United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Qusais / Alpha School

Alpha School Review

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.
Parents' Rating
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3.0 out of 5 based on 13 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 24,000
Annual fees
AED 19,750 - 28,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2017
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
46%
Principal
Ms Janice Butterworth
Owner
City Schools International
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom

Nearby nurseries

1.5km • EYFS curriculum
2km • Montessori curriculum
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Alpha School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 24,000
Annual fees
AED 19,750 - 28,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2017
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
46%
Principal
Ms Janice Butterworth
Owner
City Schools International
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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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.

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. 

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 - 27 in total - come from the UK, Ireland, France and Finland, with Arabic staff supporting the UAE National Curriculum requirements for Arabic and Islamic Studies.  They are supported by 12 teaching assistants.  

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 (with the exception of FS1 which were initially limited to one, though a second was planned to open 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. 


The outdoor area with play and sport space at Alpha School.

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.


The multi-purpose hall at Alpha School.

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

  • reasonably sized classrooms, all with natural light
  • a fully-equipped iMac laboratory
  • a library
  • specialist rooms for Art and Science subjects including robotics, coding and STEAM subject provision
  • an SEN room
  • a large multi-purpose hall
  • covered indoor and outdoor play spaces.

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.

What the inspectors say

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 school's strengths were identified as:

  • Students’ attitudes to their work, and how well their good behaviour contributes to a purposeful learning environment
  • Students’ good understanding of Islamic values and their appreciation and respect for the heritage and culture of the UAE
  • The positive relationships developed among students and with their teachers.

Inspectors noted the positive attitudes of students to their learning, their respect for their teachers and for each other and their good behaviour which contributes to a calm and orderly working environment. Children in the FS begin their first experiences of school in a welcoming and caring environment. Teachers were said to have strong class management skills and show positive relationships with their students which contributes well to students’ personal development.

The curriculum is designed to match the requirements of the National Curriculum for England and subjects such as art, music and ICT are also included in planning for teaching.  The school is has policies and procedures in place, including appropriate staff training for the protection and safety of all students and staff in a building that is secure and well maintained. 

The inspection team also found that leaders and governors are committed to providing an inclusive school, and student well-being is a school priority. Additional needs of students of determination are identified and, when appropriate, targeted support is provided.

Unfortunately, whilst there were clearly positives in the first inspection, there were also a wide number of improvements identified.  These included the need to:

  • Improve the quality of teaching in all subjects by:
    · increasing teachers’ knowledge of how well students are achieving against the curriculum standards
    · adapting the curriculum to meet students’ varying learning needs
    · ensuring teachers’ questions engage students in meaningful discussions that promote their independent learning, critical thinking and understanding of concepts.
  • Urgently improve assessment and self-evaluation by:
    · ensuring systems of assessment provide accurate internal assessment information in all subjects
    · comparing internal and external assessment information to support a clear plan for improvement
    · improving monitoring procedures to ensure that the quality of teaching is robustly evaluated against the impact it has on student attainment and progress
    · ensuring school improvement plans include measurable success criteria with realistic timeframes.
  • Increase the effectiveness of governance by:
    · implementing systems to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the school and to hold leaders to account for student performance
    · becoming fully involved in identifying and setting the planned direction of the school
    · providing sufficient staff to ensure leaders have the time to effectively carry out their roles and responsibilities.

These improvements are wide-spread and fundamental in terms particularly of assessment and the direct of this on supporting student achievement through teaching designed to meet students' individual needs.  Although resources overall were defined as adequate, the inspectors also clearly identified a need to increase staffing - something which has taken place with almost a doubling of staff numbers between 2018 and 2020.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to read the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic, no further school inspections have been carried out in 2020-21.  However, in May/June 2020 all UAE public and private schools were obliged to participate in an on-line Distance Learning Evaluation.  Schools were rated in their delivery of Distance Learning across three categories - Developed, Partially Developed and Not Developed. 

Alpha School achieved the highest Developed rating. The report may be found here.

The Buzz

A relatively modest number of 46 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. 93% professed themselves happy with the quality of education provided by the school.  Almost all were confident that the school keeps their children safe and helps them develop the skills to be successful learners. Parents feel welcome in school as staff support them and keep them informed. They confirm that the school listens to their views and takes appropriate action when necessary.

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 making this school highly affordable, given that the majority of staff are UK qualified. 

However, the school does make additional charges including an iPad package of AED 2,160 (to be paid directly to a recommended IT supplier for FS2 to Year 6), a Resource fee of AED 1,500 annually, an Admission fee of AED 1,000 annually and a payment for GL tests for students from FS2 to Year 5 which ranges from AED 110 to AED 360.

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This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Alpha School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

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