At a glance
The Story so Far
Kings' School Nad Al Sheba is the third Kings' school open in Dubai. It currently has 286 students from 39 different countries and with an average of 13 students per class, this branch of Kings' has developed a unique community feel for students and parents alike.
Read our latest visit review here!
What do the Inspectors Say?
2016/2017 is the first year that Kings' School Nad Al Sheba has a KHDA report and rating. This first report ranks the school as Good, which we've seen is common for schools to receive for their first inspection, provided they go into it prepared.
The Good rating is due to, as the KHDA report notes, the fact that:
- The principal, other leaders and all staff have a strong commitment to improving the school
- The students’ very good attitudes and behaviour result in a happy and purposeful learning environment
- The school's focus on improvement and innovation is supporting the development of good learning
- Strong and supportive partnerships have been established with parents and are having a positive
effect on learning
- The arrangements to keep students safe and secure are robust, rigorous and successful. The facilities and resources for learning are very good and are used effectively.
It's also clear from the report that the school is focused on inclusion, and SEND is a strength of the school. Progress and attainment of students is ranked Good across the board in core subjects, save for attainment in English in FS which is rated as Acceptable.
One thing that the report makes clear is that students are achieving and meeting, if not exceeding international benchmarks, even though there seems to be variability in their starting points. As the report notes for English, "Competencies in speaking and writing develop well overall and, despite some variability, the pace of progress is becoming consistently good. As a result, the majority of students' key knowledge, understanding and skills are above those typical of their age at the end of the primary phase when compared to the English National curriculum and international standards."
The development of students learning skills is rated as Good in both sections of the school. As the report explains, "Students are motivated and take increasing responsibility for their learning [and] as a result of teachers’ encouragement, students in both phases talk confidently about how they solve problems."
A strength of the school is the personal development of the students, which the KHDA has rated as Very Good, the second highest marker. As the report notes, "Students display a very strong sense of personal responsibility and are able to make decisions about their learning and behaviour... they feel valued and supported. Relationships are focused on learning as well as personal development and result in genuine two-way feedback. Students are able to take the lead in relating to others, including those students with special educational needs."
What's next for Inspections
The 2016/2017 KHDA recommends that Kings' School Nad Al Sheba focus on three areas for improvement:
- Governors should support school leaders and hold them to account by:
· receiving and evaluating reports about students’ achievements
· ensuring improvement plans include clear and targeted actions that build on the achievements of all staff and students
· monitoring the effectiveness of school leaders in implementing the plans.
- Leaders and all staff should use internal and external assessment data to:
· identify groups of students who are at risk of underachieving
· adjust teaching methods to ensure students make very good progress in their development of knowledge, skills and understanding
· measure progress accurately and precisely in all areas of learning.
- Teachers of Arabic and Islamic education should raise attainment and accelerate progress by
· consistently challenging students of all abilities
· providing opportunities for extending writing and conversational skills.
WSA looks forward to seeing Kings' School Nad Al Sheba meet these next challenges.
What about the Facilities?
The Foundation section offers a Primary Hall which is used for PE activities, an activity room used for indoor play away from the heat and a specialist music room. There is a canteen for the children which offers pre-packed cold meals or children bring their own packed lunches.
At the front centre of the building is an indoor green space which has been planted as an Eco-garden. For every box of plastic items that the children are able to recycle, a seedling is planted in the garden. To the rear of the Eco-garden is the main common area where the library and creative/role play area are located. At the rear of building located adjacent to the, as yet unfinished, sports facilities is the Learner pool which FS1 children use once per week.
The main development has been the opening of the adjacent Primary building. Currently the school has 3 x year 1 classes (with approximately 15 children per class) and 2 x year 2 classes whose classrooms are located on the ground floor of the building, together with 2 x year 3, a combined year 4/5 class and a single year 6 class on the second floor.
Similar to the Foundation section, ground floor classrooms open to the outside area where there is large, shaded play equipment in place. Inside, an attractive majlis area is tucked away under the stairs as a reminder of the local culture and the carpeted staircase itself is used as a seating area for assembly, with staff and students automatically using the uncarpeted side areas of the staircase for passage. To the rear of the staircase is a large open area with equipment which is used for fine motor activities. Upstairs are the upper Primary classrooms with an attractive, recently opened library at the front of the building with a “learning tree” seating area at its centre. More specialist classrooms (including Music and IT) are located here.
The school has always had an excellent reputation for its Arabic teaching and the Nad Al Sheba school is working hard to ensure that it maintains this. Arabic is taught in the form rooms (rather than in a separate Arabic room) and very much based around informal learning through play initially, before moving on to a more formal programme in year 1. French is also taught from year 1 and Spanish is added in year 5. The school also has a strong learning support team in place including speech and language therapists, working with children with a range of additional learning needs including Dyslexia and learning delays.
Kings' School Nad Al Sheba school is still working to attract sufficient additional numbers of students over the past year to enable it to open its Secondary school at present. Work on this and the other major Sports and Arts facilities seem to have been put on hold, and although the schools states that it intends to offer GCSE in year 11 and the IB Diploma in year 13, current year 6 students will continue their Secondary education at Kings Al Barsha. It may well be that Kings Nad Al Sheba will become a mirror of the original Umm Suqeim school for the foreseeable future catering only to Primary students.
There is no question that Kings' School Nad Al Sheba has all of the positive aspects in terms of resources and staffing that should allow it to be recognised alongside the other Kings' schools. As the developments around the area grow (the Meydan development in particular heading in this direction), Kings' School Nad Al Sheba will hopefully be able to attract more families who are seeking a quality UK education in a well-planned, smaller and more homely environment than some of its immediate neighbours (which include Repton, GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis and GEMS Firstpoint).
The most recent addition to the popular Kings' franchise is located in a fast-developing area of the city. The campus is huge, spacious, well thought-through and beautifully designed. The small class sizes at present mean that there is a strong ‘family feel’. KSNAS has set ambitious targets for itself and it will be interesting to see if it can reach the heights of its original Umm Suqeim branch.
KSNAS is situated just off the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, close to Dubai Silicon Oasis and not far from International City. The building is modern in design and consists of two storey long terracotta brick curved classroom blocks. The large white roof cleverly creates ample shading both at the front and behind.
To get to the campus you have to follow a gravel track road which starts by the side of another nearby school. Kings' campus is huge so all the facilities are spacious. A massive open garden area is in the centre behind the main buildings and this space is available for the secondary section to be developed in the future.
There is plenty of parking available both in the school grounds and outside the boundary railing fence. Security is obvious and alert as vehicles are checked and ID badges required.
Chatting with the Principal
The reception area is light, bright open and very spacious. We were welcomed by Megha, the marketing coordinator, who took us to meet Mr Darren Gale the Headteacher. Darren is a really enthusiastic spokesman for this new community and we were able to ask many questions about this UK, English National Curriculum school.
We began our interview by inquiring about Darren’s own journey through his educational career so far. He had been a Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) teacher in a large school in Bath and over the seven years he worked there became Deputy Head.
In 2006 he arrived in Dubai and worked as the learning and teaching director at Jumeirah College. In 2009 he moved to Aldar Academy in Abu Dhabi and worked as head of the secondary school then as principal until 2014. His next post was as headteacher of Springdales another school in Dubai. Darren then joined Kings' School Nad Al Sheba in August 2016.
We asked what he believes is unique about the school and he said that it is that Kings is ‘an authentic community’ and his belief that it is ‘a boutique school’. He also spoke about his strong belief in ‘thinking out of the box’. Darren has a keen interest in the start-up of a school and he aims to grow this Kings branch which currently has 286 pupils so that more ‘children’s lives can be touched in a positive way’.
He wants to keep things simple so that the ‘community expands and finds its direction organically’. Darren feels that there have been several great accomplishments so far which include the excellent TIMMS results, the community’s garden and many special event days. Plus, he said ‘the fact that there are many happy children who don’t want to go home at the end of the day.’
So far there are 39 nationalities in the school. He spoke of the challenge he faces with the recent ‘saturation of new schools in Dubai’. We asked how he would approach the school’s approach to the child. ‘Very holistic’, he replied.
He believes that by really knowing each child’s strengths and the fact they feel happy, safe and included, means they will perform their very best. KSNAS has a structured anti-bullying policy which Darren believes to be open, transparent and has a ‘no-blame’ ethos.
There are plans for a secondary section on this site and space has been prepared for future buildings to house this.
Darren describes the approach to homework here as ‘home learning’ which is usually reading and maths via e-learning. He feels that there is a focus on innovation everywhere within the school and it is embedded throughout the curriculum. There is what they call an Ice Room specifically for creative thinking where pupils are encouraged to ask questions and explore ideas.
KSNAS has no entrance exam but instead pupils undergo placement tests and there is an open acceptance policy. Scholarships are offered for those who are gifted in sport, art, music, performing arts or academically.
Kings' recruit their staff both locally in Dubai or in the UK where school leaders visit to interview candidates. All teaching staff are fully qualified with BA (Hons) plus PGCE or B.Ed with a minimum of two years’ experience. They offer regular training to staff and run leadership programmes for teachers.
The creative and performing arts are a strength here as there is a choir, a dedicated art room and a specialist drama teacher. Darren would like prospective parents to know the value of an actual visit to the school. He believes guests will be able to ‘feel the atmosphere’ and recommended the series of videos available on the school website. There are also blogs, newsletters and publications such as ‘Standing Out’ which takes the form of ‘You Said, We Did’ to enable parents to track progress in what he described as ‘this listening school’.
Meeting with Parents
We were next able to meet two parents from the school community. Wendy has a child in year 7 and one in year 10 while Sahar has a child of five years and one of six years. Wendy came with her family from the UK and looked at eight schools before choosing KSNAS as she felt it to be ‘head and shoulders above the others on friendliness.’ Sahar and family came from Majorca and after some research chose the Kings' Group and opted for KSNAS as there was space available.
Both parents feel they have observed how the teachers ‘hone into their child’s needs’ and believe that the academic achievement so far has been excellent. Wendy was particularly impressed by one of her children’s dramatic improvement due to the school’s effective action plan run by their ‘Achievement Centre’.
The school’s biggest challenge, they feel, is its small size and it’s in the early stage of its development. Our parents feel that there is a lot of homework set but not too much and they appreciate that the school is ‘hot on reading’. They believe the homework to be fun and includes many engagement activities such as making videos, preparing talks and designing posters. Sahar and Wendy both feel KSNAS is good value for money for its quality and results. Wendy added ‘you can never pay too much for the right education’.
Zak’s provide the school uniform and our parents agree that it’s easy to buy and maintain but feel the quality could be improved. Soon the PTA will be setting up a second hand uniform shop. The uniform policy here is quite strict and there is an insistence on hats being worn outside, no crazy haircuts or styles or nail polish.
The car park area can be very busy during dropoff and pickup times but the school attendants manage the process ‘very efficiently’ and ensure ‘parents park appropriately’. There is a bus service available which is outsourced but well run with an attendant on each bus.
There have been several school trips so far such as Miracle Gardens, beach and theatre visits, rainforest experience and a residential trip to Umm Al Quwain. The clubs and ECAs are pretty good in variety with 70% included in the fees and 30% paid for such as dance, golf and tae-kwondo. FONAS or Friends of Nad Al Sheba School is the name of the parent’s association and this is in its first year. There are a bank of volunteers offering ‘good support’.
The school uses the Communicator to pass on information to parents but the weekly homework sheet also contains reminders to parents. The school generally prefers to use emails and each class has a parent representative who attends monthly meetings. Parent’s evenings are held once a term where class teachers are available along with subject specialists. Generally our parents felt it’s easy at all times to get in touch with teachers.
Parents gather for evening events at regular coffee mornings or meet at Blooms the parent café. Wendy and Sahar believe that all the various nationalities mix very well and they described this as ‘sweet’. There is also a great deal of teamwork around lift sharing for example.
Our parents believe Mr Gale to be very supportive to them and the school community has become ‘the centre of their lives’. Parents use WhatsApp to keep in touch from day to day. There is no whole school canteen available so about 50% of the pupils bring their own snack while the other half choose a hot meal delivered by the Blooms company which our parents believe is pretty good value for money. The children all eat together in the dining hall.
Wendy and Sahar both believe their offspring are challenged in their learning and that this has built confidence which extends beyond the classroom. Children here, they feel, are put out of their comfort zone and are encouraged to push themselves via the ‘Traffic Light’ system e.g green is the easiest option, red more challenging.
Learning support is at hand for those children who require it and our parents feel the teachers are inventive in their approach. Wendy explained how teachers quickly spotted that her child had gaps in his phonics, dealt with the issue and he now teaches these skills to younger pupils.
We asked if education at KSNAS was as good as their home countries and their response was ‘better by a mile’. Sahar and Wendy would describe the school to prospective parents as ‘friendly, personable and with incredibly high standards’. They feel Mr Gale to be ‘a personal friend’. They appreciate that he is always present to meet and greet parents and pupils in the mornings and likes to have music playing outside when pupils are entering school. He also visits each class at some time every day. They said that Mr Gale can be firm but that he is loved by the children and does a good job at empowering them.
They believe individuality is celebrated and that challenging children are dealt with very well. Our parents recommend viewing the school to pick up the atmosphere. They feel that the school finds the best in each child.
Speaking with Students
We were pleased next to meet seven pupils – Amin and Aaron are both in year 2 while Gemma, Eilidh, Ahmed, Kye and Jamila are years 5 and 6. As KSNAS is a new school the children are fairly new as well having been at the school from between 9 months to three years.
We asked what is special to them about the school and all agreed how welcoming, inclusive and friendly it is. With only 13 pupils per class they feel special, unique and like a family. The school would improve they felt if there were more pupils. They described the staff pupil relationships as friendly and that their teachers were helpful and great. The student culture they think is quite competitive but in a friendly way. Pupil leadership is encouraged and shared out between year groups. We inquired about bullying and the pupils said there was none but if any difficulty occurs it is handled well.
The student council consists of one pupil voted representative from each class and our group felt the council was taken seriously. For example they asked for more photos around the school and more sporting activities and their requests were granted. These pupils look smart in their uniform which they all like. Boys wear a light blue shirt, a tie and tartan shorts while the girl wear light blue shirt with tie and tartan skort or a pinafore dress.
Our pupils feel confident with their teachers, that the workload is challenging but gauged well. A variety of school trips have been offered such as visits to the JBR beach, Green Planet, the Escape Challenge Room and educational residential camps. We inquired about favourite days at school and International Day was considered a top day. Our group spoke of great food and dancing along with African and Indian drumming.
The school talent show is also an exciting event plus the focus this year was on the school show, The Lion King, where all years 4, 5 and 6 are involved. Our group are looking forward to seeing their tailor made costumes!
ECAs on offer are considered of a good variety with lots of sport and their swim team competes in several galas. These children love how IT is incorporated into their learning with the use of mini-computers and focus on coding and programming.
KSNAS connects with the community by several charitable activities such as Pink Day for Breast Cancer Charity, Happiness Day and book collections for the needy. Our pupils would describe KSNAS to prospective pupils as ‘unique, positive and small but mighty’! They wanted to highlight how good the Family Fun Day was being on a Saturday when the school was open with trampolines, bouncy castles lots of stalls and food served. Children were then tour guides for any interested parties.
A Tour with the Principal
Darren next led us on a full guided tour of the campus. The interior open spaces are huge, light and centre around an outdoor garden area. Other open areas are creatively used for displays, reading corners or individual teaching spaces. The open learning space in the foundation department is well supplied with play equipment, books and games.
Outdoor play areas are covered by the outdoor roof overhang with a decking floor and a whole variety of learning/play stations. Other shaded adventure spaces are provided with ropes, slides and climbing frames. A large newly planted garden is at the centre of the site so palm trees, shrubs and flowers will grow around the large green lawn. There are benches for picknicking outside and raised garden beds are set up for the school community.
Sports facilities are spacious, newly built and of an excellent standard. We saw large playing fields, sports courts, swimming pools, a multi-purpose sports hall along with an indoor soft play area for younger children.
Classrooms are colourful, spacious and well-lit as all have glass doors and windows that lead outside. We were shown an area for free activity and art and a beautifully set up IT suite. The library area is white, bright, stylish and a tree sculpture forms a focus in the centre. Books all look new and are well organized and displayed in a fun and attractive way.
A shelf by the entrance has a series of books wrapped up and colour coded for different age groups. This ‘mystery check-out’ system is designed to select a book randomly and discover what’s inside when it’s reading time at home, the aim being to open minds to as many genres as possible.
We were shown the cosy parent café run by the Bloom company serving hot and cold drinks and a selection of healthy sandwiches and snacks.
WSA First Review
Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba, is the third Kings’ School, opening its doors on 14th September 2014.
Editor's note: You can read a Q and A with the school here.
On arrival, the school is very recognisable, as it follows the same architectural scheme as the original Kings’ School Dubai (rated Outstanding by the KHDA) in Umm Suqeim and Kings' School Al Barsha. Located close to Repton and the GEMS Modern Academy (opposite Dubai Silicon Oasis), whilst the school's waits for the RTA approved road, the school can be reached along a temporary road that runs along the side of the Repton site.
Presently, two main buildings on the site are open and building progress continues on the rest of the development. This means that, currently, outdoor space is very limited. However, the school anticipates that the remaining primary facilities, playing fields and two swimming pools (one for Early Years) will be open in September. The capacity of the school will eventually reach 1,720, but at present there are 240 children at the school, it is very much a small community. Within these numbers, however, children are of 24 different nationalities with UK passport holders being the majority.
Classrooms are based around a central teaching area, the classrooms are light and bright and well resourced. A great deal of thought has gone into the choice of furniture with desks and chairs colour-coded dependent on the age (and size) of the users. The central area is also used as a break-out area for play-times and as a change of scenery for the children.
There are five FS1 classes, four FS2 classes, three Year 1 classes, two Year 2 classes, two Year 3 classes and one each of the other year groups, with specialist teaching for certain subjects for example Arabic and PE. Small class sizes, enable teachers to provide one-on-one support as required. The school hope to reach 750 students in Primary and this will be split across 5 classes in FS1 (each of 20 children with one teacher, one teaching assistant and a nanny), four classes in FS2 (each of 24 children with the same staffing levels) and then from Year 3 upwards, children will be supported by one teacher and a shared teaching assistant per two classes.
Staff are predominantly from the UK and all native-English speakers with the exception of those teaching Arabic.
All children are required to have English as their main language (Kings’ generally does not offer EAL provision), it does have Learning Support, a Speech and Language Therapist who report to the Head of Learning Support, who has responsibility for this field across all three schools. Similarly, all three schools will apply the same curriculum standards and even the same whole-school learning themes.
One of the strengths of Kings' School Dubai has been its commitment to the teaching of Arabic to non-native speakers and Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba is continuing down the same path. Arabic is integrated into the curriculum from Foundation 1 with informal role plays and interaction taking place as part of the day-to-day activity.
In addition to the Sports facilities, a number of other facilities are due to come on-line with the completion of the rest of the site. These include a Black-box Studio, a cafeteria (which will include hot meals) and a Parents’ Cafeteria. Currently, a meal delivery service is being offered by Dish and approximately 50% of the children are using this.
Families seeking to move their children to a small-school environment, knowing the strength of the reputation of the original school, will no doubt be very comfortable with the latest member of the Kings’ group of schools.
At all Kings’ schools fee payment options were reviewed and in order to give parents more options a new structure was introduced this year, where parents can either pay in full for the year, pay termly by 3 cheques or pay with 10 post dated cheques. The 10 post dated cheque system was introduced in order to give parents the option to spread payments over the year in line with salaries.
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