An offshoot of the illustrious Scholars International Group (SIG) that has been imparting education to children for 45 years, Scholars International Academy (SIA) provides English National Curriculum (enhanced by the Cambridge curriculum) to its wards.
Located in the Muweillah school district of Sharjah, SIA delivers the highest standard for international British education. It meets all the criteria for accredited membership in British Schools of the Middle East and British Schools Overseas. The 14-year-old institute is one of only three schools in Sharjah to hold this accreditation and nurtures students to develop curiosity and a passion for learning. Pupils in the school begin their formal education in its Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and continue to IGCSE Examinations and a robust A-level programme.
Janet O'Keeffe, Director of School Improvement for SIG, talked about the various aspects of the school that helps it steal a march over other institutes in Sharjah.
The school boasts a multicultural flair, with students and staff from 50 to 60 different nationalities working within its premises. It finds strength in its diversity while exposing children to a variety of perspectives in viewing the world and helps them develop new ways to create opportunities.
Another distinction is that it is the only GL and Cache-certified centre in Sharjah. Elaborating on its GL certification, O'Keeffe, said: "We work with GL Education to use our assessments to gain a complete understanding of each individual learner's needs including attitude, ability and attainment. This allows teachers to make informed teaching and learning decisions and to track progress effectively over time. It also provides evidence of progress to external accreditation bodies and key stakeholders such as parents, school owners and governors. This then helps teachers to decide about the pace of learning that is right for a pupil and whether additional support or challenge is needed."
SIA is also in partnership with QuEST Direct Professional Services to deliver their Cache Level 3 Diploma, helping SIA staff receive high-quality training and UK qualifications. The school is proud of its NQT development programme. It has been accredited by the DFE Early Career Framework as a training centre and is one of the few schools that supports staff through NQT induction. In addition, the Sharjah Private Education Authority has awarded the institute one of the highest ratings in the online inspection domain.
Janet O'Keeffe, Director of School Improvement, SIG
The school ensures students in each phase, right from EYFS to the secondary level, receive a holistic education. Speaking about hand-holding children through their early learning years, O'Keeffe stated: "For children whose home language is not English, we provide lots of opportunities so they develop their language skills through play. We ensure that they are ready to benefit from all the opportunities available to them when they begin Year 1." At Key Stage 1, SIA provides a continuous learning journey for its students and when each child achieves the early learning goals (ELGs), it commences the English National Curriculum for Year 1. Effective staff liaison ensures a smooth transition from early years to Key Stage 1 to ensure continuity in learning. The curriculum is mainly delivered through a topic/thematic approach with discrete subject lessons where appropriate. This allows children to study in contexts that are meaningful and allows them to make significant connections across different areas of learning. At the primary level, the centre's student-centred environment allows pupils to engage more deeply as well as take ownership of their learning. They develop an intrinsic motivation to challenge themselves to the next level. As for the secondary level, the programme arms students with the necessary academic mastery, skills and mindset so they are able to enter colleges and careers of their choice across the world. Highlighting SIA's achievements, O'Keeffe said: "For the previous years we have significantly performed above the UK standards for both IGCSE and A-levels and all our students access the next level of their educational journey. We also support the local community by offering academic scholarships for those students who perform highly in their GCSEs."
Noting that the "safety and well-being of our community is always our top priority," O'Keeffe revealed that individual resource packs were created and distributed among students by the school to facilitate online learning.
At present, SIA is in partnership with Farnek, the region's leading facilities management company, to implement new health and safety protocols, in line with government guidelines.
Talking about the steps taken to deliver education virtually, O'Keeffe explained, "We use a suite of educational resources such as Teams, Seesaw, ClassDojo, ColÂ¬lins Connect, etc. to best suit our students' learning needs."
Some other tools used by the institute to deliver online education include Learning Ladders, EducationCity, BugClub (EYFS), Numicon, Oxford Owl and Whiterose Maths.
The school has also ensured its events take place online as well as in the physical classroom. Some in the offering include a fun-filled recycling learning adventure for FS1, FS2 and Year 1, and another activity teaching pupils to embrace the culture of the UAE and the Middle East as a whole.
The school has adopted a four-pronged strategy for continuous growth. These include academic growth and achievement for students (strong A-levels and IGCSE scores, plus upward trend on international benchmarking tests); professional development provisions for teaching staff, including dedicated internal Continuing Professional Development (CPD) time and opportunities for staff to take part in multiple external CPDs such as the National Professional Qualifications for Middle Leader (NPQML); and development and growth of senior leadership team.
Another step taken by the institute in the direction of growth is using the online tool Learning Ladders to get parents more involved in their children's learning and to support them at a granular level.
The school is also developing new amenities to cater to its students. "As part of our continuous facilities and infrastructure upgrade at SIA, we are adding new play areas for our students," O'Keeffe stated.