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The Arbor School Review

The Arbor School opened in Al Furjan in September 2018. Now in its second year of operation, the British Curriculum School has a particular focus on ecological awareness, responsibility and sustainability.
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4.4 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Availability 2019/20
fiber_manual_record All grades
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Annual fee average
AED 55,000
Annual fees
AED 28,000 - 63,750
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2018
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Brett Girven
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities

Nearby nurseries

2.8km • EYFS curriculum
2.8km
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The Arbor School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Availability 2019/20
fiber_manual_record All grades
Availability 2020/21
not_interested No
Annual fee average
AED 55,000
Annual fees
AED 28,000 - 63,750
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2018
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Brett Girven
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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First Published:
Thursday 18 May, 2017

Updated:
Monday 14 October, 2019

The Arbor School opened in Al Furjan in September 2018. Now in its second year of operation, the British Curriculum School has a particular focus on ecological awareness, responsibility and sustainability.

The story so far...

The Arbor School is intended to be a premium all-through school (currently open to Year 7 and growing organically to Year 13) located to the south of Dubai.  The school is expected to serve families in Al Furjan, Discovery Gardens, and Jebel Ali Village and is within easy reach of Jumeirah Village Triangle, Green Community, Dubai Sports City, the International Media Production Zone, and Dubai Marina.

It is the first school in Dubai with a core curriculum focused around ecological education and sustainability, providing its students with "opportunities to plan, collaborate, reflect and make meaningful changes to the world around them."

The Arbor School describes itself as one that was "inspired by an ecologist and taught by a community of passionate educators".

The school's mission states that "The Arbor School provides a positive, caring and compassionate school environment, in which learners can shine in many different ways. Arbor students shall become innovative and capable leaders, with a strong set of ethical values, anchored by a deep sense of environmental justice and sustainability".

The school has identified four main differentiators that its leaders believe sets it apart from other schools in Dubai. 

  1. Science. Ecology is a critical component to the curriculum including resources, books and activities for children. This includes special programmes that are built around field trips to the deserts, mangrove swamps and heritage sites across the UAE.
  2. Design. The building has been designed with a focus on sustainability, including one biodome in which food will be grown for students to enjoy as a part of their school meals. 
  3. Curriculum. The teaching methodology incorporates Project Based Learning, together with experiential and outdoor learning. The school's resident scientist and a resident artist work with the children on their projects, learning across the curriculum.
  4. Child care. The school is investing heavily in pastoral care to ensure the students are supported emotionally as well as academically.

The Arbor School will have both a scientist and artist in residence, "who will inspire the whole school community to think and act differently, facilitating their engagement with environmental projects both locally and globally."  This initiative is designed to provide students will real-world access to professional artists and scientists, so that they can learn more about opportunities in these fields and the skills needed to develop in these professions.

The school aims to equip students with the concrete skills necessary to take ideas into action through an experiential, project-based approach to learning and a mind-set of experimentation and free-inquiry. This is completed through the adoption of a curriculum chosen to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals as outlined by the United Nations in 2015 and is enhanced by use of bespoke biodomes, learning gardens and experiential programmes. 


The Biodomes at The Arbor School Dubai

What about the curriculum?

The Arbor School follows an enriched British curriculum at all stages, leading to GCSE and A Levels as the school grows. The curriculum offered at the Arbor School is "an essential response to changes in the nature of schooling, as well as changes in society and the environment. The school will therefore identify themes and real-life topics of interest that provide meaningful contexts, allowing for project-based, cross-curricular topic approaches in which independent learning flourishes".

Over the two years of the Early Years Foundation Stage, FS1 and FS2 children gradually develop reading and writing skills through a series of progressive activities, including mark making, phonics work and numeracy skills. They look at the wider world and try to understand how and why things happen. The Arbor School places a strong emphasis on experiential and outdoor learning and a love of nature. Students also have the chance to explore and experiment with art, music and other creative pursuits.

Learning outcomes within the Primary School are based upon the British Curriculum with specific focus placed upon literacy and numeracy. The curriculum is enriched through specialist lessons for languages and creative subjects, highlighted by a core commitment to experiential learning and participation within the ‘Artists and Scientists in Residence’ programme.

Upon entering the Secondary school, the programme of study is carefully sequenced within each subject to ensure fundamental knowledge and skills are mastered. Where it is supports and enriches the curriculum, secondary students make use of the specialist teaching spaces, including the food technology, science and design technology laboratories; the expressive arts facilities and the green spaces.

In all subjects, learning frameworks within each unit of work provide sequential assessment activities. After completion of tasks, students are provided with regular and precise formative guidance so that they learn how to improve in preparation for subsequent tasks. At each stage of assessment, students are provided with tasks that ensure that they reflect upon their work and engage with targets set.

The Key Stage 5 (Sixth Form) curriculum will include a wide range of academic pathways, with an opportunity to also engage in technical and vocational subjects. By being able to provide a wide choice of options, in combination with a rigorous A-Level programme, students at the Arbor School will be well prepared for life and further study at the end of Year 13.

The school's Promise states that "Students at Arbor are expected to demonstrate hard work and effort in all that they do. They are proactive in their learning, resilient when faced with a challenge and collaborative in solving problems. Arbor students are exceptionally caring, with an acute sense of compassion for others. Students at Arbor are expected to demonstrate hard work and effort in all that they do. They are passionate about the world around us and act with integrity and ingenuity when striving for a sustainable future".

What about the facilities?

The Arbor School provides a very high standard of physical facilities consistent with its educational aspirations on a campus area of 30,000 m2. The building includes three large climate-controlled biodomes and three small ones, and atria and learning gardens in which students can regularly interact with soils, flora and fauna as a fundamental part of their educational experience.


Discovering flora and fauna at The Arbor School

Facilities also include specialised science laboratories, art rooms, an auditorium and associated black box, libraries, canteen areas, film photography rooms and vocational workshops. In addition to these, sports are also well resourced and include a FIFA compliant soccer pitch, a multi-purpose hall for indoor sports, a variety of outdoor courts and a specially designed swimming pool. All classrooms are equipped with breakout spaces for work with individuals and smaller groups both inside the classroom and in adjacent hallways.

Principal, Mr. Brett Girven explains that The Arbor School team will leverage their experience to create an engaging environment that ensures the best in terms of individual student progress and growth.

“Through project based learning and an extensive focus on building student awareness of ecological and environmental mindfulness, the Arbor School is truly unique. We believe that our approach will empower students and sharpen their critical thinking skills by raising their awareness and understanding of the world around them, whilst encouraging them to seek solutions that instigate change.”

Who are The Arbor School's Leaders?

Given the school’s very specific focus on the environment and sustainability, it has also brought some serious hitters to the team. Current CEO and one of the founding board members, Dr. Saad Al Omari comes with a Doctorate in Paleo-climatology from Cambridge in the UK; the Director of Education, Mr. Ken Jones is a Geographer and Environmental studies major, and the new Principal Mr. Brett Girven is a zoologist with post graduate studies in Environmental Science. Under their leadership, they will ensure that the strong ecological ethos of the Arbor School is fully embedded into the curriculum, with themes of eco-literacy, sustainability and environmental justice incorporated into daily practice.

Further strengthening efforts to create a fully inclusive environment for all students at Arbor is the Head of Partnerships and Pastoral Care, Merushka Hansraj. Her experience in education spans 20 years and her specialisation in learning difficulties and disabilities will ensure that every student at Arbor has a tailored pathway based on his or her unique learning styles.

Supporting the personalised learning approach is the Head of Inclusion, Rachel Smith-Green, who is responsible for managing the processes to identify gifted students as well as those with additional education and language requirements. She has worked with students with conditions such as autism, Downs syndrome, ADHD and emotional behavioural difficulties. In 2014, she co-established the Dubai Inclusion Network (formerly Dubai SEN Network), reaching out to over a thousand teaching and medical professionals across the UAE, and developing training opportunities and mentoring programmes for SEND professionals across Dubai.

The Artist and Science-in-Residence will be appointed on rolling residencies and have the mission to bring awareness to both students and educators about the urgency of sustainability issues, with the view that nature, science and arts are in many ways complimentary. The Artist in Residence will work closely with the academic team at Arbor “to inspire children to find a dialogue between the human-made world and the natural environment, through ecological literacy and creative project-based learning.”

As the school's website states: Ecological and environmental concerns are particularly important in the context of the UAE’s rapid development and expansion and these are expressed in unique ways. The Gulf region is one of the most exciting worldwide in terms of the sustainability and conservation challenges that it faces. We emphasise the local and regional context of our school’s ecological and environmental ethos by focusing on issues affecting our environment. By active engagement with local and regional environmental organisations and initiatives, we encourage students to reflect on issues of sustainability, environmental impact and ethics as they affect societies in the Gulf and around the world.

Feedback from parents at the Arbor School to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey, though limited in number, is largely very positive. The majority of children have a strong sense of belonging and enjoy going to school. Parents are, to a greater or lesser extent, satisfied with the academic performance of the school and the feedback they receive. And despite the usual niggle about fees with 12% feeling that they do not represent value for money, 100% of respondents would recommend the school to other parents.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at the Arbor School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey

Whilst the students of The Arbor School alone will likely not be able to meet the challenges facing the globe in the context of ecological and environmental issues and its sustainable development, they are certainly likely to be rather better prepared to do so than the majority of students in education today.

What about the fees?

Approved KHDA fees for the Arbor School start at AED 56,000 for FS1 and rise to AED 95,000 for Year 13. However, in common with other new schools, the Arbor School has introduced reduced fees for the current academic year.

For students joining the school in 2019-20, there are varying rates of reduction from FS1 to Year 7.  Fees start at AED 28,000 in FS1, rising to AED 63,750 in Year 7.  Full details can be found under the fees and availability tab.  Additional fees for SEN provision are only charged for students whose level of need requires an additional contract.

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