Al Salam Private School is a long-established and popular school, located in Al Nahda, Dubai. Until 2019, It provided a UK curriculum education for both girls and boys, from ages 3 to 18. Upon open its sister school, Al Salam Community School in September 2019, the original school has reverted to Primary only.
The story so far...
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.
After 30 years of development into a through school for students from age 3 to 18 years, September 2019 saw a historic change, with the opening of a sister school - Al Salam Community School - which has taken on the through-school mantel, whilst Al Salam Private School has reverted to its original Primary only status.
Whilst the change of status to Primary only may impact the focus and direction of the school, it does not change the core promise of Al Salam Private School.
The school's vision has not changed, and 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.
In 2017, a significant change in personnel took place at Al Salam, with a new principal, Kausor Amin-Ali, arriving to fill the very big shoes position that belong to Mrs. 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). Parents were pleased to know that Mrs. Johnston was not relinquishing her involvement with the school and remain 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 over 35 years). Both are anomalies in a country where a three to five year tenure is closer to the norm.
With the focus on the development of Al Salam Community School, and the decision to return to a Primary school at Al Salam Private School, it was perhaps inevitable that Mr. Amin-Ali would move to the new school on its opening. He has been replaced by Craig Dyche-Nichols, who has moved from a Principal's position at a Primary school in Dubai to take over the role. Prior to this he was Head of Middle School at a highly-reputed GEMS school in Dubai. Mr. Dyche-Nichols has been in the UAE for 8 years, moving to the Emirates with his wife who is also a Principal.
Mindful of the impact of the changes on the school, Mr. Dyche-Nichols notes that "Our commitment to ensure every child becomes a ‘lifelong learner’ is never more relevant than in this era of digital advancement, whereby skills and character are to be valued alongside academic achievement and ensuring that students with SEND will be provided with the support, accommodations and curricular modifications required to enable equitable access to educational opportunities. The preparation for future studies, work and making a positive contribution to society underpins all that is Al Salam."
With the change to a Primary School, many of the statistics have also inevitably changed. In the 2018-19 academic year, Al Salam had approximately 1,300 students, of whom just under one in five (18%) were from local, Emirati families. Arab nationals as a whole made up the largest group of students. The school employed 81 teachers and 27 teaching assistants. Turnover among staff was low at 9% (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.
Our expectation is that the teacher:student ratio will remain the same, or potentially even improve dependent on the number of students who move from the current school to the new one if they have older siblings who attend the Secondary school section there. The mix of staff - a truly international group, according to Mr. Dyche-Nichols - is likely to remain the same, and we would expect nationalities of students to also reflect the original mix of the school. We would expect that student numbers will be approximately 600 in the current year.
What about the curriculum?
The school curriculum follows the UK-based Early Years Foundation Stage for 3 to 4 year olds which is a play-based programme that focuses on six key areas of academic, social and physical development.
Students from Year 1 to Year 6 follow the Cambridge International Programme (CIPP), a world-class curriculum which covers English, Maths and Science, and alongside the Ministry of Education (MOE) subjects, this forms the backbone of student learning. The learning experience throughout these years prioritizes the development of students’ moral/ethical responsibility, leadership potential, and independent learning. To ensure a broad and balanced curriculum, subject teaching in Primary includes the Humanities, Computing, Design and Technology, Art, Music, and P.E and Co-curricular subjects.
The programme of study further evolves to include Music, Innovation, and Technology (MIT) and enhances students literacy and critical thinking through a Literacy and Oracy development programme. Students progress into a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy to support the development of 21st-century skills and digital literacy.
Assessment pathways are diverse and value the learning journey and student growth based on individual starting points. The Primary phase culminates with Cambridge Curriculum Checkpoint tests to benchmark the students’ performance as they move into secondary school.
What about Academic achievement
Academically, as a Secondary School, Al Salam has been among the highest achieving schools at IGCSE and AS Level. Since the basis of this success inevitably begins in the Foundation and Primary sections, expectations are that this will be reflected in the results from international bench-marking tests and check-point tests as has historically been the case.
What about the facilities?
Located at the heart of Dubai, in a busy urban area, the school is built on three floors and is innovative in its use of its space, given the challenges of being located in such an historic and well-developed area of Dubai. Set in 17,000m2, facilities include a recently added multi-purpose gym and a rooftop playground.
With the return to Primary status, the learning environment is in the process of transformation, including classrooms, corridors and outdoor areas. This will enable learning to take place throughout the building, not just in the classroom. the FS and Key Stage One (Years 1 and 2) playground is a very effective outdoor learning provision, with students taking part in a variety of learning experiences, including water play, playing music on the music wall, getting ‘messy’ in the mud kitchen, drawing on the chalk walls and developing their strength and balancing on the climbing apparatus. We are told that the planning is already at an advanced stage for redeveloping other areas of the school; this will help facilitate learning and enable every child at Al Salam to have engaging, challenging and fun lessons.
What the inspectors say
Al Salam Private School has held a rating of Good from Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA for the past eight years. This is the minimum rating that the KHDA expects every school in Dubai to achieve.
The most recent inspection took place in November 2018, just over a year after Mr. Amin-Ali had formally taken up his post. In terms of the six key performance standards which are assessed by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau team, the Foundation and Primary sections of the school achieved predominantly Good ratings for Student Achievement in English, Mathematics and Science (though progress in English and Mathematics in the Primary section were downgraded to Acceptable). Arabic as both a First and Second language were rated Good, although Islamic Education was rated Acceptable.
Ratings for the second key performance standard of Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills were Very Good for both Personal Development and Social responsibility and Innovation Skills, and Outstanding for Students' understanding Islamic Values and of Emirati and World cultures.
Teaching and Assessment were also rated Good across both sections of the Primary school, although the Curriculum was largely rated Very Good. There is clear evidence that the interdependence of teaching and assessment, and the curriculum and its delivery on an individualised basis is at the core of Student Achievement, and these are clearly two areas that will need to improve if Student Achievement is to be raised.
Health and Safety arrangements and the Care and Support of students are rated highly, with the first Outstanding and the second Very Good. The provision and outcomes for Students of Determination also achieve a Very Good rating. The leadership of the school and the relationship with parents and the community are also rated Very Good.
Overall, the KHDA report summarises the strengths of Al Salam School as:
* Note: we have excluded comments related to the Secondary section of the school.
The inspectors identified a range of improvements and areas for development which include the recommendations to:
Al Salam is certainly not the first school in Dubai to find the process of assessment and monitoring students' achievement, and ensuring that teaching is personalised as a result, something of a challenge. However, it is one that the school will need to address and meet, as the focus from the KHDA becomes ever more specific in this context.
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do - you will find it here.
Some 238 students took part in the KHDA's well-being survey in 2017-18, with the majority stating that they were happy with their school and their lives in general. They feel safe in school and have good relationships with their teachers. All students felt valued by the community.
92% of the 275 parents who responded signified satisfaction with the quality of education. They agreed that their children feel part of a group of friends and are supportive of each other. However, a significant number of parents had concerns about their children receiving too much screen time, now that the use of computers has increased.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received limited response from parents regarding the school. However, those who have responded would overwhelmingly (88%) recommend it to other parents, although interestingly, 63% 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.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Al Salam and would like to share your opinion with other potential members of your community, please take part in our survey here.
What about fees?
Tuition fees at the school are published on the school's Web site. They range from AED 16,700 for FS1 to AED 19,838 for Year 6, which makes the school relatively highly affordable for a school following a UK curriculum.
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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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