Victory Heights Primary School, having opened in 2013, is making very rapid progress embedding FS and Key Stage 1-2 provision to a very high standard. After a slow start in terms of its inspection rating, the hard work and commitment to education is clearly paying off with the school having been rated Good in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 KHDA rounds, and achieving Very Good in 2017-18 - a rating it retained for 2018-19..
The story so far...
Victory Heights Primary School, located in Dubai Sports City, is a boutique British National Curriculum school that caters to the population around Victory Heights, Dubai Sports City and Jumeirah Golf Estates, although there are students from further afield.
As Principal Sasha Crabb explains, "Our vision to ‘Nurture, Challenge and Excel’ has led to outstanding academic progress, a varied and creative curriculum, and children who develop into confident and well-rounded individuals. Our children clearly love learning and come bounding through the gates every morning ready for new and exciting challenges, alongside our highly-qualified and dedicated teaching staff."
Victory Heights Primary School is accredited by British Schools of the Middle East (BSME), COBIS - the Council of British International Schools, and by British Schools Overseas which carries out an inspection based on UK Ministry of Education School standards every three years. VHPS was rated Good (the second of four ratings issued by BSO) when it was last inspected in early 2017.
The current population of the school is just over 810 students, and the majority are British passport holders. Slightly less than one percent of students are Emirati and over five percent of students are registered as students with SEND requirements. VHPS has long been known as a highly inclusive school, often accepting students who have been rejected elsewhere.
Read our recent School Visit Review HERE!
The majority of teachers are British passport holders and if they are not recruited from the UK, they are highly qualified, with the experience necessary to deliver the British National Curriculum. There are 56 teachers and 26 teaching assistants; the teacher to student ratio averages 1:15. The teacher turnover rate in the last academic year was a remarkable 0 compared with an average of 20-22% in Dubai. This is important for continuity in curriculum and school development and evidence of the genuine commitment of staff to the school.
No one should underestimate the importance of the presence of the Principal, Sasha Crabb, who has been with the school since its opening and has ensured not only stability, but a strong focus on improvement. Sasha is admired not only by parents and staff at 'her' school, but by the wider UAE Education community as a whole, who celebrated with her on winning WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's sister website's SchoolsCompared.com award for Principal of the Year in the 2019 awards.
In the most recent KHDA report, inspectors commented "the Principal's passion and enthusiasm are infectious". Sasha is not only committed to her school, her staff, students and parents, but is also the inspiration for them. Staff regularly hear "I've had an idea", and know that they will be involved in its development. Sasha's introduction to herself on the school website includes "She continues to think outside the box with school initiatives and her autobiography will be called Method to the Madness". There is nothing boring about this school.
What about the curriculum?
VHPS offers the English National Curriculum for the Early Years' Foundation Stage, and Key stages One and Two. With its focus on the core skills of English, Maths and Science, VHPS focuses not only on what is taught, but how it is taught and how children's development and academic progress is measured.
Lessons are designed to make links across the subject-areas, ensuring that creative topics make learning exciting for the children, and using a variety of teaching tools and methods. VHPS organises field trips linked to learning, and focuses on developing children’s skills as well as their knowledge and understanding. Teachers carry out both formative (on-going) and summative assessments, closely tracking children’s progress and documenting children’s learning in order to celebrate their achievements.
A key focus of the school is the relationship it builds with parents, who receive regular feedback and are involved in learning, through workshops, information sessions and class activities.
At the core of the curriculum, VHPS aims also to develop the key aspects of Positive Education aimed at enabling children to develop their power as learners, so that they can achieve their best throughout life. Key attributes, which are in line with KHDA's Lighthouse project, support 10 traits for PosEd including creativity, curiosity, courage, integrity, resilience, empathy, fairness and tolerance, awe, gratitude and purpose.
What about the facilities?
VHPS is located in the centre of Dubai Sports City in an area that is still under development. A consistent area of concern for the school and the Regulator has been the road infrastructure around the school, surrounded as it is by high-rise buildings - several of which are still under construction - the lack of appropriate parking and safety concerns, given the number of vehicles (including construction vehicles) around the school.
Having said, once inside the school grounds, the issues outside the school are left behind. Although not the largest external sports facilities, the school manages the use of the site for play time and for sports activities very well. Facilities at Victory Heights Primary School include a Foundation Stage Block that has been designed so that it is completely separate and self-contained from the rest of the primary school, and a cluster design throughout the school, where classrooms open out to central indoor activity areas.
A second building was added in 2016, containing an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor and a range of additional classrooms and administrative areas above. This has considerably increased the capacity of the school.
What the inspectors say
The most recent KHDA report, for 2018-19, again rated Victory Heights Primary School as Very Good for the second year in a row.
In fact, on initial review of the Students's Achievement - the first key performance measure, one has to wonder why the school has not been rated Outstanding.
Every rating for progress and attainment in English, Maths and Science is now rated Outstanding, with each having improved in the most recent inspection. Learning skills are rated Outstanding in Early Years and Very Good in the remainder of the school. Unfortunately, Arabic for both native and second language speakers, and Islamic Education, do not achieve quite the same heights. Whilst progress in Arabic as a first language is rated Good, the remaining ratings across the three subjects are rated Acceptable - and this is clearly where focus needs to be, as there has not been sufficient improvement to achieve a higher rating this year.
Inspectors commented that "In the Foundation Stage, children's achievement and their learning skills have improved and are excellent. In the Primary phase, students achieve exceptionally well in English, Mathematics and Science..."
Ratings for the other key performance standards - Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum, and the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students' are almost universally rated Outstanding in the Foundation Stage. The ratings across these key performance standards in the Primary school are largely rated Very Good.
In particular, both Teaching and Assessment and Curriculum were rated Very Good, as they were in 2017-18. These are two standards which have been an area of concentration for the KHDA in the past two to three years and standards are exacting.
Leadership and management - made up of five measures - has improved in two of them; specifically Leadership, and Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources. These are in addition to Parents and the Community which had already achieved the highest rating.
Overall, the inspection team found that the strengths of VHPS are:
In terms of areas of improvement recommended for the school:
In addition to these specific recommendations, there is no doubt that the inspection team will wish to see improvements in Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum on their next visit.
However, there is so much about Victory Heights Primary School, its ethos, and the excellent provision across the school that will, and should, encourage parents to seek it out, even if there is a little way to go until (and not if in our view) the final Outstanding accolade.
It is a school that lives by its aim "to create a fun and stimulating learning environment, where every day is a magical voyage of discovery for children".
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do - can find it here.
Parents who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey (approximately 75% of families), were almost all very positive about the school. They believe their children are safe and very happy at school and are doing well academically, socially and emotionally. They are well informed and involved in school life.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey completed by parents at VHPS shares equally positive responses to our questions. 71% of parents said that their children enjoyed going to school "a tremendous amount", with a further 22% saying "quite a bit". There was a 93% satisfaction rating for the level of academic performance, whilst 86% of parents were entirely satisfied with the level of feedback from the school. A whopping 93% of parents (the UAE average is 73%) would recommend VHPS to others, although interestingly, at some stage 21% had considered moving their child to another school - though this is again well below the UAE average of 36%. 64% of parents felt that the school's fees represented good value for money (against a UAE average of 45%).
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Victory Heights Primary School, please do share your thoughts and experiences with others by completing our survey here.
What about the fees?
Fees for Victory Heights Primary School start at AED 36,576 for FS1 and rise to AED 49,877 for Year 6. These fees are exclusive of transport and school uniforms and any addition charges related to paid Extra-curricular activities, field trips or school visits. The Application Fee and Assessment Fee is a combined AED 850, the Medical Fee is AED 500, and the enrolment fee is AED 7,000. The Enrolment Fee is a non-refundable deposit which is deducted from a student's first term’s tuition fees.
Fees also do not include any English language or Special Needs Learning Support that students may require.
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