Al Sanawbar School is a long-established and affordable US curriculum school located in the school district at Al Manaseer in Al Ain.,
The story so far...
Established in 1983, Al Sanawbar School celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2018. Remarkably, the school has been under the leadership of the same Principal for over 30 of these years.
Al Sanawbar School states that its mission is:
"To empower students with the knowledge, skills, understanding and virtues in order to succeed in a global society. We will provide the highest standards of teaching and learning and we will continually strive to provide individual opportunities for the students to discover and develop their talents."
The school currently educates close to 1,300 students, the majority of whom are UAE nationals, contributing six in ten of the student body. The remaining students are largely from Arab countries, including Jordan (8%), and Syria and Egypt (each with 7%). Around 60% of students are in the KG or Elementary school sections, with a further 25% (around 325 students) in the Middle school and 11% in the High school section. Internally, the school divides itself into KG, Lower Elementary (grades 1-3), Elementary (grades 4-6), Middle School (grades 7-9) and High School (grades 10-12). Approximately 1% of the student body has been identified with SEND requirements and students are effectively supported by the school.
Students are supported by some 86 staff and 18 teaching assistants, providing a staff:student ratio of 1:18 - towards the high side of this measure. Staff are apparently happy at the school, with a low staff turnover figure of 12% compared with the UAE average of 20-22%.
Whilst stability is often desirable, it can also lead to a degree of stagnation and lack of new blood with updated training and teaching methodologies. New staff are not necessarily provided with as high a standard of support as is desirable, according to the latest ADEK report, and this may be due to the relatively low numbers of new staff joining the school. Of the 12 new teachers who joined Al Sanawbar in 2017-18, five teachers joined the Science staff of eight - a concentration of new blood that may have found it harder to assimilate.
What about the curriculum?
Al Sanawbar School adopted the California Schools’ Common Core Curriculum (CSCCC) several years ago. The school is accredited by AdvancED, a US accreditation organisation that works mainly with US curriculum schools based overseas. The accreditation was renewed in 2013, based on a Quality Assurance Review at that time. Students who complete the necessary core and elective subjects leave the school with an accredited US High School Diploma.
On its own, this is worth relatively little in terms of access to College or University overseas, and students will almost certainly need to take further pre-College tests (including English as a Foreign Language) in order to be accepted. Al Sanawbar is an approved SAT testing centre, which presumably enables students to obtain these additional college-entry tests with relative ease, at least from a logistical perspective. The school also offers AP (Advanced Placement) subjects, but does not provide any further information about subject options, TOEFL or IELTS.
Rather like the school's new website (launched in 2018, and not complete), it seems that the delivery of the new curriculum, and the training of staff to support this, is still ongoing. The most recent ADEK report notes that staff receive regular Professional Development but that further PD is needed for staff to continue to improve the level of challenge in lessons, particularly for students who are higher-achieving. For teachers new to the school, staff need support learning to positively manage students’ behaviour.
The school states that it is "committed to equipping students with 21st Century skills, including the use of technology, critical thinking skills and innovation to ensure that our students are college and career ready".
The Director's introduction also notes that "as a staff, we will continue to focus our learning on the Common Core Standards, in addition to the Ministry of Education curriculum in Arabic, Religion and Social Studies".
At the time of the school’s previous inspection (in 2015-16) there was no music, dance or drama taught at Al Sanawbar. Art was taught for only one period a week until Grade 6 and students had few opportunities to study humanities beyond that Grade. There were no practical subjects. Additional subjects now include IT, PE and French, Economics and Business Studies for older students. According to the ADEK inspection team, extra-curricular provision is very limited and currently does not meet the needs and interests of most students.
What about academic achievement?
For the vast majority of children entering the school at KG level, English is very much a second language. According to the ADEK inspection reports, students make good progress as they journey through the school, and a large majority go onto university to study, a significant number in sciences – physics, chemistry, medicine and engineering - reflective of the academic bent of the school.
The 2017-18 ADEK report notes that 2017 External Measure of Achievement (EMSA) data for Arabic suggested that reading is outstanding in Grade 5. It is acceptable in Grades 7 and 9, and very good in Grade 11. Arabic writing is reported to be very good in Grade 5 and weak in Grades 7, 9, and 11. Grade 12 Ministry of Education (MOE) exam results suggest that these were outstanding in Islamic Education in 2018. Measure of Academic Progress exams (MAP) indicated that students’attainment is weak in English, mathematics and science. This data does not concur with inspection evidence.
What about the facilities?
Little information is provided about the facilities at the school. However, the current ADEK report notes that "although the building is ageing, it is well maintained. Students benefit from an environment which meets the learning needs of most learners.However, classrooms are small and are not accessible for those with mobility difficulties. The school is well resourced and has a range of specialist facilities including science and IT laboratories".
What the inspectors say
In the latest (2018-18) ADEK inspection round, Al Sanawbar School again achieved a Good rating for the third time. In fact, each of the six key performance standards were rated at this level.
In terms of Student Achievement, inspectors agreed that Leaders have raised students’ overall achievement in English and mathematics, but found that achievement was still judged to be acceptable in science and the non-core subjects. Students’ learning skills are good overall. Students are innovative and apply critical-thinking and problem-solving skills effectively in most lessons. In fact, students' attainment and progress were rated Good across all sections of the school for Arabic as a first and second language and Islamic and Social Studies, and for English.
Maths was more variable, being rated Very Good in the KG, and Good in the Middle and High School sections, but Acceptable in the Elementary school. Similarly, Science was Good in the KG and High School, but Acceptable in the Elementary and Middle school sections. PE, Art and IT were found to be Acceptable across the school, whilst Learning skills were Good.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills were almost universally found to be Good. Students display positive attitudes to learning. Their relationships with others is good, and they have a good understanding of Islamic values, and UAE and world cultures.
The overall quality of teaching and assessment was also found to be Good. Teachers impart secure subject knowledge and use questioning effectively - The latter has been a key focus of the school since the last inspection and is now deemed to be a particular strength. They plan practical learning opportunities, developing students’ creative thinking and innovation skills in most lessons.
The school’s curriculum was adjudged to be Good. It makes meaningful cross-curricular links with other subjects, Emirati culture and UAE society. Inspectors noted that "while the school’s curriculum offers a range of subject choices,it provides a limited range of extra-curricular provision". The curriculum is reviewed regularly but is not yet suitably modified to meet the learning needs of higher achieving students.
Similarly, the protection, care, guidance and support of students was deemed to be Good. The school has effective procedures in place to keep students safe. Students with special educational needs (SEN) are accurately identified; however, the provision to fully challenge Gifted and Talented students in lessons is less well developed.
Finally, the last key performance standard - that of Leadership and Management - was also rated Good. Inspectors commented that "the Principal’s vision and inclusive ethos are the driving force of the school. When monitoring lessons, senior leaders focus effectively on learning". Somewhat surprisingly, given the overall Good rating, the report notes that parents do not all have a positive view of the school.
Key strengths of the school were found to be:
Key areas for improvement were identified as the need to:
It is clear from many of the inspection team's comments that Al Sanawbar School is dedicated to its students, to their growth and development and open to initiating new strategies and training to ensure that their students achieve their goals.
The school has maintained and improved its Good performance over the past six years. Its challenge will be to continue with this upward impetus in an environment that does not necessarily have the resources to make step changes. Provided its students and parents are satisfied with the education that is being delivered, Good is probably good enough.
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Fees at Al Sanawbar School fall into the Affordable range, from AED 12,900 at KG up to AED 27,400 by Grade 12.
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