Value Added (Secondary)

Value Added (Secondary)

What does Value Add mean to you as a parent?

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Value-add is arguably the most accurate of all measures of a school’s ability to deliver for its children. Whilst many parents continue to focus on examination results in isolation, value-add, instead, looks to the grades children achieve, in practice, above (or below) the baseline expectations of the grades they should theoretically achieve on joining a school. When schools discuss with parents the flight path of their children, they are speaking of the grades that they expect children to achieve at the point of formal examinations based on their abilities on joining the school.

A selective school, that accepts only the brightest children, will naturally secure very high results for its children in examinations. One difficulty is that value-add, for selective schools, becomes immeasurable because exam results, for example in British schools, do not go beyond an A*. If children are predicted to achieve this grade, these schools cannot demonstrate (to the frustration of these schools), through value-add at least, that they are delivering for children any more than they should actually achieve. Equally, if a school only accepts the very brightest children, or those without, for example EAL investment, parents should not infer that, should their children be accepted to these schools, that they would achieve equally highly.


SCS Students Make Exceptional Progress

As a non-selective and inclusive school, we are proud of the results that our students achieve, particularly at GCSE and A-Level. To help us better understand the journey that our students are on we utilise the Value Added measurement platform provided by GL Education in partnership with Fischer Family Trust (FFT). The FFT Datalab is a third-party organisation that provides independent, cutting-edge research that can be used by policymakers to inform education policy, and by schools to improve practice. They are seen as expert analysts of education data and use these skills to produce impactful reports, visualisations and policy recommendations.

At SCS we use this analysis to give us a clear picture of how our students are performing internationally as well as in the UK, this gives us a clear benchmark to measure the impact we are having on student progress.

As Illustrated above, SCS students make, on average two full grades above their baseline predictions, this is a phenomenal achievement for our students and one we are very proud of. We have been fortunate to be recognised for this achievement as illustrated below.

A Truly Inclusive School

Every child has a place at SCS. Safa is a non-selective school and a lot of our students join us with low abilities.

ELL 2.9%

EAL 38%

SEND 20%

Safa Community School is a non selective school – the secondary stream is a mix of home grown Safa children who graduate from primary to secondary and students who join SCS Secondary from other schools. Being a fully inclusive school, the students are a mix ability group starting in Year 7. Rigorous and forensic data analysis takes place to identify students who are below track or who might fall below track. Meetings are held between the Head of KS3 and individual heads of departments to identify students starting levels.

Establishing Flight Paths

In term 3, Year 6 into Year 7 academic achievement meetings take place to begin the formulation of their aspirational flightpath and development of their bespoke personalised curriculum. SCS has developed a unique flight path where ‘CAT4 if challenged’ is used as the Minimum Expectation Grade (MEG) with all students aiming to achieve the Safa Expected Grade (SEG) which is +1 against the MEG. This ensures that all students have realistic but ambitious targets from Year 7 through to the end of their school career.

scs flight path

SCS’s flight path is more ambitious than most Dubai schools, especially considering the lower starting points compared to the higher starting points of more ‘established’ secondary schools which are selective in their student intake.

Safa had set extremely ambitious targets for the secondary school and went over and beyond the CAT4 expected grades target. Instead of aiming for “CAT4 target” or even “CAT4 if Challenged”(which is +1 grade average over CAT4) the school decided to set its own Safa Expected Grade (SEG) which is + 2 over CAT4 targets. The team has worked hard over the last few years and was extremely proud when it achieved its expected +2 grade that it had set for itself.

The average value add for Safa was + 2.02

Academic Outcomes

68% of SCS Primary Students scored Higher than UK average

SCS uses a host of international assessments to benchmark our students’ academic progress and the section below highlights how SCS students have outperformed their peers across all categories.

As per KHDA guidelines, all students across Year 4 + participate in the CAT4 cognitive ability assessment. This is completed for all new children and completed every second year for our existing children. This information is used to identify targeted focus groups and areas. As you will see, previously in 2018-2019 we had a severe gender bias, where girls were significantly out performing boys in both their verbal and average CAT4 scores; however, due to targeted intervention over the last three years, that has equalised.

CAT4 information is used to inform children’s ‘if challenged’ targets as well as to identify key provisions which are required to be put in place. Classroom teachers analysis this information to devise teaching strategies to meet needs of their learners.

GL Progress Tests (PT) are conducted at the end of each academic year to assess progress over time in core subjects of English, Maths and Science. A Stanine 5 denotes UK national average, a Stanine 6 denotes Dubai average. The tables show the %age of SCS students who have achieve at or above UK average and at and above Dubai average.

KHDA inspection guidelines denote higher than 62.5% at above Stanine 6 as “Very Good” and 75% at and above Stanine 6 as “Outstanding”.

  • 2018-2019: 86% of Primary SCS students achieved at or above UK average. 
  • 2019-2020:94% of Primary SCS students achieved at or above UK average
  • 2020-2021:93% of Primary SCS students achieved at or above UK average

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international assessment of student achievement in mathematics and science at fourth and eighth grades. 64 countries and 8 regional entities participated in the TIMSS 2019 cycle. TIMSS explores how well Year 4 and Year 8 students have mastered the factual and procedural knowledge taught in school mathematics and science classes. At SCS we invest heavily in science with our students being taught in specialist science labs with lead science teachers and technicians in the labs. Additional curriculum time is also given to both Maths and Science to ensure that learning is accelerated.

SCS students excelled at TIMMS and achieved “High International Benchmark” status for both year groups and both subjects. SCS outperformed its KHDA set targets, outperformed average Dubai school levels and outperformed average Dubai UK curriculum schools.

SCS Percentage of students at or above UK average
PT (English)
PT (Math)
PT (Science)

Secondary Tools

Safa Diploma Key Stage 3

The Safa Diploma ensures students across Years 7 and 8 undertake an internal award which ensures they develop skills such as research, learning skills, sports participation, creative and performing arts and student leadership skills.

A Diverse Set of Academic Pathways

Students take responsibility for selecting their own curriculum pathways. After selecting four different options they want to pursue, alongside the core compulsory subjects, they begin their journey through Key Stage 4. These chosen subjects are selected through their interests, their achievements and the guidance received from the school for their future.

As our students grow and develop into young adults through the two years within the Key Stage, our teachers encourage them to share their passions and pursue the unknowns within each subject area. Science Labs, 3D printers, Virtual Reality kits and Performance Studios are just a few of the resources that our teachers engage with to help develop and continue to drive our students. Over the two years, students are assessed through both their classroom work and formal assessments. Our staff are continually thinking of innovative ways to assess our students ensuring student wellbeing is our top priority. Through establishing independent self-study revision skills that evolve through our Key Stage assessments, we ensure all pupils have the necessary tools to sit their GCSEs at the end of Year 11.

Finally, towards the end of Year 11 they are then given the opportunity to refine their interests into three subjects to be studied further in Key Stage 5. Through expert guidance from our careers counsellor, teachers and online platforms, students can begin to investigate where their future lies wherever that may be around the world. Once they have made their final choices and completed their GCSEs in May and June they continue through to Key Stage 5.

Within Key Stage 5, learners experience a range of different strategies to develop their content knowledge. Teachers design research tasks to provide learners the opportunity to explore the content independently before applying it in lessons. These include presentations, debates or constructing responses to exam-style questions. Learners are encouraged to collaborate with their peers and evaluate the work of others to deepen their understanding of marking instructions and exam expectations. Within Key Stage 5, learners will experience examinations throughout the year under real exam conditions, which aim to prepare them with the strategies to be successful in their final examinations including time management and organisation. In conjunction with resources provided by teachers to share their vast subject knowledge, learners will have the opportunity to use their devices throughout lessons to research, access support and challenge materials in a range of formats including webpages, journal articles and videos to suit their learning style. A-level teachers ensure many opportunities for independent work are embedded within their courses to prepare learners for their next phase of learning at university or for application into the world of work.

No Restrictions on Subject Options

In spite of being a relatively ‘smaller’ secondary school than other es- tablished secondary schools, SCS prides itself on offering a range of sub- ject choices to meet the unique requirement of every student. Time tables are built with student choices of subjects in mind.

The Safa Diploma ensures students across Years 7 and 8 undertake an internal award which ensures they develop skills such as research, learning skills, sports participation, creative and performing arts and student leadership skills. 

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The Foundation Stage curriculum is designed and based on the Development Matters documents from the UK, and the Primary Curriculum is designed and based on the National Curriculum of the UK. However, the school invests significant resources to modify the curriculum so that its best suited to every category of student. Due to the diverse and highly inclusive nature of our school, assessment and admissions information is used to help make the appropriate modifications to the curriculum to support children’s learning needs.

An example of this, was the impact of the Global Pandemic and the result this had on children’s oral and written skills. Ourselves, and other British international schools, with a similar demographic of students signed up to complete the Oracy 365 training. This was then directly implemented into our school’s curriculum. Additional provisions for reading were put in place and the school purchased tools like MyOn, Spell Zone and and to support with our hybrid curriculum for our onsite and Distance Learners.

“See-Saw” online platform

Throughout the year, we hold two parent-teacher meetings per term, so assessment information can be used and shared with parents on a regular basis. Webinars take place to help parents understand both our formative and summative assessment methods, and results are always shared in both our Termly reporting methods and if required through additional meetings and follow up. Together, we work in partnership with our parental community to ensure the child’s best interest is always at heart.

As an addition to this, we use Seesaw as our online platform, which every parent has access to. Teachers provide daily updates through pictures and videos, which are aligned to the learning objectives, parents are able to see and comment on this, as well as review the teacher’s feedback and dialogue with the students.

My Learning, My School

Another Safa tradition throughout the EYFS – Primary school is our famous – My Learning, My School where parents are invited in and children are able to co-write their learning targets with their parents. This is a great opportunity for the children to share their learning books and discuss how they learn at school.

Spellzone is an online tool that the school has used effectively to improve the spelling outcomes. The tool is used by over 800 schools globally, and recently SCS came 1st in achieving the most points out of all schools subscribed.

Our Year 3-6 students use Century Tech, which was created by an award-winning team of experienced teachers, neuroscientists and technologists. It is an online tool for English, Maths and Science which uses a combination of learning science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience. This tool is used both in school and as part of our home learning experience. Parents have direct access to their results, so they can see what their child is working on and where their focus areas are.

Solo Taxonomy is a highly proven and effective assessment for learning technique that was implemented into our school curriculum almost 4 years ago. As learning progresses it becomes more complex. SOLO, which stands for the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, is a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they have got right. Please see the visual representation which is used with all of our SCS learners.

As an addition to our curriculum subjects offered at SCS, over the past four years we’ve continued to develop our learning competencies, which at SCS we refer to as our Learning Gears, which aim to assess students outside of their academic subjects. These were written with and for our SCS learners, which we modify every two years to adjust to the changes in both education and the world around us. An example of this, was after the global pandemic, digital literacy and skills became a very important part of our children’s learning journey so this was woven into our learning gears, as was Wellbeing.

  • Identity
  • Thinking & Questioning
  • Self Managers
  • Talking about Learning
  • Together Everyone Achieves More
  • Connect the Dots

This was implemented into our school curriculum three years ago, with the purpose of students in upper primary to understand passions and interests. This is to support with their journey into the secondary when they begin to make subject choices as they enter into their GCSE journey.

PCaRT stands for Personal Choice and Reflection Time, where children have a choice every Thursday afternoon of completing an additional specialist subject. Children provide ideas as to what subjects they would like offered and this then forms the offering provided by the school. The programme is driven on developing the children’s learning skills.

The school employs a host of learning tools and resources to ensure that the students achieve higher than their capabilities during their stay in the primary school. The starting point is rigorous assessment data analysis to identify the strengths of every student and introduce academic intervention best suited to that student.

Year 1 – 6

We use a 6 point assessment scale, which has clear expectations in terms of attainment levels throughout the different assessment cycles throughout the year. The progress expected level is at least two jumps from baseline through to the end of the year, however, as we work on ensuring our children make better than expected progress, then we would require them to make three jumps across the continuum.

EYFS – Year 6

We have three data collection points throughout the academic year. Data is analysed rigorously, looking at all ‘groups’ of students and it is analysed at all levels: Class teacher, Year Group, Subject Area and Specific Groups (More Gifted And Talented(MAGT), SEND, ELL, Distance Learning, EAL, Boys / Girls etc. Data Analysis is directly aligned to classroom teachers’ performance management meetings which reflect on the attainment and progress of their students as well as using PASS information to analyse wellbeing results. Key actions are identified, and this helps inform the provision map across the school. Additional interventions are put in place, which are tracked and measured to ensure they are having a positive impact on the children’s progress.

More Able Gifted and Talented (MAGT)

This has continued to be a priority area for us as a school over the past three years. We have appointed a dedicated Primary and Secondary MAGT leader who is responsible for holding teachers and departments to account, as well as monitoring the attainment and progress of these learners.

To support with our efforts and ensuring that we offer world class provisions for our MAGT students, Safa Community School became an official member of NACE. We are currently undergoing our accreditation for the Challenge Framework.

nace logo

To encourage MAGT students to aim and achieve over and beyond their high capabilities, the school offers them a plethora of additional opportunities including:

  • Expo competition
  • Maths, English & Science societies
  • Kenken- Maths competition (KS3 only)
  • Maths & English Year 6 transition classes facilitated by a secondary teacher
  • Olympiad Competition
  • Inter Year Group MAGT maths competition
  • Inter Year Group MAGT
  • Debating competition
  • STEAM competition
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