Capital School, located in the Al Qusais School District, is a UK curriculum school that originally opened to support students transferring from the then closing English College Primary School in 2014. Five years on, it is a very different school to the original.
The story so far...
Located in the heart of Deira, in the Al Qusais School District, Capital School opened in September 2014 on an existing school site. Located on Baghdad Street, the school is very much larger than it first appears! Initially operating as a Primary School only, it has now grown to include Years 7 and 8 and, subject to approval from the KHDA, will continue to grow organically year on year until it reaches Year 13.
Capital School's mission is to "Provide a safe, nurturing environment which inspires every student to develop a love for learning, embrace challenge and aspire to reach their full potential. We celebrate diversity and aim to create global citizens who are dynamic, creative, independent learners."
The Values of the school probably explain more succinctly the aspirations of Capital School's staff and students:
• As teachers, we are aspirational.
• As a school, we are inclusive.
• As a team, we are collaborative.
• As practitioners, we have integrity.
• As students, we dream big.
We think it is fair to say that the school's development has not been entirely smooth sailing. Initially, the majority of students came from the English College Primary School which closed unexpectedly in July 2014. The former Principal of ECPS, together with founding staff and students, moved to a location that was some considerable way from Jumeira/Umm Suqeim, and retaining students - despite an obvious desire to keep the foundations of ECPS going - was always going to be a challenge from a logistical perspective. And of course, Capital School also needed to attract families from a much broader range of locations.
Five years on, the school has grown to around 600 students, although the capacity of the school is a significant 2,500, with the largest nationality group being Arab; a very different make up of the student cohort from those who originally joined the school from ECPS. Currently, the school has students from approximately 50 different nationalities.
As of the 2019-20 academic year, students are supported by some 45 teachers all of whom are from the United Kingdom or Ireland, together with the Arabic staff providing the MoE subjects. All class teachers in the primary phase and secondary phase have a degree and Qualified Teacher Status. Foundation Stage teachers have teaching qualifications.
Significant changes have taken place at the school, with a new CEO (Dr. Pablo Fetter), who has previously worked with two of the largest and most reputed Education providers in Dubai, leading the team. Dr. Fetter, in his introduction, states that 'Capital School wants to ensure that every child in the UAE can access premium British education at an affordable price. We are proud to be the most affordable school in Dubai with outstanding facilities and 100% British teachers.
Our ambition is also to be among the best schools in Dubai, thriving with happy students who will become the creative thinkers and problem solvers of the future.'
Dr. Sue Pattison, formerly Vice Principal of Capital School, has stepped up to the Principal's position. The school now has a very experienced senior leadership team who are supporting a new set of ambitious middle leaders with a lot of potential and new ideas. This means that as a school, Capital has the capability and potential for strong growth.
Dr. Pattison has been very open with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com in respect of staffing issues at Capital School, which have resulted in significant staff turnover, informing us that "we aim to reduce the turnover significantly to levels typical of outstanding schools in Dubai, around 20%. To achieve that, we have materially improved the benefits for our teachers, provide a demanding but rewarding professional working environment, and will offer exciting career opportunities for great teachers as we grow our size three-fold towards our capacity."
Generally, we would always be concerned to see such high levels of staff turnover. This is potentially disruptive - not only for the staff themselves and their students, but also for new staff joining the school and for the leadership who have to ensure that processes are in place for new teachers "to hit the ground running". However, it is evident from comments included in the latest KHDA inspection report (jump to our link below for further details) that the regulator expects teachers to be held to account for Students' achievement, and where this is inadequate, for necessary changes to be made.
At the same time, the leadership has a responsibility to ensure that teachers are provided with the necessary support and professional development to enable a culture of continuous development to be in place. The school takes staff training and development very seriously. This has proven to be a key part of retaining top quality staff, as professional development is fundamental to their skill development and future career aspirations. Teachers receive intense training, both internal and external, which is customized to their needs.
Internally, the school has hired a very experienced (36 years of experience including Principal roles, and a Doctorate in education) Director of Teaching and Learning, who is dedicated to supporting teachers in their professional progression on a full-time basis. Weekly CPD (Continuous Professional Development) sessions focus on specific areas such as improving pedagogy, and use of technology in the classroom.
Students at Capital School benefit from relatively low class sizes - typically around 18 students, though a maximum number of 25 is approved - with four classes per year group. The teacher:student ratio is 1:12 - typical of high performing schools, as this enables teachers to take a personalised approach to both individual and groups of students.
What about the curriculum?
Students at Capital School follow the English National Curriculum with some adaptation to suit the international context of the school. Capital School is fully compliant with Dubai curriculum expectations for the teaching of Arabic and Islamic Education. In order to attract children from a broad range of nationalities, it is one of a small number of UK curriculum schools in Dubai to offer a tri-lingual language programme of English, French and Arabic from FS1.
In the Foundation Stage, the Early Years Foundation Stage programme involves activities and experiences for children based on the seven areas of learning: - Communication and language, Physical development, Personal, social and emotional development, Literacy development, Mathematics, Understanding the world, and Expressive arts and design.
In the Primary School, students in Years 1 to 6 follow the English National Curriculum through a topic-based approach. The focus on Literacy and Numeracy is maintained and teaching also incorporates the knowledge of cognitive, social and emotional development of learners, which provides for a more impactful learning experience. The curriculum is strongly supported by the use of ICT and e-learning. Extra language provision is provided for students whose first language is not English.
Currently Capital School is open to Years 7 and 8 in the Secondary School. Students continue to follow the English National Curriculum framework for learning, which is designed to reflect the needs of a 21st century learner. It sets out how all children and young people will develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they need to flourish in life, learning and work. It aims to raise standards, improve knowledge and develop skills – to raise achievement and attainment. Capital School aims to ensure that all learners have access to Positive learning environments, Opportunities for play, sport, creativity and cultural activities, Opportunities to contribute to decision making, Opportunities to develop skills for life and skills for work, and Support that will enable them to make positive transitions at all stages of their learning.
Capital School has also a growing PE department with specialist staff and has a newly appointed Performing Arts team in order to ensure that students receive a broad and well-rounded curriculum. Increasingly, universities and employers are interested to see what students have achieved beyond the purely academic, and both sports and performing arts provide excellent opportunities for students to learn team building skills, develop their individual strengths and abilities, and to develop the confidence to stand out at activities in which they have perhaps not had the opportunity to experience previously.
Also as part of the overall focus on students following a well-rounded curriculum, Capital School offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities ranging from sports to creative and artistic, musical, academic, computing and coding, to more unusual clubs such as Cheer-leading, the Student Newspaper, Eco Club, Art, Fashion and Photography and the Great British Bake Off Club. Most ECAs are free of charge. There is a small charge for sports clubs (Football, Multisports, Swimming and Gymnastics) as they are sourced through an external specialist.
What about inclusion?
The school has always aimed to be inclusive, and this is reflected in the approximately 100 students who have additional learning needs and are registered as Students of Determination. The provision and outcomes for Students of Determination was rated Good in the last KHDA inspection report for 2018-19.
The Inclusion team supports students with a range of different abilities. Students who have learnt English as an Additional Language (EAL) benefit from intervention sessions from an EAL teacher. Students with Special Educational Needs receive support from specialist staff including their own Individualised Education Plan (IEP) and intervention sessions. Students who have been identified as Gifted and Talented receive challenge sessions from a Gifted and Talented teacher. All specialist teachers work with class teachers to ensure students are supported and challenged within their classes.
What about facilities?
The Capital School building is a large three storey building on a substantial plot with much larger than usual classrooms, hallways and outdoor spaces. Students have access to spacious 25 sqm classrooms and dedicated indoor exploration areas for Foundation Stage. Specialist classrooms include fully equipped food technology classrooms, Art classrooms, two dedicated music rooms, a junior PE hall, a newly refurbished library, and an auditorium. Sports facilities include two swimming pools – a 25m pool for older students and a 12 m training pool for Early Years children. There is also a football pitch, basketball court, and gymnasium, and three outdoor playing areas.
What the inspectors say
Capital School has now been inspected three times by the Dubai School's Inspection Bureau, and has been rated Acceptable on each occasion. Whilst Acceptable is the minimum rating that schools are required to achieve, the KHDA has clearly stated that its expectation is for every school to achieve at least a Good rating. Pressure has been added more recently, with the KHDA openly calling for parents to consider moving their children to schools rated Good.
It is not, therefore, surprising that the owners of Capital School have recognised the need to invest heavily in the school, particularly in relation to its leadership and staffing. There is clear evidence that Outstanding schools achieve this rating as a result of the strength and professionalism of the leadership and teaching staff.
This is why the decision to invest in the leadership, teachers and their professional development at Capital School really suggests that the school and its owners are pulling the stops out!
In our discussion with the Senior Leadership team at Capital School, it is the attainment of an overall Good rating that is very much at the heart of everything the school is doing at the present time.
In fact, there were already elements of Good quality at Capital School identified by the Inspection team when they were last at the school in March 2019.
Inspectors found the strengths of the school to be:
In fact, if the quality of Student achievement in the Foundation Stage were reflected across the school - with progress in English, Mathematics and Science, attainment in Mathematics and Learning skills all rated Good - the overall rating for the school would almost certainly have reached this rating. However, ratings in the Primary school are almost all acceptable other than for progress in English, Mathematics and Islamic education which are rated Good. Progress in Science was downgraded to Acceptable.
In the Secondary section, only progress in English is rated Good, whilst progress in Mathematics and Science has been downgraded to Acceptable, and attainment in Arabic as an Additional language and Science are rated Weak. Learning skills have also been downgraded to Acceptable.
Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills are largely rated Good (although previously Students' Personal Development was rated Very Good across the school). Only FS has retained the Very Good rating in this inspection. Students' understanding of Islamic values, and awareness of Emirati and world cultures, and their Social responsibility and Innovation skills are rated Good across the school.
Two of the remaining four key performance standards - the Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - are also rated Good across the school.
Where the main challenge appears to lie, is in the Teaching and Assessment of students in the Primary and Secondary sections which are rated Acceptable, though the rating remained Good in the FS. Assessment in particular must be a concern as this is a key focus of the inspection teams, and in the most recent inspection at Capital School, performance was downgraded to Acceptable in the Primary and Secondary sections. It is clear why the teaching staff is the focus of so much investment by the school at the present time.
The ratings for the Leadership and Management of the school is a mixture of Good (for the Effectiveness of leadership, Parents and the community, and Management, staffing, facilities and resources), and acceptable for School self-evaluation and improvement planning, and for Governance. The inspection report includes many positive comments in relation to the Leadership and Management of the school.
The DSIB inspection team identified the following key improvements that need to be addressed by the school:
Capital School have been set very clear and measurable targets for improvement. In our opinion, the school owners and leadership have already taken significant steps to fulfill these recommendations and we look forward to seeing the outcome of the next DSIB inspection due early next year.
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we always recommend that you do so - you will find it here. Please do, however, bear in mind that the school has undergone fundamental changes in relation to ownership, investment, leadership and staffing since this report was issued.
104 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey. 90% were positive about the quality of education provided by Capital School. They feel their children are kept safe and almost all feel that teachers help their children to learn; most feel that school leaders and staff listen to them and act on their views. Most believe they have access to sufficient information and support to help their children's education.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey has received a limited number of responses. Those parents who have completed it, are generally satisfied with the school, and all would recommend it to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Capital School, please share your experiences with other potential members of your community by completing our School Survey here.
What about fees?
According to CEO Dr. Pablo Fetter, "We are proud to be the most affordable school in Dubai with outstanding facilities and 100% British teachers." So what are the fees? KHDA Approved Fees start at AED 38,000 for FS1 and FS2, rising to AED 43,000 in Years 1 and 2, AED 53,000 in Years 5 and 6, and AED 58,000 in Years 7 and 8.
However, the school has significantly reduced fees across all year groups, with Year 2 fees starting at AED 32,450, Years 3 and 4 at AED 37,900, Years 5 and 6 at AED 41,900 and Years 7 and 8 reduced to AED 49,500. In order to encourage new joiners in the FS and Year 1 classes, fees have been further reduced to AED 14,750 in FS1, AED 24,800 in FS2 and AED 28,942 in Year 1. There is a Registration fee of AED 500 and an Admission Fee of AED 3,000 - the latter deductible against the annual fees.
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