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

Safa British School Review

Safa British School is a well-established Primary-only 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 will relocate to a brand new school in Jumeirah and expand to Secondary in the 2020-21 academic year. Safa British School has just been awarded a Very Good rating by the KHDA, in time for the opening of its new campus and Secondary school - the timing could not be better!
Parents' Rating
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3.5 out of 5 based on 19 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
Primary
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2021/22
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 39,500
Annual fees
AED 25,000 - 40,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2004
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Zara Harrington
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities

Nearby nurseries

1.5km • Canadian curriculum
1.9km • Blended Early Years curriculum
2.3km • EYFS curriculum
2.4km • EYFS curriculum
2.5km • EYFS curriculum
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Safa British School
School type
International
School phase
Primary
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2021/22
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 39,500
Annual fees
AED 25,000 - 40,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2004
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Zara Harrington
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Safa British School is a well-established Primary-only 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 will relocate to a brand new school in Jumeirah and expand to Secondary in the 2020-21 academic year. Safa British School has just been awarded a Very Good rating by the KHDA, in time for the opening of its new campus and Secondary school - the timing could not be better!

The story so far...

Located on the edge of Al Quoz on the Meydan Road, Safa British School  (SBS), is an England and Wales-based National Curriculum 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. It is also one of a handful of Primary-only schools in the emirate.

In September 2020, the Safa British School will relocate back to its roots in Al Safa and open a Secondary School on a brand new purpose-built site.  Just in time for this step, SBS has been awarded the KHDA's Very Good rating in the foreshortened 2019-20 DSIB inspection round.  The full report can be found here.

Safa British School is currently attended by 735 students between the ages of three and 12 years. 

Currently 50 different nationalities are represented at Safa British with the largest demographic being described by the KHDA as Arab, though the single largest country of origin remains  the United Kingdom (around 30%).  Approximately 40 students at the school are Emirati, while some 100 are students of Determination who have been identified as having some form of Special Educational Need (SEN).

The school has a teacher to student ratio of 1:12. 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.

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

It would seem that the owners' ambitions to see Safa British School as highly rated as its younger sister school, Safa Community (rated Very Good again in 2018-19 on its third inspection) has resulted in the appointment of key staff - notably  Ms. Zara Harrington who joined the school in 2017-18.

One of the challenges at SBS had been its ability to retain staff.  However, it seems that this has been addressed in the past year with turnover at 21%, in line with average turnover in Dubai at around 20-22%. 

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”.  Unusually, though, the school does not have a Mission, whereby it expands on how its Vision will be achieved. 

Rather, somewhat tongue in cheek and reflective of the challenge in a popular Sci-fi series, the Mission is the 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 a rather more usual introductory statement, the Principal's welcome states that

"at Safa British School, we educate and nurture the whole child, providing opportunities for each child to discover and develop their unique talents and abilities in a variety of areas including emotional, spiritual, academic, cultural, moral, linguistic, creative and physical. We create a culture of achievement within a vibrant and stimulating learning environment ensuring positive reinforcement at all levels of ability through appropriately differentiated expectations. The central aims of our curriculum is to work in collaboration with families and the local community to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve; to promote pupils’ moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life." 

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.

Safa British School is an inclusive school where students will be accepted with various levels of academic ability. 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.  The school also ensures that children do not focus purely on the academic, but are offered the opportunity to develop other skills, offering over 40 extra curricular activities.

What about facilities?



According to the KHDA, "the premises, facilities and learning resources are of the highest quality; the school has specialist rooms including a computer suite, science laboratory, library, physical activity areas and new learning support bases." Premises are spacious, bright and extremely well maintained with wide corridors and additional large spaces.

Specialist indoor facilities include a stunning library with an extensive range of over 7,500 fiction, non-fiction and picture books as well as a study area and reading corner and two dedicated ICT suites equipped with PCs which are supported with two sets of iPads and a set of net books.  Students are able to explore what it is to be a Programmer, and develop their understanding of what computing involves, rather than simply being a user of a product.

In terms of physical activities, a multi-purpose studio, fully equipped with a wooden sprung floor, ballet bars and mirrors is used for Dance and Performance activities. This is in addition to the Multi-Purpose Hall / Indoor Auditorium which is used for indoor sports and PE, including netball, basketball and gymnastics, to name but a few. This facility seats up to 334 people for school events and performances as well as for assemblies.

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

Outdoor facilities include a 12 m x 10 m Training Pool / Learn to Swim Pool (fully shaded and heated/chilled), 25 m Swimming Pool (fully shaded and heated/chilled), a further shaded, outdoor, multi-purpose area that can be used for netball, tennis, basketball and fusbal, and Astroturf field suitable for multi-sports, and 5/6 aside football.  There are also two suitably equipped outdoor play areas, one for Foundation pupils, and one for the Key Stage One pupils.

However, all of the facilities at the current school will be set in the shade by the plans for the new campus and brand new purpose-built facility (on the site of now defunct Emirates English Speaking School) which will open in September 2020.  Full details can be found here and do watch out for our Virtual Hard Hat tour which will be published shortly.

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.

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 27,389 for FS1, and move to AED 42,170 in year 8.  An annual Book fee and Medical fee add approximately AED 1,900 to the total cost.  Click here for full details of Safa British School tuition fees. Note, there is also a non-refundable registration fee of 500 AED.

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:

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