In 2015, The Cambridge High School will celebrate its silver anniversary. This impressive feat is deserving of a rich fanfare, worthy of the recognition it deserves for a school that has established itself as a reputable and outstanding institution, as well as an obvious trendsetter in the UAE’s educational system.
The Cambridge High School (TCHS) was opened in 1988 and is a part of the prestigious GEMS Education group. According to their recent Irtiqaa inspection report, it has a solid record of outstanding achievements that has aided in positioning it as a Band A school.
The very capable and efficient team gave Teach UAE Magazine a somewhat intimate look at the school in action. Despite his absence, it was immediately clear that his colleagues and the student body hold Mr Lugg in very high esteem. Mr Lugg has been promoted within the GEMS Education group from principal to overseer of a number of schools in their portfolio.
The Vice-Principal and Principal designate, Mr Jason King was an amazing host as he articulated the school’s vision and programmes that were effectively demonstrated throughout the day.
“The most important thing in any school is the people…the human resource,” states Mr King, “the first priority of our school is the recruitment and appointment of the best qualified teaching staff, who have the experience and expertise, especially, to start helping the students to develop their English skills from the foundation stage up to year 13.”
This is not surprising since the school prides itself on having a very rigorous and detailed English Language programme. This is an advanced and enriched programme that is designed for students at the primary level who experience difficulty with English as an additional language (EAL). Specialist English support teachers give these students the guidance that they need to improve. This is facilitated through the school’s Achievement Centre, which also caters to gifted and talented students. As a result, students who enter the school with little or no English skills transition to being extremely articulate and confident English speakers by the time they leave.
TCHS works closely with ADEC and also partners with government and private schools in Abu Dhabi that require additional support. A programme that has proved beneficial to the younger students, in particular, is the A-Z Reading programme that is done in conjunction with ADEC. Interactive software is utilised by the students and teachers, which lends to a more student-centered approach towards learning. This promotes active learning among the students who are excited about using the software.
The school has a diverse selection of nationalities on staff and among the student body. The staff has thirty-six different nationalities while the student body consists of seventy-seven different nationalities. Whereas this could create additional challenges, especially among the student body, this is not the case. Students at TCHS enjoy a harmonious social and academic experience.
They are nurtured by the staff who ensures that they are well cared for; are guided and encouraged to develop extremely strong personal qualities. Some of the activities that foster cohesion among the student body while encouraging active learning include, debates, mentoring of younger students by those in the upper grades, an admirable and diverse range of extracurricular activities, an open door policy that allow students to interact more closely with their teachers and competitions that boost students’ confidence and abilities.
“We recently held our Elocution Competition for our Key Stage1 students. These are children who are ages 5-7 from years 1, 2 and 3. This competition included children from different nationalities that we have within the school. We have approximately 13% Emirati students enrolled and some of them participated. They recited English Poetry and verses from some very famous authors,” said Mr King.
He added that as the students progress to the higher grades they are offered more complex opportunities for academic and personal growth. The school runs a successful Model United Nations Conference. This provides the fundamentals needed for students to participate in different seminars outside of the school. This year selected students visited China, Paris and Qatar where they took part in debates and discussions, further providing them with important life skills.
“Today, some of our students in year 10 who are doing work on travel and tourism have gone on a field trip to the St. Regis Hotel. There they will meet with managers from the different departments who will speak to them about tourism and hospitality. Once they get back here, they will then usethe newly acquired information to guide their understanding of the subject in the projects that they are doing. Another example is of a field trip by our year 5 and 6 students to Ferrari World. Although it was fun and the students enjoyed the experience, once back, they had, to usethe information acquired on the trip in their Mathematics lesson on measuring anglesand velocity. They are taking real life examples and bringing them back to the classroom to what they are actually learning.”
Technology plays a key role in the development of many programmes that are implemented. Students at the foundation stage are introduced to the use of technology in the classroom. This is done with technological devices such as desktop computers, laptops and Ipads. This has proven quite effective as students of Grade 5 – 13 are fairly advanced in creating digital educational games, coding, web design and the use of Final Cut Pro, a video editing software.
The Parent Home School Agreement also utilises technology. This is an agreement that resulted from meeting with parents at the start of the school year so as to share their expectations with the school and vice versa. This is facilitated through constant communication with the parents via SMS and the school’s portal that parents are encouraged to access to stay abreast of their children’s progress.
TCHS has been commended for its evaluation programme. This is best described as a 360-degree evaluation programme that involves all the stakeholders (GEMS Education, school leadership, middle leaders, teachers, students and parents). This is achieved by keeping in mind the school development plan and raising the standards. It is reviewed and shared regularly. Its success is reliant on an approach that reflects transparency and consistency.
Last year one main observation from the students’ evaluation was that more technology was required in the classroom. This led to teachers being up skilled in the use of technology, additional laptops (trolley-laptops) being sent to classes and an upgrading of the Wi-Fi system. There is now the infrastructure for BYOD (bring your own device) for the next school year. The students also recommended that they provide the teachers with lessons on the use of technology with specific focus on blogging and the most effective ways to use the Promethean boards. This boosted the student’s confidence despite the initial ‘jitters’ and amazed the teachers who were quite receptive.
Going forward, the leadership and staff at TCHS will be placing even more emphasis on improving the programmes in place, specifically for their gifted and talented students in order to enrich their curriculum. Special workshops are planned for the upcoming school year that will target giftedand talented students and students with special educationalneeds. Attention will be given to the materials used to engage particularly the Emirati parents such as workshops in English Language and health.
In conclusion, TCHS can be described as a community of caring, talented individuals working creatively and smartly towards achieving the goals that they have set. The leadership has done an incredible job of selecting brilliant and experienced educators who encourage a familiar environment within the school. This has resulted in happy and confident learners. Many of its programmes are deserving of the accolades that have been placed on them because of how efficiently they are handled and the effectiveness of the results garnered. Whilst there is still some amount of work to do on their journey towards maintaining the highest standards of learning, the time, thought and detail that has goneinto making it a productive learning environment for both staff and students cannot be denied.