By: Francesca McGeary
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Foremarke School in Dubai-a preparatory school which first opened its doors in 2013. I had already heard many good things about it so I was curious to find out what the school was all about and what kind of student would be a best fit. On the day, I had the opportunity to speak to staff, students and the Headmistress, Ms. Naomi Williams.
Foremarke uses the National Curriculum for England from the Foundation Years to Year 6. However, as a prep school, it aligns more closely to all the expectations and standards set for independent (private) schools in the UK (see www.ised.co.uk).
Foremarke is a 'Prep School'
Prep schools are a unique feature of the UK history and school system. The UK has a very long tradition of well-established independent schools (also known as ‘public schools'). Over the centuries, many public schools have built up fine reputations for their excellent quality of education, high standards and enriching experiences.
While Foremarke does use the National Curriculum for England, it also uses the ISEB curriculum (from the 'Independent Schools Examinations Board'). This prepares students for the Common Entrance (CE) exams which provides students the option of applying to other independent schools in the UK or internationally, should families wish to pursue this pathway.
The Common Entrance exam (C.E. for short) is the examination taken for entrance into some independent schools, usually at aged 11+ and this is administered through the ISEB (Independent Schools Examinations Board). The 11+ test is taken in the autumn and spring of Year 6 and consists of tests in English, Math and Science.
Prep Schools traditionally can start in Foundation Stage (known as the Junior School) up to Year 8. As the term ‘prep’ suggests, their function is to prepare students for entrance into the finest senior schools (Secondary/High Schools).
Foremarke School’s teaching staff are all fully qualified and have experience teaching in other English curriculum schools. The class sizes are very small as the school is relatively new but the maximum number will always remain at 16 pupils per class.
As I walked around the school, my first impression was that I could easily have been in a prep school in the heart of the England. The school has a ‘very British feel’ which was reflected in the ethos and mission. Foremarke values its British culture and history, which it manages to emphasise though its teaching staff, student body and community. There is also a very strong focus on etiquette and manners interwoven throughout school life (e.g. walking quietly through the corridors, politely greeting passers-by with eye contact, offering a polite smile and hello etc.). Everyone was very polite and welcoming.
Early Years classrooms were child-friendly and rich in student work displayed around the classroom. There were many small round tables organised for ‘learning centers’ with a variety of resources and books related to topics and themes. It was obvious that the Early Years teachers fostered learning through hands-on exploration and interaction with different materials designed to entice students in learning.
A topic-based learning center in the Early Years
The Early Years had an outside learning area which was fully utilised with lots of pots, plants, seeds, rocks, stones, water buckets etc. The FS2 students were learning about how plants grow. They were carrying out experiments and observations about how well their seeds were growing and learning what they needed to next in order help them grow stronger. Their teacher showed me some hands-on experiments students were taking part in using flowers, leaves and ice.
There was also a strong emphasis on exposing students to high-quality reading and writing by having subject-related books for children to look at and discuss. At this early stage, children were already having daily writing practice and were able to write in sentences that were legible and had clear messages (see writing example below). As a literacy specialist myself, I coud see the student writing was quite exceptional for this age group; however, I could understand how empahsising deep learning, enriched discussions about topics and activities provided natural motivation for student writing.
An FS2 Pupil's Written Work
A unique idea the school has instituted to encourage parent links and community-building was the creation of a schedule where parents are welcomed into the library and can read books to their child (and to others). They see this as a natural way of involving parents in their child's learning and education.
As I crossed into the Primary section, it was lunchtime. The lunchroom was a hub of activity with row-upon-row of tables. Each Primary class was eating together with their classroom teacher at the head of the table. The canteen had various options of hot and cold food or students would also bring in their own packed lunchboxes. I watched students happily interacting with each other as they ate, but it was very clear that they were being encouraged to practise good manners and etiquette during their mealtimes. In my interview with Ms. Williams later on, she stated that the school placed a strong emphasis on eating together so that students could learn this important skill.
Foremarke students eat lunch together
Keeping the Focus on Achievement and Expectations High
In Years 1-4 at Foremarke, pupils have a homeroom teacher who teaches all the core subjects (English, Math and Science) and additionally, ICT, Art, Music PE and Arabic are delivered by specialist teachers. However, in Years 5 and 6, all subjects are delivered by specialist teachers. For instance, a specialist science teacher teaches all Years 5 & 6 pupils rather than by their homeroom teacher. The idea being that students can receive a much higher level of instruction in that subject area when it is delivered by a specialist teacher rather than a general Primary teacher. As I toured the school I had the opportunity to talk with some staff members, and I was impressed with the enthusiasm they shared for learning. At one point, I bumped into the Year 5 & 6 Science teacher who clearly loved his field and was able to share with me, all the expectations he had set throughout the school for Science–even reaching as far down as the Early Years. Although he taught Years 5 and 6, he also acted as the Science coordinator and oversaw the whole science curriculum from FS1 to Year 6 and worked with the teachers from FS1 to Year 4 in their planning. This ensured a high quality of science instruction (beyond the National Curriculum level) was being taught. It was lovely to see teachers passionate about their subject and the work they do.
Throughout Foremarke, both inside and outside the classrooms, pupils’ art work and evidence of their learning was always beautifully displayed. This demonstrates the school's values and celebrates the learning journey that students have experienced. The art work and learning were again, to an exceptionally high standard. The Art Department showcased students' artistic accomplishment around the school. Again, the British culture was empahsised through students' study of artist, Dame Barbara Hepworth. Drawings and sculptures reflected attention-to-detail and a good understanding of artistic principles.
Students learn drawing skills from British artist
In the front lobby of the school, the Foremarke Care Code was written on the walls in both English and Arabic calligraphy:
“ Common Sense – use it.
Aim High – Always do your best.
Respect – Encourage and be honest.
Enjoy and appreciate what you have”.
Foremarke School has a very strong and stable philosophy which is clearly seen and experienced throughout school and student life. Their core British values and focus on high standards and achievement define their unique education offering. While not every child will suit a Foremarke education, their small class sizes, high-quality teachers and leaders allow their students to thrive and excel. These factors seem to be the key ingredients for a receipe for success.
FOREMARKE SCHOOL is based in Al Barsha, Dubai. It is a British preparatory school offering an enhanced curriculum. The school offers Nursery (FS1) to Year 6. For more information about Foremarke School, get in touch with the admissions office by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +971 4 818 8666. Visit the school website at www.foremarkedubai.org You can also see our SchoolsDXB listing for Foremarke HERE