St. Mary's High School is opening its sixth school in the United Arab Emirates, with the latest to open its gates in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in September 2019.
The story so far...
Located in the Khalifa Bin Zayed City area of Ras Al Khaimah, in the RAK Education Zone, the new school offers the British curriculum from the Foundation Stage (FS) to A level, with a capacity for approximately 1,800 students. The school has initially opened from FS1 to Year 8 in September 2019. Management of the school is by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, who also oversee St. Mary’s Catholic High School Muhaisnah.
Currently, St. Mary’s Group of Schools has five schools located in Abu Dhabi (St. Joseph's, one of two not named St. Mary's), Dubai (Oud Metha and Muhaisnah), Sharjah (School of Knowledge) and Fujairah, serving approximately 8,500 students in the United Arab Emirates. All of the St Mary's schools aim to cater to the holistic development of each child, with the aim of providing a high quality education, affordability, positive discipline and values. They also offer opportunities for the students to participate in projects related to social and environmental issues.
The new school plans to have some 10 classes in the Foundation Stage, and 30 classes each in the Primary and Secondary sections. Average class sizes will be 25 in FS and 30 through the remainder of the school. Some 60 to 70 staff from various international backgrounds are expected to join the school and will provide a staff:student ratio of 1:14 - a reasonably low figure that will ensure that students receive the individual support they require. St. Mary's anticipates some 20 student nationalities within the school.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com was pleased to learning that St. Mary's will invest in their staff's development. They told us that "Great teachers help create great students; therefore the school [will have] a strong professional development programme, supported by the St. Mary’s Group of Schools. Teacher training is focused on teaching and learning, keeping them up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, new curriculum resources, and more".
The school will also have a strong Inclusion programme for students with additional learning needs. The school will allocate budget to buy resources and make provision for children who need additional help. This may take various forms including changes to the curriculum, special equipment or teaching materials, the use of additional information technology, small group work, support in the classroom, a base to work in or have quiet time or hands-on materials. Support for children who are English-language learners will also be provided.
St. Mary's states that "We develop the children holistically, hence all learning areas are treated as equally important but our focus is hands on learning across all subjects and to make sure students are happy in the school."
What about the curriculum?
In common with the other St. Mary's school, the RAK school will follow the UK National Curriculum Standards for English, Maths, Science, Information and technology, History, Geography, Art and design, Music, Physical education (PE), including swimming, Ancient and modern foreign languages (at Key stage 2), Religious Education and Moral Education. Arabic for both native and non-native speakers will be included in line with Ministry of Education requirements.
In the Early Years (ages 3 to 4), learning will be play based. Children will acquire their first understanding of numeracy and literacy through active, playful activities. The use of specialised learning stations will be set up for individual and small group hands-on learning. By the end of the Early Years, most children have acquired basic reading and number skills and a grounding a second language.
In the Primary school (ages 5 to 11) the focus is on learning fundamental Maths and English language skills. Science, Technology, Humanities and Art will be covered as multidisciplinary topics and through projects. This will be grounded with specific projects being undertaken individually in small groups. The use of technology drives the learner to do and discover more.
The curriculum in lower Secondary (ages 11 to 14) is more subject based and aims at building students ability to work independently and think critically. At this stage the emphasis will be on exposing students to opportunities in a wide range of subjects so that they can begin to become responsible and form ideas of where their interests will bring them in terms of future studies and careers.
Students in Year 10 and 11, having followed a two-year course, take external General Certificates in Education (GCSE) examinations in at least 8 subjects, administered by the London Edexcel GCSE Board. All students will follow the core subjects of English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Arabic, Islamic Studies/Bible or Citizenship Studies and French, and supplement their programme with optional choices. The options are designed in a block formation which will differ each year according to student demand. Students will be able to choose three subjects from: Art, Business Studies, Accountancy, Economics, Computer Studies, Geography, History and Physical Education. This is a surprisingly well-rounded list of options compared with many low to mid-range fee schools offering the National Curriculum in the UAE.
St. Mary's RAK will offer the following subjects at A Level: Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, Psychology and English. The examining board will be the London Edexcel GCE Board.
There will be consultation with students to obtain views regarding the provision of additional subjects for A Level study. If there is sufficient demand students will be given this opportunity, for example to study History or Art.
In addition to the academic programmes, St. Mary's RAK also plans to offer an extensive range of extra-curricular activities including Dance Class, Cooking Class, Taekwondo, Smart Club (Reading and Mathematics Enhancement), Mandarin Class, Art Class, Theatre Arts, Media designs, Voice Lesson, Lyre and drum, Music lessons for advanced students, and Creative Arts (writing and speaking). Parents will be able to choose one or two offerings. The programmes will be offered every Thursday and Saturday. Payment will depend on the choices parents make for their children.
What about facilities?
The new RAK school has been be purpose-built, with large modern classrooms, equipped with a wide range of technology to enhance teaching and learning, and Wi-Fi throughout the campus. There is a large multi-purpose hall for sports, assemblies and performance programmes, and a swimming pool, an outdoor soccer pitch and basketball courts.
Announcing the plans for the RAK school, Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, said:
“We are pleased to be able to extend our school system into the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. We believe that an education in any of our Catholic schools, which welcomes students of all religions, nationalities and cultures, will provide them with an excellent academic formation and integral human development. Particular emphasis is laid on imbibing the values of tolerance, respect and justice, which resonate strongly within the society of the UAE.”
Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAK Education Zone said:
“St. Mary’s High School is another great addition to the family of qualified education providers we have at the Academic Zone and Ras Al Khaimah but of course, we’re not stopping here as we will continue attracting first-rate institutions which can provide the best learning experience to students of all ages.”
All of the schools in the St. Mary's group are managed and operated by the Catholic Church in the UAE, under the leadership of Bishop Paul Hinder.
The new school in RAK will give priority to students attending the School of Knowledge in Sharjah (which is Primary only) for entry to the Secondary school. However, the school anticipates that demand will outstrip supply. There will be an Entrance test in Mathematics and English for all applicants from Year 1 to Year 8. An interview will be conducted for EYFS 1 applicants.
Fees will range from AED 11,500 in FS1 to AED 16,500 in Years 7 and 8, with fees for Year 9 upwards to be announced in due course. Books and transport will be additional.
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