Ambassador School Sharjah, located in the Muweilah School District, is a sister school to the Ambassador School and Kindergarten in Dubai, both rated highly by the Dubai Schools' Regulator, the KHDA, and the newly opened Ambassador International School which offers a UK/IB curricululm. The Sharjah Ambassador School (SAS) opened in 2016 and offers the UK curriculum-based EYFS programme in the KG and the CBSE curriculum from Primary through to Secondary.
The story so far...
Following the successful opening of the Ambassador Kindergarten and Ambassador School in Dubai, and given the lack of school places at good quality, affordable schools in neighbouring Sharjah, the opening of the Ambassador School Sharjah (SAS) seemed a logical step for expansion. Clearly, the owners of the group, chaired by Mr. Hukamat Kalwani, were astute in their decision - Ambassador School Sharjah is now opening to Grade 10 and has close to 1,200 students.
The school's Vision is as follows:
'Ambassador School is dedicated to creating responsible universal citizens who would be bright leaders of the 21st century by laying a superior foundation through quality education.'
Its Mission is to:
'Inspire our children to be passionate lifelong learners through a curriculum with pedagogical integrity, which allows them to always Inquire, Innovate, and contribute in meaningful ways to the society.'
However, the focus is not just on the pedagogic, but also on a set of values which is a part of life at Ambassador Sharjah and introduced from Kindergarten. A range of activities and community welfare programmes help students inculcate these values in their day to day lives. The school is particularly proud of receiving the 'The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood Bullying Prevention Award 2019'.
Ambassador School Sharjah has grown rapidly since its opening and now offers 11 sections in KG1, and 13 in KG2. As tends to be the norm in any new school, SAS is particularly 'bottom-heavy', with numbers of sections falling quickly through the Primary, Middle and Secondary schools. Whilst Grade 1 has 9 sections, Grade 2 has only 3, and Grades 3 to 8 have two sections in each grade. Grade 9 - whose students will join Grade 10 in April, has only one section currently.
The student population is made up of a relatively wide range of nationalities including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Filipino, American, Nigerian, Bangladeshi and Nepali. Inevitably, the largest nationality group at 88% is Indian. There is a significantly higher proportion of boys than girls (a ratio of 23:16) with boys out-numbering girls by almost 50%. Genders are separated from Grade 5 in line with Sharjah Private School Authority regulations.
SAS employs 125 teachers at the current time, and a further 36 teaching assistants. Two-thirds of the teaching assistants work within the KG section, with the remaining 12 allocated to the Primary section of the school. Teaching assistants work with class teachers to plan lessons, prepare activities, and support students in their learning and assessment.
Teachers are recruited predominantly from India, Pakistan, Egypt and Sri Lanka and offer a broad range of experience, from the more experienced to those who are beginning their teaching careers. The school says that it is good to have young as well as more experienced staff "since everyone brings their flavour which adds variety to the school; different staff members come with different ideas which adds to the development of the team."
The minimum teaching qualification required is a graduate degree. All KG teachers are expected to have an Early Years qualification in addition to experience. In Primary grades upwards, teachers are expected to have a Bachelors' degree in Education and subject specialisations are required for subject heads. The teacher:student ratio across the school is 1:13 (a good level for an Indian curriculum school) with average class sizes of 25 students. There has been significant growth in staff numbers over the past year of approximately 20% in order to manage the additional student numbers.
The Ambassador Schools' group places considerable emphasis on Continuous Professional Development for its staff across all Ambassador campuses. It organises an annual CPD programme which comprises extensive workshops involving both internal and external resources, leadership and subject matter training, the introduction of new teaching and learning techniques, worldwide education trends and skill developments. CPD is viewed by the group "as an initiative to create a knowledge-sharing platform, that involves all academicians for sharing of best practices, providing quality support and monitoring effectiveness". Given the emphasis on teachers as mentors rather than instructors, this is a mindset change that requires considerable support.
The Sharjah school invests approximately 17% of its annual budget on professional training and development of staff - a very positive sign of commitment. Unsurprisingly, therefore, staff turnover is almost half the norm for teachers in the UAE at 12%.
What about the curriculum?
Through the CBSE curriculum, Sharjah Ambassador School aims to support its students with the latest educational trends and techniques, and provides a wide variety of "hands-on", practical learning opportunities, aimed at making learning "both rewarding and meaningful". The medium of instruction is English.
Ambassador School Sharjah seeks to provide a conducive learning environment to promote quality education based on internationally accepted best practices for students of all abilities. The school focuses on Cognitive-intellectual activity, associated with the left brain, Creative-intuitive activity (the arts), associated with the right brain, Physical- structured and unstructured play and self-directed activities, Linguistic – language development and superior literacy skill and Social and emotional - Care for nature and community connect through individual, collaborative and a participative approach.
The SAS Early Years Programme is based on the internationally acclaimed EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) programme, which recognises each child as a unique individual and helps him or her develop across the key areas of personal, emotional and social development; communication; problem-solving; understanding the world; and physical and creative development.
The school aims to ensure that learning takes place in a stress-free and progressive environment. This seems a somewhat unusual aim for an Indian curriculum school, which would generally be recognised for a more pressurised approach to learning and achievement. However, according to the school, in keeping with the current directives of the CBSE, "evaluation is done in a way that boosts the morale of a child and pushes him/her to further achievement".
Learning at SAS is described as 'exploratory and inquiry based' and is tailored to the needs of individual students. The curriculum gives students a tangible reason to learn, by combining different subjects into practical, real-life projects and best practices from across its affiliate schools, which are designed to enable children to consider each topic in greater depth and to explore different dimensions of learning.
Each project is carefully planned to ensure that students master knowledge as well as develop the key skills. These projects run over a number of weeks and culminate in a public display, giving children the opportunity to showcase their work and their learning, to a variety of audiences, including local businesses. In many respects, this approach is not dissimilar to the cross-curricular units of enquiry-based approach of the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
Core subjects in the KG include English, Maths and Science, combined with co-curricular subjects including Music and Movement and Physical Education. The curriculum expands significantly in Primary and includes English, Maths, Science, UAE Social Studies, Arabic as a Second Language, Islamic Studies and Moral Education. These are supported by Art, Music, Performing Arts, STEM and Physical Education.
STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) learning opportunities are integrated into the classroom from Grade 1 on to ensure that that students are able to answer complex questions, investigate global issues, and develop solutions for challenges and real world problems, while applying the rigour of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content in a seamless fashion. Teachers guide students through the problem-solving process and plan projects, so that students are able to answer complex questions, investigate global issues, and develop solutions for challenges and real world problems, while applying the rigour of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content in a seamless fashion. Students are exposed to current learning in the fields of robotics, 3D printing, electronic circuitry and augmented reality.
In the Secondary section, in addition to English and Maths, UAE Social Studies, Arabic as a Second Language, Islamic Studies and Moral Education, further subjects include Physics, Chemistry, History, Geography and Political Science. Art, Music, Performing Arts, STEM and PE are also offered. All students from Grade 1 onwards have a choice of a Second language which includes French, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Urdu.
Whilst the school has a stated aim to ensure that children learn in a stress-free environment, this does not mean that their progress is not rigorously monitored. In the Pre-primary years (Kindergarten 1 and 2) assessments are informal and children are evaluated based on a record of daily progress. Sensory and play-based learning are integrated with theme-based learning activities. Children are prepared for the future with a strong ICT Programme and Tablet-based learning.
Teachers plan personal learning targets for each child and work towards achieving them throughout the year. A range of assessment tools and tests are used including TIMSS, ASSET, and GL Tests. Bridge and accelerated programmes are designed to challenge students' development further. The impact of this approach in terms of teachers is also a demanding one.
The teacher's role is that of "a mentor, philosopher and guide, who is constantly facilitating the learner to remain motivated and delve deeper into the subject and related fields of study". In the Primary classes, learning outcomes are measured based on multiple parameters including verbal, class assignments, class activities (both individual and group), written assignments and co-scholastic subjects. Assessments are aimed towards focus on developing all aspects of an individual’s personality. In addition to marks and grades for academic performance, the school gives a detailed assessment of the child’s progress in each subject, his or her personality and work habits.
In Secondary, assessment is both formative (continuous) and summative (based on exams and tests), allowing teachers to build up a picture of the 'whole child', in line with the vision of the CBSE. Throughout all phases of education within the Primary school, SAS focuses on academic progress as well as providing opportunities to enable children to achieve their full potential in a wide range subjects including English, Arabic, Hindi/French, Mathematics, Science, Social and Environmental Science, Computers, Physical Education, Visual Arts, Performing Arts (Music/Dance/Instrumental) and Islamic Studies.
In addition to the academic programme, SAS strives to offer a holistic approach to education. Students are exposed to a variety of clubs, and to various competitions and activities - both intra and inter school - which help broaden their horizon.
The ASPIRE (After School Programme for Inspiration & Recreation) is designed to nurture multiple talents in students in areas of Sports, Performing and Fine arts at no additional fee. Fine Arts includes painting and sketching, arts and crafts, creative design (including Computer-Aided Design) and pottery and sculpting (which takes place in a purpose-built Sculpting and Pottery Studio). Performing Arts includes learning musical instruments such as violin, guitar and drums, and singing and vocal development including reading notations and mastering tempo and speed.
Dramatic arts and creative stage offer a platform through theatre productions for personality development where students may overcome stage fright, master confidence for public speaking, build vocabulary and hone presentation skills to address larger audience. Students are involved in acting, dancing, singing, choreographing, directing, stage managing and other skills associated with theatre and stage. The acoustic panels, speakers, stage lighting and other audio-visual devices enhance their performance and instill confidence. The school also offers classes in Classical Indian dance.
A range of Sports programmes is delivered by professional coaches who assess each student’s skills, starting points of skills, develop and record skill enhancement all year-round and then prepare students for local and international competitions. The Sports Programme includes Cricket, Basketball, Soccer, Throw ball, Table Tennis, Badminton, Chess, Carrom, Mindfulness and Yoga.
What about support for students of Determination?
Students of Determination as well as Gifted and Talented (G&T) students are supported by a dedicated team of counsellors and special educators - and at no additional cost to parents. The Counselling and Learning Team (CLC) consists of an active team of 3 members, who, in addition to their direct support of students, also frequently provides and trains Teachers and Teaching Assistants with the required support and strategies to be adopted for identified students.
All students participate in Benchmark assessments such as CAT4, ASSEST, and GL Progressive Tests and are usually identified by these entry level diagnostic tests and/or interaction with the academic team during admission. In some cases, referral by a class or subject teacher for learning or behavioural needs which are persistently reflected by a student may take place. The SEN team uses interim diagnostic tests and a screening checklist together with an observation sheet and baseline checklist to identify support requirements.
Students of Determination, those who are Gifted and Talented, and students defined as English Language Learners, all benefit from the preparation of an Individual Learning Plan and/or Individual Behaviour Plan which is drafted, implemented and reviewed for each student on the SEND list. Pull out and inclusive sessions and in-class support are provided for the learning and behaviour needs of students.
The curriculum is adapted for Kindergarten and Lower primary students for the subjects including English, Maths, Science, Social Studies, and Languages (primary students). Lesson plans are modified to enable differentiated teaching strategies, resources, worksheets, hands on activities with small achievable targets. Learning Support Assistants reinforce the learning targets, enhancing student learning goals and conduct modified assessments.
Support for students with Gifts and Talents is generally provided by the class and subject teacher through effective teaching and differentiation. Targets for extension work are highlighted in the lesson plan and the students are given opportunities for extension work during the lesson with more challenge and stretch. These students are also exposed to external competitions, Club of Genius Hour activity. participation in competitive exams for various subjects such as Olympiads, Mathlathon, and Spell Bee and the After School Program for Inspiration and Recreation (ASPIRE) is provided 3 days per week. There are also opportunities for G&T students to lead to the School Radio, special assemblies and school major celebrations.
Some 118 students (so approximately 10%) have been identified with SEN requirements at SAS with 20 students in need of 1:1 support. SAS caters to a wide range of support needs including Specific Learning Difficulties, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Behaviour and Emotional Disorders, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment, Physical and Health related Disability, and Speech and Language Disorders.
Where necessary, Shadow teachers or Learning Support Assistants are available and the school encourages parents to provide a trained LSA. The school assists parents by recommending sources such as Training Institutes in Sharjah and the CLC team helps in recruiting the LSAs as per the needs of the child.
What about facilities?
The Sharjah Ambassador School is a purpose-built modern school with many of the latest facilities. All classrooms are designed based on the learners’ age and requirements and the demands of the curriculum.
All classrooms are equipped with smartboards. Wi-Fi access is provided throughout the campus and the fully networked computers. with appropriate research based software and high speed internet access, are available for teachers and students to use.
Basic facilities available on the campus include: attached sand and green play areas for every KG classroom, covered play areas, elevators and ramps for students with special needs, and a Cafeteria. Specialist facilities include two Libraries, a Sensory room, an IT Laboratory, Laboratories for Physics, Chemistry and Biology, General Science Labs, a Maths Lab, STEM labs, a Music Studio, and a Performing arts and yoga Studio. The library also features an integrated ICT suite to complement research activities.
Sports facilities include a multi-purpose hall/auditorium, Badminton and Basketball Courts, a Mini Soccer Field, Cricket Nets, and Table Tennis. Both a swimming pool and indoor auditorium are currently under development.
Clearly, Ambassador School Sharjah is determined to build on its reputation in Dubai in delivering a quality education at mid-range prices for Indian families in Sharjah. The school is still accepting applications for the 2020-21 academic year and new students who excel in the Scholarship examination from Grade 3 and above will have access to a fee concession, the percentage for which will be fixed, based on the performance of the child.
With no published inspection process in Sharjah at the current time, it is difficult to find independent information about the performance of Ambassador School Sharjah. However, the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey, although completed by a small number of parents, is very much reflective of a happy group!
Not only do children feel a very strong sense of belonging to the school, but 87% of parents believe their children enjoy going to school "a tremendous amount". The same parents have also not considered moving their children to another school, and indeed, would recommend the school to other parents. Most parents (75%) are more than satisfied with the level of academic performance of SAS, believing it to be above or on a par with the quality of education they would receive at home. Tellingly, none feel that additional external tuition is needed for their child/ren. Even the most contentious issue - that of fees representing value for money - is not a concern for the majority of parents, with 75% saying that they full agree, and a further 13% agreeing partially that they are getting value for what they are paying.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Ambassador School Sharjah, please assist other potential members of your community by completing our School Survey here.
What about the fees?
Fees are currently AED 10,800 for KG1 and KG2, rising to AED 13,100 for Grades 1 and 2, AED 14,100 for Grades 3 and 4, rising in AED 1,000 increments for each pair of grades to Grades 9 and 10 to AED 17,100. There is an additional registration fee of AED 500 and a further book fee of AED 500 collected separately from Grade 1 onwards.
Students applying for KG1 will be asked to participate in a face to face assessment, for KG2, there is an additional test. For children applying to Grades 1 to 4, tests in Maths and English are undertaken, whilst from Grade 5, Science is also added.
School hours are from 7:30 am to 12:15pm for Kindergarten children and 7:30 am to 2:15 pm for the remainder of the school.
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