Site visit: Newlands SchoolJune 15, 2017, 7:35 am GMT
Newlands School is one of 10 new schools set to open in Dubai in September and will offer an affordable British curriculum option for families in the Al Warqa/Mirdif area.
Owned by Beacon House, the Newlands is located among a cluster of schools in the Al Warqa neighbourhood, with the Sharjah American International School, and Rajagiri Indian School on either side.
During Education Journal Middle East's visit, work on the main building was already complete, with student assessments already underway in the two foundation stage classrooms that have been furnished.
Founding principal Jane Whitby has now moved to Dubai and is busy recruiting the last few teachers and senior leaders before the summer break.
Whitby joins Newlands from a British curriculum school in Egypt, where she served as founding deputy head and then principal. She brings more than 25 years of teaching and consulting experience to her role. Notably, Whitby was part of the UK government's fast track to headship programme for promising teachers.
"My specialisms are teacher training, developing the able child, I'm very good at understanding special needs because I'm a trained SENCO. The early years is very important to me; I believe it is genuinely the founding steps of any child, and in a school. I am most passionate about personalised learning – every child getting their own individual programme, and teachers being skilled so they achieve outstanding teaching and the levels of learning are at UK standards and above. This is what I did in Egypt in my founding school, and this is what I'll be doing here," she tells Education Journal.
Fees at Newlands School range from a very affordable AED17,280 in FS1 to AED 23,760 in Year 6. These include a 10% discount for founding families. There will be an additional textbook fee of AED1200 fee per student in FS1 and Year 2 and AED1750 per student in Years 1 to 6.
Additionally, the school is also offering five scholarships, covering 100% of tuition costs, for Emirati girls.
Class sized will be capped at 24 students per class, and Whitby expects to open with a minimum of one form entry per year group. However, given the strong interest from families in the areas, the school might have to open with two form entry for some year groups.
The school will follow the British curriculum, "but we're going to play with it a little bit because what we're looking for is best practice" Whitby notes.
"So the curriculum will be used, of course, but also a theme-based approach will be created where possible. We'll try to match things where possible to make the best use of time. We won't just be following the British curriculum verbatim – it will be explored so we get the best out of it, but also make it quite creative.
"We will also put in things like Jolly Phonics, which isn't really part of the British curriculum. There will also be entrepreneurial elements because I do believe in children developing an entrepreneurial spirit and being creative thinkers and not just receiving a curriculum. So children in this school won't just come school, teachers won't just come to work. We will have a family here and children will come and be very excited and explorative. Yes, they'll have their lessons, but there will also be elements where they're being quite innovative, there will be chances to problem solve everywhere, and children will have very strong voices."
Given the school's fee structure, students will enjoy facilities that others at the same price point may not necessarily offer, including a full-sized swimming pool, a separate sports hall and canteen area, and multiple outdoor playgrounds for various year groups.
In addition to 42 individual classrooms throughout the school, the foundation stage layout features linked classrooms with corridors and activity rooms where supervised lessons can "spill over".
Primary classrooms from Years 1 to 3 will also be located on the ground floor with a separate playground for primary students.
The school will also make extensive use of outdoor learning areas, including a rooftop garden.
Other facilities at the school include a multipurpose hall, a sports hall that is currently under construction, a specialist room for computing and coding, four science labs, specialist art, media and music rooms, a clinic, and prayer rooms.
Whitby asserts: "What the parents and children will get from this school will be no different to what they would get if they were in a high fee paying school, and I mean that sincerely. A lot of people would believe that cheaper means there's stuff missing, and probably a lot of stuff missing. That's not the case in this school. I'm a really hard working head. I'm an educationalist and I fight for children's rights to achieve the best that they can achieve individually; where children's personal interests are developed.
"The PE in this school will be no less than any high fee paying school, the academic curriculum will be no less, the qualified teachers will be no less. You're not going to get lesser quality staffing – the school has an amazing budget for recruitment; the resources are amazing. You will not get more; there is no more - we're already getting the maximum. The grounds are going to be great, the theatre will be superb. And I think parents need to look very seriously at that because there are a few good schools here, maybe more that are low fee paying schools, and some of the best schools within the area. We are looking at making a change."
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