This British Embassy school in the UAE is leading the way in terms of innovative teaching and learning moments
PARTNER CONTENT: Nestled in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, the prestigious British School Al Khubairat (BSAK) is a beacon of educational excellence in Abu Dhabi that has been shaping young minds for more than half a century.
Over the years the School has undergone extensive, dramatic and elegant redevelopment programmes; with a focus on providing holistic education and adopting state-of-the-art tools, technologies and co-curricular facilities to provide students with the best possible learning environment.
With its continuing expansion and modernisation initiatives, the School has now grown its student population to 2,000. “We spend a great deal of time and resources making sure that our classrooms enable learning, whether that’s indoors or outdoors,” says Sarah Jones, Nursery Year Leader at BSAK.
The British curriculum School’s success story builds on a proud heritage that dates back to its foundation, in 1968. At this time the late, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, generously donated the plot of land on which the not-for-profit learning centre was originally built.
“We have so much heritage and history behind us,” says Sarah. “The result of this is that we’re very stable, and our not-for-profit status means that our focus is on reinvesting our profit back into the School. So, while we have been here for over 50 years, our facilities and educational offerings are constantly improving.”
WHERE THE LEARNING JOURNEY BEGINS
As Head of the School’s Nursery Department and an expert in early childhood education, Sarah believes providing a quality learning environment to the youngest of students is a crucial step in a successful education journey.
“In Nursery, we know how important it is to get it right in their very first year, in order to set them up with the best possible early learning experience. This provides a strong foundation for a successful future and sets the scene for the rest of their time in school.”
The School’s nursery and reception levels cater to children aged three to five, and Sarah is proud of the fact that a high proportion of these learners become lifelong students, “lifers” at BSAK. These are the children who have been with BSAK from early years and continue their education until graduating.
“The children are really happy and confident in our school environment,” says Sarah, “and this means that their move up to the subsequent year groups has been really successful and a happy experience.”
‘IN THE MOMENT’ LEARNING
Recognising the importance of giving children the space to learn based on their own curiosities, BSAK is breaking the mould of conventional education with its innovative ‘in the moment’ learning and teaching approach. This methodology allows students to explore their interests and passions in real-time.
The School’s teaching approach takes a page out of early years education expert Anna Ephgrave’s unique way of planning for the learning of children. Anna, author of one of the most influential books on ‘in the moment planning’, believes that children learn best when they follow their own interests. “It’s what parents do with their children from the moment they’re born. They don’t plan activities for every hour of the day,” says Sarah. “They respond to what the children are interested in.”
In the moment planning, or child-led learning as Sarah describes it, helps children feel they have involvement and ownership of their own learning. It also ensures that the learning is relevant to the child’s interests and happens in real time. “This gives them a lot more pride in what they’re doing because they’ve chosen to do something, rather than having lots of teacher-planned activities,” Sarah explains. “Generally, engagement and involvement levels are much higher because the children have chosen to do an activity.”
At a time when traditional teaching methods are increasingly being re-evaluated, BSAK’s innovative approach is finding great success and delivering incredible results. The School’s nursery level now has five classes in modern, purpose built classrooms. “We have a high demand from parents who want their children to come here,” reveals Sarah, noting that there were only three nursery classes when she joined the School.
We always welcome applications from a wide variety of backgrounds to ensure a diverse mix of families.
QUALITY TEACHERS, QUALITY EDUCATION
For over 50 years the School has been delivering a British curriculum education in Abu Dhabi, and Sarah believes one of the hallmarks of the School’s longevity and success is its ability to acquire and retain highly qualified teaching staff.
The School’s teachers also have either a postgraduate certificate in education or a four-year degree, and most have at least two years of teaching experience in the UK. “It shows that we value our early years education; we recognise the importance of having highly qualified staff who have taught in a British School,” says Sarah. “What’s also really important and valuable about our School is that we have a very low staff turnover,” she adds. “Some of our teachers have been here for over 20 years. I’ve been here for over 10 years.”
As the gatekeepers of knowledge and learning, teachers should be equipped with the latest skills and tools needed to inspire students to reach their full potential. The School therefore strongly values having a comprehensive Professional Development Programme for its teachers, and in this way combines its stability with constant development.
TAKING THE LEARNING TO THE CHILDREN
What’s a lesson in a BSAK nursery class like? Sarah explains that the children are free to do any project they wish, with teachers weaving in the learning, based on what the children are doing. So as the children work on their chosen activities, Sarah says the teachers will then “go to the children and suggest – what would happen if, or how could we make this even taller without it falling over?”
Then, instead of gathering them at the start of class, teachers gather the children at the end of each session or when they’re about to go for a snack or lunch. “We make sure that our day is filled with long periods of uninterrupted play and learning, and we, as teachers, are not just sitting on the side lines watching this,” says Sarah. “We are taking the learning to the children.”
When interacting with children, Sarah says teachers are also trained to ask open-ended questions, a technique that is known to develop critical thinking. “We want to make sure that they are coming up with the ideas and it’s not just us making suggestions, though as a result of our input, we’re able to take the children’s learning further than if we’d not been there.”
FIND OUT MORE
BSAK’s Nursery and Admissions teams regularly hold events to share their ‘in the moment’ approach with parents and the wider community, to ensure the smoothest transition for our next generation of learners. If you’d like to find out more about Early Years at BSAK, please contact Mrs. Karen Collings at [email protected]
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