Sharjah English School (SES) is a not-for-profit, all-through, co-educational school which follows the National Curriculum for England. SES is one of the most well-known and popular schools in Sharjah, due to its deliberately small student body, its stellar British Schools Overseas (BSO) reports, and its balance of academic excellence with a warm, community feel.
The story so far . . .
Nothing says, 'Sharjah' more than the Blue Souq, the traffic, and Sharjah English School (SES). In fact, this well-loved not-for-profit school is actually older than both the souq and the traffic woes, and remains to this day the top choice for those seeking a British curriculum school in the Northern Emirates.
For an initial impression of the school, all you need to do is look at comments from parents – even over the incredibly turbulent past year, parents still say that "Sharjah English School maintains high standards and has been extremely good at communicating with families during these difficult times. They have a strong sense of community".
And these sentiments are echoed by the people who work there, who experience the ins and outs of the school from day to day – one teacher commented that SES "has a good reputation locally, but it seems to be a surprise to some that it is so good. As a member of staff and parent of two pupils, I get to see both sides and I cannot fault the place. It is an excellent school. "
Originally opening in 1974, the school was launched by a group of British companies trying to get a home-style education for their children. However, it wasn’t until September 2005 that the school obtained a huge new plot on Meliha Road and started construction on the Secondary section. A new Primary block was also added in 2017, and with the support of the school’s Board of Governors, SES is working to continually improve its facilities. Whereas SES previously had only two classes per year group, the 2017 addition increased the school’s intake to three-form throughout, and the school now caters for students aged 3 to 19, running from Foundation through to A-Level.
Read our Hard Hat Tour of Sharjah English School here!
SES may be the smallest not-for-profit school in the UAE, but it is dedicated to providing an outstanding education, comparable to the best schools in the Gulf region and internationally. To do this, SES combines strong educational values with an intimate, community atmosphere, where the focus will always be on quality teaching and learning rather than commercial pressures. The school website offers a much lengthier Vision than most schools, but it may very well be what contributes to SES’ ongoing success:
Creating Opportunities for all Students:
Making it happen through:
SES strives to develop students “who can think for themselves, are socially confident and responsible and above all, successful learners”. This journey is rooted in the Sharjah English School Learner Profile, which identifies the traits that SES helps all of its students to achieve: Communicative; Resilient; Inquiring; Reflective; Risk-Taking; Persevering; Empathetic; Open-Minded; Confident; Self-Motivated; Responsible; Innovative.
The person who led the charge in this endeavour was Principal John Nolan, who had been with SES for almost 15 years (and in the UAE for more than three decades) when he retired in July 2021. Arriving at SES in 2007, and taking over as Principal in 2010, Mr. Nolan explained why his experience at SES was without compare in his career:
“It is the willingness to confront challenges confidently and to set high goals for themselves that makes our students exceptional; the commitment of our teachers to enable, support and challenge the students is what our graduates comment on and will remember throughout their lives.”
Mr. Nolan was named one of our WSA Principal Influencers in 2018 – you can read the full story here.
In early 2021, with the announcement of Mr. Nolan's retirement, his successor was named as Darren Coulson, who has joined SES from Dubai’s Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches, where he had been Head of the Primary School. Mr. Coulson joined JESS (starting at the original Jumeirah branch) in 1999, and in addition to sharing Mr. Nolan’s commitment to one school for an extended period, he also shares the experience of leadership in a not-for-profit environment.
Integral to the success of SES is its Board of Governors, who meet each month to oversee the strategic functioning of the school. The Board consists of representatives from some of the companies which were involved in the establishment of the school in its early days, those who understand the core ethos of the school best. In addition, other representatives come from key local businesses and institutions, permanently grounding SES in the community.
Within the school, SES prides itself on a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, and works hard to maintain close links with both parents and the community. Central to this goal is the fact that SES controls its student numbers carefully, keeping growth gradual – current enrolment stands at 850 children, which makes SES a small school by UAE standards. The reason for this limited student body is explained best by the school itself:
“This permits staff to have an acute knowledge of every student, and permits the secure and supportive relationships needed to permit children to embrace challenges. Our commitment is to remain small enough to preserve our palpable community and family feel.”
The majority of Secondary students come from the Primary school, although places are often available for students coming from other schools or newly arrived in the UAE. However, just because the school keeps small numbers does not mean that students miss out in any way. Current SES students represent over sixty-five nationalities (increased from 50 only a couple of years ago), and the school considers its diversity as one of its greatest strengths.
In addition, students benefit from smaller classes and low teacher to student ratios. For example, there is a maximum of 25 students in each form group at early Secondary level, which then drops further once students reach GCSE level. Impressively, the A-Level classes boast one of the lowest teacher to student ratios of any Sixth Form in the UAE – the teacher/student ratio in 2019 was 1:6. As the school rightly notes, this “guarantees the individual attention, early support and intervention, and setting of additional work and extension tasks, which maximize opportunities for examination success”.
These small class sizes really allow SES to get the best out of not only its students, but its teachers as well. All SES teachers are experienced, UK-trained specialists, each with a degree in their subject and a recognised UK postgraduate teaching qualification. On top of this, staff undertake continuous professional development while at the school, and lead other schools in raising standards and keeping abreast of educational developments. It’s easy to see that SES is certainly a school that knows the value of its staff:
“At the heart of our school’s success is our ability to recruit and retain hard-working, committed staff who can deliver imaginative and inspiring lessons.”
Teachers also work closely with parents to ensure that all students get the support they need both in school and at home. Parents receive regular informative written reports – two full reports and five interim reports are sent home each year – and consultation meetings with teachers. And for parents who want to stay up-to-date, the SES News section on the school website is a great resource for seeing what students are doing day-to-day. Even during Covid-19 times, the school has made sure it is fully open to all year groups, and currently has over 75% of the student community in school each and every day.
SES follows the broad and popular National Curriculum for England throughout both the Primary and Secondary schools. Unlike many schools in Sharjah, which offer the less UK-focused IGCSE qualifications, all students at SES take GCSEs (as taught and examined in England), followed by A-Levels. The school has also recently introduced a limited range of IGCSE and BTEC courses.
Students start their educational journey at SES in the Foundation Stage, where the curriculum “is planned and resourced to ignite the children’s curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and to provide opportunities for all children to succeed in a secure atmosphere; one in which they feel valued”. Teachers in this department work collaboratively to offer students the opportunity to learn through investigative play, both within indoor and outdoor learning environments. SES places high value in one-to-one time between teachers and individual students, so that personalised teaching strategies can be developed that support each unique child. Rather than simply delivering content, the SES approach is to have teachers spend time observing and interacting with each of their students, to get to know their interests and next steps.
Once children have completed the Foundation Stage, they move onto what SES calls the Infant Department (Years 1 and 2, also known as Key Stage 1). Again, the emphasis is on helping children to develop a love of learning, through the teaching of exciting topics in stimulating and enriching lessons, designed to challenge the children but also allow them to take risks with their own learning.
“In our department we provide a safe and supportive environment for the children to challenge themselves and take risks to develop as 21st Century learners. Throughout the department, not only do the children excel in academic attainment, they flourish as happy individuals; developing confidence, communication and empathy towards others, all being important skills of the school’s Learner Profile.”
Alongside British-qualified class teachers, all Year 1 and 2 classes have a Teaching Assistant on-hand, allowing every child to be given the individual attention they require. This is especially important at this crucial stage in their educational journey, as it is at this point where core subjects are introduced, namely English, Mathematics, and Science. The emphasis on these foundational areas is matched with a cross-curricular approach, so that students can see a real purpose to everything they do. And all the while, chosen topics are as exciting and inspiring as possible – ‘Exceptional Explorers’, ‘Around the World’, and ‘Famous People Across the Globe’ to name but a few.
In addition to the core subjects, students in the Infant Department also benefit from specialist teaching in Physical Education, Music, Arabic, and Islamic Studies (for Muslim students only). Students’ learning experience is also furthered through themed days and educational trips to venues such as Green Planet, the Dubai Fire Station, and Sharjah Astronomy Centre. Within the school grounds, students are given access to various areas which allow them to stretch their imaginations, such as the construction area, the mini stage, and the role play area. This balanced approach between structure and freedom is designed to provide the perfect bridge from the openness of Early Years’ learning to the more deliberate focus found in later Primary and Secondary.
As students move into Years 3 and 4 (Key Stage 2), they continue their focus on core subjects, as well as continuing to receive specialised instruction in Arabic, PE, Music, and Islamic Studies (for Muslim students only). The school still strives to maintain a caring and enriching environment, and believes that “enjoyment and willingness to learn are key factors in your child’s success at school”. Differentiated lessons ensure that students are allocated tasks and assignments appropriate to their level of development, and a positive behaviour programme is used to promote self-awareness and foster feelings of empathy and understanding among students.
One notable development at this stage is the introduction of opportunities for students to take on responsibilities, for example as class monitors and helpers. Students are also offered leadership responsibility in the form of Student Council Representatives in Year 3 and Year 4 – students can be nominated for these roles by their class teachers. As a general rule, all students are responsible for looking after their own property and being organised with their books and equipment, as well as setting an example to younger members of the school and to their peers.
Upper Years at SES mark the end of students’ time in Primary school, with students completing Years 5 and 6. At this important stage, students are preparing for their transition to Secondary school, something SES keeps well in mind. In addition to continuing to cultivate a love of learning, a strong sense of independence is encouraged, and students learn to take initiative and responsibility for their own education. Specialised assessment is used to inform the teaching and learning process, so that staff can cater to individual requirements and provide students with ownership of their assessment and learning.
The curriculum at this stage is described as “innovative, rigorous, and appropriate to a 21st Century learning environment aiming towards the key requirements of mastery, including an ever-increasing depth, breadth, and variety”. Technology features heavily, in order to prepare students for an ever-changing society. For example, students use online platforms, learn programming, design apps, and undertake computer-aided drafting. In addition to core subjects and specialist lessons, SES believes it is essential to teach children real-life skills and to encourage them to embrace leadership roles; such roles may include House Captaincy, or becoming Sports or Student Leaders.
One factor that certainly contributes to SES’ success with preparing children for Secondary school is the offering of several transition sessions for outgoing Primary students. Year 6 students are lucky enough to receive visits from specialist teachers, and have the chance to visit the Secondary school itself. The school website explains the precise benefits of this process:
“These experiences demystify the secondary school and ensure that there is no lack of confidence in negotiating this challenging transition. As with many events throughout the year, this transition process also includes our parents, who are an essential part of our learning community, invited to events including parent information sessions.”
So, SES students should certainly be well-prepared for their move to Secondary education, and excited rather than daunted by the new schooling opportunities ahead. Students in Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8, and 9) will find themselves in familiar waters, with a broad and varied curriculum, although now with even more subjects in their timetables. In addition to the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science, students in Years 7 to 9 take French, Arabic, History, Geography, Art, Design and Technology, Drama, Computing, Music, Physical Education, and Islamic Studies (for Muslim students). While such a wide array of subjects may seem demanding, it actually puts students in an excellent position to see where their interests lie and what subjects they may wish to pursue for GCSEs and A-Levels.
Once students move onto Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11), they follow a more personalised programme of study that increases the depth of learning in the eight or nine subjects that they have chosen – students take their final GCSE exams at the end of Year 11. To ensure breadth and balance in each student’s individual curriculum, all students take English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, two or three Science courses, and up to four further optional subjects at GCSE level. Mandatory, although non-examination, subjects include PE and Personal, Social, and Health Education (PSHE).
Optional subjects available at SES for GCSEs include: Arabic; Art & Design; Biology; Business Studies (IGCSE); Business Studies (BTEC Level 2); Chemistry; Computer Science; Design & Technology; Drama; Economics (IGCSE); French; Geography; History; Music; Physical Education; and Physics.
Some subjects may be offered at both Higher and Foundation level, and students are also permitted to take additional language subjects (in Arabic, Russian, German, or Spanish for example); it may be agreed that examinations in these additional subjects can be taken in Year 10. At this stage, students also have the opportunity to embark on new subjects, not previously included in their Year 7, 8, and 9 classes, such as Economics or Business Studies. By offering students such a broad selection, and allowing them to add to their workloads as they see fit, SES ensures children recognise the dedication and effort that will need to go into these important two years of study.
For students who successfully complete their GCSEs, SES offers a wide range of subjects for study at A-Level. As with GCSEs, the A-Levels offered at SES follow the arguably more demanding format of the examinations in England, and require two full years of study using a linear approach, whereby the subjects are examined only once, at the end of Year 13. This is in contrast to International A-Levels, where examinations are taken at AS-Level at the end of Year 12 and again at the end of Year 13, with both sets of examinations counting towards the final grade. AS-Level examinations may be resat to enable a higher grade to be achieved – this is not possible with the UK-based A-Level programme.
The programme through Years 12 and 13 consists of three A-Level subjects, which are studied in far greater depth than at GCSE level and usually chosen based on success in GCSE exams, intended university courses, and desired career paths (SES provides a full programme of support in Year 11 to help students make this choice). Students take the A-Level examinations at the end of Year 13; for some students, the examination will determine their overall A-Level result, while some subjects require additional coursework during the two years of study which count towards the final grade.
In addition to A-Levels, SES also offers a small, but growing, number of BTEC Level 3 subjects, qualifications which offer the same depth as A-Levels, are usually more technically or practically-focused, and allow students to complete assessments over the course of their final two years of school, rather than taking all of the exams at the end of Year 13. This, in combination with class sizes capped at 15, ensures that every student receives a highly-personalised education based on a detailed knowledge of their learning needs in every subject.
A-Level subject options at SES include: Art, Craft & Design; Biology; Business (BTEC Level 3); Chemistry; Computer Science; Design & Technology; Drama & Theatre; Economics; English Literature; French; Further Mathematics; Geography; History; Mathematics; Music; Physics; Psychology; and Sports (BTEC Level 3).
It’s certainly clear to see that students at SES benefit from an impressive selection of subject options, and that there are numerous safeguards in place to ensure that every student feels supported with whatever demands their chosen curriculum may have:
“We provide a dynamic and progressive learning environment that nurtures students’ independence, and enables them to grow as learners and to make decisions about their own learning – this we call ‘learner agency’ – and it is central to our belief that our children should be actively involved in their development, not merely passive recipients of education. We encourage our students to take risks, to try new things, to consider how they learn as well as what they learn.”
But, of course, we know that schools are most than just their academic offerings – for a school to be truly excellent, it has to provide a holistic education, complete with co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to ensure an engaging, well-rounded learning experience. SES offers a wide-range of teacher-led extra-curricular activities and clubs to all students, both at lunchtimes and after school, Sunday to Wednesday. Students are expected to attend at least one school club every term, and can select a maximum of two teacher-led clubs.
As the school website explains, the staff at SES “aim to offer something for everyone, and encourage students to pick a range of ECAs both to develop existing skills and to develop new skills and unearth hitherto unknown talents and abilities”. To support this, SES’ extra-curricular activities cover a wide range of interests, including sports and fitness, mindfulness, the creative and performing arts, literature, programming, science, and games.
The full list of clubs is made available at the start of each new term (although due to Covid-19 guidelines, the school is currently unable to offer an After School Programme). The clubs available vary each term, but a typical selection might include swim squad, cookery, rugby, netball, ICT, art, Lego, cross stitch, and choir. In addition, some clubs for older students are run by outside providers, which include karate, drama, fitness, gymnastics, and ballet (some of these may be offered to younger students, depending on the provider).
Finally, musical instrument tuition can be arranged through the school, and is available for piano, violin, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, trumpet, trombone, drums, and singing. Tuition for other instruments may also be organised on request, and the annual Battle of the Bands gives all students a chance to showcase their talents. There are numerous opportunities throughout the school year for creative students to shine, such as concerts, graduation functions, music and arts evenings, drama showcases, and plays or musicals.
In addition, SES does not only limit its activity offerings to the regular in-school day. There are ample opportunities for students to become involved in community service and charity work, as well as expeditions and camps. For example, each year group can participate in an overnight camping trip, where activities may include rock-climbing, kayaking, or mountain biking. Even further afield, each year the Secondary school offers overseas trips for curriculum and sporting purposes.
Recent trips have included a rugby trip and an A-Level Geography field trip to Sri Lanka; a History trip to Russia; an Art & Design tour to Barcelona; a trip for Drama, Art, and Design students to London; and multiple ski trips. SES has even had some particularly skilled musicians travel to Bahrain for the Young Musicians of the Gulf competition.
SES also offers the ever-popular Duke of Edinburgh International Award, a fantastic way to build confidence and self-reliance. The wide range of activities offered by the school means that students will never be short of ways to fulfil their Physical Recreation, Skills, and Voluntary Service requirements. In addition, the organisation of overseas trips allow students to complete the adventure part of their Award internationally – recent expeditions have been to Georgia and The Seychelles.
Interestingly, to make the Award as inclusive and truly cohesive as possible, SES’ policy is to only allow participants to enrol in the programme in Year 10, when the whole of the cohort has reached the minimum age required.
One final aspect of the SES curriculum that deserves mentioning is the Student Voice programme, which ensures that all students have a say in the running of the school and its future development. As the school website explains:
“We believe that all students at SES should have a voice. It is a fundamental responsibility of the school to ensure that students’ views are heard and valued in the taking of decisions which affect them, and that they are supported in making a positive contribution to their school. There is a clear partnership between adults and students with this aim in mind.”
SES employs a ‘Smart Council’ framework, where Student Voice representatives are organised into five committees, each of which represent a key area of the school. The current committees are Teaching & Learning, Global Social Responsibility, Community Events, School Improvement, and Media & Communications. By getting involved with this initiative, students can not only take on extra responsibilities and add to their CVs, but can give back to a school that clearly offers them a great deal, and can help ensure it continues to do so. It’s approaches like these that truly make SES such a special, inclusive, and well-loved school.
SES has a Learning Support Team on-hand to ensure that all students make progress and achieve to the best of their capabilities. The school employs frequent monitoring reports and planned early interventions wherever any problems are discerned; tutors, subject teachers, and the Heads of each Key Stage work closely and collaboratively with parents and the students themselves to identify issues, set targets, and address the need for additional help. The school environment is also designed to encourage performance in students who may be having difficulties – SES celebrates their successes both in class and in assembly, “to promote self-assurance, provide motivation and demonstrate mutual respect between class and house members”.
SES also makes sure to look out for students who show strength in particular areas and may need greater challenge. The ‘Gifted and Talented’ register identifies students who are excelling in the curriculum and offers them extension opportunities such as individualised everyday challenges, high level questioning, investigative activities, and after school clubs. In addition, older students have the opportunity to mentor younger students academically as well.
One final area that the Learning Support Team is responsible for is offering support to students who are dealing with the well-known stresses of academic pressure; the school notes that “support is always available to assist our students navigate these challenges without compromising their ultimate success”. SES offers assistance to students to help manage any issues or concerns they may encounter in their teenage years, whether these be in their personal lives, social lives, or related to health and fitness.
Unlike many schools in Sharjah, SES makes its academic results available to the public, something WhichSchoolAdvisor.com heartily applauds. And it seems SES have every reason to show their students’ achievements, with stellar results in recent years.
SES shared its IGCSE, GCSE and A Level results with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for the 2020-21 academic year.
In the second year of the pandemic, and with results based on Teacher Assessed Grades, SES' I/GCSE results were among the strongest of those notified to us - being among the Top 3 in the UAE. Full details of all UAE results can be found here
A cohort of 49 students were entered for 436 exams in total and achieved 34% of awards at Grade 9 (A**). 60% of awards were at Grades 9-8 (A*), over 80% of awards were at Grades 9-7 , whilst 92% were at Grades 9-6 (A**-B). 99% of entries achieved a pass between Grades 9 and 4, and all students who passed their examinations were awarded a minimum of five (I)GCSE's including Maths and English.
In 2020, when examinations were cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and awards were based on Teacher Assessed Grades, both GCSE and A-Level results were posted by the school (although not with the exact same metrics). Even so, results were similarly strong from SES students. In the 2020 GSCSEs, 52% of students achieved Grades 9 to 8 (A** or A*) – the UK national average for this achievement was only 15.3%. 98% achieved Grades 9 to 5 (A** to B), an incredibly impressive number when you consider that only 2% of the cohort achieved less than a Grade 5 (B). SES again enjoyed a 100% pass rate, with all students achieving Grades 9 to 4 (A** to C) – the UK national average, by comparison, is 78.8%.
Special mentions go to Diya Shebeen, who achieved a complete set of Grade 9 qualifications; Katrin Talih, who achieved eight Grade 9s and one Grade 8; and Avni Chaturvedi, who achieved six Grade 9s and three Grade 8s.
In 2018, SES students achieved a 100% pass rate. According to the school’s Facebook page, 24% of results were a Grade 9 (A** equivalent) – compare this with the 2% of students who achieve a Grade 9 worldwide. 70% of students achieved A* to B grades; 40% of these were A* to A grades. 56% of results were at Grades 9 to 7 (A** to A), while 90% of results were Grades 9 to 5 (A** to B). Finally, 98% of results came in at Grades 9 to 4 (A** to C).
As for A-Level results, which were also based on Teacher Assessed Grades, students similarly excelled in 2021. Although a considerably smaller cohort of students than in the previous two years, a total of 24 students were entered for 74 examinations. Over a quarter of results were at A* (26%), with over half (51%) of entries awarded A*-A. 96% were awarded A*-C, and 100% of entries achieved A*-E (pass) grades. A* awards were particularly impressive, being double those of 2020 (when 13% were awarded the top grade.
In 2020, 90% of all awarded grades were in the A* to B range (whereas the UK national average for this was 49.4%), and 54% of grades were either A* or A (double the UK national average of 27.1%). The failure rate was minimal, with 99% of all students achieving A* to E.
Star A-Level performers were Martus Chan, who achieved 3 A* grades and 2 As, and Jeff Lee, who achieved 2* grades and 2 As. Destinations for the last cohort of Year 13 graduates included King’s College, London; University College, London; University of Warwick; University of Durham; Queen Mary University; and Queen’s University Belfast. Other international destinations included KU Leuven, Belgium; Charles University, Czech Republic; Australia; Canada; Germany; South Africa; and the UAE.
SES offers prospective Sixth Form applicants “a fully established and proven system for supporting college applications, through staff mentoring and assistance with all aspects of their applications; from personal statements and personal essays to enhancing their applications with extra-curricular achievements and responsibilities”. And SES certainly doesn’t seem to limit its expertise to certain universities and countries – destinations for SES alumni have included the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Germany, and the UAE.
SES is one of the few schools in Sharjah to be accredited and inspected by British Schools Overseas (BSO) and British Schools in the Middle East (BSME), and the results of the reports issued lend a lot to the school’s excellent reputation. The BSME, for example, has noted that the quality of teaching and learning at SES is above their required standard, and the BSO inspections, which occur every three years, have consistently marked SES as an outstanding school.
In the 2016 BSO report, comments were extremely complimentary, remarking that the school was highly effective in meeting its mission of ‘providing quality British education to children aged 3 to 18 in an inclusive, caring environment, which also offers them stimulation and challenge’. Inspectors noted that:
“the dedication of teachers is reflected in the positive achievements of the students. A good proportion of students across the school attain higher grades than their peers in the United Kingdom”.
“Students are happy, articulate and confident learners. Their attitudes, values, and behaviours are excellent.”
“Responses received from a range of parent and student questionnaires indicate strong support for the school and recognition of the high quality of education it provides.”
The most recent BSO report, from 2019, indicated that SES continues to excel at maintaining its exceptional standards:
“Sharjah English School is an outstanding school: it is very effective and standards across all areas are high. The school is well led and managed, and all stakeholders take a keen interest in the success of the school. As a result, students’ attainment is above what is normally expected across all phases of the school. Students are well disciplined, confident and articulate. Even the youngest students behave responsibly.”
“The school has accurately self-evaluated its performance. The school’s senior leadership team and board of governors continually monitor and evaluate the standards at the school against external judgements. This has enabled the school to identify and focus on the priority areas. Consequently, the school has grown and developed into a school with an outstanding reputation in its community.”
“The school offers a rich and broad curriculum that includes design and technology, music, art and drama at a high standard. Through the curriculum students explore areas that help to prepare them for life beyond the school.”
One area of the note that has been mentioned in the BSO reports is the ‘Britishness’ of the school, which has been successfully delivered in an international setting. The reports state that “the appearance, nature and ethos of the school are recognisably British. An original founding imperative was to provide an education based on UK principles, procedures and a curriculum that would permit children to join or re-join the UK education system without disadvantage at any stage”.
An example of this is SES’ celebration of special UK events, such as the Royal Wedding, Remembrance Day, and the London Olympics. For UK parents who want their children to maintain a cultural link with their home country, this is a desirable offering; however, it is therefore important that non-UK parents are aware of how significant British traditions are at the school.
In terms of local inspections, the Ministry of Education (MOE) accredited the school in 2014, based on the evaluation of six key focus areas: the leadership of the school; the school as a community; the school’s approach to student learning; the classroom climate; students’ personal development; and students’ attainment and progress. All six areas were evaluated as highly effective.
Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis. With the initiation of SPEA (Sharjah Private Education Authority), the intention is that schools will be inspected using the common framework already in place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
However, SPEA has decided to seek a collaborative approach with the schools for this process, and although we understand that initial inspections did take place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, results of these inspections have not been published.
As a result of the pandemic, Sharjah schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations (DLE), implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). In its most recent Distance Learning Review Report (2020), SES’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Developed.
Inspectors noted that SES “places a strong emphasis on the care and wellbeing of students, particularly to ensure their safety when online and their knowledge of what to do if they feel unsafe”. They also remarked that attendance was high and that students showed positive attitudes to learning.
In terms of teaching, the evaluation commended teachers for planning a wide variety of interesting and engaging learning activities, employing a range of online learning tools that students are adept at using. Inspectors reported that SES teachers “plan learning activities that take account of students’ home circumstances and they make sure students know what they are learning about and what to do”. They also noted that students were receiving regular feedback about work, and that SES maintained strong communication with parents through the use of formal termly reports and regular on-going feedback.
Finally, the report noted that the school “continues to deliver a wide range of activities outside of the core academic curriculum that support the creative and sporting opportunities students normally enjoy”. In terms of future Covid-19 developments, inspectors were confident that the school’s plans were well-developed and included a thorough analysis of various possible scenarios, such as the extension of distance learning.
With regard to areas for improvement, suggestions from inspectors were minimal, and mainly focused on expanding provisions already in place. For example, the evaluation suggested SES further develop its communication with parents about their children’s progress, and that they increase parents’ access to support networks.
The full BSO reports are available on our website. If you would like to read the full DLE inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.
At just under 100,000 square metres, the SES site, which was generously donated by HRH The Ruler of Sharjah, is among the largest of any UAE school.
Outdoor facilities on this enormous campus include rugby, football, and cricket pitches (with real grass); a running track; a grandstand; and acres of landscaped grounds. Students also have access to a Sports Hall and swimming pool. With some of the most impressive sporting facilities in the UAE, SES hosts numerous Sharjah and Dubai inter-school events, and has plenty of space left for future building and facility developments.
The Performing Arts Building, which opened in 2012, greatly enhanced SES’ facilities by providing a new auditorium, whole-school library, ICT Suite, Learning Support rooms, and Music rooms. Similarly, the school’s latest addition, the Acorn Building, opened in late 2017 to provide new learning spaces and experiences for KG and infant students. The Acorn Building has numerous bright, airy classrooms and shared learning zones, all of which are designed around a central corridor, which encourages students to get away from traditional classroom learning and instead “lead their own learning opportunities in an active and engaging environment”. The school’s youngest students benefit from things like a construction area, a creative writing section, a mini-stage, and a role play area.
SES has a Parent Support Group (PSG) which it describes as a “vital part of the Sharjah English School community” – their main objective is encouraging community spirit, rather than focusing on the running of the school or school policies. All parents are invited to get involved with the PSG, where they can attend weekly meetings, volunteer, and offer new ideas.
The PSG runs two major events each year to raise money: The Winter Fayre and the International Picnic. Examples of recent projects funded by the PSG include the installation of an updated Wi-Fi system throughout the school; shading for the swimming pool; new playground equipment; new ICT equipment; the provision of digital cameras; new PE equipment; the installation of music and sound systems; new interactive white boards; and additions to the grounds such as gazebos and trellis tables.
In terms of feedback for SES on the WhichSchoolAdvisor website, a total of 20 reviews have given the school an impressive rating of 4.0 out of 5 – in other words, an approval rating of 80%. It is well-known that SES has strong support from the local community, and the responses on the website certainly reflect this.
In terms of student experience, it’s clear that SES provides an inclusive, stimulating environment, one which makes students feel proud to be a part of the community. 90% of parent responses said that their children felt either a tremendous amount of belonging (70%) at SES, or at least quite a bit (20%). The exact same numbers reported that their children enjoyed going to school either tremendously or quite a bit. In addition, 55% of reviewers said that SES had improved their child’s confidence ‘a great deal’, while another 30% said it had improved their child’s confidence ‘a lot’.
Moving on to parent experience, responses are similarly positive. 70% of reviewers completely agree that for the standard of education being provided, the school offers good value for money; another 20% partially agree. Meanwhile, a very impressive 90% of reviewers felt completely satisfied with their child’s academic performance at SES, and 80% were either ‘extremely confident’ or ‘quite confident’ that the school could meet their child’s specific learning needs. Finally, 70% of reviewers felt satisfied with the level of feedback they received from the school; only 10% of the total were unsatisfied.
It should be noted that 50% of reviewers did mention that they felt the need to offer additional tutoring to their child, to supplement school learning. However, it should be taken into consideration that this is often a reflection of parents’ standards for their children, rather than any kind of educational failing on the school’s part.
In terms of general policies at the school, the structuring and running of SES is applauded by parents. For example, 50% of reviewers reported that they were not at all concerned about bullying at SES. And although 25% of responses did come in at the opposite end of the scale, as ‘extremely concerned’, 85% of the same review group responded that they were satisfied with the school’s disciplinary policy, while another 5% were at least partially satisfied. As a result, it looks as though any incidents of bullying that may arise are dealt with in a swift and appropriate manner.
It is without doubt that SES must do a lot of work to maintain its exceptional reputation; 60% of parents called expectations at the school ‘very high’, while another 30% called them ‘extremely high’. The school must therefore ensure that students are well-cared for and don’t fall prey to stress, over-competitiveness, and pressure from both staff and parents. But, for now, it seems as though SES juggles these different areas with unwavering skill, as 90% of parents would recommend SES to another parent. And even with more and more impressive new schools opening in Sharjah and the surrounding Emirates, 70% of parents have not even considered moving their child from their current place at SES.
This is of course only a small sampling of feedback on SES, but you won’t be surprised to find similar responses everywhere. All in all, it looks as though SES’ claim that they are one of the most ‘well-loved’ schools in Sharjah has plenty of evidence to back it up, and all the right ideas to keep a hold of that title.
Currently located in University City, SES is easily accessible to students from Sharjah, Ajman, Mirdiff, and most of Dubai. However, while parents may see this as a major plus, the popularity and accessibility of the school means that prospective students are guaranteed to encounter some pretty lengthy waiting lists. Many parents believe though that SES is worth the wait, due to its excellent academic record, close-knit feel, and overwhelmingly positive reputation.
If you are a parent, teacher, or senior student at SES, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by taking part in our survey.
SES is a non-selective school, and entry is open to students of all abilities. Applications are accepted at any time of year, and while most students join at the start of the academic year in September, many are also welcomed in January (at the start of Term 2) or in April (at the start of Term 3).
Entirely unsurprisingly, a school that delivers such an excellent education does not come cheap, and fees for SES are set just below what you would find at other top-end England and Wales-based curriculum schools. FS1 fees start at AED 26,400 per year, while parents with children taking A-Levels can expect to pay AED 67,600 per year. These fees do however include all books, medical services, and classroom supplies (although Secondary students are expected to provide their own stationery). The only things these fees do not include are school uniform and transport.
However, due to the exceptional reputation that the school enjoys, entry can be a challenge. Shortlisted applicants must take an assessment, and there is a non-refundable fee of AED 400 for the testing and the MOE registration process. It should be noted that this fee is payable whether the child is eventually offered a place or not. The other major fee upon joining SES is the AED 5,000 advance, which can be refunded/used against only the final term’s fees.
Discounts are available at SES for families who have three or more children enrolled in the school; in this event, the eldest child/children is eligible for a 10% discount on term tuition fees.
Sharjah English 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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