Originally established in 1990 by two ladies - Mrs. Ansari and Mrs. Jackson - the Sharjah-based School of Knowledge relocated to its current location in Al Azra in 2005 before being taken over by the St. Mary's Group of Schools in 2012.
The story so far...
The School of Knowledge was established in 1990 as a Primary School offering the UK National Curriculum for students aged 4 to 11 years, initially operating from a villa in Ghafia, with only 45 students and 10 teachers. Today, it offers the same curriculum to children from FS1 to Grade 6 and has grown substantially to some 1,500 plus children.
In 2012, the school was purchased by the St. Mary's Group of Schools, an organisation owned by the Catholic Church. St. Joseph's School in Abu Dhabi opened in 1967, whilst St. Mary's Catholic High School in Dubai opened the following year. Both schools are highly respected for "providing high quality, affordable, value-based education". The group now additionally comprises St. Mary's School, Muhaisnah and St. Mary's School, Fujeirah , and a new St. Mary's School is due to open in Ras Al Khaimah in September 2019. The other five schools within the group offer or plan to offer education through to A Level.
The values of the group are a core part of its identity and are clearly stated on the St. Mary's Group website:
in the uniqueness of each student and supporting them in achieving their dreams
in encouraging an atmosphere of compassion, equality, tolerance and respect for human dignity
in safe and caring relationships built on a foundation of honesty, integrity, trust and forgiveness
in fostering charity, justice and service to others
in striving for excellence through a sense of responsibility and self-discipline
in empowering critical and creative thinking
in a collaborative learning environment with cooperation between students, teachers, school leaders and parents
in enabling students to become global citizens to face the challenges of the 21st century".
The three core goals of the School of Knowledge are:
Academic Excellence, Character Building and Leadership- Training.
The School of Knowledge is a significant-sized school for a Primary-only institution. There are 10 classes of FS1, 11 of FS2 and 9 Grade 1 classes. In common with many schools, the numbers of students do fall away in the higher grades. Grade 2 has seven classes, Grade 3 has five classes and Grades 4 and 5, six classes. By Grade 6, when students will need to find other schools to enter for their secondary education, classes have fallen to only four.
Although the school's website states that the St. Mary's Group plans to extend the school to Secondary and to offer A Levels, a lack of suitable building has meant that this expansion has not been possible. The opening of the school in Ras Al Khaimah will provide preferential entry for students to continue within the St. Mary's fold, as is also the case with the two Dubai-based schools. From a practical perspective, this would make sense, with travel between the two Emirates relatively straightforward and quick, given that the journeys would take place against the traffic flow. However, the reality is that all of the St. Mary's Secondary schools are over-subscribed and many SOK students will continue to move to other Sharjah-based schools.
Student numbers by class are relatively high, with 25 each in FS1 and FS2 classes, and an average 28 from Grade 1 upwards, with a maximum of 30 students. The split of students between male and female is almost 50:50, with a slightly higher proportion of boys. The majority of children are Pakistani nationals (some 70%), followed by Indians (18%), Sri Lankans (4%) and Bangladeshi (3%). Overall, there are some 21 nationalities represented within the school.
The majority of the 101 teachers are Indian and with a relatively low staff turnover of 15-20% (compared with a UAE average of 20-25%), it would seem that the majority of staff are happy with their employment. An overall staff:student ratio of 1:25 in FS and 1:20 in Grades 1 to 6 must, however, be demanding. All staff are expected to be qualified with either a Bachelor's degree and two years' teaching experience, or a teaching degree or Diploma.
What about the curriculum?
In common with all of the schools in the St. Mary's Group, the School of Knowledge follows the National Curriculum for England and Wales. In FS1 and FS2, children follow the UK Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, which is largely play-based but with a specific focus on developing key physical and intellectual skills, whilst developing inquiring minds and a collaborative approach.
Once children move into Grades 1 and 2, they follow a more formal approach to learning with a specific focus on the development of English and Maths, Science, Arabic, Islamic Studies and Moral Education. In Grade 2, students have the choice of an additional language, which may be French, Hindi or Urdu. Students in Grades 4 to 6 have Social Studies added to the subjects. Although there is no specific mention of ICT or computer studies, the school does work with Education City, a provider of software for school students, and children do have access to desktops, laptops and tablets. There is also a parent portal to enable parents to access key information and data at the school.
In addition to the core academic subjects, the School of Knowledge prides itself on offering a range of Co-curricular and Extra-curricular activities to ensure the well-rounded development of its students. These include lessons in karate are conducted by a black belt instructor during school hours, coaching in music and elocution, regular sports and games classes conducted in school to enhance physical development and a spacious Art room which provides students with all the materials required to explore and express their artistic flair. Swimming lessons are offered to students of Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Extra-curricular activities include Cubs and Brownies, offered to the students of Grade 4 to 6, and Indoor Games including Table Tennis, Chess, and Carrom. Excursions and field trips are organised every month so as to enable children to experience what they learn in the classroom, whilst Debates and Quizzes are held periodically to enhance the general awareness of the students about the world around them.
What about facilities?
The school is housed in a light, modern two-storey building in Al Azra. In addition to the usual range of classrooms, library and other facilities, it features an indoor multi-purpose sports hall and a swimming pool which is accessible to students from Grades 3 to 6.
The school has an SEN Department consisting of a counsellor and an SEN Educator. They work with class teachers to support children with additional needs. Shadow teachers may support students in class where necessary.
What about Academic results?
The school tests students regularly against the curriculum standards for the UK for English, Maths and Science, and against Arabic targets. Students achieving 90% and above are deemed to be Exceeding Standards, those scoring between 60-89% are said to be meeting standards, and those below 60% are Below standard. Maths is clearly a strength of the school, with between 60 and 70% of students between Grades 1 to 6 being at the curriculum standard. Students achieving above the standard tend to be a lower percentage as the Grades climb. By Grades 5 and 6, 7% and 6% respectively are scoring above 90%, whilst in Grades 2 to 4, this figure is around 12.5%.
Science scores range from 53% of students meeting the standard in Grade 1, to over 70% from Grades 2-5, and 84% in Grade 6. Again, those exceeding 90% drop away in Grades 4 and 6 (varying between 4% and 5%), whilst those below the 60% mark increases to 16% in Grades 4, 5 and 6. English marks are similar to Science. However, bearing in mind that the standard for Meeting Expectations is a score of 60-90%, to have such significant numbers of students performing at these levels is a real achievement. The School of Knowledge clearly aims to maintain the goal of the St. Mary's Group of Schools - that of providing High Quality, Affordable, Value-based Education.
Fees vary from AED 8,100 to AED 10,260 - very affordable by Sharjah standards for a UK curriculum school.
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