Q+A: Sherborne Qatar
Sherborne Qatar answers our questions and gives Winter's readers a virtual tour…
What happens when parents visit the school?
We always try to arrange the timing of a visit to suit parents, because we want to give a tailor-made tour. Only rarely do we take groups of parents on school tours, because each set of parents will have their own specific questions. This individual approach is even more important if prospective pupils are with their parents.
Usually, the Head or the Senior Deputy Head will conduct the tour. We visit as much of the school as possible and always go into a random selection of lessons. Parents looking for a place in Year 9, for example, need to see what Year 9 pupils look like and they also need to hear from them. We look for volunteers to step out of the room and talk about their experiences.
What do you do to help children settle in?
Because everybody has been a new arrival at some point, we make sure that a warm welcome is extended to all newcomers. Where possible, we set up a link beforehand, so that emails and messages can be exchanged. Once in school, each new pupil has a ‘buddy’ (who will become a real friend, we hope!), who shows them the ropes over the first few weeks. There is always interest shown in new pupils out of a genuine wish for them to meet people and go places.
"Only rarely do we take groups of parents on school tours, because each set of parents will have their own specific questions."
What curriculum do you follow?
Sherborne Qatar Senior School is a selective British school in an international setting, offering an education based closely on the English National Curriculum, and (I)GCSE and A Level specifications. Our aim is to provide pupils with an enhanced British curriculum, in an environment where we give our pupils a creative, inspiring learning experience, as well as preparing them for life beyond school.
What is your teaching philosophy?
We want to produce well-rounded citizens, and are keen to develop pupils' potential not just academically but also in qualities for life such as independent thinking, creativity, self-respect, tolerance, empathy and global awareness.
What is your approach to languages in the school?
SQ attracts applications both from the local and international communities; and as part of the entry requirements children must be able to communicate in English at a level appropriate to their age and development. As a British school in an international setting, English is expected to be the language spoken in school, except in Modern Foreign languages lessons. Naturally pupils feel more comfortable speaking in their first language, but this will not help them to become competent in speaking and using English. Therefore, we strongly encourage pupils to speak English throughout the school day.
What is the background of your teaching staff?
All of our teachers are specialists in their curriculum area, are well qualified and trained. The vast majority of the teachers come from the UK and are fully conversant with the requirements of the complete age range and examinations, from IGCSE to A Levels.
How large are the classes in your school?
Class sizes are set at a level that ensures all pupils have as much individual attention as necessary, because we believe that we must address each child's needs as fully as we can. The maximum allowed is 24, but the average is 18. In the Sixth Form, the maximum is 16, but the average is 10.
How do you support pupils who are struggling, and how do you challenge the more able?
The more able are given work that will challenge and stretch them because every teacher has a broad range of tasks that will ignite pupils’ curiosity and creativity. Those who can sometimes struggle will be set tasks that aim to build their confidence in the subject. When necessary, pupils are taken out of a class for specialist one-to-one Learning Support.
How have your pupils performed in examinations in recent years?
Public examination results are strong and above the UK average. In 2014, 82% of our pupils achieved A*–C in five or more subjects, and several subjects achieved 100% A*–C grades. In 2015, the figure rose to just over 90%. Given the international nature of the cohort and the fact that for many of the children English is not their mother tongue, this is a great achievement. However, the real success stories of a host of pupils lie behind the statistics.
What is the teaching programme in your Sixth Form?
We offer a full range of subjects and also expect pupils to complete the Extended Project Qualification. The changes to A Levels that were introduced in 2015 by the British government are reflected in our approach to study at this level. All courses are offered as two-year linear programmes, with all public examinations being sat at the end of the Upper Sixth.
What extra-curricular activities do you offer in the Senior school?
Senior school pupils enjoy a wide range of extra-curricular activities in school and in Doha. There are plenty of sports fixtures played against other schools both in Doha and in the BSME region. We run the full Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, we are active in the Model United Nations, and are current Qatar Debating League champions. We also ensure that visits to plays and concerts, museums and galleries all feature in the programme.
"There are plenty of sports fixtures played against other schools..."
How do most children travel to school?
The vast majority of pupils across Doha travel by car, and the roads are particularly busy at school times. There is more evidence of car sharing with a number of families taking it in turn to do the school run. The PTA can put new parents in touch with old hands to help with these arrangements. We also offer a bus service through a third-party company. TriLogistics is a company that runs a number of buses on routes across Doha. The buses will typically go to villa compounds or stop at specific places. The arrangements made are between parents and the company, but there is always a representative in school, so that questions can be answered quickly.
"...our unique relationship with the schools in Sherborne gives us very clear benefits... "
Do you have a wide range of food options?
We are fairly unusual amongst schools in Doha, because we have a full lunch hour. Therefore, we like children to sit and eat their lunch properly – at a table and using a knife and fork. Of course, we don’t mind if they use their fingers too!
It is possible, of course, to bring a packed lunch, but we do have caterers who provide a good range of both hot and cold food, international and local cuisine, from dawn until dusk. There is an emphasis on healthy eating whilst recognising that children do need food that fills them with energy.
What links do you have with other schools?
We are part of the BSME and this enables us to link with schools in the region for sport, drama, debating, and so on. Our membership of COBIS also gives us opportunities to connect with schools across the globe. But our unique relationship with the schools in Sherborne gives us very clear benefits. There is an annual exchange visit, and departmental co-operation in various ways. When pupils leave us at the end of their Upper Sixth year, they become members of the Old Shirburnian Society (the alumni association). These connections ensure that former pupils remain in touch with a wide network and with the school itself.
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Images: Sherborne Qatar