Capital School Experience Visit - November 2019
It has been several years since the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team has visited Capital School - in fact the last visit was not too long after the school's opening. As a general rule, our focus for such visits is on new schools who have not yet been inspected, and schools where there have been significant changes of ownership, leadership and/or facilities.
When we learned that there had been some major changes at Capital School, with a new investor, new (and well-known) CEO, a whole new leadership team, and significant upgrades to the facilities, we felt that the time was right to see for ourselves just how different the school is compared with four years ago.
On arrival at Capital School, which is located in the very busy Al Ghusais School District, and directly on Baghdad Street, the most immediate change was the relocation of the main entrance of the school to the centre of the building. The school has plentiful parking - a major plus in this area. Entry, manned by a smart and pleasant Security man, is through an imposing door into the main reception hall, to the rear of which is an imposing staircase.
The staircase is no longer just a practical structure but sets an ambitious tone for students entering the school lobby.
We were greeted by Principal, Dr. Sue Pattison, and by two Year Six students who were to be our guides as we toured the school. Airah has been at Capital since Year 3, whilst Hamdy has attended since the school opened in 2014. Both told us that what they most enjoyed about their school was 'the kindness of their fellow students' and the fact that 'learning is fun!'
Our tour took us from the main reception area to the Foundation section of the school, which is a separate secure section at the corner of the building. We passed by an indoor quadrangle which has been set up with Arabian tents that are used for Arabic activities and as seating and rest areas used during Social Studies and as part of the school's Mindfulness Programme. A Well-being Leader has been appointed to the staff with the goal of ensuring a holistic approach for both students and staff.
There is no doubt that space is a luxury to be enjoyed at Capital School, reflected in the wide corridors - enabling free-flow between classrooms for the youngest students - and large classrooms. Currently, there are four classes each of FS1 and FS2 and one of four Inclusion rooms located across the school included in this dedicated section of the building. Class sizes are around 25 students each with a teacher, teaching assistant and additional support as necessary.
Students learn Arabic and French from FS1 and also enjoy swimming lessons once a week. Whilst all but specialist teaching staff are British, children come from 35 different nationalities of which Indian and Pakistani passport holders are the largest contingent.
The school has made considerable changes to the Foundation area, ensuring plentiful indoor and outdoor space. A dedicated shaded play area, garden area with cycle paths for the youngest students, and a dedicated, covered Learner Swimming Pool are among facilities reserved for the youngest children.
Facilities for older Primary students from Year 1 to 6, and for the small number currently in Years 7 and 8 (of which there is one class for each) are also well thought-through.
Primary classrooms are rather more business-like, perhaps, but still bright, airy and large. The amount of outdoor space, and the sports facilities in particular, are really impressive.
Specialist facilities include language classrooms, ICT, Music and Art rooms. There is also a very pleasant library which is popular with students.
As part of the curriculum, the school has also appointed an Innovation Leader who is responsible for involving students in external activities and competitions. We were given a thorough tour of the sporting facilities, which in addition to the Learning Swimming Pool, includes a further full size pool, vast expanses of outdoor "grassed space" for a wide range of ball sports and a substantial indoor sports hall and auditorium.
Our student guides were extremely enthusiastic and proud of the facilities the school is able to offer.
On completion of our tour, we met with two parents who have children in Year 1 and Year 4. Both children have attended Capital School since FS2, and both parents have experienced the recent changes as a result of the developments in terms of ownership and leadership at the school.
They were both very positive about these. They could see a clear improvement in the teaching as a result of predominantly British staff now making up the class teachers, and also felt that the curriculum was more structured, interesting and engaging for their children, who are developing their independent learning skills.
They felt that staff are friendly and open, and willing to listen to suggestions. This was particularly important for one of the parents whose child is on the Autism spectrum. Communication is regular, through a weekly newsletter, and any issues are addressed quickly.
They appreciate the safe environment, useful facilities such as the canteen, and the outdoor space and sports opportunities for their children.
The school has recently also launched a breakfast club enabling an early drop off at 6.30am, and an Afterschool Care facility which allows children to remain in school until 6pm.
Our final meeting was with Dr. Sue, Principal, and Dr. Brian, who has recently joined the school as Director of Teaching and Learning. A major focus for both, inevitably, is the KHDA inspection where the school is very keen to make the step up from Acceptable to Good.
In many ways, the Senior team is focusing on developing teaching and learning as would be done in a new school. Many of the 50+ staff (including 8 Arabic and Islamic Studies staff) are new to their positions, and therefore, ensuring that the curriculum is student- focused, assessing what students are learning, and mentoring the staff to develop their skills is the major part of the leaders' roles.
Both Dr. Sue and Dr. Brian were keen to stress that with the new investment in the school by its owners, and the investment in resources and professional development, the Senior team at Capital School are "in it for the long term".
Whether Capital School will succeed in its ambition to make the step up to Good in the current academic year remains to be seen. However, what we found was a school that was full of enthusiastic children, dedicated and caring staff and a Leadership team that is driven by a desire to see significant improvement in the education it delivers. We are quite sure, irrespective of the outcome of the current year inspection, that Capital School is well on the path to its goal, and it is but a matter of time before it reaches it.
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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