The Renaissance School is a new US curriculum school opening in Dubai Sports City in October 2018. It will initially serve families seeking places from KG1 to Grade 4 in its first year, before expanding to Middle and High School in the coming years. This will give families living in Dubai Sports City, Motor City and surrounding areas the option of a second US curriculum school on their doorstep.
The Renaissance School, Dubai, which is located on the edge of Dubai Sports City at its junction with Hessa Street, will offer a US Curriculum based on the New York State Standards, for children from KG1 to Grade 4 in the current academic year. The school will open on 1st October.
The Principal, Ms Zetha Nobles, has extensive experience of school leadership, and has successfully achieved two NEASC accreditations for the schools she led in her previous two roles. Zetha is also extensively qualified with a PhD from the University of California Berkeley and has served as a superintendent, and principal in five schools in the US and internationally, and still works as an instructor on the University of California Berkeley’s teacher training programme.
What about academics?
The curriculum choice is a very specific one, based on the fact that, in the last year, the State of New York has revised its education standards to ensure greater rigour and to foster 21st century skills, in place of the previously used Common Core State Standards. These Next Generation Learning Standards focus on supporting all learners (language learners, special education learners) while maintaining high quality teaching and learning. This set of standards will provide the school with a framework for English Language Arts and Mathematics in the future and, from the outset, Renaissance School will use New York State Standards for English Language Arts. In addition, the school will follow the Ministry of Education guidelines with respect to the teaching of Arabic for both native and non-native speakers and Social and Islamic Studies.
The New York State Curriculum provides a set curriculum up to the end of Grade 8, which means that students in each age cohort will study the same subjects, regardless of their background, nationality or level of academic attainment. In High School, the curriculum adds options or electives to a smaller subject core which includes English, Mathematics and Science. The school is set to have an initial platform of strong literacy and numeracy skills for every child, allied to creativity, imagination, fun and play in the early years. A focus on character building through life skills, digital skills, enterprise skills is designed to equip students for employability. Employment in a digital world of the future is a the special feature of the school and it is investing significant resources into digital technology to ensure that all children are connected at all times, with the aim of encouraging children to become digital experts and authors.
The school views the teaching and learning of Arabic as a key priority and aims to promote the importance of the language every day. Arabic will feature in Assemblies, on posters and in daily presentations, in newsletters and in staff conversation with their students. The school believes that a good level of understanding of the Arabic language by all students, and a high level of fluency for Arab students, is an essential part of studying at the school and in Dubai.
For students for whom English is not their native language, there is an English as an Additional Language (EAL) Teacher employed in the school who works in and out of the classroom with different groups of children. The EAL Teacher also works with the admissions department to establish students’ language levels on entry to the school. Students with weaker English are identified on admission and a teaching program put in place – agreed with parents – with the target of bringing them to proficiency for their age group within the first term. This is achieved through support in the classroom, the deployment of additional learning assistants (including from volunteer parents), extra English classes and home extension activities. Each program is individually designed and, as far as possible, in-class and curriculum modifications are made to ensure students with weak English skills are fully included in learning activities. Unusually, the school does not make any additional charge for children who need to attend additional support classes throughout the day.
In line with the KHDA's Inclusive Education policy, Renaissance School has a clear policy for Students with Determination that is reflective of the diverse population of Dubai. In order to cater to the special educational needs, the school identifies students needing added help as soon as possible using a range of tests, hires Learning Support Assistants for children with low to moderate difficulties with parents’ agreement, and provides intervention at a suitable level when a child is identified as requiring added help.
For those students who fall into the Advanced Learner (or ‘gifted and talented’) category, the focus of all classroom practice is to challenge students in their learning, stretching each child to achieve their best. The school’s policy for Advanced Learners - those performing in the top five per cent of students in a particular cohort - will receive in-class differentiation which maintains a high level of challenge, identified through teacher assessment and by bench-marking students against international test results. They will receive support from a teacher with training in recognising and supporting children with academic gifts. In addition, students with specific talents – e.g. in sports, music or other specific skills – will receive help in clarifying those talents so that the school can work with the student and his/her parents in finding the right long-term coaching and support.
What about Facilities?
The School is located on a compact, but well laid out, site directly next to the excellent facilities of Dubai Sports City. The school itself has a wide range of physical resources including large classrooms, distinct Kindergarten and Elementary School classrooms, specialist art, media and music rooms, science laboratories for use by Elementary as well as High School students, at least two specialist rooms for computing, coding and ICT, two mixed-use halls and an auditorium, two library/learning centers and a staff development/training area, a Special Needs base and resource area, kitchen, catering and canteen facilities, two 12-metre swimming/learning pools with changing facilities, an outdoor football pitch with artificial grass, two basketball courts, external play spaces and open courtyard spaces internally, additional outdoor space for parking and access, clinics, and two prayer rooms.
The range of facilities mean that the school will offer a strong program of ECAs, with weekly sessions for clubs and societies generally run either immediately after school or during lunch and other breaks. Extra-curricular activities are run by the English, Music, PE and Art faculties to ensure there is a level of extra-curricular provision in keeping with a good school. Activities include drama productions (including large-scale plays and musicals as well as smaller-scale productions), music performances, art shows and fashion shows, and a good range of extra-curricular sport. The school will potentially also offer some paid-for activities through third party providers. Unusually, KG students will also have extra-curricular options during and after the school day. All students are expected to participate in at least two clubs, societies and activities each term. Tutors guide children to make choices and “try things out”.
This "have a go" approach is evidently part of the culture of the school, whereby students are encouraged to strive and learn the power of taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them. Students do take on bigger challenges from time to time, for example in a school competition or play/performance – giving them the opportunity to try something new, but in the knowledge that staff will always be on hand when things don’t go right first time. The school sees this as a vital step to building resilience. As part of the school's focus on Innovation and developing Digital skills, every child will learn how to run a business, with the school backing them with the resources and guiding their decisions, so they will understand how to create wealth and jobs. The focus is very much about teaching and developing skills for the future, in addition to delivering the basics.
From a situation only two years ago where the options for US curriculum schools on the south side of the city were limited to the American School of Dubai and GEMS' Bradenton Prep Academy (now renamed GEMS United School Dubai Sports City), the launch of the Renaissance School close to the same area, together with the American School of Creative Science and Dunecrest American School, both of which are located relatively close-by, means that parents seeking a US curriculum school finally have some real choice.
The owners of Renaissance School clearly recognise that parents do have other options and have introduced some very generous Founders' Discounts that are available until 1st December 2018 only. The school is open from KG1 to Grade 4 in its first year and is offering the first term (October to December) free of charge. This means that the fees for 2018-19 inclusive of the discount are AED 21,000 for KG1 and KG2, AED 25,200 for Grades 1 and 2, and AED 27,000 for Grades 3 and 4. Full fees for the respective grades are AED 35,000, AED 42,000 and AED 45,000. These are very much at the mid-range compared with the other US curriculum schools around it.
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