Star Private School (SPS), formally known as Al Najma Private School, offers a British curriculum education to students from KG1 to Grade 8. All Kindergarten and Primary classes work towards the holistic development of Star students by emphasising the importance of virtues such as tolerance, humbleness, and patience.
Star Private School (SPS) opened in August of 2003 as Al Najma Private School. Situated in the popular area of Al Azra, SPS’s Mission focuses on helping students to achieve excellence in both academic and non-academic fields, all amid a supportive and caring environment. To reach these goals and develop such an environment, SPS relies not only on the staff and school leadership, but on the wider community as well:
“With the unprecedented support of our parent community we hope to make our institution one of the premier institutions in the vicinity.”
SPS’ central focus is on the holistic development of each child, where the “academic, creative, emotional, moral, social and physical needs of every student are addressed through specially formulated programs”. Educating an eclectic mix of students from different parts of the world, all students are united by the core values of the school: Love and Respect for Parents and Elders; Concern for Fellow Human Beings; Responsibility;Optimism; Belief in God; Care for Nature; and A Healthy Way of Living.
SPS has its own unique thoughts on education today, which guide the approach that it takes with its students. The school explains its belief that current education “lacks the inculcation of tolerance, humbleness, patience, loyalty and kindness – virtues that are essential to be a good human being and this is the main cause of unrest in the youngsters of today”. Whether or not parents may agree about this unrest, the core tenets of SPS emphasise the development of a common humanity, which many may be drawn to in such a rapidly-changing world.
That is not to say that SPS shuns advancements – the school “has child friendly classrooms to facilitate modern teaching methodologies and has thus embraced the advantages that higher technology has to offer, thereby ensuring its smooth blending with traditional chalk and talk method”. Students are therefore still taught to navigate the abundance of information that is changing today’s world, and experience an education that transcends the confines of the classroom and pages of the text books.
SPS certainly seems like a school where its leadership are always looking to new trends in education, and working to help students adapt to a changing world. The school’s Chairman, Jesus S. M. Lall, notes in his welcome message that the “traditional emphasis on the absorption of knowledge has now shifted to the ability to access and utilize it efficiently. Self-reliance is the key to self-development and good teachers today empower their pupils to become self-learners”.
As a result, the staff at SPS are expected to be competent, committed, and exude an air of warmth, to encourage students to pursue knowledge while holding onto their core values amid an ever-changing, information-filled world. Learning at SPS is intended to be a “joyous process”, where students determine their own learning as much as teachers lead them through required subjects; this focus on independence is further echoed by the school’s Principal, Samira Nabil:
“We believe that as educators, it’s our prime responsibility to honor [sic], value and support all the children in our care . . . Star Private School strives to open new avenues for its learners by acknowledging and encouraging their personal interests, talents, and needs”.
KG classes start at 8.00am and finish at 11.45am, while the school day for Grades 1 to 8 runs from 8.00am to 1.40pm. SPS currently has over 1,200 students enrolled, and works to ensure that each of them is given the individual attention they may need. For example, parents of KG students are welcome to meet their child’s class teacher on the last Thursday of every month, between 11.45am and 12.30pm. Similarly, parents are able to meet with the Principal on all working days, between 12.00pm and 1.00pm (although it is recommended that parents call the school office to confirm availability and fix an appointment first.)
Star offers a Kindergarten and Primary education based on the National Curriculum for England. In the school’s own words, the planning and practice of the curriculum aims “to ensure that lessons are challenging and have pace and direction, excellence is pursued and valued for the whole class and also match their individual needs”.
SPS calls its Kindergarten a ‘Special Learning Ground’, in which the curriculum is child-orientated, primarily focused around play and the individuality of each child, and divided into six broad areas of learning and development: Communication and Language Skills; Numeracy and Problem Solving Skills; Knowledge and Understanding of the World; Creative Development; Social and Emotional Development; and Physical Development.
SPS students are exposed to a variety of exciting and positive experiences, as well as hands-on activities, which enable them to explore and enliven their interests. The school strongly believes that children need to be happy in order to learn, and that a “child friendly vibrant and stimulating environment helps to nurture children’s innate joy of learning”. This atmosphere comes from the SPS staff, qualified and experienced teachers who motivate children with love and care, enhancing students’ curiosity and helping them to satisfy their urge to enquire and learn.
There is no formal testing in the Kindergarten classes; instead, teachers continually observe, monitor, and document the progress of each student. At the end of every term, parents are sent an appraisal of their child’s performance, based on these observations. While early learning goals do keep international curriculum standards in mind, the main priority at this stage is to ensure a ranged and balanced programme that will allow all students to develop at their own pace and achieve their potential.
For students who move on to the Primary school at SPS, they will find a focus on nurturing in all dimensions of life – Spiritual, Moral, Cognitive, Emotional, Imaginative, Aesthetic, Social, and Physical. The curriculum, again modelled on the National Curriculum for England, continues to be activity-based, child-centric, and experiential in nature. At the core of this curriculum is an emphasis on Literacy, Numeracy, and Language; however, the school also takes into account the changing needs and importance of Science and Technology, Social and Health Education, and Citizenship.
SPS describes its curriculum as ‘a vehicle for discovery’, a safe, joyful, and intellectually stimulating journey which “is designed to help the children develop an understanding of themselves as individuals and as members of a global community”. Students are provided with opportunities at all levels to become active and independent learners, so that they can become self-reliant, compassionate, and able to make a positive impact on the world.
Subjects taken by SPS students include English; Mathematics; Science; Computer Science; Social Studies; Islamic Studies; Arabic Language; Physical Education; Art/Craft; and Music. Students also have the option to take a second language, either Urdu or French. Arabic Language, Islamic Studies, and Social Studies are all compulsory, and students in Grades 4 to 8 take annual exams conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
To keep with modern times, SPS shies away from traditional, more formal types of testing, and instead makes use of continuous assessments which are informal and developmental in nature. At SPS, students’ promotion to the next Grade is based on the percentage of their overall performance (each students’ promotion is based on 30% of their 1st term, 35 % of their 2nd term, and 35 % of the 3rd term). Grades 1 to 5 undertake continuous in-class assessments for all subjects, details of which are provided by their teachers ahead of time. Meanwhile, students in Grades 6 to 8 undergo the same continuous assessments, but also take an exam at the end of each term, which determines their pass percentage.
For all Grades, the minimum pass percentage for each subject is as follows:
Arabic – 50%
Islamic Studies – 50 %
Social Studies – 40 %
All other subjects – 40 %
The top-scoring students will be awarded Proficiency Prizes at the end of each academic year, while students who fail to keep up with the requirements at each level will be held back in the same class. Students will also be help back in they fail the school’s three compulsory subjects (Arabic Language, Islamic Studies, and Social Studies). Because students can be prevented from moving on to the next Grade, regardless of how long they have been at the school, SPS asks that parents ensure their children are receiving appropriate help at home, in an effort to avoid such instances.
As a school that values the holistic development of each child, SPS also offers a wide array of activities and events, both in classes and outside of them. For example, annual competitions include a Spelling Bee; an Islamic Competition; Poem Recitation; English Elocution; Inter-House quizzes; and Sports Day. Recent events for the Kindergarten students have included Daddy’s Day Out; an Eco Friendly Fancy Dress Competition; a Garden Day; a KG Sports Day; the KG Picnic; Spots and Stripes Day; and Welcome Day. Meanwhile, Primary school events have included World Food Day; National Day; the Star Carnival; Market Day (which is a chance for students to explore entrepreneurship); and Grandparent’s Day.
Students in the past have enjoyed educational trips to mosques, museums, and even Legoland Dubai. And while co-curricular and extra-curricular programmes have been more difficult to offer during Covid-19 times, SPS has made sure that students still get the chance to celebrate and great creative outside of lessons – teachers have organised a number of Distance Learning events, such as Earth Day, Ramadan celebrations, a Science Competition, and the Star Student Awards.
There is no mention of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provisions on the SPS website.
As is common with Sharjah-based schools, SPS has not made any of its student exam results available to the public. As a result, it is difficult to tell what kind of academic achievement prospective parents can expect.
Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis; while there were a few instances of inspections being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, schools did not generally publish the outcomes. 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), Star’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Partially Developed.
The evaluation found that students were attending online learning sessions regularly, helping them to run smoothly by showing respectful behaviour, and ultimately keeping their learning continuing. Inspectors noted that the school had ensured that students had access to the necessary resources and IT skills needed to access online learning, and were being helped to manage their workloads effectively so that they could still have time to interact with their peers.
In terms of teacher planning and school leadership, inspectors felt that SPS was taking into account the resources that may be available to students, and were ensuring that learning outcomes were being shared clearly during live sessions. The review also noted that the school was communicating well with a range of stakeholders, including parents and Governors.
However, despite the positive aspects, the evaluation also noted a number of area which could be improved with further development. Firstly, inspectors felt that SPS needed to provide “clear guidance to ensure students know what to do and who to approach if they feel unsafe when online”. Secondly, inspectors encouraged staff to provide a “wider variety of teaching and learning approaches to support distance learning and the provision of regular assessment and feedback to help students know and understand their progress”. Finally, the evaluation noted that the school needed to provide further detail for both short- and long-term planning, so that SPS was prepared for a range of possible scenarios, such as the extension of distance learning.
If you would like to read the full inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.
The SPS campus is a large, well-equipped building in the traditional white-wash style, with a decent grassed space outside for sports. Facilities at SPS include a dedicated play area for Kindergarten students; a Computer Lab; a Science Lab; a Prayer Room; a Library; an Activity Room; an Audio/Visual Room; an Auditorium; a School Canteen; a School Store; and a Medical Facility.
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Unfortunately, SPS does not provide any information about fees on its website (although it does note that all prospective students will be required to take a basic entrance assessment). For parents seeking admission information for SPS, the school should be contacted directly.
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