Located in a quiet residential area of Al Barsha 2, five minutes from Mall of the Emirates, Smart Vision School is at first sight striking for its size and completeness.
Over the past few months, the investors in the school (Vision International Investments) have quietly got on with building a significant, modern structure in what is a relatively traditional area (at least in terms of construction) in Al Barsha. With a built up area of 45,000 square feet on a site of 190,000 square feet, there is still plenty of room for expansion.
Set over two floors, the curved glass main entry is all but ready to receive students and parents – last minute external works are taking place on the paving and landscaping, but the L-shape building is complete. The rear of the school features large outdoor sports and play areas, including a curved amphitheatre that can be used for teaching and performances. There is space for a range of sports pitches which will be added to the rear of the plot.
Entrance currently is through the EYFS section of the school which is brightly furnished with primary coloured flooring (red, orange and yellow), and large green and yellow round cornered modern tables and chairs. Classrooms are muted in terms of walls and floors, but have bright yellow and blue tables and a mix of blue and green chairs. Carefully chosen round mats featuring the alphabet ensure a comfortable spot to sit on the floor. Everything is age-appropriate and clearly carefully resourced.
Smart Vision school is particularly keen to emphasise its unique approach to learning – its “Home to Home” concept. Every classroom in the EYFS section will have its own separate facilities including a play area, a garden (where each child will be allocated a planter box), shaded area and toilet. Children will arrive in school (and beyond PE activities), all teaching will come to them in their own “Home room” environment. Classrooms will all be equipped with the latest Epson UI 595wi touch-enabled interactive technology which is suitable for all age groups.
According to the management of the school, Smart Vision is one of only three schools to be recognised as an Eco School by Dubai Municipality. Much thought has gone into the design and resourcing including a central a/c system that will circulate only fresh air – not the recycled air system that most buildings use. Flooring has been imported from Europe and is anti-bacterial (hospital style) vinyl which can be kept clean easily. Furniture, similarly, has been imported from Germany, France and Italy and meets the highest European safety standards. The outdoor Sports courts are covered in FIFA approved flooring. In addition, there is an indoor 20m x 8m swimming pool as well as a learner pool.
Careful consideration has been given to the traffic flow in front of the school with specific designated drop off and pick up points directly in front of the school entrances. This concern about safety extends also to the Healthy Eating policy that will be implemented in the school. A separate canteen area has been built to prevent smell transfer to the teaching areas. There is full CCTV coverage throughout the school also.
Our visit focused on the Early Years section of the school – which will follow the UK curriculum, but with a topic-based curriculum that incorporates Arabic, Islamic and Social Studies.
Staff teaching the UK curriculum and their colleagues teaching the MoE curriculum will plan lessons together, to ensure that there is an integrated approach across all subjects. A key focus of staff will be to identify the different learning styles and thinking skills of students. The curriculum will be process rather than content driven, to take into account the pace of change across almost all subjects. The aim is for Smart Vision School to adopt the Six Thinking Schools programme and the “You can do it” programme with an assertive discipline approach, where staff will accentuate the positive. An Inclusion Manager will work with a Counsellor and learning mentors as well as Learning Support staff to support children with additional Learning needs – including mild Autism and ADHD. The school incorporates a Sensory room and children will be engaged in Brain Gym activities. There will be an additional fee for learning support provision.
Peter Winder, the Principal, has been involved with a number of schools in the UAE with a particular focus on school improvement and a sound understanding of both UK (OFSTED) and UAE (KHDA) inspection requirements. The school is opening from FS1 to year 4 in September with a target of approx. 300 students over the next 12 months. Staff have been recruited from within the UAE – all have UK National Curriculum experience and strong English-language skills. There will be a maximum of 20 children per class with all EYFS and Key Stage 1 classes (FS1 to year 2) having a teacher plus teaching assistant. English Additional Language support will be provided in line with requirements.
There seems little doubt that the planning and execution of the construction and fitting out of Smart Vision School has been extremely effective. There is certainly no reason to think that the school will not open as planned in August with a full complement of staff and facilities. Definitely one of the new schools that is ready to make its mark on the Dubai education scene.