Fortes Education opened Sunmarke School in September this year with over 700 students - a number that was aided greatly by transfering secondary school students from sister school Regent International, which now functions only as a primary school.
The school's focus on positive education has also struck a chord with the community, following Fortes Education's partnership with Geelong Grammar School.
We speak to executive principal and director of education Keith Miller about his first year at the helm of the Sunmarke School
In your own words, how did the school fare in its first year?
If you would have asked me back in August 2016 where I wanted to be, it would be totally different to where we are now. We have exceeded all of our initial targets, so I am absolutely delighted with where we find ourselves in June 17.
Did you achieve the targets you had set for the school's first year of operation? Are you happy with the school's performance in its first year?
In order to achieve the targets for attainment and progress, quality of teaching and learning, customer satisfaction and student's attitudes set at the start across all phases (FS1-Y13) we implemented rigorous quality assurance systems to ensure that our self-evaluation was accurate. This was validated by our BSO inspection.
We are absolutely delighted with the outcomes of our past student surveys and the quality of teaching and learning continues to get better in all phases of the school and the performance in external assessments from Y1-Y19 have been extremely positive. We await the outcomes of our GCSE and A Level examinations but we are confident that all students will achieve their predicted grades in August.
With 14 new schools having opened at the same time as yours, how did you set yourself apart from the competition?
Although a new building, Fortes Education has been involved in the education of young people in Dubai for 20+ years and over this time, they have developed a unique set of brand promises that are embedded within Sunmarke's DNA. The delivery of these brand promises, coupled with our partnership with Geelong Grammar School, has led to a highly effective first year of delivering Positives Education (PosEd) strategies, which have further enhanced the uniqueness of the Sunmarke offer.
Did you have to adjust your expectations in any way? How did you deal with any disappointments or challenges?
We were in a very fortunate position of transferring teachers from Regent International School and appointing a team of proven and experienced middle and senior leaders. With these resources we have been able to navigate the inevitable challenges that a new school brings. Expectations across the whole school community have always been high and when we haven't reached these high expectations in the first time of asking, the strategy has been adapted to ensure that we reached our challenging targets that were set at the start of the year.
If there is one thing you could have done differently this year, what would it be?
With KHDA approval, we would have introduced our suite of alternative curriculum pathways (BTEC) that we propose to offer in 2017-18.
What are your priorities for the school's second year?
Everything is focused around continually improving the quality of teaching and learning that our students receive day in and day out, by implementing a programme of professional development and a dissemination of the best practices to develop our students' independent learning and critical thinking skills.
How many new students do you expect to enrol next year?
We are expecting to increase by around 200-250.
How many teachers will you be recruiting? Where will you recruit them from?
To deliver our personalised curriculum pathways and enable school expansion, we have brought in 10 new full time teachers from the UK and other British curriculum schools within the UAE.
What advice would you give to principals of new schools opening in September 2017?
Keep on focusing on doing the simple things really well. Do not over complicate the school's improvement strategies and maintain your high expectations throughout all parts of your improvement strategies.
No. of teachers: 98
No. of students: 727
Year groups the school opened with: FS1-Y13