regulator Ofqual published a three-year corporate plan earlier this month, which said it would support the use of technology in exams.

Call to run national trial mocks to avoid online GCSEs being a ‘disaster’ | Tes

New study: International schools struggling more to recruit quality teachers post COVID

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of senior leaders in international schools say that Covid has had a negative impact on teacher recruitment, newly published report from the Council of British International Schools finds.

The study, based on around 1,600 survey responses from senior leaders and teachers, also revealed that 91 per cent of British international school leaders find recruiting quality teachers “somewhat” or “very challenging”. This is slightly higher than the response from early 2020 (88 per cent), but lower than the 94 per cent reported in 2018.

Some other key findings of the report, produced in partnership with ISC Research were:

  • 40 per cent of school leaders report a lower volume of applications for each post, compared to two years ago, and only 19 per cent report that they are always able to recruit candidates that meet their expectations (down from 25 per cent in 2020 and 26 per cent in 2018)
  • 68 per cent of senior leaders report Covid measures have had a negative impact on teacher recruitment;
  • 56 per cent report a negative impact on teacher retention;
  • 94 per cent report a negative impact on teacher wellbeing;
  • 88 per cent report a negative impact on teacher workload.
  • 66 per cent of senior leaders have implemented enhanced staff wellbeing initiatives to support teacher retention.

Covid impacts recruitment in two thirds of international schools | Independent School Management Plus

The Best and Worst Things about UAE Education, according to Dubai parents

What are the best and worst things about education, and sending your child to school, in the UAE? This is the question we posed as part of our search to find The SchoolsCompared Parent Panel – a network of UAE-based parents to whom we turn for insights, opinions and pearls of wisdom on all the topics that matter to UAE families.

After sifting through some fantastic nominations and answers from a diverse group of parents, we chose the best ones to be our panellists. Meet these fascinating, insightful and unique people, and read their thoughts below on the ups and downs of education in the UAE…

The best and worst things about UAE education, according to Dubai parents. Introducing The SchoolsCompared Parents Panel. – Dubai schools, Abu Dhabi schools, Sharjah schools with fees, ratings and more –

STEM degrees need urgent revision to make graduates more work-ready

UAE employers in the engineering and technology industries are struggling to find candidates with the necessary skills to fill roles.

The majority (93 per cent) of engineering employers in the UAE found it hard to recruit staff in the past year, according to a survey commissioned by the UK-based Institution of Engineering and Technology, which assessed the education sector’s ability to suitably prepare graduates for the roles in a rapidly-changing industry.

More than four in 10 employers in the UAE said applicants lacked crucial work experience and necessary technical skills, while 37 per cent of respondents said applicants didn’t have soft skills, such as communication, networking and delivering presentations.

A little more than half of those surveyed said they are experiencing a skills shortage of some kind, particularly in the high-skilled roles.

Julian Young, IET president, said the findings were not dissimilar to other countries and that Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees needed to play catch up by ensuring students were work-ready.

“I wouldn’t say it’s worrying … I would say it’s a wake-up call to ensure the opportunities are there to try and combine education and employability,” said Mr Young.

“It really is a case of saying ‘we’ve got our place of work and we have education, what we need to do is join them together more so and become integrated’.”

He said young people in the UAE need to engage in experiential learning, internships and gain work experience.

“If one thinks about engineering and technology that’s moving on so rapidly, what one finds is that by the time a course has been constructed and accredited, people enter the course, whether it’s an apprenticeship or an undergraduate course at university and by the time they come out if they’ve not had any exposure to work for that period of time. They’re very academically capable, but technology has moved on,” he said.

Toni Allen, IET’s director of international, strategic marketing and engagement, suggested engineering could be taught as a subject at secondary school level.

She said the UK faced a very similar picture as the number of skilled engineers coming into the workforce was quite low and faced a deficit of 200,000 engineers.

“In the [UK] curriculum, we teach science, and we teach technology, and we teach maths. But actually, very few schools globally teach engineering,” said Ms Allen.

“We’re missing the E in Stem. And the E and stem in curriculum in schools is so crucial because that’s where we’re going to get the skills.”

UAE jobs: engineering and tech employers struggling to find right candidates to fill roles (

Parents of teen who died from allergic reaction to sandwich set up ‘game-changing’ micro-dosing trial that aims to end allergies forever

The parents of a teenager who died from an allergic reaction after eating a baguette have set up a ‘game-changing’ medical trial with the aim of ending food allergies.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, died in 2016 after suffering an anaphylactic shock to hidden sesames in a Pret a Manger sandwich.

She purchased the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from the chain’s store at Heathrow airport, before getting a flight to Nice with her father.

The wrapper did not show allergy advice because it was made on premises, meaning warnings were not required by law at the time.

New rules — now known as Natasha’s Law — were introduced last October to ensure allergy advice is given on all food.

Now, her parents Tanya and Nadim have launched a new trial to investigate whether commonly available peanut and milk products can be used as a treatment for people with food allergies.

The £2.2million three-year immunotherapy trial — which will be done under medical supervision — will give patients tiny doses to slowly build their tolerance.

It could mean people who may have otherwise died from just a drop of milk could be able to eat popular foods like cakes, curries and pizza, Mr and Mrs Ednan-Laperouse claim.

The study will recruit 216 people between the ages of three and 23 with an allergy to cow’s milk, and aged six to 23 with an allergy to peanuts.

Following an initial 12 months of desensitisation under strict medical supervision, those taking part will be followed for two more years to provide longer term data.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse: Parents of Pret allergy death teenager set up clinical trial | Daily Mail Online

Private schools must accept they will get fewer students into Oxbridge, warns Cambridge vice-chancellor

Private schools must accept that they will place fewer students at Oxbridge, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge has warned.

Professor Stephen Toope said that the “premium” attached to independent schooling was in decline.

He said the increased intake of state school children at Cambridge – rising from 68.7 per cent in 2019 to 72 per cent last year – was “real progress”.

Private school leaders have criticised pitching independent institutions against their state counterparts.

They argue that private schools have helped to set up state schools and that many state school pupils were from wealthy backgrounds.

However, Robert Halfon, the Tory chair of the Education Select Committee, has claimed the status quo is “not a level playing field” and more change is needed to ensure a “meritocracy”.

Prof Toope, a Canadian who leaves his post this September, told The Times: “I would never come in from the outside and say the system is fundamentally wrong and has to be completely overthrown.

“I would say we have to keep making it very, very clear we are intending to reduce over time the number of people who are coming from independent school backgrounds into places like Oxford or Cambridge.

Private schools must accept they will get fewer students into Oxbridge, warns Cambridge vice-chancellor (

How to dig yourself out of a revision rut

A Guide to helping students through the pitfalls olf revision. How gto survive, excel - and be motivated when it all gets too much.

If revision pressures make you feel unable to focus, low on motivation to study, or simply too stressed to think, you’re really not alone. Even the best of us falls victim to procrastination from time to time. But unless you nip it in the bud, it’s all too easy for one bad day to degenerate into ongoing avoidance, which then creates a vicious circle as feelings of stress or panic make it harder to get back on track.

“Firstly, do not worry,” says Alessandro Capozzi, Head of Sixth Form at Kings InterHigh:

“Most students struggle at different times during their revision, and it is completely natural, but there are some habits you can develop to help.”

Here, some of the UAE’s top students and revision experts share their advice for digging yourself out of a revision slump:

The SchoolsCompared Revision Guide 2022. Part 2: The Motivation Toolbox and How to dig yourself out of a revision rut when it all gets too much. – Dubai schools, Abu Dhabi schools, Sharjah schools with fees, ratings and more –

UK boarding school fees skyrocket to more than Dh235,000 per year

School Fees - should they rise in Dubai Schools. The big debate

The average annual cost of sending a child to boarding school is approaching £50,000 (Dh230,000) due to sharp increases in next year’s fees.

One school, ACS Cobham, in Surrey, will start charging fees of £51,470 (Dh235,976) for all its “seven-day” boarders who are aged 14 and over from August.

Fees at other top boarding schools are rapidly heading in the same direction, according to Shaun Robson, head of wealth planning at the investment management firm Killik. His research shows that fee increases being approved by governors for the next academic year “range from 4 to 7 per cent”.

The rise means that professionals who used to be able to afford the costs are being priced out of top-tier private education, which can now only be afforded by the superwealthy.

In its latest research into private schools, Killik calculates that it would cost £905,600 (Dh4.15 million) to send two children to private school, initially at a day school followed by five years at a boarding school from the age of 13.

Robson said: “For domestic students, we have never seen any school going beyond £50,000 a year before, but you can see with those elite top schools the potential to push through that ceiling next year.”

To add to the pressure on parents, fees quoted by boarding schools are typically before any “extras” are charged, such as music lessons, school trips and uniform.

Boarding school fees soar to £50,000 a year | News | The Sunday Times (

Tabitha Barda’s The School Report © 2022. All rights reserved.

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About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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