Alpha School is a British Curriculum school with a focus on IT integration that opened in September 2017. The school is located in Al Qusais 3, just off Tunis Road and not far from the Etisalat Metro station. The relaxed old-style villa neighbourhood means the school is unlikely to experience any parking-woes. It has a capacity for 550 students and has attracted some 300 children in its third year of operation.
Alpha School was one of only two new schools to be inspected for the first time by the KHDA in 2019-20 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. It received the KHDA's minimum expected rating of Acceptable. The full report can be read under the Inspection tab above this review. The review will be updated in due course.
The Story so Far...
Alpha School, is a school located in the residential area of Al Nahda close to Junction 90 of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, which opened in September 2017. The school offers a Primary-only education from Foundation One through to Year 6. The owners of the school have announced their intention to open a second school including Secondary provision in the Al Warqa'a area in 2020 - details will follow once available.
In addition to the English National Curriculum and the UAE Ministry of Education curriculum for Arabic and Islamic Studies, teaching also incorporates the best elements of other curricula, including the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP).
The school explains that "What creates our #Alpha Edge is our purposeful and planned integration of the very best elements of other curricula to create a depth and relevance of learning, whereby students witness the impact of applying their learning to real situations for positive change."
The Alpha School defines its uniqueness as "first and foremost our intimate, family feel. Alpha’s physical facility is designed to promote a feeling of belonging and togetherness. We firmly believe that we are very different from every other school and offer so much more, especially when considering our fee structure".
Alpha School currently has approximately 300 students and with a total capacity of 550; this will always be a small school. Students come from a range of 29 different nationalities, with Eygpt, India and Pakistan passport holders making up the highest proportion, but students from as far away as various African countries and Japan also attend the school. A relatively small team of teaching staff - 15 in total - come from the UK, Ireland, France and Finland, with Arabic staff supporting the UAE National Curriculum requirements for Arabic and Islamic Studies. Unusually in our experience, Alpha currently has four male teachers (almost a quarter of the staff), ensuring that there is a more rounded influence than is often the case.
Read about the priorities for Principal Alison McDonald in our Experience report here. We dare you not to be inspired!
All teachers have either a degree in Education or a Bachelor's degree and a recognised (and KHDA-approved) teaching qualification. Staff offer a wide range of experience, from relatively new teachers with recent training and up-to-date pedagogic learning, to more experienced teachers with strong backgrounds in education. Specialist teaching takes place in Computing, Art, Music and PE. The school is committed to providing on-going training and support to staff, investing in a range of specific programmes designed to support the aims and focus of the school - this includes Apple Professional Development, GL Assessment, Health and Safety training (specifically Child Protection), EYFS Child Initiated Learning and Moral Education.
The school currently offers three classes per year group (although FS1 classes are currently limited to one, with a second opening in January 2020) and a maximum of 22 children in the Foundation Stage, with a teacher and teaching assistant. There are no more than 25 students in the Primary classes and Years 1 to 3 continue to be supported by a teaching assistant in addition to the teacher. Teaching in Year 1 and 2 is combined enabling informal 'streaming' by ability group. Classes in Years 3 to 6 currently have between 14 and 17 students - considerably lower than the average in most Dubai schools.
Find out more about the look and feel of the Alpha School by reading our Experience visit here.
The school's programme aims to explicitly integrate and track the development of skills, attitudes, behaviours and values through enquiry-based units (hence the relationship with the IB PYP) that are founded in humanitarian and environmental issues; providing relevance of learning through its "action-driven" focus, building on three pillars of education: Identity, Family and Innovation.
The three pillars are further defined, with the school stating that "Our Alpha identity is shaped by our multicultural environment and our appreciation of UAE culture and heritage. International-mindedness and respect are key. Our students celebrate a strong sense of identity in faith, language and heritage. The importance of mother-tongue alongside Arabic language development is highly valued".
The Family focus is defined as "Our safe and nurturing community with its focus on the whole child means all feel truly valued. Ongoing reflection drives our students to be the best they can be academically and personally. Parents are partners at Alpha where communication is strong and deep involvement is your child’s learning is enabled".
Innovation is managed as "Alpha teachers facilitate true and relevant learning in blended contexts where collaboration,critical-thinking, creativity and communication skills are as important as the acquisition of knowledge. Our students have access to the most current technologies including 1:1 devices, to make learning personalised and meaningful". The Alpha School has also installed the latest Clever Touch displays to be used in all classrooms.
What about the curriculum?
Alpha School follows the English National Curriculum. The focus on innovation is embedded early; the school has launched with 1:1 iPad integration across all phases of the school from FS2, to enable teachers to personalise the instruction to differentiated levels and learning styles. The Alpha School is focused on developing the IT and 21st Century skills of the students, including coding and STEM which are provided on a weekly basis. Robotics is currently offered as an After-school Activity. As the school notes, "Alpha teachers facilitate true and relevant learning in blended contexts where collaboration, critical-thinking, creativity and communication skills are as important as the acquisition of knowledge."
International mindedness is also a focus of the school and is being developed with a dedication to mother tongue language acquisition alongside Arabic. Alpha offers intensive English as an Additional Language teaching for all age groups. The school is an inclusive one with a specialist Educational Psychologist/Primary teacher leading the SEND department. Any additional support is included within the school's fees unless a Learning Support Assistant is required.
The school offers a range of extra-curricular activities covering Sports, Arts, Languages (Spanish and French are options) and Well-being and aims to expand the options as the school develops. The majority of activities are free of charge.
Alpha School provides opportunities for parents to regularly interact with teachers as well and develop their own parenting skills. There are Parent Workshops offered and student "target setting" conferences, along with regular parent-teacher conferences. The school also promises an open door policy wherein parents are always welcome.
What about Facilities?
There is no doubt that this is a small school in terms of student numbers, and first impressions from outside the building would suggest that the facilities themselves are likely to be limited. There is no doubt that outdoor space is at a premium, and parents will not find an acoustically integrated auditorium or multiple swimming pools.
However, facilities at the school certainly cover all essential requirements and include
The building itself is set over two floors with large quadrangles on the ground floor which provide the outdoor play space. There is also a substantial paved area which is used for sports activities.
Although we have received a relatively low number of responses from parents to our Survey, those parents who have responded are relatively positive. Two-thirds would recommend the school to other parents, and over two-thirds believe that the school has improved their children's confidence by a lot or a great deal. Parents are happy with the school's disciplinary policy and with feedback.
Find out what the parents we met thought of Alpha School by reading our Experience Visit Report here.
Two-thirds of parents are also at least partially satisfied with their child(ren)'s academic achievement and none believe that additional tutoring is necessary outside school. Over 80% of children are said to enjoy attending Alpha School. If there is a niggle, it seems to be the usual one of school fees, with close to half believing that they represent value for money, but an emphatic one third disagreeing.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Alpha School, please share your opinions with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
The school day starts at 7:50am and runs until 2:45pm, with enrichment activities after school until 3:30pm. Dismissal for FS1 and FS2 is earlier at 1:30pm.
What about Fees?
Fees start at AED 19,750 and rise to AED 28,500, but there is a 25% founding families discount.
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