Ghaf Private School is a small UK curriculum school that has taken over the KS1 site previously occupied by Jebel Ali School in the village of the same name.
Originally launched as a Primary school only, the school changed its name from Ghaf Primary School to Ghaf Private School in 2021, at the same time as it launched Year 7. In August 2021, Founding Principal, Julian Williams, confirmed to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that the school has received approval to open to Year 13 from the KHDA. Further details in terms of timing and location for the expanding school are expected.
For those who remember the much loved Jebel Ali School which occupied two sites at Jebel Ali Village for over 30 years, the re-opening of the Al Muntazah site, which previously housed Foundation and Key Stage One children, will doubtless bring back considerable nostalgia. Clearly, there will be a significant difference between the arrangements for the new school, given that it intends to house a FS1 to Year 7 school in a building that was previously given over to FS to Year 2 students only.
The school's maximum capacity under normal circumstances is 350 - a very small school by Dubai standards, but very reminiscent of a UK village school, which may well be an attraction for local families. With the reduction in student numbers required by the Covid 19 regulations, there will be no more than 90 students in the first year of opening.
Ghaf Private School's very informative website provides a great deal of information about the plans for the school. In addition, Founding Principal, Mr. Julian Williams, has provided significant additional information to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. Mr. Williams joins GPS from previous roles at Springdales School Dubai and Raffles World Academy.
Parent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com through our School and Parent Surveys is somewhat mixed. The number of responses is very limited (a total of 8 and a rating of 3/5), but whilst parents praise the community atmosphere and the staff, they are less impressed with growing student numbers in each class, high book fees (especially as students largely use tablets) and the pressure on teachers as a result of the increasing demands being made upon them. Find out more details under the Buzz.
The school's name is derived from the ‘Ghaf Tree’ (Prosopis cineraria) which has been declared the national tree of the UAE. This tree is a drought-tolerant, evergreen tree, native to the desert and known for its resilience. The qualities of resilience and tolerance are two of the moral values that GPS encourages its students to develop throughout their learning journey.
Mr. Williams describes the school as "a fusion of East and West approaches to personal and social development, responsibility and global citizenship. It offers Mandarin Chinese as an MFL [Modern Foreign Language] option given the influence of China as a world power and its long and rich cultural history. Students also learn about and apply Japanese ‘O-Soji’ the regular ‘big clean’ as part of its values in terms of personal responsibility for our immediate environment and respect for those who perform menial tasks in the service of others. The Samurai code is also part of our values statements, including: courage, compassion, honour, loyalty, resilience and self-control."
The school also has a list of Goals:
"We want to our students to develop:
According to the school, a unique selling point at GPS is that ’21st Century Life Skills’ are at the heart of the curriculum. This means that the school takes a personalised and holistic approach to develop every child. These Life Skills are:
On opening, the school had one class in each year group, but this is expected to grow to two once Covid restrictions are lifted. Average class sizes were expected to be 10-12 in the first academic year, with normal (post-Covid) class sizes expected to be 24 to 25. The teacher:student ratio will be 1:10 in the Foundation Stage and 1:12 through the remainder of the school.
The school initially employed 10 teachers, and was actively recruiting further staff prior to opening. This included 5 Teaching Assistants to support teachers. Teachers had been recruited from the UK, India and Romania. Foundation Stage teachers all have CACHE 3 - 5 qualifications; whilst staff teaching Years 1 to 6 have a Bachelor’s degree and teaching qualification. Most staff lead a subject specialism. The school leadership team currently consists of two, with a further three coordinators.
Whilst students who have registered at the school are mostly of British nationality currently, the school aims to attract children from a wide range of countries.
Ghaf Private School will offer a blend of the English National Curriculum, the International Primary Curriculum and a Life Skills programme aimed at maintaining high standards, whilst meeting the needs of each student by means of a child-centred approach. This will ensure that students are directed towards achieving their full potential, providing an international perspective yet retaining cultural identity and language.
The inclusion of the IPC curriculum means that teachers and students will follow an inquiry-based approach to learning through learning units which are often cross-curricular in approach.
The approach to education will be an all-round one aimed at developing students’ character, moral/religious values, self-reliance, self-esteem, social skills, creative skills and their ability to think critically and analytically, leading to independent learning.
Students will learn by doing, through ‘hands-on’ play, interaction, and collaboration with each other and with their teachers. Learning will be student-centred and inquiry-led. Teachers facilitate and broaden students' learning through presenting them with ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if' questions….which require students to consider multiple answers and inquiry pathways. Ghaf Private School will offer a particular focus on integrated STEAM, blended online and in-school learning, Modern Foreign Languages (French, and later, Mandarin), and Performing Arts.
Digital learning and innovation are important tools that will support teaching and learning and also enable it to support students’ learning at home. This allows GPS to ensure learning is creative through using age appropriate apps and games. It also allows parents to see first-hand how teachers interact with their children and also communicate with parents, with the aim that ‘home-learning’ (rather than homework) is always a task to be enjoyed and not a chore.
In the Foundation Stage, students will participate in the EYFS Areas of Learning: communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, expressive arts and design. These will be supported by the IPC-based IEYC four learning strands: Independence and interdependence, Communicating, Enquiring, Healthy living and physical wellbeing.
In Years 1 - 7, students will focus on the subjects of the UK National Curriculum and the Cambridge International Curriculum of Maths, Science, Art & Design, Digital Literacy (STEAM); Global Perspectives, Humanities, French (from Year 4), PE, and Performing Arts (Music/Dance/Drama). In line with Ministry of Education regulations, students will study Arabic A and B, Islamic A and B, Social Studies, and Moral Education.
The three core International Primary Curriculum goals are taught through integrated themes:
The school will participate in standardised tests including TIMSS, Checkpoint primary and other International Benchmark Tests.
Ghaf Private School applied for membership of British Schools of the Middle East in its first year of operation, and intends to complete its accreditation by Cambridge International Schools by 2023.
Extra-curricular activities will include Swimming, tennis, martial arts, football, performing arts, and conservation. In house provision by teachers will be free of charge. Peripatetic specialists will be paid separately. The school plans to develop international trips for students in Years 3 to 6.
GPS says that it aims to ensure that each child is able to access the curriculum within the school's "inclusive support provision". The school aims to create "a warm, nurturing and stimulating environment, where all children are challenged and are encouraged to meet and exceed expectations." The school offers an Inclusion (SEND) Unit to allow 1:1 and small group support for those with identified needs. There will also be a Sensory Room. Almost all staff have SEND training. The school will also offer English Additional Language support. Provision is free of charge, although specialist tests such as YLE Starters, Movers and Flyers tests are funded by parents at cost.
All admissions are subject to an initial assessment in the school setting and potentially an informal interview. The Principal and Admissions team may ask to meet with parents, prior to, or following assessment, to learn more about a child’s potential, previous education, experiences and ability.
The school building is described as light, spacious, open, and stimulating. The building will offer flexible classrooms, including those dedicated to STREAM - Science, Technology/Robotics, Reading/Research, Engineering problems - offering students the opportunity to use materials to ‘engineer’ solutions - Art & Design and Mathematics, to DART (Directed Activities Related to Text), and Music.
The school offers 8 interior classrooms, 4 activity rooms and a STEAM lab, an IT lab, Black Box Theatre, Library, Reprographics; Art Studio; Gym and Multi-purpose Hall, SEND unit and sensory room, Music practice room and Parent Cafeteria. Each class has an interactive smartboard and each has access to outside learning areas with sandpit, play equipment and garden.
There are small group rooms to support EAL students (English as an Additional Language) and a Clinic. GPS students will also have access to the sports and leisure facilities at the Muntazah complex. There is limited outdoor space for football, cricket or other sports requiring significant space.
The responses to our WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey have been limited in number (just 8) with an overall rating of 3/5 - an approval rating of 60%. Whilst parents feel that their children enjoy school and have a reasonably strong sense of belonging, views are more mixed in terms of academic performance with 38% of parents satisfied in this respect, but a significant 62% are only partially satisfied. This may well explain why half of parents surveyed believe that additional tuition is required outside school.
In addition, 63% of parents had considered moving their child to another school; the same percentage also expressed their satisfaction with the level of communication from Ghaf Private School, although 25% were dissatisfied in this regard. And respondents were evenly split on whether they would recommend Ghaf Private School to others with 50% agreeing that they would do so, and the remainder disagreeing.
Interestingly, school fees do not appear to be a major factor in this decision - whilst 28% disagreed that they represented value for money, 29% believed that they did, whilst the remainder partially agree with our statement. However, individual feedback from parents cites increasing costs for fees and resources as a concern.
If you are a parent or teacher at Ghaf Private School, please share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community and complete our survey.
It is unusual, in our experience at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for a school to put quite as much effort into explaining its Philosophy and Beliefs to potential parents and what this means in concrete terms in relation to interaction between parents and staff.
Ghaf Private School states that:
Furthermore, the school says that "We need parents to support: parent-teacher conferences, information sessions, school school events, building parent voice through the parents’ association, contributing to school development as members of the Advisory Council to the Board. We would like our parent community to celebrate their children’s teamwork, collaboration, competition and performance. We value parent involvement in the community life of GPS as a cornerstone of our development strategy."
Ghaf Private School is certainly an interesting addition to the Dubai school scene. For one thing, it will almost certainly not develop far beyond its Primary roots - space simply will not allow that - and this may well be an attractive option for parents seeking a smaller, more intimate environment for their children.
The original question of which schools children might move on to for Secondary education now appears to be moot with the confirmation that the school will extend to offer an all-through education. The school will also not have a vast array of expansive and expensive facilities, given the constraints of the site - and its fees are no doubt a reflection of this.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com will be interested to see how the school develops.
KHDA approved fees for Ghaf Primary School range from AED 35,000 in FS to AED 49,500 for Years 6 and 7. Sibling discounts of 10% for the second child and 15% for each subsequent child are also available.
The school does charge both a registration and assessment fee but does not make mention of the amounts involved. A deposit of 10% is required on offer of a place and a 5% re-registration fee is required annually for existing students - both are off-set against tuition fees.
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