Victory Heights Foundation Stage, opening in August 2021, will be the specialised Early Years section at a separate location to its sister Victory Heights Primary School.
Sister school Victory Heights Primary (VHPS) announced the plans to separate the Early Years Foundation Stage (FS1 and FS2) from the main building of the school in Dubai Sports City in April 2021. VHPS is the second Dubai school to have chosen this route. In 2014, Dubai British Foundation and Dubai British School Jumeirah Park opened with the same arrangement in place.
The new Victory Heights Foundation Stage school will be located in a purpose-built facility located on the southern edge of Sports City, on the Al Fay Road, opening in time for the 2021-22 academic year.
In separating the Early Years section, VHPS and owners Interstar Education - also owners of all-through South View School in Remraan - appear to have made the decision for several reasons.
Firstly, the capacity of the VHPS site is limited. The school is extraordinarily popular - driven in large part by the charisma and character of Principal Sasha Crabb who joined the school on its opening in 2013 - and also by its location at the heart of Dubai Sports City with a myriad of housing developments now enveloping it. However, the school is located on a relatively small plot and there is no space in the immediate area for further development.
This is not the first time that VHPS has endeavoured to free up space, with FS1 classes having earlier been transferred to The Wonder Years Nursery which is also owned by the same group. The only other Primary UK curriculum school in the area is Ranches Primary (RPS) which largely serves its local community and others located north of Hessa Street.
By moving the Foundation Stage to a separate building entirely, the classrooms and facilities given over to the FS can be re-appropriated for the Primary school.
Secondly, many parents are anxious about their children joining a school at the age of three or four with students up to the age of 11 (or beyond) attending. Whilst through-schools all endeavour to separate their Early Years provision from the rest of the school, there is still the sense of younger children being surrounded and overwhelmed by those many years older than themselves. This is often one of the prime drivers for parents choosing not to send their children to school at age 3, but rather to keep them in a nursery setting.
By creating a separate, purpose-built environment, VHFS will potentially be able to allay parental concerns in this regard, whilst guaranteeing entry to a well-reputed school with which the children will become familiar by the time the transition occurs. The recent decision to transfer responsibility for Nursery and Early Learning Centres in Dubai to the KHDA, means that there will be one Early Childhood Education license for all facilities offering provision at this age-group, and potentially greater flexibility in terms of choice for parents.
Commenting on the announcement of the decision to open Victory Heights Foundation Stage, Ms Crabb noted that “due to the phenomenal growth and success of Victory Heights Primary School, we continue to experience a huge admissions demand from parents within the large communities that the school serves''. She continued, “to support our long term vision, and to provide the best possible learning environment for all of our pupils, we have invested in a state-of-the art facility for our youngest children''.
Leadership of the new facility will remain firmly in the hands of the VHPS team. Ms. Crabb and Deputy Principal, Ben Rothwell, will be supported by a new Head of Foundation Stage, Ms. Hannah Moore. Ms. Moore has already been a member of the VHPS team for four years, having previously taught at Brighton College Abu Dhabi and for nine years in the UK prior to that. Ms. Moore currently has responsibility for FS2 and the transition of these children to Year 1 at VHPS.
The school says that "Victory Heights Foundation Stage will continue to be staffed by long-serving, highly qualified, British trained teaching staff. To further support the transition to a new site, a new role of ‘Deputy Head of Foundation’ has been created, to support the existing Head of Foundation Stage".
VHFS will accommodate 275 children across 11 classes. Although class sizes have not been revealed, we would assume that these will be in the range of 25 students, who will be supported by at least one teacher and teaching assistant.
As the name suggests, Victory Heights Foundation Stage will offer the UK-based Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. All schools and early years providers in the United Kingdom follow the EYFS, including childminders, preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.
Learning is play-based and focused on seven key areas of learning:
The curriculum supports the position that from when a child is born up until the age of 5, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure; and support their development, care and learning needs. Children are mostly taught through games and play with their progress measured against a series of Learning Goals through a process of on-going assessment.
New middle leadership roles have been created at VHFS for the delivery of Maths and English to further enhance the academic provision in the early years and the transition to Key Stage 1. Specialist teachers of music, Arabic, Islamic and PE will continue to enrich the curriculum.
The modern, single storey site, has been designed in consultation with members of the school’s leadership and academic team. In addition to the large, airy classrooms punctuated with natural light, each with outdoor learning areas, and a significant investment in outdoor space, there is a dedicated foundation stage multi-purpose hall, experiential learning ‘pods’ and a fully staffed school clinic. Children will continue to use the swimming facilities at VHPS.
Ms. Moore noted that, “every detail has been considered to ensure that we continue to offer an ‘Outstanding’ experience for our foundation stage children. We have paid particular attention to learning environments, ensuring that each classroom has direct access to dedicated outdoor learning spaces”.
Ms Crabb emphasised the importance of maintaining the “small school” feel that is such an important draw for many parents of Victory Heights Primary School.
“Our school vision is to ‘Nurture, Challenge and Excel’ and we will never compromise on that. We want all members of our school community to feel that they are a valued member of that community and the dedicated Victory Heights Foundation Stage building serves to further develop this feeling, acting as a ‘small school within a school’.”
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has no doubt that the opening of the dedicated Foundation Stage facility will be welcomed - particularly in light of the significant additional external space and purpose-built facilities from which students are likely to benefit. We have no doubt that VHPS will also take into account the logistics of its FS students being located several minutes' drive away from the school and ensure that parents can coordinate drop off and pick up times as necessary,
The opening of Victory Heights Foundation Stage is scheduled for August 2021, subject to approval from the KHDA.
Fee information has not yet been released. Current fees at Victory Heights Primary School are AED 36,576 for FS1 and AED 39,900 for FS2.
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