United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Motor City / Safa Community School

Safa Community School Review

Safa Community School opened on its site near Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (opposite Motor City) in September 2014 and has grown rapidly to offer from FS to Year 13 in the current academic year. In its third KHDA inspection, SCS achieved a Very Good rating for the second year in a row.
Parents' Rating
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3.8 out of 5 based on 55 reviews
At a glance
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 63,000
Annual fees
AED 49,700 - 81,656
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2014
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
4
Principal
Stephen Duckitt
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities

Nearby nurseries

0.9km • EYFS curriculum
1.8km • Montessori curriculum
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Safa Community School
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 63,000
Annual fees
AED 49,700 - 81,656
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2014
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
4
Principal
Stephen Duckitt
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Safa Community School opened on its site near Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (opposite Motor City) in September 2014 and has grown rapidly to offer from FS to Year 13 in the current academic year. In its third KHDA inspection, SCS achieved a Very Good rating for the second year in a row.

The story so far...

Safa Community School (SCS), a sister to the established Safa British School, opened on its new site near Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (opposite Motor City) in September 2014. Given that the school only received approval to commence construction the previous May, it did remarkably well to open two teaching blocks on-time. In September 2017, the school added its Secondary block on what is a deceptively large site.

With the focus on Safa Community School since its launch and further development of its facilities, outsiders may have thought that the original Safa British School was being overlooked.  That is clearly not the case.  Safa British School relocated in September 2020 to a new site in Jumeirah, and is expanding to include a Secondary school also. Parents from large sections of Dubai will then have easy access to one of the two all-through Safa schools. 

Safa Community School has grown rapidly since its opening and now has over 1,900 students at the site, considerably up over previous years. This has been driven in large part by a 20% growth in the Secondary school. It is notable that for a school that is developing so quickly, it has been able to manage the process relatively well, not only achieving a Good rating in its first KHDA inspection in 2016-17, but having improved to the second-highest level of Very Good in 2017-18, the rating it retained for the 2018-19 inspection.

The school student cohort is made up of UK passport holders as the largest contingent (approximately 30%), but as with almost all Dubai schools, children from a wide range of 87 nationalities attend the school, of whom the other largest nationality groups are 8% South African, 10% from the Indian Subcontinent and 10% from North Africa. There are over 30 Emirati children at SCS,

The school is recognised for its inclusive policy towards children of Determination and also those with gifts and talents.  

There are between 6 and 9 classes in each year group, with an average of 16-24 children per class - 24 is the maximum.  There is an even split between boys and girls who are educated together throughout the school.

Staffing numbers have also grown significantly in line with the growth of the school which is now open from FS1 to Year 13. The 162 teachers are predominantly from the UK, and are assisted by a further 93 teaching assistants (including 22 within the Inclusion Department), and two guidance counsellors. All teachers must be UK qualified and 90% have taught in the UK.  The teaching team is said to be 'Very well dispersed age range of teachers with a good gender balance'. Approximately 30% have some additional leadership responsibility. SCS spends approximately 8% of its budget on Professional Development annually.

The teacher to student ratio of 1:12 is what we would expect in a school of this type and fee level.  It seems that teachers are content with their employment - a staff turnover of only 3% is around a seventh of the going rate for international schools in the UAE who average turnover of 20-22% each year. Particularly for a young school, a high level of stability can only be a good thing.

More: Read the Safa Community School Q and A here

What about the curriculum?

Like the original Safa British School, Safa Community School offers the English National Curriculum, utilising the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in FS, the National Curriculum from Years 1 to 9, and follows with iGCSE and GCSE for years 10 and 11. The first cohort of iGCSE/GCSE students completed their exams in June 2019.  The school opened its Sixth Form (for year 12 initially,followed by year 13 in 2020) offering International A Levels and A Levels and BTEC national qualifications, in 2019. 

The first cohort of IA/A Level and BTEC students will complete their examinations in June 2021.

The school is offering a wide range of A Level options, and whilst recommending that most students study three subjects, there is the possibility of studying a fourth for particularly academically strong students.

A Level options include: Art and Design, Business Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Design and Technology (Product Design), English Literature, Geography, History, Mathematics, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology, Drama and Theatre Studies, French, Economics, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Further Mathematics, Music, and Politics.  Arabic is available to Arabic A students only and is a compulsory subject in line with KHDA and MOE regulations. The school also hopes to be able to offer Astronomy, Government and Politics and Sociology in the near future.

Unique curriculum options currently include Contemporary Design from Year 7 students and at GCSE, the REACH programme in Year 12 and Work Experience for all Year 10 students.

The BTEC national qualification is a vocational course that is the equivalent of up to 3 A levels. It provides a specialist work-related programme of study that covers the key knowledge and practical skills. It offers flexibility and a choice of emphasis through the specialist units. SCS offers BTEC qualifications in Business Studies, Information Technology, and Sports Level 3.

Whilst inevitably, there has been considerable focus on the launch of the new Sixth Form, other sections of the school have not been forgotten.

In an effort to provide greater flexibility for parents of the youngest students, SCS has introduced a number of variations on timings for FS1 children in the 2019-20 academic year.  Flexi-FS1 provides parents with the option of easing their children slowly, with more flexibility, into the overall school experience. 

Children may continue to use the current 5-day a week FS1 option, as before, with no changes to timings; otherwise they may choose a 3-day or 4-day option in the first two terms (note that all children will need to attend 5 days in the final term as they prepare for FS2). Parents may also choose a longer drop-off period to suit those who want an early drop-off or a later drop-off or may arrange for their younger children to stay later in the day to suit work commitments or to fit in with sibling collection times.

In addition, to instil a love for languages, SCS has introduced more languages from Year 2. The foreign languages offered are French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. The languages are taught in a fun, child-friendly way incorporating songs, folk dances and other elements of language that children can easily relate to. These languages are offered at no additional cost and are incorporated as part of the overall curriculum. Mother tongue students of any other language are able to take GCSEs in their mother tongue.

In addition to the academic curriculum, SCS also looks after the well-being of its students through its Counselling team and also provides personalised careers advise for each student with an external careers consultant.

The school also offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities and up to five international trips per year - with some 120 ECA's on offer of which 80% are free of charge.

What about students of Determination?

One of the strengths of the original Safa British School is its support for children with learning difficulties (although it notes, children are subject to assessment) and the newer sister school continues to offer provision in this field with approximately 7% of students requiring SEND support.

In the 2018-19 KHDA report, the inspectors note that "support for students of Determination, and those who are more able and gifted, is Very Good."  EAL provision is provided for students whose native language is not English.

SCS describes itself as 'Fully Inclusive, Non-Selective'.

What about academic achievement?

SCS uses a range of base-line assessments that have been designed by the internationally renowned CEM Centre at Durham University, England. All students are assessed every 6 weeks in the Secondary department and their progress against expectations is discussed between students and subject staff, with individual targets set.

With the first cohort of students having sat their I/GCSE exams in June 2019, we had hoped that these would be released publicly.  Although this was not initially the case, we are delighted to see that SCS has been entirely transparent in publishing both the 2020 and 2019 results, enabling the strength of their students and teachers to be seen and celebrated. We would have appreciated knowing the number of students and exam entries for comparative purposes, but year on year improvements are clear.

Safa Community School 

2019

2020

Difference

% of exam entries graded 9-8 (A**/A*)

19%

29%

+10%

% of exam entries graded 9-7 (A**/A*/ A)

36%

47%

+11%

% of exam entries graded 9-6 (A**- B)

58%

73%

+15%

% of exam entries graded 9-4 (A**- C)

84%

98%

+14%

% of students achieving at least 5 grades 9-4

including in English and Mathematics

100%

100%

Overall student pass rate A*- C

84%

98%

+14%

In the 2020 iGCSE and GCSE results, which were based on assessment following the cancellation of all examinations as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, over 75% of GCSE examination entries in English, mathematics and science were awarded level 9-6 (the equivalent of A*-B). Students' grades were on average over two higher than expected at baseline assessment - representing a GCSE Value Added score of  2.02.

What about the facilities?

Safa Community School is housed in two oval-shaped Primary buildings which have been very carefully designed to meet the needs of children, a central block - the Global Learning Centre - containing the library and sports facilities, together with the extremely large Secondary block. 

The plot itself lies close to the very busy junction between Hessa Street and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road. Much has been done to improve the overall appearance of the area around Safa Community School is slowly being “greened” with hundreds of trees being planted, including the school site.

The architect was a US/Indian based practice, Fielding Nair, that has designed numerous schools in the US and India. The Primary buildings feature very light open classrooms (windows are on both sides opening to the outside area and to an internal central area that runs from front to back of the building). Purpose built furniture has been provided for the children of varying ages and special “soft” flooring used. The class-rooms are well resourced, as is the outdoor area where wood has been used for play equipment rather than plastic materials wherever possible. The central resource area for teachers and assistants is also a glassed area, which enables staff to keep an additional eye on children using the central area.

Read our most recent School Visit Experience HERE

Every classroom has access to the outside area – either a patio area on the ground floor, or a balcony area on the upper two floors. One building is higher than the other by one floor, and this features a very large external area that will be used as an outdoor learning environment by older students.

The second stage of development was the Global Learning Centre which houses the Multi-functional Sports Hall with retractable seating, an Auditorium, Cafeteria, Drama and Dance Studios and a Theatre (again with retractable seating), Music practice rooms and a Library for Secondary students.

Beyond the buildings towards the rear of the site is a very large sports field (FIFA approved soccer size) and two outdoor covered swimming pools – one for Foundation students and the larger one for older children. These were ready for use by the end of the school's first term.

A great deal of consideration has also been given to safe access to the school for parents and drivers and this is reflected in the planned parking arrangements, which will ensure that sufficient space and ease of safe access for children is provided.

Safa Community School

What the inspectors say

Having achieved a 'Good' rating in its first KHDA inspection in 2016-17, Safa Community School had already achieved the minimum rating that all schools are targeted to achieve by the Dubai regulator.  The improvement to Very Good in their second inspection, and the retention of this rating in the 2018-19 inspection, particularly given that the school is developing so rapidly, is a sign of immense commitment and progress on the part of the leadership of the school and its staff.

Following the decision announced by the KHDA in September 2019 that all school rated Very Good or Outstanding would no longer be inspected by the DSIB inspection team on an annual basis, the 2018-19 report remains the most recent. The most highly rated schools will now receive only an annual one day review visit, and no new inspection report will be issued unless there is a change in overall rating.

In the latest (2018-19) inspection report, the inspectors identified the strengths of the schools as follows:

  • The effectiveness of leadership, improvement planning and governance is Very Good and ensures on-going improvements;
  • The progress in English, Mathematics and Science, as well as attainment in Mathematics and Science in the Primary and Secondary school, are very Good;
  • Students' personal development, attitudes and behaviour are Outstanding;
  • The Very Good teaching across the school is exemplified by positive interactions, exceptional relationships, and secure knowledge;
  • The school provides a very caring and nurturing environment, where health and safety are Outstanding, and care and support Very Good.

In terms of student achievement, the vast majority of indicators for the three non-Arabic subjects are rated Very Good in terms of attainment and progress. Whilst English attainment remains Good across all sections of the school, and the same is true of Maths in the Foundation Stage, and Science in Primary and Secondary, progress is Very Good in all three subjects across all sections. 

Islamic Studies, Arabic as a first language and Arabic as a second language tell a different story, with ratings of Acceptable across all indicators with the exception of progress in Islamic Education in the Primary section which had moved up to Good.  The provision of the core Arabic subjects is an Achilles Heel for many international schools and one that Safa Community School will need to continue to address if it wishes to succeed in its journey to Outstanding.

All other key areas inspected by the DSIB team, however, generally reflect the school's Very Good rating. Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, teaching and assessment, curriculum, and the protection, care, guidance and support of students are now all rated Very Good, with Personal Development rated Outstanding across all three sections of the school.  The understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures has moved up to Very Good. Health and safety, including Child Protection and safe-guarding is also now rated Outstanding across the school.

Most aspects of the leadership and management of the school were also rated Very Good.  This may well be in strong part due to the day-to-day involvement of the owners of the school, whose own children attend. In fact, the relationship between the school, parents and the community have been rated Outstanding in the latest inspection, as have the management, staffing, facilities and resources.

Of course, there are areas of improvement on which Safa Community School will need to focus, at the same time ensuring that the school continues to improve across the board. One obvious effect of the rapid growth of SCS is that communication and coordination between the different sections of the school has led to working practices not being consistently coordinated or consistent.  

The inspection team determined that SCS should:

  • Improve the coordination and cooperation of the foundation, primary and secondary phase leaders so they agree common policies and procedures that encourage all staff to work collaboratively in sharing expertise and practice;
  • Improve learning and teaching to raise attainment and progress, particularly in Arabic and Islamic Education, by ensuring that:
    • there is greater consistency in the quality of teaching across subjects and across year groups;
    • teaching strategies meet the needs of all students across the school;
    • assessment information is used accurately to calculate students' attainment and progress;
    • students' critical thinking skills, innovation and independent learning are developed in all lessons;
    • monitoring and evaluation of middle leaders is better focused on students' academic performance.

Despite the challenges ahead for Safa Community School in addressing these areas, the school has made such significant improvements over the past two years, we can only expect that it will continue to improve in line with the Regulator's recommendations.

If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report for Safa Community School - and we strongly advise that you do so in order to see the reasons behind the rating, you may find it here.  

The Buzz

As noted by the inspection team, the relationship between the school, parents and the community is a particular strength of SCS. This is borne out by the KHDA pre-inspection survey in which 548 parents participated. 98% said that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. A large majority of parents said that their children were happy and felt safe.  They said that school leaders and staff listened to them and acted on their views. Most agreed they had access to all the information and support needed to help their children in their education. Parents were invariably positive about the support provided to students when they joined the school and as they moved through it.

184 students from SCS participated in the KHDA's 2017 Well-being survey. A large majority of students said that they felt safe, happy and optimistic. They persevered with their studies and enjoyed positive relationships with their teachers and peers. Their participation in sports was much higher than average across students in Dubai schools.

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey received also largely positive responses from parents. Their children enjoy going to school "a tremendous amount", and parents are extremely positive about the level of academic performance at the school.  They were also satisfied with communication with the school and the feedback they receive. 68% of parents have never considered moving their child to another school, and 75% would definitely recommend SCS to other parents. 

If there is a niggle - and as is usually the case - 16% of parents totally disagree that the school's fees represent value for money, although 34% feel that they definitely are value for money, and the remainder are partially convinced of this.

If you are parent, teacher or student at Safa Community School and would like to share your opinions with other potential members of your community, please do so by participating in our survey here.

Our View

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has long been impressed by Safa Community School.  From the early days when we met the owners at the original Safa British school site in Al Safa (two friends and partners who really do live and breathe this school and its sister), to visiting SCS when it was still a construction site, to seeing the school open and welcoming its first students, we have believed that Safa Community School is something very special. 

It really does aspire to live up to its name - to be a genuine centre of the community for students, their families, staff, its owners and wider members.  Whilst no one school will met the demands and aspirations of everyone who chooses it, we do genuinely feel that this is a school that will do its very best for any one who does. 

What about the fees?

Fees are at the middle- to high-end for Dubai schools - ranging from AED 49,700 for FS1 and FS2 and rising to AED 81,656 for Year 13.

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Safa Community 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.

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