Al Nahda-located The Sheffield Private School provides education for approximately 1,400 boys and girls aged three to 18 years, from Foundation Stage 1 to post-16, offering UK IGCSE, AS and A' Level exams. The latest KHDA report shows the school's improvement to a Good rating for the fourth year, highlighting the important changes taking place to raise student progress and attainment.
The Sheffield Private School, (TSPS) located in Al Nahda 2, is a rising school with improvements being made across all sections, thanks in large part to dynamic new leadership. After 8 years of stagnation in the KHDA ratings - Acceptable being the minimum rating expected by the Inspection teams - the upgrade to Good in the 2016/17 academic year was proof that new leadership and dedicated staff have made a real difference to the quality of education being delivered at this established school. The report for 2019-20 continues to indicate the path to improvement at the Sheffield School is still ongoing, albeit with some setbacks which we expect to be addressed rapidly.
Although former Principal, Matthew Edwards, who joined the school in 2015 and drove the improvement to the Good rating, has now moved on, the Acting Principal, whose position is expected to be confirmed shortly, is expected to follow his predecessor's lead.
The school states that its bold Vision at TSPS is "to make The Sheffield Private School the leading affordable British style school in Dubai. It will be a school that has an inclusive admissions policy which gives national and expatriate students access to a unique, culturally relevant curriculum. The curriculum will have the English National Curriculum at its core enhanced by an enriching extra-curricular programme which provides opportunity for every child to succeed – the Ultra Curriculum".
The Mission statement of the school says "At The Sheffield Private School, we aim to help every student develop academically, socially and emotionally".
At the time of the 2019-20 KHDA inspection, in November 2019, the Sheffield Private School had just over 1,400 students (a fall of approximately 100 on the previous year), who were being taught by some 111 UK/Irish teachers, supported by a further 39 teaching assistants. Staff turnover at the end of the last academic year was approximately 20%, in line with average staff turnover of between 20-22% in the UAE.
On a positive note, the teacher:student ratio had reduced to 1:13 from 1:15, presumably as a result of the reduction in student numbers - a real benefit to the students who are able to receive greater individual attention as a result.
The largest nationality group among the 1,400 students is Pakistani, but there are a wide range of nationalities represented in the school.
TSPS says that it is highly committed to inclusive education and admits students with a variety of needs including those who are gifted and talented, special educational needs, or have physical, emotional, social, cultural or language challenges. The SEN team seeks to identify the presence and impact of barriers to successful social, emotional and academic inclusion and success. Teachers provide differentiated learning opportunities for all students and provide materials appropriate to children’s interests and abilities. This ensures that all students have full access to the school curriculum.
According to the KHDA support for students of determination, and those who have gifts and talents, is effective. Students’ well-being is carefully fostered.
What about the Curriculum?
TSPS offers the National curriculum of England and Wales, following Early Years Foundation Stage programme in FS1 and FS2, before moving on to the Cambridge curriculum for Primary school.
In the Primary and Secondary phases, the syllabus closely follows the principles of the National Curriculum for England. From Years 10–13, the Senior Phase, students are prepared for the internationally recognised qualifications from the University of Cambridge, Oxford AQA, Edexcel and BTEC at IGCSE, AS and A Level. These lay the foundation for further study at university, college or entry into the professions.
In the Primary section, the core subjects taught are English, Mathematics, Science, Arabic, Islamic Education (Muslim students only), together with ICT, Art, Music, Physical Education, Social Studies, Personal, Social and Health Education, History, Geography, and French.
The school says that it aims "to help every student develop academically, socially and emotionally, with the firm belief that each child is a unique individual, needing a secure and stimulating atmosphere to prosper. It is our desire as educators to assist students to meet their fullest potential by nurturing the family values of warmth and care".
The Secondary curriculum is a continuation of the Primary and includes English, Mathematics, Science, Arabic, Islamic, Art, Geography, History, Social Studies, a Modern Foreign Language, Information Technology and ICDL, Physical Education, Personal, Health and Social Education, and Music.
A major step forward in the delivery of the curriculum at The Sheffield School is its adoption of High Performance Learning. HPL is a pedagogy that requires teachers to instill in their students thinking skills and a growth mindset in an enquiry-based learning environment. Developed by Professor Deborah Eyre, HPL sees all students as potential high performers who are not limited by ability. Some may take longer to reach high performance, but most are capable of this over time.
In following the HPL pedagogy, The Sheffield School is following the lead of a growing number of UK curriculum schools in Dubai including Outstanding rated GEMS Jumeirah College which was the first to introduce HPL to Dubai. A number of other GEMS schools have recently also adopted HPL.
High Performance Learning makes the goal of ‘high performance’ the expectation for all students in the school and uses a unique teaching and learning framework to systematically grow minds and develop the cognitive skills, values, attitudes and attributes needed to reach success. The aim at the Sheffield School is for its students to ‘be the best that they can be’.
Students in Key State 4 (Years 10 and 11), take the Cambridge International IGCSE exams and TSPS offers quite a broad range for a school in its fee bracket. Students have the choice of Mathematics, Statistics, English Language, English Literature, Media Studies, Islamic Education, Arabic 1st and 2nd Language, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Combined Science, Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, Environmental Management, Physical Education, ICT, French, Personal Health and Social Education. Unusually, the school offers a wider range of Humanities and Arts than many, including Art, History, Geography, Travel and Tourism, Sociology and Psychology.
As part of the two year Sixth Form programme, students are offered a range of AS Levels in Year 12 which they may then continue to A Level in Year 13. AS Level subjects included Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Information and Technology, Computer Science, Business Studies, Economics, Psychology, Politics, Media Studies, History, English Literature and Language, Sociology, and Arabic First Language.
A Level options are also relatively broad including Mathematics, English Literature, Islamic Education, Arabic 1st and 2nd Language, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Business Studies, and Accounting, as well as Sociology, Psychology, Art, Media Studies,History, Geography, and ICT. AS/A levels are internationally benchmarked qualifications providing excellent preparation for university education.
The Sheffield School is also a registered BTEC centre. Students who opt for BTEC courses in Year 12 will achieve a BTEC National Certificate and in Year 13, a BTEC National Subsidiary Diploma. BTEC Level 3 courses offered include Applied Science, ICT, Art and Design, Sport, Business Studies and Travel and Tourism - one of the broadest range BTEC options in the city.
The Sheffield School also believes that Education is so much more than academics; it also focuses on developing student’s into competent and confident global citizens. The school has adopted the Britus Education ultra-curriculum, a curriculum it describes as "education beyond four walls, text books and orthodox learning strategies, measuring the success of students based on their university and career placements, along with high academic results."
The curriculum is designed "to prepare students as ‘Post 21st century learners’ by developing the attitude of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and social reformers, creating high achievers. Based on the values of perseverance, integrity and trust, the ultra-curriculum develops students into open-minded, self-reflective, confident and continuous learners"
The focus of the Britus Ultra-curriculum is on Enrichment which "leads the development of the students beyond the regular curriculum". According to the school's explanation, "It improves parents’ involvement and engagement in school. Enrichment make students feel the sense of belonging to the community and promotes and measures the success of all extracurricular, engagement activities. Enrichment promotes international engagement between schools and global communities, along with the university placement and alumni career support system. Enrichment promotes alumni engagement in terms of scholarship support, internships and student entrepreneurship".
The school offers a range of Inclusive Enrichment Activities provided by teachers two days in a week. These activities vary from sports to artistic activities. Optional Enrichment activities are provided by professional companies and qualified trainers. They are conducted three days a week in the school’s premises and are chargeable and the cost depends on the activity.
Inclusive Enrichment Activities include Art/Craft/ Calligraphy and Design, Basketball, Biology/ Physics/Chemistry Revision Club, Board Games, Book Club, BTEC Catch Up, Business Club, Chess Club, Computer Coding, Debating/Public Speaking, Drama and Performance, Duke of Edinburgh, Eco Club, Economics Club/Accounting, Employability Workshops, English Revision Club, Environmental Club, Football, French Club, Funk Your Junk, Geography/History club, Grammar for Arabs, Guided Reading Club, Homework Club, ICT Club, Islamic Values, Lego Construction Club, Literacy Booster, Little Scientists Club, Maths Club/Mental Math Club, Mindfulness, Movie, Netball, Origami, Painting Club, Personality Development, Playdough, Quilling, Quiz Club, Quran Recitation/Memorisation, Reading and Writing Arabic, Reading Comprehension Club, Recycling Club, Statistics, Story Telling Club, Swimming Elite, and TSPS Entrepreneurs Club/Magazine.
Optional Enrichment Activities are provided by professional companies and qualified trainers and take place three days per week on the school’s premises, for which fees are charged. The Optional activities include Swimming, Karate, Football, Gymnastics, Ballet, Tennis, Zumba, Badminton, Afro Beat, Netball, Music Classes, Engineers To Be, Mad Science, and Advance Art and Craft.
Unfortunately, TSPS does not publish its overall examination results. However, we know from the most recent KHDA report that the regulator is positive in this respect - the DSIB inspection team noted that "Students’ results in external examinations in Year 11 and Year 13 continue to be strong... Results in international bench-marking tests are positive for students in the secondary phase".
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com firmly believe that whilst success in examinations is not the be-all and end-all of school's success, it is inevitably an important factor in making a school choice. We would encourage TSPS, which clearly has talented students, to make its results known.
The school is a fairly modern cream three storey u-shaped block, has regular square windows and two long arched windows either side of the entrance. A line of palm trees around the front of the block looks well established and softens the appearance of the frontage.
The school features a large, well-integrated building with grounds plus two floors and central air-conditioning. Spacious, naturally lit classrooms and wide corridors provide open circulation spaces. All classrooms are provided with networked computers, projectors and Interactive Smart Boards to aid teachers in the delivery of lessons. The school is Wi-Fi enabled so teachers can demonstrate online resources, and video streaming during the lessons. Tablets are also accessible during lessons to enhance individual learning of children. Three fully-equipped ICT labs are available where each student has access to their own computer to enable individual computer skills to be developed in line with curriculum subjects.
A well-resourced Art Studio and several music rooms provide students with opportunities to develop their artistic abilities. A well-resourced library, which includes a wide range of reading and resource material, is available to all students to support their learning and facilitate self-study. Three fully equipped laboratories are available, each specializing in an area of the Sciences to enhance the student’s learning experience. Preparation Rooms and Lab Assistants are also on-site to support the delivery of outstanding lessons
There are separate covered play areas for the Foundation Stage, Primary and Secondary students that provide a safe and secure environment for physical activity. Outside play and sports areas include a covered netball court and AstroTurf football and hockey pitches which are provided to enhance the range of sports offered to students in the school. There is a large, covered five lane swimming pool and a learner pool used by all students in the school. Both pools are temperature controlled and are connected with separate changing rooms for boys and girls.
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The school auditorium/multi-purpose hall has facilities for volleyball, badminton and basketball as well as a performance quality gymnastics floor system. It is provided with multimedia facilities to support the external and internal recreational/educational programmes, productions and assemblies.
Following on from its achievement of the Good rating in 2016/17 TSPS was again rated Good for the fourth year in the 2019/2020 inspection round. However, rather than further consolidating the school's performance, there were several backwards steps, which were something of a surprise.
Whilst children continued to make consistently good progress in the Foundation Stage attainment and progress in Primary and Secondary phases were found to be inconsistent, ranging, in the secondary phase, from weak in Arabic as a second language, to very good in English, mathematics and science. Attainment and progress in primary English and mathematics were downgraded to acceptable.
However, the inspection team did comment in relation to Primary English that "Recent initiatives are beginning to have a positive impact on students’ comprehension and higher-order reading skills. However, the majority of students in the primary phase do not attain standards above curriculum expectations for their age". It is evident that the school recognises its weaknesses and is addressing them.
The weakness in Primary English skills is also in part responsible for the impact on Primary Mathematics (also downgraded to Acceptable) as the inspectors noted "students’ acquisition of reasoning and problem-solving skills is not rapid enough. Their ability to tackle word problems is hindered by weaknesses in higher-order reading skills, and a lack of knowledge of mathematical language".
Despite the concerns raised in terms of Students' Achievement, almost all ratings for the other five key performance standards remained the same as in the prior year's report.
Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills were rated mainly Very Good with the exception of post-16 where they were largely Outstanding. Teaching for effective learning was rated Good across Foundation, Primary and Secondary, and Very Good in post-16, with the exception of Assessment in Primary which was downgraded to Acceptable. Inspectors found that assessment information was not consistently used to influence teaching and student progress across all core subjects.
Curriculum design and implementation remains a strength of TSPS, rated Very Good across the main sections of the school and Outstanding in post-16. How the adaptation of the curriculum to meet individual student needs was again rated Good, with the exception of post-16 where it was again found to be Very Good.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students remains a strength, with Health and Safety including child protection and safeguarding again rated Outstanding, and Care and Support rated Very good. Although the five key performance measures for Leadership and Management were again rated Good for the most part, Leadership was down-graded to Good from Very Good a year ago.
It would seem that the higher than historical level of staff turnover (also noted by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com) has contributed to some of the challenges being faced by the leadership of the school. Inspectors commented that "Leaders new to their posts are still acquiring a knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses in their areas of responsibility. They understand the best practices in teaching, curriculum, and, to a lesser extent, assessment. However, they do not ensure consistently high-quality teaching or consistent curriculum progression in all subjects".
Overall, the DSIB inspection team found the strengths of The Sheffield Private School to be:
The to-do list in terms of improvements has grown for the current academic year, with recommendations that TSPS should:
With the appointment of a new Principal for 2020-21, who arrives at the school fully cognisant of the leadership and management issues raised by the inspection team, it is to be hoped that rapid improvements can be made to address their concerns.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
One of the most obvious strengths of The Sheffield Private School are the relationships between the school, parents and the community, which were rated Very Good, and are closely link to the Governance of the school which was found to be Good.
The report notes that "The schools’ partnership with parents is strong. Parents regard communication as a strength of the school and appreciate the different ways in which communication is maintained. They receive regular reports on their children’s academic and personal development, as well as next steps in their learning. They are highly satisfied with their children’s experiences at school. The school actively collaborates with other schools, businesses and community organisations".
According to feedback from (a relatively small number of 50) parents to the KHDA pre-inspection survey, almost all parents were satisfied with the quality of education provided. They confirmed that their children are motivated to do their best. They were satisfied with the development of their children's learning skills, but are concerned about the amount of work that they are expected to do at home. Almost all parents were confident that their children are safe in school. They value their children’s well-being and academic successes equally. A few parents also expressed concern over the high levels of staff turnover, and the subsequent impact on their children’s progress.
By contrast, a significant 297 students responded to the KHDA Well-being survey. In most areas of the survey, students’ responses were not as positive as the Dubai average. Nevertheless, most students confirmed that they feel safe in school and that they are motivated to do their best. Similar numbers of students to the Dubai averages are very confident of their ability to reach their goals, and are positive about the future.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a limited number of responses to our Survey. Those parents who had responded were for the most part of the opinion that they receive good value for money in terms of fees and are largely satisfied with the level of academic performance. However, a below average 60% would recommend the school to other parents and a sizeable 30% of respondents would not,
If you are a parent, teacher or student at The Sheffield Private School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here..
The Sheffield Private School is clearly established on its improvement journey, though there were some setbacks over the past year or so which will no doubt be addressed under the new leadership. The school offers a good or better standard of education at a relatively affordable fee level and one of the widest range of subject options at IGCSE and A Level of any more affordable school in the city.
Interestingly, it appears to be improving and achieving higher ratings in the Secondary and post-16 sections than in Foundation and Primary sections. This is an unusual trend, based on our experience, and one that parents seeking secondary or post-16 options might particularly want to follow. It will now be for the leadership of the school to bring the standards of the Foundation and Primary sections up to those of the Secondary and post-16 sections, in order to manage significant improvement further.
Tuition fees at Sheffield are approaching mid range, starting at AED 21,405 at FS1 and rising to AED 40,365 by Year 13. However, given the overall standard, breadth of curriculum and quality provided by the school - particularly in the Secondary and post-16 sections, we believe that these fees still represent good value for money.
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