Capital School, located in the Al Qusais School District, is an independent UK curriculum school which has been operating for just over seven years. Currently open to year 9, the school has applied for approval to offer Years 10 and 11 from September 2021.
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, 8 and 9, and subject to approval from the KHDA, will continue to grow organically year on year until it reaches Year 13.
Currently, the Secondary school is a small part of the overall school population, but is an area in which the school will continue to invest and grow. The school has applied for approval from the KHDA to open Years 10 and 11 from September 2021.
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.
In its seventh year of operation, the school has grown to around 650 students, although the capacity of the school is a significant 2,200, with a broad range of 60 nationalities, of which the largest nationality groups are Arab and Indian (each 30%), Pakistani at 20% and 6% Emirati; a very different make up of the student cohort from those who originally joined the school from ECPS.
It is not only the student demographic that has changed. Under the leadership of CEO Dr. Pablo Fetter (ex Kings and GEMS), and new Principal, David Muir, there has been a significant effort to invest in multiple aspects of the school.
Many parents who choose Capital School seem to have several specific goals for their children in common. Most are from middle-class families who aspire for their children to have a genuine British education, taught by British teachers who are native 'Queen's English' speakers, and who thoroughly know and can deliver the English National Curriculum. Many parents hope that their children will go on to study at university in the UK.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com in an interview with the school leadership in January 2021, learned that a particular focus of the school has been, therefore, to invest in a further 20 teaching staff - all UK-trained nationals - in the current academic year. Staff compensation has been improved and is now merit- rather than experience -based. Investment has been made in putting in place a strong Middle leadership to ensure ongoing professional support and development of teachers. As Dr. Pablo explained, his team firmly believes that "Capital School needs to deliver quality to be successful, and to invest in order to reap the rewards".
Investment in staff has also been made at the most senior levels - starting with new Principal David Muir. With a more recent background in school inspections for both OFSTED in the UK and the KHDA, Mr. Muir originally came in to work with the Capital School team in preparation for the postponed inspection of the 2019-20 academic year. When former Principal, Sue Pattison, was unable to return from the UK as a result of the pandemic, Mr. Muir was offered the opportunity to take over the position - having experienced the school "warts and all". He is also Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of the school.
Mr. Muir has a particular interest in supporting students of Determination through his own experience as both a parent and Principal, and as result a new team of three highly experienced staff have joined the school in the current year. Further additions have been made in terms of the leadership of the Primary section of the school through the appointment of Ms. Jasmit Kang (previously at Very Good-rated Raffles International School), Ms. Danielle Davies who has been appointed Head of Early Years and has joined Capital from Very Good-rated Deira International School, and Ms. Natasha Sturrock who is Head of Secondary.
As of the 2019-20 academic year, students were 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. Staff turnover has fallen from 33% two years ago, to 13% in 2019-20 (well under the UAE average of 20-22%).
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.
Further, he says, '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.'
Students at Capital School benefit from relatively low class sizes - typically around 18 students, with the largest being 20-21, though a maximum number of 25 is approved. 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.
Within the Early Years and Primary sections of the school, there is an average of 4 classes per year group (though FS1 has three and FS2 six). Year 2 has also been popular with five classes in the current academic year, whilst Year 4 has three classes and Year 6, two. The Secondary school remains much smaller with just 30 students across the current three year groups of 7, 8 and 9. This means significant individual focus of these students that they would be hard pushed to find in other schools at this price point.
Capital School - because of its size and capacity - is in an ideal position to expand as demand warrants additional classes. Facilities and resources are already in place; it is only a matter of recruiting additional staff.
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.
In common with all UAE schools, Capital, its teachers, students and families have had to adapt to the provision of Distance Learning as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. This has been fully integrated into the school's modus operandi, with 30% of children still participating in Distance Learning in January 2021. Capital School was awarded the highest - Developed - rating by the KHDA when inspections were carried out in May/June 2020.
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.
The school intends to offer IGCSE and A Levels, together with BTEC - a more vocational pathway to university entry qualifications - as it moves forwards towards full opening of the Secondary section. It is also likely that Capital will join the relatively small number of schools in Dubai offering ASDAN - a vocational curriculum and qualification for students of Determination.
Capital School has also a growing PE department with specialist staff, together with a 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.
Read about what we saw during our Experience Visit to Capital School in November 2019 here
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 very spacious 70-85 sqm (750-900 sq ft) classrooms and dedicated indoor exploration areas for Foundation Stage. Recent investment in the school buildings has resulted in the FS classrooms being upgraded to provide direct open access to the outside areas allowing children to learn outside and to connect to free-flow activities between classrooms.
See more of the facilities and find out about our Experience Visit to Capital School here.
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. Both swimming pools were upgraded in 2020. There is also a football pitch, basketball court, and gymnasium, and three outdoor playing areas. A recent addition, which will most certainly have been welcomed by students, is the set of three cricket nets!
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 raising of standards across the school and the attainment of an overall Good rating that is very much at the heart of everything the school is doing at the present time. It was therefore disappointing that no inspection took place in the 2019-20 academic year - due to cancellation of inspections as a result of the pandemic - and with ongoing adjustments to schooling and on-line learning provision, no inspection has yet been confirmed for 2020-21.
Whilst many schools would likely be grateful for a break from the annual DSIB inspection regime, the team at Capital School is keen for the inspection to take place, in order to be able to formally show the improvements that have been made.
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:
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 were almost all acceptable other than for progress in English, Mathematics and Islamic education which were rated Good. Progress in Science was downgraded to Acceptable.
In the Secondary section, only progress in English was rated Good, whilst progress in Mathematics and Science was downgraded to Acceptable, and attainment in Arabic as an Additional language and Science were rated Weak. Learning skills were also downgraded to Acceptable.
However, students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills were largely rated Good (although previously Students' Personal Development was rated Very Good across the school). Only FS retained the Very Good rating in this last inspection. Students' understanding of Islamic values, and awareness of Emirati and world cultures, and their Social responsibility and Innovation skills were rated Good across the school.
Two of the remaining four key performance standards - the Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - were also rated Good across the school.
Where the main challenge appears to lie was in the Teaching and Assessment of students in the Primary and Secondary sections which were rated Acceptable, though the rating remained Good in the FS. Assessment in particular was 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 was found to be 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:
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.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have been consistently impressed by our conversations with the leadership of Capital School and by the changes and improvements we have seen during visits. Although the school may feel that it is being held back by the outdated KHDA rating from 2018-19, it is evident that parents do not have concerns in this regard and the commitment and investment that the owners and leadership have made and continue to make, shows how strongly they expect the school to develop and succeed.
The school was set very clear and measurable targets for improvement. In our opinion, the school owners and leadership have taken significant steps to fulfill these recommendations and we look forward to seeing the outcome of the next DSIB inspection. For parents aspiring to a British Education, in an environment where their children will be taught by British teachers who are versed in the English National Curriculum, with a range of impressive facilities at mid-range fees, we certainly would recommend further investigation.
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, 8 and 9.
There is a Registration fee of AED 500 and an Admission Fee of AED 3,000 - the latter deductible against the annual fees.
Capital 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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