The British School Al Khubairat celebrated its golden anniversary (50 years) in 2019 and to crown the occasion, they were also rated outstanding in all categories by the Abu Dhabi schools Irtiqaa inspections. This is not only a very fitting way to mark such a momentous occasion, but it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the school’s leadership team, staff, students and parents. The school, which was built on land donated by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, stands as a beacon of educational excellence in the Abu Dhabi community. The 1,930 strong student population hails from over 52 countries. As a not for profit British Embassy School, The British School Al Khubairat reinvests its income back into the school for the benefit of its staff and students.
When I visited the school in 2019, they were in the middle of preparing for their British Schools Overseas Inspection (BSO), however, you would never know unless you were told. It was simply business as usual. Mark Leppard MBE, the school’s principal, took time out of his busy schedule to show me around the school and talk about what makes his school special.
Schools tend to be very similar on the surface, but it is only when you dig deeper that you realise how different they can be. What makes a school special is not the building or the technology, it is the culture and ethos that drives the school.
Building Culture and Ethos at The British School Al Khubairat
“Culture and ethos are the glue that hold everything the school does, together. It has to be lived, not laminated. It is how we make people feel, how we look after one another and care for each other” Commented Mark Leppard Headmaster at the British School Al Khubairat. During my tour of the school, a few things became quite clear about how the ethos and culture are built and maintained in the school; the school makes teamwork one of its core values. There is a clear emphasis on everyone playing a role in achieving the school’s goals. The students are highly involved in this and through the student council, led by the head boy and head girl and supported by a strong perfect body, their voices and views are always taken into consideration. The school works hard towards achieving its vision, by ensuring that; staff, students and parents continue to be deeply committed to the school goals.
The British School Al Khubairat has a large population of local Emirati students, in fact, the Emirati population is the second largest in the school. The school has a very unique programme in which Emirati students act as ambassadors for the school within the local community. These students who are from year 7 upwards, when chosen, are responsible for strengthening the link between the school and the community. They play a key role in organising cultural celebrations and involving the local community. They ensure that whatever the school puts out to the wider community is culturally and religiously appropriate. The UAE ambassadors also play an important role in choosing the uniform and they act as in-house school experts, in the local culture.
The British School Al Khubairat seeks to develop the whole child. There is an equally strong emphasis on sports and the arts, as there is on academics. The school has enjoyed many sporting successes over the years. The school also puts on plays and live performances which are attended by parents and members of the wider community. During my visit, students could be seen making their way to music, voice and drama lessons.
The philosophy of the School is to help every student find his or her passion. The school does not put a lid on student expectations, nor does it limit student potential. The staff encourage students to try new avenues and to experience challenges and failures. It is through this that they ultimately improve and find success beyond their initial expectations. “We want students and staff to exceed expectations and it is the School’s role to facilitate this in every field”. Mark Leppard MBE Headmaster.
Promoting staff and student wellbeing at The British School Al Khubairat
It was refreshing to discover that the British School Al Khubairat takes the wellbeing of the staff and students so seriously that they have a member of the school board charged with overseeing this area of school life. Taking care of the wellbeing of the staff and students is also a target of the school’s headmaster which was set by the school’s board. As an endorsement of the school’s commitment to promoting wellbeing, The British School Al Khubairat is the first school outside of the UK to be awarded the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools ‘School Mental Health Award’ – Silver Status; to achieve and maintain this award, the school must continually demonstrate care for all of its community in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
At a time when schools across the region are cutting back, The British School Al Khubairat has chosen to triple its CPD budget. Staff at the school receive excellent support in their continuing professional development. There are four pathways for staff to choose from. Staff who want to remain in the classroom and continue being excellent classroom practitioners are provided with the means to do that through courses both in and out of school. There are also programmes for aspiring middle leaders, aspiring senior leaders and aspiring headteachers. The school currently has teachers and leaders who are actively pursuing the National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and The National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). These are just some of the initiatives which have resulted in the relatively low staff turnover each academic year.
By shining the Teach Middle East Magazine spotlight on the good practice taking place at the British School Al Khubairat, it is hoped that schools all across the region will open their doors to sharing what is working well in their schools and also commit to learning from others.
By: Leisa Grace Wilson