Interview with Which School Advisor

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Which School Advisor.

Why should Oaktree Primary be on the parents’ shortlist?
Oaktree Primary School should be on every parent’s shortlist because it is, in many ways unique. It is unique, first because of its size. In a world in which huge schools and large student numbers are the ambition of many school organisers, Oaktree Primary School has made it a deliberate policy to remain small. Our total size, when the school is full, will be 608 students; with 32 classrooms, this means that we shall have a ratio of 19 students per classroom overall, with a limit of 18 in the Foundation Stage and 22 in Key Stages One and Two.

If you combine this with our location in Al Quoz, close to The Oasis Centre, you will see that we are right in the centre of Dubai, so there is easy access across the city.

We have not only concentrated on size and location. The school has a high-quality teaching staff, recruited mainly from the United Kingdom, and a Principal who has led Outstanding schools in Dubai and England.

Why do you think prospective parents are less receptive to sending their children to a new school?
One might imagine that it is because there is always the fear of the unknown in all of us, and that this fear is even greater when we are considering what we should do for the most precious people in our lives, our children. It is this sense of security and certainty that has led parents, over the years, to seek schools that emphasise tradition. We often hear schools talking about traditional values, which provides greater assurance in an ever-changing world.

Similarly, there will always be emotional reasons behind people preferring more traditional artefacts. There will always be a market for old oil paintings and vintage cars, but, certainly in the case of the vintage cars, they need a good deal of maintenance and, even then, they could not possibly complete with brand-new modern cars in terms of performance.

We need to be very careful when we allow ourselves to believe that because something has been around for some time it is, therefore, better, or even more secure. We need to question what we mean by the word ‘new’. If an established school is wedded to the educational practices of the past, turning its face away from all modern research into how the brain works and how children learn, is it really what we should be looking for?

Further, if an established school has had a high turnover of teaching staff, and this is more likely in a transient society such as Dubai, is it really ‘established’ in the way we might imagine?

I went to a very traditional school myself, one where we sat in rows and did not speak unless asked a question by the teacher. As the saying goes, Ours was not to reason why. Our role was to follow rules, listen to our teachers and take notes. Did this prepare us for the modern world? Of course not, but we had to pass an exam to get a place at this school, so my parents felt that it had to offer something better.

At Oaktree Primary and in the modern world, we believe that the opposite is true. It is every child’s job to reason why and every teacher’s job, working with parents and carers, to stimulate that sense of curiosity, to ask Why? and then, often working with others, to search for possible answers.

What do you think are the ‘cons’ of sending children to a new school?
In a nutshell, I would say that it is this: if you start a new school, with all the sense of…

You can read the full interview here

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