United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Safa / Safa British School

Safa British School Review

Safa British School is a well-established school which opened in 2004. It is a sister school to the KHDA "Very Good"-rated Safa Community School which opened in 2014. In a new development, SBS relocated to a brand new campus in Jumeirah and expanded to Secondary for the 2020-21 academic year. Safa British School has just been awarded a Very Good rating by the KHDA, great timing for all the exciting new developments!
Parents' Rating
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4.3 out of 5 based on 62 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
hourglass_empty
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 43,500
Annual fees
AED 29,262 - 50,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2004
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
28%
Principal
Ms Zara Harrington
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom

Nearby nurseries

0.7km • EYFS curriculum
1.5km • EYFS curriculum
1.6km • EYFS curriculum
1.6km • EYFS curriculum
1.6km • EYFS curriculum
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School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
hourglass_empty
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 43,500
Annual fees
AED 29,262 - 50,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2004
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
28%
Principal
Ms Zara Harrington
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
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Safa British School is a well-established school which opened in 2004. It is a sister school to the KHDA "Very Good"-rated Safa Community School which opened in 2014. In a new development, SBS relocated to a brand new campus in Jumeirah and expanded to Secondary for the 2020-21 academic year. Safa British School has just been awarded a Very Good rating by the KHDA, great timing for all the exciting new developments!

The story so far...

Located in the heart of Al Safa, Safa British School  (SBS), is a National Curriculum for England-based  school. The school is privately owned by two investors who are also parents, and whose children and wives are closely connected with the Safa schools. 

There is a very personal and direct interest and commitment, which is extremely unusual in our experience of Dubai schools.  This is absolutely not 'Big Business', where the ROI is the core interest of the owners. 

In September 2020, Safa British School relocated back to its roots in Al Safa (having previously been located in Al Quoz and before that, in a small campus in Al Safa), and opened an all-through school on a brand new purpose-built site. The school currently offers places from FS1 to Year 8, and will expand each year until reaching Year 13.

Read the latest on the new school in our special Hard Hat Tour

Just in time for this step, SBS was awarded the KHDA's Very Good rating in the 2019-20 DSIB inspection round, joining sister Safa Community School as one of the 36 schools in Dubai to have achieved the KHDA's second highest rating

The full report can be found here.

Safa British School is currently attended by some 760 students between the ages of three and 14 years. 

Currently 41 different nationalities are represented at Safa British with the largest demographic (24%) being described by the KHDA as Arab, though the single largest country is India (around 17%), followed by students from the UK (10%).  Boys and girls are split fairly equally at a ratio of 51:49.  Approximately 40 students at the school are Emirati, 

The school is led by Principal, Ms. Zara Harrington who joined the school in 2017-18.  Zara is supported by Head of Primary, Louise McGeever and Head of Secondary, Brian Horwell.  Mr Horwell was previously Secondary Headteacher at the very successful Dubai British School.  

In addition to SBS's 61 teachers, a large number of teaching assistants (30 in 2019-20) support the children. Teachers are mostly recruited from the UK. With a teacher to student ratio of 1:12, class sizes are on average 24, which is also the maximum class size at the school.  There are generally four classes per year group.



Get the full Safa British experience! Click here for the WSA Safa British School inspection

One of the challenges historically at SBS had been its ability to retain staff, but this is an issue that has clearly been addressed under Ms. Harrington's leadership, with a very low turnover of 4% in the last year.  

There is much about Safa British School that makes it an appealing place to be!

It is clear that the children are at the heart of everything the owners and their staff are trying to do.  Like most schools, Safa British School has a Vision which is to be found on its website - "to create a school that unlocks the potential of every child”.  

Its Mission statement is:

  • To be a community of diverse nationalities where we celebrate diversity while building on local ethos and culture to create truly multinational citizens that will be leaders in their respective fields.
  • We will have a learning environment that removes all barriers to learning and have provisions in place that address the unique needs of all our individual learners.
  • Through the implementation of latest teaching methodologies our overriding aim is to ensure that every student of the school is able to excel academically across all core subjects.
  • To enable each student to realise his/her full potential through a school policy of differentiation in planning and teaching.
  • Sports will be an integral component of our educational offering and will be used to impart life long skill sets of grit, perseverance and self discipline. Our challenging sporting curriculum invites our students to develop both physical and psychological well being.
  • We will provide excellent professional development and bespoke career development opportunities for all staff and will build a highly professional workforce who are both challenged and supported to work to excellent standards at all times.
  • We will provide our parents with high quality information, reports and feedback about their child’s progress while encouraging their active involvement via a programme of meetings, parent’s forums and social events.



Juxtaposed, unusually in our experience, against the school's Vision and Mission, the Principal's Message provides the Mission for Safa British School's students:

'In this, your school, you will discover the confidence to explore the strength of your imagination and sometimes even the power to overwhelm.

You will come to enjoy the surprise of inspirational achievement and the experience of sharing it together.

You will learn to expect standards of yourself you didn’t think you could reach. Everyone will expect the best from everyone else.

You will understand more the uniqueness of you and about each person’s special place in our community and the wider world.

When the time comes for you to leave, our aim is that you will take with you the memory of a remarkable journey and a determination to go on to be the best that you can be.

Safa is a school that unlocks your potential for you to “Dream Big”.

In WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's experience of meetings with the owners and the leadership at both Safa Schools, we have been convinced that there is a genuine and unrelenting desire to see these commitments and aims met. 

What about the curriculum?

SBS offers the National Curriculum for England, together with the requirements of the Ministry of Education in regard to the teaching of Arabic, and Islamic Studies. 

As a sign of commitment to ensuring that the curriculum is truly reflective of the UK National Curriculum, SBS is not only a member of British Schools of the Middle East, but also accredited and inspected by British Schools Overseas, on being one of 93 schools overseas to be found to be fully compliant with British educational standards.  BSO organises inspections which follow those undertaken by OFSTED, the UK government organisation responsible for inspection of schools.



SBS explains that the central aim of the curriculum is to work in collaboration with families and the local community to provide opportunities for all students to learn and to achieve; to promote students’ moral, social and cultural development and prepare all students for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

Through a well-planned and organised curriculum, effectively taught by qualified and enthusiastic teachers, pupils are helped to:

  • Gain a joy and commitment to learning that will last a lifetime
  • Develop the essential literacy and numeracy skills they need to learn
  • Develop the attitudes, understanding and skills to become successful, independent learners
  • Foster their creativity
  • Develop lively, enquiring minds
  • Develop personal values, qualities and attitudes and be respectful of other people and their views and opinions
  • Develop appreciation and concern for the environment
  • Work co-operatively with others
  • Work toward achieving their potential.

Students follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in FS1 and FS2, learning by playing, observing, experimenting, taking risks, questioning, repeating and talking. The teaching and learning pedagogy adopted is one that is structured to accommodate the vital teaching of phonics, reading/writing and numbers. The curriculum is planned in seven areas of learning and development: Communication and language, Physical development, Personal, social and emotional development, Literacy development, Mathematics, Understanding the world,and Expressive arts and design. All areas are important and inter-connected.

From the Foundation Stage, students move on to the Key Stage 1 (KS1) and Key Stage 2 (KS2) curricula. KS1 comprises of two years of schooling, (Years 1 and 2), when students are aged between 5 and 7 years and forms the first part of primary education. Key Stage 2 is the four years of schooling from Years 3 to 6, when students are aged between 7 and 11. Lower KS2, (Years 3 and 4), transitions children from lower to upper primary school. Upper KS2, (Years 5 and 6), begins to prepare children for secondary education.

Subjects taught in Key stages One and Two include English, Mathematics, Science, Information and Communication Technology, Geography and History, Design and Technology, Music, Art, Arabic (both as a first and second language), Islamic Studies (for Muslim students), PE and Sports, Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship, Drama and Sustainability.



The Key Stage 3 curriculum for students entering Secondary education is designed to address both the academic rigour needed at the secondary level as well as soft skills of the students. The academic curriculum is derived from the National Curriculum and incorporates significant UAE adaptation as well as cross references between subjects to ensure that the students not only learn the topics but put it in context of their day to day life. The soft skills curriculum is imparted through SBS's 'Learning Gears' framework.

The secondary curriculum is designed to provide an all-round education, combining academic excellence with a range of enrichment opportunities. It has been designed to develop independent learning, resilience and confidence and to provide students with immediate advantages in gaining places in top universities and, later on, in the workplace.

The broad curriculum will continue to Year 9 in line with the English National Curriculum, after which the students will be supported as they make their GCSE/IGCSE course choices and follow a more specialised approach. Subjects will include English, Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History, Geography, Social Studies, Moral Education, French, Arabic, Islamic, Music, Drama, Art, Design and Technology, Computing, Physical Education.

The school also ensures that children do not focus purely on the academic, but are offered the opportunity to develop other skills, offering over 90 extra curricular activities ranging from Sports to Arts to Academic. 60 of these activities are free of charge.

For Secondary students, a full Enrichment programme will be offered and students will be encouraged to engage in sporting, creative and community-based activities. 

What about support for students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

Safa British School is an inclusive school where students will be accepted with various levels of academic ability. Some 100 students of Determination have been identified as having some form of  Special Educational Need (SEN). These students are supported by a specialist team of 5 teachers and 22 learning assistants.

The school has a comprehensive inclusion policy in practice wherein staff support children with additional learning needs (Students of Determination and those who have Gifts and Talents) to enable them to achieve their personal potential academically and socially, by recognising their individual differences, needs, strengths, weaknesses, experiences and interests.  At primary level, the school offer the ASDAN curriculum, which has been designed to provide programmes for children with additional needs or disabilities.

What about facilities?



The school moved in to their new campus in October 2020, and full completion is expected by January 2021.  The new buildings are very attractive and the space has been cleverly utilised: a case in point that parents will appreciate...an underground car park for staff, which will free up valuable space during those busy morning and afternoon schools runs.

The new campus has helped the school to retain the feeling of 'home' that it had it in its previous location, albeit with some seriously upgraded facilities!  

Once the final touches are in place, the new campus will offer extensive new sporting facilities (including a cleverly designed indoor/outdoor pool, indoor sports hall, football pitches, basketball courts as well as rooftop courts for basketball, netball and more) as well as the entire new secondary phase.  Performing Arts will be given a new home in the school's expansive new auditorium.

SBS is never going to be one of Dubai’s largest schools (eventual, all through (3-18), capacity will be around 1,300 students) the clever design has created an incredible feeling of space. Corridors are really smart shared spaces, with cleverly planned seating and break out study spaces. Throughout, Ms. Harrington and her team have chosen a muted palette of just four colours, creating an air of calm and cohesion throughout the school.

Get the full Safa British experience! Click here for the WSA Safa British School inspection

What the inspectors say

The 2019-20 KHDA annual inspection report rated SBS as Very Good after 7 years of having achieved the minimum targeted rating of Good.  For any school that has consistently achieved a similar rating over such a long period to make the significant step up to the second highest rating is an achievement that should not be under-estimated.

Following the KHDA's announcement in September 2019 that schools rated Very Good or Outstanding will no longer receive a full inspection annually, but rather will participate in a one day 'review visit' unless there is a change in overall rating, there will be no further full inspection report issued.

Given the clear correlation between Leadership and Management, and academic success, identified by the KHDA during their 10 year anniversary briefing in 2018, the inspection team evidently feels that this is an area of strength at SBS, stating that "Senior leaders are inspirational, knowledgeable and committed. They know the school’s strengths and weaknesses, and address them suitably in the extensive development plan. Relationships throughout the school are very strong. Governors hold leaders to account for their actions. Partnerships with parents and the community are outstanding."

Indeed, the inspection report summarises the strengths of the school as:

  • Students’ personal development, their social responsibility and their attendance
  • Learning, teaching, assessment, curriculum design and adaptation
  • Arrangements for health and safety, child protection, and care and support
  • The partnership with parents
  • Leadership, self-evaluation, governance, and all aspects of management

In our review of the report for SBS a year ago, we commented that "if Safa British School taught at Primary level only, it would, in all likelihood, achieve the Very Good rating that the school is seeking."  And indeed, our assessment has been borne out by the improved overall rating to Very Good this year, as a direct result of the improvements in Mathematics and Science in the Foundation Stage, see almost all ratings across the core subjects be rated Very Good.  Importantly, there have been improvements in Arabic as a first and additional language, whilst attainment and progress in Islamic Education are rated Acceptable and Good respectively.



Inevitably, these subjects are a fundamental concern and focus for the regulator, and without clear improvement here, making a step up to a Very Good overall rating will remain a difficult one for SBS.

Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, on the other hand, are a clear strength at SBS - both indicators retained their Outstanding rating.  And students' understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures has improved to Very Good across the school.

Teaching for effective learning are also now rated Very Good across the school, as are the curriculum, assessment processes and their impact on adaptation to meet the needs of individual students, which has again been a focus for inspections, particularly in the context of students with additional learning needs or gifts and talents.  The specific indicator for the Provision and Outcomes for students of Determination has been rated Very Good.

The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students is a clear strength of the school. Health and Safety, including Safeguarding, is Outstanding across the school, and ratings for Care and Support have also improved to the highest rating across the school. 

The KHDA increasingly recognises the absolute importance of the leadership and governance of schools in ensuring strong academic outcomes. This is an area where Safa British is clearly on the right track.  Both the effectiveness of leadership and the management, staffing, facilities and resources of the school have again been rated Very Good this year, whilst the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning, remains Good. 

Governance has retained its Very Good rating as a result of the extension of the Governing Board to include a wider range of participants including parents, staff, external advisers and the owners, who view the school's work closely. 

And there is no doubting the absolute strength of SBS in terms of its relationship with parents and the community which is again rated Outstanding. As in the last year, where the inspection team acknowledged that the recommendations in the previous report are being successfully tackled by the school, this is also the case in the current report.

 The key areas of focus for Safa British School have been clearly defined by the inspection team.  SBS should:

  • Improve the quality of teaching and learning by ensuring that:
    - there is greater consistency in teaching across all subjects and all phases;
    - literacy, enterprise and innovation skills are systematically developed in FS;
    - teachers encourage independent learning and offer greater challenge in Islamic education;
    - teachers accurately identify and rigorously take account of students’ starting points in Arabic, and
    - students make more effective use of self-assessment to inform their learning.

At WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, we always recommend that parents look beyond the headline overall rating when considering the right school for their children.  Although rated Very Good overall, there are clearly areas of specific strength at SBS and an ever-improving journey in relation to the standards offered.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so - you will find it here.  

The Buzz

Of the 95 parents who responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey, 99% said that they are satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. Almost all say that their children are happy and feel safe. Most parents feel that the school provides good value for money. A significantly high proportion of parents feel that school leaders and staff listen to them and act on their views. 

Our WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent survey bears out this view, with 40% of parents saying that their children enjoy going to school "quite a bit", compared with the national average of 33%, and 53% saying that their children enjoy it "a tremendous amount".  However, some parents seem less happy with the school - 67% saying that they have considered moving their child to another school, compared with the national average of 38%.  80% of parents, however, are satisfied with the school's academic performance, whilst the remainder are partially satisfied. And despite the evident reservations expressed, 80% would recommend SBS to other parents.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Safa British School and would like to share your experiences with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey here.

What about the fees?

Fees at Al Safa British School for 2020-21 start at AED 29,262 for FS1, and move to AED 50,000 in year 8.  Click here for full details of Safa British School tuition fees. Note, there is also a non-refundable registration fee of AED 500 .

The school has recently announced a scholarship scheme for students applying to Years 7 to 9 for entry in September 2021.  The scholarship awards offer reductions in fees of up to 50% and cover a wide range of criteria including  Academic Performance, Creative Excellence, Sports (Individual & Team), Arabic Language (First & Second) and Global Citizenship.  Further details can be found here.

 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Safa British 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:

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information

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