Safa Community Secondary Rising: A Hard Hat Tour tours Safa Community School's newest campus construction
Safa Community Secondary Rising: A Hard Hat Tour
By C Hoppe
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It takes a special kind of school to be able to construct its campus over several phases and keep its parents happy.

The noise, intrusion, inconvenience and mess, are just a few of the issues that make the average parent ‘see red’ when it comes to term-time construction.

Yet Safa Community School is now mid-way through its third phase of on-site, term-time construction and according to our ongoing school survey, parents are rolling with it.

Safa Community consistently receives exceedingly positive feedback. Parents at the school tell us they’re happy with almost everything from strong sense of belonging, and satisfaction, to the discipline policy and the confidence the school gives their children. All indicators remain well above the national average.

But then Safa Community is no ordinary school. Owners Sameer Merchant and Louay Khatib are not only exceedingly ‘hands-on’ with their offices located within the school, but their children are students at Safa and their wives are both active members of the parent representative body.

So any parents who might feel ‘irked’ by the new Secondary construction adjacent to the current school, must be placated somewhat knowing that the owners, their children and their wives are also dealing daily with the situation too.

The new construction towers over the entrance to the current buildings, removes the extensive parking the school previously utilised. It also casts its shadow over the pretty central courtyard with its play-stream and mini-trikes, which interconnects and ‘ties-in’ each of the Safa campus buildings.

Although the new building is referred to as ‘the Secondary,’ it’s actually more than that, with several of the Primary year groups and facilities to be moved there on completion.  

In line with current pedagogic thinking, the school will integrate Years 5 and 6 into the new building, allowing them to experience what principal Stephen Duckett calls, “a secondary way of life.”

Somewhat more surprisingly, Years 1 and 2 will also take up residence on the ground floor. 

Expected to be completed in May/June, the new building is ground plus three storeys. Designed by International architects, ‘Fielding Nair,’ it too, incorporates the curvaceous and ship-like theme running throughout the campus.

Inside the building though, it differs as lessons have clearly been learned.

“These will be bigger classrooms, with much less glass,” says principal Stephen Duckett.

He goes on to highlight that while the first-phase classrooms are incredibly light and flow seamlessly into the corridors and each other, the design has left almost no remaining wall space for displaying student work.


The design behind the construction

The design principles which have worked in the original buildings however, have been retained. These include wide corridors utilised as additional teaching spaces and break-out areas and glass fronted staff rooms on every floor.

The idea of transparency and approachability continues into the new admin area too, with all staff except Duckett working within an open plan area.

“From the outset, the architects, proprietors and I all worked collaboratively to design key spaces and design aspects,” Duckitt told

The new building will add the final facilities required to place the school firmly in the 'premium' category.

These include: A recording studio, black box theatre, science rooms with lab-prep-rooms, art and STEM rooms, modern language studios, plus various smaller rooms for individual and group work.


Staffing at Safa

Duckett says all new staff have already been recruited, they just need to, “settle and ready them for the new building, and also to "Safarise" them.”


A final destination - for now...

The new building is not just the final block in the Safa Community School architectural plan, but the culmination of a lengthy journey for both the Safa brand and owners Merchant and Khatib.

Launching the Safa British School originally in the campus of what is now the closed Oasis school, Merchant and Khatib realised early on that the location would always limit their long-term plans.

The school then moved into the current campus in Al Quoz and a flourishing and popular primary school emerged.

Yet the need for a Secondary allowing families to complete their education within the Safa brand and the expectation of further ‘premium’ facilities was clearly an issue, and in response, 2014 saw the launch of Safa Community School in Al Barsha.

With work nearing completion, everyone at the school is clearly eager to wave goodbye to the construction and to welcome in the many exciting new facilities the school offers...


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