Al Salam Private School is located in Al Nahda, Dubai. It provides a UK curriculum education for both girls and boys, from ages 3 to 18. It currently has 1,181 students, of whom just under one in five (18%) are from local, Emirati families. Arab nationals as a whole make up the largest group of students.
Founded in 1988, Al Salam Private School is one of the oldest UK curriculum schools in Dubai. Originally opened as a nursery in 1985, the school followed shortly thereafter in a group of private villas and relocated to its current purpose-built site in the Al Nahda area, in 2002. It is accessible to families from both the traditional Deira area of the city, but also to students travelling from Sharjah and further afield.
The school's vision is "To provide a holistic and inclusive learning environment, where academic and personal excellence is inspired in all, empowering them to become globally responsible life-long learners." In order to achieve its vision, Al Salam commits itself to: "providing a balanced and student-centred curriculum that caters to individual students and learning styles; stimulating the intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical development of all members of the school community; promoting a safe, stimulating, caring and compassionate environment; living and propagating the belief that every child is special and has a right to good education; nurturing creativity, courage and perseverance and seek to expand the Al Salam family, enriching the lives of all those involved."
The motto of Al Salam School is “where every child is special”. This is embedded into the ethos of the school and a fundamental belief that the school aims to inculcate in staff and students. "Diversity, tolerance and inclusion underpin the importance of celebrating individuality and a collective sense of purpose." Long before inclusion became an area of focus in mainstream schools and prior to the presentation of the KHDA's Inclusive Education policy in late 2017, Al Salam already followed this mantra.
The school's new principal, Kausor Amin-Ali, took over in his role August 2017. Mr. Amin has big shoes to fill. He has taken over the position from Sue Johnston, who had been in the role for 30 years as Founder of the school, making her one of the most enduring school heads in the country (read our article about the changes at Al Salam school here). The KHDA report describes her leadership as "visionary" (2012 report) and "dedicated" (2013 report) - very strong words for the KHDA. Parents will no doubt be pleased to know that Mrs. Johnston is not relinquishing her involvement with the school and will remain as its CEO. Nb: The record for tenure is currently held by Sister Samira Ayoub Botrus at Al Rashid Al Saleh school (in the position for 34 years). Both are anomalies in a country where a three to five year tenure is closer to the norm.
The new Principal has evidently been hand-picked for the role, and interestingly, has already had considerable experience at the school, having been involved in the school governance and decision making since the beginning of the school year 2016-2017 as Chair of the Board of Al Salam. Mrs. Johnston's introduction to Mr. Amin certainly suggests that she has high expectations, noting that "he is an energetic, committed and passionate young man with over 12 years of leadership experience in England and having great skills to lead Al Salam School as we continue the exciting journey to an excellent education befitting our school." Mr. Amin's resume includes the following information - "I have worked in school improvement for more than a decade, leading initiatives to improve the life opportunities for hundreds of children, enhance school outcomes and facilitate improved inspection ratings including to ‘Outstanding’ on both departmental curriculum level and whole school level." It seems that the focus on excellence at Al Salam will not change...
The school currently has 79 teachers and 28 teaching assistants. Turnover among staff is relatively low at 14% (compared with a Dubai average of 20-22%). A staff to student ratio of 1:15 means that individual support should be available to students.
The school curriculum follows the UK-based Early Years Foundation Stage for 3 to 4 year olds. At later phases the school follows the English National Curriculum (Cambridge Board Certified) with students entered for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) at the end of the secondary phase and AS Level examinations at the end of the post-16 phase.
The school does not currently offer the second part of the A Level syllabus which is usually the final phase for students in UK curriculum schools and assures university entry around the world. We assume that this has been as a result of the expectation that the majority of students will study locally or in other countries where a Foundation Year or similar will provided access to tertiary education. However, the school has announced that "While Year 13 is not currently offered for the Academic Year 2017-18; We look forward to launching the program for the 2018-2019 cohort. This will allow for the completion of the complete A-Level Programme." This is exciting news for Al Salam students, who will potentially have directly entry to universities around the globe with successful completion of A Levels.
Al Salam offers core IGCSE subjects: English, English Literature, Maths, General Science (from Year 7 - Biology, Chemistry & Physics are taught separately), History, Geography, Social Studies and Applied ICT). In addition, the school offers Arabic as a first or second language, Religion, French, Music, Sports and Art. AS 'Levels offered include Maths, Applied ICT, English Literature, Accountancy, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Business Studies, and Geography. However, one complaint from students concerns the range of options for study.
What about Academic achievement
Although the results for 2017 have not been published on the school's website, Al Salam school achieved excellent results in its 2016 IGCSE examinations with 98 % of students achieving an A to C grade and a staggering 72 % scoring an A or A*.
Equally impressive results were achieved at AS Level, with 42% of grades achieved being A or A* and 77 % A to C grade. However, the 2017 KHDA inspection report mentions a drop in achievement at AS level in Maths and Science for the 2017 exams.
Al Salam keeps records its results and releases them here. Irrespective of how well or badly it does this is a fantastic level of transparency and the school deserves praise for its openness.
|UK 2015-16||IGCSE Results||ASPS 2015-16||2014-15||2013-14||2012-13|
|67.9%||% A*- C||98.1%||99.2%||99.1%||100%|
|–||% A*- B||91.3%||89.5%||92.1%||91.8%|
|20.5%||% A*- A||72.2%||73.0%||72.4%||62.3%|
As you can see this is a school where exam success is in its DNA. It regularly comes just behind Dubai College in terms of GCSE results although it does not offer the subject breadth.
What the inspectors say
The school has held a rating of Good from Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA for the past seven years, which notes a "number of important strengths", including good attainment and progress in Arabic as a first language, and Arabic as an additional language and English. Arabic and Islamic studies are normally weak points for private schools and with its heavily Arabic national student body, this will always be an area of focus for the Inspectors.
The most recent inspection took place in October 2017, shortly after Mr. Amin had formally taken up his post. Inspectors seem more than content with the new leadership, noting that "Strong leadership remains a key strength and there is a renewed direction to hold leaders to account for raising students’ achievements. The governing body is well placed to support rigorous performance management procedures linked to students’ outcomes...The partnership with parents and the community has improved significantly." This seems to be a positive start under the new regime.
Overall, the KHDA report summarises the strengths of Al Salam School as:
In terms of Student Achievement throughout the school, both the Secondary and Post-16 phases are rated more highly than the Foundation and Primary stages for Science (rated Very Good across the board) and for English in Secondary (no students took AS English evidently). Maths is rated Very Good in Secondary but was downgraded to Good for English, in line with the evidently lower attainment at IGCSE in this subject. Across Foundation and Primary, all key indicators are rated Good with the exception of Primary Islamic Education which was downgraded to Acceptable. Learning skills reflect this division between the Lower School and Secondary/post-16, with ratings of Good and Very Good respectively.
Real strengths of students at Al Salam can be seen in the ratings for Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills - found to be Outstanding in Secondary and post-16, and Very Good in Foundation and Primary. Inspectors commented that "Students have very responsible attitudes and the school presents a harmonious, setting with an exceptional understanding and appreciation of Islamic values. Effective participation in the wider community has increased students’ understanding of different aspects of life in Dubai. The personal development and social responsibility of students remains very strong."
Teaching and Assessment is a key indicator which reflects heavily on student achievement and in the current report, this is an area that is rated Good in Foundation and Primary, Very Good in Secondary, but has fallen back to Good in post-16. Whilst inspectors found much that is positive, noting that "Enquiry-based learning and questioning that encourages critical thinking are positive features of teaching. Other strengths include subject knowledge and inclusive lesson planning", they also found that "Assessment is stronger in the secondary phase where students precisely identify their learning successes. The school is data-rich with assessment information, but it is not used sufficiently well in setting individual targets." The report also notes that " Most teachers are well qualified and have good knowledge of their subjects. There is recognition of the need for further professional development of teachers to match school improvement aims."
Whilst the Curriculum design and its implementation is almost universally rated Very Good (with the exception of the design in the Foundation Stage which was found to be Good), and inspectors commented that "curriculum activities place greater emphasis on student-initiated and enquiry-based learning. Productive links are made between subject areas to consolidate learning and apply it to new contexts", a possible explanation for the downgrading of Mathematics was found, in that "The use of mental strategies and problem solving in mathematics has declined."
In a school with such an evident focus on student welfare, it is almost to be expected that the protection, care, guidance and support of students would be rated highly. Indeed, Health and Safety are rated Outstanding across the school, whilst care and support are rated Very Good as is the provision for students with SEND requirements. The report notes that "Systems to identify the needs of students with SEND ensure effective activation and support leading to a range of interventions in classrooms and in withdrawal sessions with specialist staff." However, the identification processes and provision for gifted and talented students is less well developed." In addition, "prompt intervention and regular monitoring of students' development enables almost all of them to make very good personal and academic progress, especially where they are supported in class by increasingly well-trained specialist staff.
Leadership and management are also rated highly by the inspection team with the effectiveness of leadership and the relationship between the school, parents and the community both found to be Very Good (an improvement for the latter indicator). Inspectors reported that "The recently appointed principal and his senior leadership team are continuing to promote a vision of inclusivity which maximises opportunities for students of all abilities."
The inspectors identified a range of improvements and areas for development which include the recommendations to:
"Improve teaching in all phases, but particularly in the Foundation Stage and primary phase, by: Effectively measuring students’ progress in all lessons and over time, ensuring all leaders monitor students’ learning outcomes to provide a consistent and verifiable measure of their progress as they move through the school, [and] providing appropriate levels of challenge to match the different abilities of students.
Improve attainment and progress in Islamic education, especially in the primary phase, by: providing more consistent learning tasks that interest and stimulate students, improving the consistency of teaching and learning practices in Arabic and non-Arabic speaking classes, [and] using established, whole-school assessment practises and curriculum descriptors to challenge students of all abilities."
A relatively small number of students (44) responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, but those who did so "rate their learning environment highly and feel that Emirati heritages and values are important factors in their school life. They are also really positive about the quality of teaching, including the time to learn independently and to use technology." 93% of the 272 parents who responded signifed "an overwhelming satisfaction for the quality of education. They also have similar views about the quality of teaching and learning and their knowledge of their children’s progress. They are happy with the school leadership."
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has so far received sufficient response from parents regarding the school to note this is a school that has the support of its parents, who would overwhelmingly recommend it to other parents, although interestingly, 40% of respondents had also considered moving their child to another school. Parents are extremely satisfied with the academic achievement. The vast majority of parents also say Al Salam is great value. More here.
We encourage more parents to complete the survey. It may be found here.
Tuition fees at the school are published on the school's Web site.They range from AED 16,580 for FS1 to AED 30,690 for Year 12, which makes the school relatively highly affordable for a school following a UK curriculum, and one that delivers, academically at least, the results consistently year in, year out. Fees for year 13 have not yet been released.
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We do publish results of our students (both IGCSE and AS) on our school website where we also post important notices, updates events, announcements, facilities and information about each department and our school community.
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Impressive responsiveness, transparency and corrective action.