There’s a saying, ‘you wait ages for a bus, then two come along at once,’ and while WhichSchoolAdvisor.com can’t statistically verify the bus theory, the sentiment is spot on for affordable new British schools around the Mirdif locale.
This September, not one but two, low-fee UK curriculum schools are set to launch - and as we find out, there is so much more to these new schools than simply low fees.
Newlands School will offer Foundation 1 to post-16 when fully operational, for this year however, the school will launch with Foundation 1 to Year 6. Capacity when complete and full will be 1,200 students.
Alpha School will remain a Foundation 1 through to Year 6, traditional and standalone ‘Primary school’ with a capacity of just 550 students.
The School Buildings
Both schools are utilising school buildings which are already completed. Both were originally designed as segregated schools and are being ‘converted’ for co-education (boys and girls taught together).
The plot at Newlands School is large, allowing the addition of further facilities on the plot.
Alpha School has no additional construction and instead, is focusing on the interior with upgraded fittings with a focus on technology.
Newlands School’s large plot has allowed management to add a new multi-purpose sports hall, 25 metre swimming pool and various pitches and courts to the site. The Foundation has its own dedicated play area, science areas and small multi-purpose hall.
Inside the main school there’s 4 science labs, (3 specialised and one general), a music lab, art room, SEN department, EAL department, ICT lab, canteen with hot meal service, while the roof is being prepared for gardens and additional play areas.
The Alpha School's facilities include: two AstroTurf central play yards, a library for both Foundation and Primary levels, an additional play yard, a small multipurpose play yard, dedicated- music, art and Arabic rooms, an SEN room and EAL room and the iMac lab.
Both schools have secured impressive founding leaders, in the form of experienced, strong female principals.
Alpha School’s principal is Australian-born Rachel Cashin, who comes with 19 years’ experience in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Her most recent appointments were Deputy Principal at GEMS International School-Al Khail and founding primary principal at Ajman Academy.
She is also one of the country’s leading Apple education trainers and has a Masters of Applied Linguistics, which she plans to put to good use at Alpha by creating a strong and successful Arabic language department.
Newlands School can’t yet release the founding principal’s name, however, we do know that she's a British national, currently employed as founding principal in Egypt, where she has also rather impressively, taught herself Arabic.
Back in the UK, she was selected by the Government as one of the 500 teachers for the ‘UK's Fast-track’ programme which saw the country’s top teachers chosen for accelerated headship placements.
During this time, she worked on projects based on improving Mathematics and English using a range of resources including IT, materials from the BFI, Concept Mathematics (Problem solving) and the outdoor learning environment.
Newland's new principal also has previous experience teaching the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), a comprehensive, thematic, creative curriculum for 5-12 year olds. The programme increases international mindedness and enhances personal learning.
She’s also an active member of The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National College of School Leadership in the UK and currently authoring several books. More information soon.
Both Alpha and Newlands say they’re actively recruiting native English speaking teachers from South Africa, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, with additional teachers from the GCC.
Newlands School will launch with FS through to Year 6. The school will cap classes at 25 students per class and at capacity have four-forms per year group.
Alpha School will be 24 students per class and three-forms through to Year four and for Year’s five and six there will be two-forms per Year.
Alpha School will customise the UK curriculum with the ‘Alpha-Edge', based on three tenants: family, identity and innovation.
Given Cashin’s experience of technology integration and the IB curriculum, we expect something a little bit special at Alpha. Expect an iMac lab, class device use and aspects of the IB curriculum.
Newlands School: WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has yet to speak to the founding principal at Newlands School, however, we do expect elements of the innovative IPC programme to be embedded into the curriculum.
Expect: core units incorporating all subjects- helping students create links between subjects, a focus on ‘global awareness’ and significant input into personal skills, morality and respect.
Alpha School (7.2 Km from Uptown Mirdif) is located in Al Qusais 3, just off Al Nahda road and not far from the Etisalat Metro station. Based in a low-density traditional villa neighbourhood, yet near enough to Al Nahda road for access. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com does not expect the school to experience any serious parking-woes.
Newlands School (6.3km from Uptown Mirdif) is located in the heart of Al Warqaa 1 neighbourhood. The school neighbours both the Rajnagiri/Primus Indian School (1500) and Sharjah American International School (1600 students), which means management at Newlands are currently working on some imaginative logistical solutions, to achieve a trouble-free drop-off and pick-up schedule.
Fees and Discounts
Newlands School fees are set at AED 19,200 for FS1 to AED 26,400 for Year 6. The first year, the school will offer a 10 percent discount reducing the fees to AED 17,280 for FS1 and AED 23,760 for Year 6.
The school charges an additional fee for textbooks. The fee is AED 1,200 per student in FS 1 and 2, and AED 1,750 per student in Years 1 to 6. The fee is due with the first payment for Tuition Fees.
Alpha School charges AED 19,750 for FS1 to AED 28,500 for Year 6. The school is offering a first year- 25 percent discount for the first 100 students who sign up.
Alpha will also add an additional charge for textbooks, uniforms and transport.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Conclusion
Clearly neither Alpha nor Newlands are simply just about affordability.
Both schools have managed to secure visionary leaders who intend on adapting and enhancing the UK curriculum.
Given the linguistic backgrounds and Middle East experience of both founding principals we expect Arabic Language and Islamic education provision to be strong from the outset.
Alpha School under the head-ship of Cashin is expected to focus on the integration of device/Apple learning and coding, while creating a warm, engaging and inclusive primary environment.
Newlands School will be bigger offer a one-stop education solution from Foundation to post-16 with more sporting and extra-curricular activities and incorporating numerous aspects of the International Primary Curriculum.
And the winner is..?
However, the reality is there can only be one winner in an analysis like this.
The winner of course, is... Mirdif's parents.
Both Newlands and Alpha offer something different to the Mirdif community (and most likely beyond). Both do so at a price point that is highly accessible. Given that heady mix we expect both to do well come the first registration calls this September...