Beech Hall School Riyadh is a new international school in Al Khuzama, Riyadh. It claims to be the first fully inclusive school with a non-selective admissions process in KSA, which means that children do not have to sit an entrance exam or assessment to join the school community.
Beech Hall School Riyadh (BHSR) has been founded by UK-based Chatsworth Schools, through its international consultancy division, Blenheim Schools, in partnership with local Saudi business, Fawaz Al Hokair Group, and consultants Emkan Education. The school opened for students from age 3-11 (KG to Grade 6) as a co-educational environment, together with Grades 7 and 8 for Girls only, in September 2022. In September 2023 it proudly announced it had hit a student roll of 220 students.
Although designated an international school, Beech Hall's owners have been very clear that they aim to attract a significant contingent of local Saudi families.
Although the Riyadh school may be new to the Saudi market, it shares its name with another member of the Chatsworth group of schools - that of Beech Hall School which is located near Macclesfield in Cheshire in the Northwest of England. This school dates back to 1926, when it opened as a Boys' boarding school and is now a co-educational school for students from six months to 16 years of age.
Chatsworth Schools was founded in 2018 by Anita Gleave with the ambition “to enable an outstanding future for every child that attends a Chatsworth School regardless of their ability, background or any additional needs – physical or otherwise… At Blenheim Schools, we believe we need to reimagine education in order to help young people adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and beyond.”
Beech Hall School Riyadh claims to be the first full inclusive school in Saudi Arabia, with a non-selective admissions policy, whereby no assessment or testing will take place and the school will adapt its programme to support children, whatever their educational needs.
Commenting on the opening of Beech Hall Riyadh, Mrs. Gleave said “I firmly believe in the power of inclusive, non-selective education and the nurturing of each child as an individual so that they are ready to make the most of their individual talents and opportunities in a fast changing 21st century of digital skills and a rapidly changing global economy. Many of our students will go on to the very best schools and universities in the world after finishing their educational journey with Chatsworth. Other pupils with different talents and needs will go on to live fulfilling, happy and successful lives in other environments and pathways that are the best fit for their particular abilities.”
Beech Hall School Riyadh was the second international school under the Chatsworth/Blenheim banner that was due to open in the Middle East this academic year. The other school - Citizens School Dubai - also bears very similar ambitions and curriculum plans.
Beech Hall School Riyadh opened in September 2022 for students from age 3-11 years (pre-KG to Grade 6) as a co-educational environment, together with Grades 7 and 8 for Girls only. The school will open its Grade 9 classes for girls and the lower Secondary Boys section (from Grades 7 to 9) in September 2023.
In June 2023, it was announced that Beech Hall School Riyadh had been added to the growing list of international schools as a member of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City's (RCRC) International Schools Attraction Program, an initiative to bring a diverse range of world-class schools to the Saudi capital, in partnership with the Ministry of Investment and the Ministry of Education.
The Founding Principal at Beech Hall Riyadh is David Ardley. Although born in the UK, Mr. Ardley grew up in Hong Kong and went to an international school where he was inspired by his teachers to move into the profession.
Mr. Ardley returned to the UK for university, before beginning his teaching career, leading Design and Technology programmes. Previous schools include Taunton School, Whitgift School and Wellington College, Stowe and Cranleigh schools, before moving to Toulouse France and to Geneva.
He joined Beech Hall School Riyadh from his most recent role as Assistant Head at the Lyceum Alpinum, Zuoz near Saint Moritz – an international boarding school in the Swiss Alps.
Coinciding with the membership of the RCRC announcement, Anita Gleave, CEO of Blenheim and Chatsworth Schools, revealed that Clemmie Stewart, Director of Learning and Teaching at Chatsworth Schools, has been appointed Executive Principal at Beech Hall.
Mrs. Stewart will be relocating to Riyadh for the start of the new 2023-24 academic year to lead the school in its next period of expansion. Mr. Ardley's focus will be on developing the Year 7, 8 and 9 provision for the Boys school as the school grows to fully open with the additional of the senior year groups.
Julia Knight is the Founding Head of Primary and Secondary (Girls section). Ms. Knight has significant Middle East experience beginning her local career at the British School of Bahrain in 2016, prior to joining the Eton House International Group in 2020 as Vice Principal, progressing rapidly to Principal and then Executive Head. Prior to her initial appointment in Bahrain, Ms. Knight had spent two years in Bangkok after commencing her career in England in 2004. In 2021, Ms. Knight was recognised as an 'opinion shaper' and 'change maker' as part of the Edruptor top 100 Global Educators.
Other senior leadership appointments at Beech Hall School Riyadh included Claire Leyshon, as Founding Director of Learning and Teaching. Dr. Leyshon has a doctorate in early years and gifted and talented education, and has held senior leadership positions at school, school group and government levels. Her most recent position was at national level, working for the Ministry of Education in the UAE, as Acting Head of Educational Design for the Early Childhood Education and Care, and Cycle 1 Curriculum Department and as a Curriculum Development Specialist.
With inclusion such a focus of Beech Hall School Riyadh, the role of Founding Head of Inclusion is clearly a vital one.
Faiza Mubeen is a senior academic advisor carrying more than a decade of expertise in pastoral care and inclusive education at international schools and has an extensive track record of working with children in schools in Dubai, Al Ain and Kuwait. She has a Masters’ Degree in International Education Management from Pädagogische Hochschule, Ludwigsburg, Germany and an additional Post Graduate degree in Mass Communication & Social Sciences,
Abla Nubulsi has the role of Interim Director General. With over 28 years of successful teaching and leadership experience, Ms. Nubusi has held various roles including GCSE teacher, Homeroom Teacher, Head of Department, Kindergarten Principal, and Assistant Principal.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Languages from Jordan University,an International Professional Certificate in Educational Leadership (iPGCertEL) / Liverpool University, CACHE Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services, and Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Education- Melbourne University, Australia.
Her focus is on ensuring that instilling the student’s first language is a priority, ensuring that students are able to develop their mother tongue and learn any other languages at the same time.
The fourth member of the leadership team is Shereen Bataineh, who joined Beech Hall School Riyadh as the Head of Marketing and Admissions. With a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Jordan University and an additional degree in Marketing and Communication from Yarmouk University, Shereen has an extensive track record of success both from a personal development perspective and professionally in the Middle East.
Beech Hall School Riyadh, in addition to Ministry of Education Arabic and Islamic studies, offers the International Early Years, Primary and Middle Years curricula. These are an adaptation of the English National Curriculum specifically for international schools.
For senior students, Beech Hall School Riyadh will offer a choice of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or an American High School Diploma in the latter years. At this stage, the school has not formally applied for accreditation for either programme, but will need to do so.
Most of the teaching is in English, but the school also promises to offer ‘robust Arabic and Islamic studies’. For English Language learners, additional support is offered through one-to-one or group teaching. At the Primary level at least, the school has a no-homework policy, although parents are encouraged to develop their children’s learning further through shared activities outside school.
Whilst the school will follow the international curricula mentioned, new Executive Principal, Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Gleave, have created a unique learning framework - The Beech Hall Riyadh Tapestry -which will be integrated with the international programmes.
The unique curriculum is designed to incorporate the ‘six strands’ of mindset, wellbeing, entrepreneurship, global citizenship, sustainability and digital literacy on top of core parts of an international curriculum to create a truly unique learning experience and school environment for every child.
The Beech Hall team believes that these six strands “are fundamental to enabling your child to become the global citizen that they will unquestionably become. These strands include having an open mindset to life-long learning, a respect for physical and mental health and well-being, an entrepreneurial mindset, a global appreciation and respect for all cultures, an awareness of the need to preserve our planet through sustainable thinking and an understanding of how to use digital technologies carefully and appropriately in support of all that they do.”
To support the content of the curriculum, Beech Hall has tied up with two organisations:
8Billionideas is an organisation that is committed to future-focused learning through a digital platform with courses, live sessions, and dedicated mentors to equip students with the entrepreneurial skills for tomorrow. These skills are designed to be transferable and allow students to pursue a career and life they’re truly passionate about.
Happy Space is a preventative mental wellbeing organisation, protecting, inspiring and empowering young people worldwide. They believe that Mind, Food, Body, Finance and the Arts are the five pillars of mental wellbeing. Those pillars form the framework for guidebooks and accompanying 7-week lesson plans that Happy Space deliver to schools worldwide. Their resources combine expert content from thought leaders, engaging design and interactive activities.
Beech Hall School Riyadh ensures that the teaching is appropriate to each student’s needs through a process of observation and assessment, “pinpointing their educational starting point and subsequently plotting a tailored approach to their journey of learning. This personalised approach enables all children to make progress across the broad and holistic offering, in all subjects. ” The teaching team sees this as a process across all subjects, offering differentiation for each student based on their individual abilities and progress.
Through knowing each student’s capabilities, teaching extends those who have already mastered a concept; nurtures those who might be struggling and nudges those who might be in need of stretching and challenging. Every student is watched and assessed to ensure support is provided.
For students who may struggle in an area, or hit a barrier, the support and tools are provided to enable him or her to overcome that challenge and make progress, whilst for those who show a particular skill, talent or aptitude for a subject, a programme of study above and beyond that appropriate for the student’s age is offered. This may mean more challenging areas of a curriculum; language immersion; sport coaching at an elite level; or mentoring for artists and musicians, for example.
Whilst Beech Hall School Riyadh makes much of its intention to be a fully-inclusive school, educating students of all abilities, parents should be aware that this may come at an additional fee. The school operates differentiated support for students, based on their level of need.
Diagnosed SEN students or students exhibiting potential special, additional, educational needs are supported through an internationally recognised ‘wave’ system:
Beech Hall School Riyadh’s Head of Inclusion works alongside all WAVE 3 children and creates an individual education plan appropriate for each child, in partnership with their parents. Staff are employed by the school to offer the support and therapy required by WAVE 2 and 3 students, and this will be paid for by parents.
Within the WAVE approach, it is clear that some students will need further additional support and this would be discussed on an individual basis between a family and the Beech Hall Riyadh inclusion team. Additional fees are based on the level of support required.
The core brief and ethos of the design was that of flexibility; to ensure that the school’s interior spaces can be flexible in line with the curriculum, teachers and students. Specialist STEM, Science and computing facilities offer “a first-class environment for our engineers, scientists and coders. A theatre will enable actors, singers, directors and stage managers to bring Drama to life to large audiences.”
The designers have aimed at the avoidance of clinical classrooms, but also ensuring that spaces minimise sensory overload and are built using the latest research into what all learners need from their environment. Colours are calming and muted, but warm. Any equipment or visual stimulus has a purpose in order to avoid clutter and distraction.
The building is said to have “stunning light, bright purpose-built, bespoke learning environments, which are engaging, exciting but not overwhelming.”
In addition, spaces are provided throughout the building, designed to have a specific purpose for Occupational Therapy, Emotional and Behavioural support, Physical therapy or sensory support. As with the more generalist learning spaces at the school, these spaces also are flexible, so that they can be altered and developed according to the needs of the students at any given time.
It seems that Beech Hall School Riyadh has already made a strong impression on the Saudi educational scene. Recognition by the Royal Commission is an acknowledgement of the school's standing and expected high quality provision.
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As with any new school, parents are always taking something of a gamble, given the lack of previous history and experience. The team behind Beech Hall School Riyadh at Chatsworth Schools does, however, clearly have long experience in the provision of inclusive schools, notably in the UK.
It will, however, have some competition from a number of new international schools that have entered the market under the Royal Commission of Riyadh City, several of whom already have experience of operating international schools, in some cases in the Middle East. However, the unique curriculum and provision for inclusion sets Beech Hall School Riyadh ahead of many established and new international schools now entering the KSA private education market.
In line with local practice, Beech Hall School Riyadh follows the local grading structure for its youngest (3+) students of Kindergarten 1 (pre-KG equivalent), Kindergarten 2 (KG1 equivalent) and Kindergarten 3 (KG2 equivalent).
Approved fees for KG1 and KG2 are 55,000 SAR. However, the school is offering discounts for all students joining the school in 2022 and 2023.
Fees for KG1 and KG2 are discounted to 41,000 SAR for the first year and 48,000 SAR in 2023-24. Similarly, KG 3 official fees are 60,000 SAR, but also reduced to 41,000 SAR for the first year and to 50,000 SAR in 2023-24.
Grades 1 and 2 are 44,000 SAR in 2022-23 (reduced from 65,000 SAR), rising to 55,000 SAR in 2023-24, whilst those for Grades 3 to 6 are a uniform 47,000 SAR (reduced from 80,000 SAR), rising to 65,000 SAR in 2023-24. The school is also opening Girls-only classes in Grades 7 and 8 with fees reduced to 50,000 SAR from 85,000 SAR, increasing to 70,000 SAR in 2023-24.
The equivalent Boys classes are expected to open for the 2023 academic year and will benefit from the second year reduction to 70,000 SAR.
Students who join the school in the 2023-24 academic year will be able to benefit from the 2023-24 fee reductions, which apply equally to Grade 9 (for boys and girls sections) which will open also and for which fees will be same as for Grades 7 and 8.
These fees are line with those of a number of new premium-priced schools entering the Riyadh market this academic year.
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