Saudi Arabia / Eastern Province / Al Khobar / ISG British School Dhahran

ISG British School Dhahran Review

Founded in 1981, Dhahran British Grammar School follows the National Curriculum for England and delivers externally assessed (I)GCSE examinations as well as offering a full A-level programme. The school is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS), the British Schools Overseas (BSO), the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) and the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools (MSA).
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
SAR 64,000
Annual fees
SAR 29,975–73,200
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1981
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr David Bolton
Owner
International Schools Group
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ISG British School Dhahran
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
No rating
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
SAR 64,000
Annual fees
SAR 29,975–73,200
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1981
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr David Bolton
Owner
International Schools Group
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Founded in 1981, Dhahran British Grammar School follows the National Curriculum for England and delivers externally assessed (I)GCSE examinations as well as offering a full A-level programme. The school is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS), the British Schools Overseas (BSO), the British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) and the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools (MSA).

The story so far...

Founded in 1981, ISG British School Dhahran is one of five schools operated by the not-for-profit International Schools Group (ISG). ISG was founded in 1962 as Saudi Arabian International Schools (SAIS) to serve the needs of expatriate families living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

By 1978, the SAIS group had been renamed ISG and had expanded to include other schools in Saudi Arabia consisting of three divisions: the American Division based on a US curriculum, the British Division delivering the English National curriculum, and the International Division based on a US Curriculum, with the addition of a national languages program that offers Arabic, Hindi, Filipino and Urdu. ISG currently serves the needs of over 4,000 students.

BSD is accredited by British Schools Overseas (BSO) on behalf of the UK Government’s Department of Education, British Schools in the Middle East (BSME), the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Middle States Association for Colleges and Schools (MSA).

Originally known as Dhahran British Grammar School, in 2021, the school was renamed the British School Dhahran (BSD), and in 2022, with the relocation of the school to a purpose-built, state-of-the-art new campus in Aziziyah, Al-Khobar shared with the (newly renamed) ISG American School Dhahran, it changed its name again to ISG British School Dhahran.

The school currently has a population of approximately 700 students representing over 50 different nationalities. Students are taught by qualified and experienced staff, largely British in origin. The school is an accredited examination centre for Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CAIE) formerly Cambridge International Examination (CIE) and Edexcel Pearson. 

The school Mission statement says “We inspire innovation and compassionate action.”
Its Core Values are ‘Respect, acceptance, integrity, responsibility ...with a commitment to act.’

BSD is led by Principal, David Bolton, who in his introduction to BSD says:

"We encourage our students to become independent learners to prepare them for an ever changing world of the future. It is not enough for pupils to just learn information by rote - they need to know how to challenge themselves, how to get the best out of their learning, to engage in effective dialogue with teachers and their peers, to provide feedback and ways forward and to utilise appropriate resources effectively. As well as these, we want our students to be happy, to care for one another, to accept differences and to promote positivity within the school community."

What about the curriculum?

BSD offers an English National Curriculum-based programme to students from Foundation Stage 1 to Year 13 culminating in IGCSE at the end of Year 11, and A Level examinations at the end of Year 13. 

Students in the Foundation Stage follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum are classroom-based, taught by their class teacher, for the majority of their lessons. They have specialist teachers for Arabic, music and P.E. FS students also have access to library lessons in the Learning Commons, where they learn library skills and check out a book to read at home. All children have a weekly Arabic lesson where they learn about Saudi Arabian culture and customs as well as a few words of Arabic. There is one FS1 class and three FS2 classes.

Once students move on to Year 1 and Year 2 (Key Stage 1), the school operates three classes for each year group. Each class has a teaching assistant in addition to the teacher. Year 1 and 2 students share buildings with Early Years and Key Stage 2 (years 3 to 6) students. They receive two Arabic lessons weekly. Technology is integrated into student learning throughout the curriculum via class-based laptops and iPads, in addition to the use of a Primary computer lab for work on PCs.

Key Stage 2 students continue with English National Curriculum and have specialist lessons for Arabic, art, computing, French, music and PE. In the Upper Primary School, in Years 5 and 6, the students use Chromebooks in their classrooms on regular basis.

As students move in the Senior school, students in Key Stage 3 (from Years 7 to 9) cover a wide variety of subjects including Arabic language, art, computing, drama, design technology, French, music, and Saudi culture, in addition to the core subjects of maths, English, sciences and physical education.  

From Years 10 to 11, (Key Stage 4), BSD follows the (I)GCSE programme from Cambridge Assessment International Examinations and Edexcel Exam Boards.  All students study English language and literature, mathematics and the three sciences, biology, chemistry and physics. Additionally students take three or four electives, including options such as art, business studies, computer science, design technology, drama, French as a foreign language, geography, global perspectives, history, and physical education. 

BSD also offers a fast track route to high achievers in maths.  From 2019, fast track students have been able to take their IGCSE maths exam in May of Year 10 and study a further mathematical qualification in preparation for A level in Year 11.

In the final stage of their education at BSD (Key Stage 5), the school offers a full A-level programme for students aged 16 and above. Students in Year 12 choose four subjects to study at AS level and take their external examinations at the end of the year. Subjects offered are relatively limited in number (driven presumably by the size of the cohort), but include a relatively broad range with art, biology, business studies, chemistry, drama, economics, English literature, geography, history, maths, physical education, physics, and psychology available. 

The school is also said to offer an excellent after school activities programme and is an Independent Award Centre (IAC) for the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award (D of E). Students also regularly participates in Model United Nations (MUN) and British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) games at primary and secondary levels designed to provide an all round educational experience for students. In addition, BSD sports team compete in the Saudi Arabian Inter-Kingdom Activities (SAIKAC) events and the Dhahran Private Schools League (DPSL) locally. 

What about Academic Achievement? 

BSD is a registered examination centre for Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and Edexcel Pearson. All school results are made public to the parents and to the broader community – those for the 2020-21 academic year can be found here.  Along with these external examinations, standardised testing is undertaken annually and formal and informal assessment take place in the classrooms on regular basis. Written reports are sent to parents in terms 1 and 3 and two parent/teacher conferences take place annually.

According to BSD, “with an emphasis on high achievement, our academic results compare favourably with the very best national curriculum schools in the U.K. and across the world.” 

BSD offers comprehensive support for students through their university application process in years 12 and 13 including writing personal statements, writing references, and careers advice. The school is a registered centre for UCAS for students wishing to continue their higher education in the UK and assist others applying for universities all over the world. 

What about the facilities?

Following its relocation in summer 2022 with ISG American School Dhahran (ASD), British School Dhahran (BSD) is located in the ISG Dhahran campus and has access to all its facilities. The new site is in the area of Aziziyah and has been developed by the Al Rashed Group. Located adjacent to the Canary Vista Compound off Khalediyah Road, it is within close proximity to Dhahran and Khobar. 

The campus is built over an area of 70,000 square meters. Designed by highly regarded architectural firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) the schools have been designed to incorporate the latest aspects of modern-day design, while ensuring that they will be fit for purpose for everyday use as a modern educational facility, according to Jason Burnside, partner at GAJ. “Once constructed, the new ISG school campus will be the premier educational facility of its type in the Eastern Province of KSA.”  

BSD is a Google school with all staff and students having school Google accounts and using Google Suite for education. WiFi coverage extends throughout the campus, allowing for easy laptop use and the effective implementation of the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) technology plan in the Senior School. In addition, BSD has a multimedia room with a green screen and two computer labs, one for Primary School and one for Senior School. 

Further specialist facilities include four science labs, a design technology suite which includes a Design Room linked to a CNC Milling Machine for CAD/CAM, and a control centre for the integration of IT and DT projects. There is also a kitchen used mainly by the Primary School, Year 7 and for the cooking club after school (ASA).

Primary students also have access to shared facilities including the Learning Commons (LC), a purpose-built kitchen, a designated art room, a music room and a Primary computer lab. Early Years (EY) and Key Stage 1 students also have access to a soft play room with bouncy castle, ball pool, and a range of climbing apparatus and construction equipment to encourage children to be inventive. A large, shaded outdoor sand area with climbing frames, swings and slides is complemented by a garage housing bikes and wheeled toys for use on the tarmac track, which offers children the opportunity to develop their road-safety skills.

The campus additionally includes a 1000-seat auditorium which can host a range of functions including performances, assemblies, graduations ceremonies, and prize giving. A further theatre provides a 350-seat performing arts facility suitable for smaller performances. In addition, BSD has a drama room located in the senior school building, purposefully designed for the delivery of the drama curriculum.

The two music rooms provide access to a wide variety of musical instruments and to Sibelius, the music software. Students are encouraged to learn playing a musical instrument during the day and have small practice rooms for that purpose. Fine art is practised in two well-equipped art studios, one for Primary and one for Senior School. 

BSD shares the Dhahran campus Learning Commons (LC) with the ISG American School Dhahran - an up-to-date learning resources centre with an extensive library. The library has a collection of over one hundred thousand items including a huge online database as well as eBooks. It incorporates a green screen studio allowing students develop their creative presentation skills. 
The LC library specialists provide instruction, support, and reinforcement to students, equipping them with the knowledge to assess, evaluate, manage, and communicate ideas and information gained from a variety of resources. 

BSD also shares a large cafeteria within the ISG Dhahran campus where students have the option to purchase food or eat their packed lunches. Outdoor seating is also provided to enable students to eat their lunch outside the cafeteria when the weather permits. Key Stage 4 and 5 students can purchase food from Joffrey's coffee shop on campus during their breaks. Younger students can purchase at Joffrey's only with teacher's permission. 

Students have access to Sports and Physical education facilities including world-class gymnasiums, a weight room, a dance studio, two Astroturf football pitches, a full-size pitch and a 5-a-side one, an inner track of 370m and an outer perimeter of 1500m. A 10-metre four-sided rock-climbing tower extends the range of activities provided by the campus. Multiple outdoor play areas are spread across the campus for different age groups to use during their breaks. 

Students in Years 10 and 11 have access to the BSD dome, a purpose-built common room facility, provided primarily for use during lunch and break times. The dome also serves as a multi-purpose area where key stage assemblies are held. A large stage area, incorporated at one side, is ideal for small performances and presentations. The dome is used as an exam room during (I)GCSE and A-level official exams. Year 12 and 13 students have access to a Sixth Form common room, a classroom size facility designed by AS/A-level students. Students may spend their non-contact lessons and their break times in the Sixth Form common room where they can socialise, work on assignments or revise. 

What the inspectors say

Although BSD states that it is an accredited BSO school, its most recent inspection appears to have taken place in 2015.  Inspection outcomes are usually valid for a three year period.  The report can be found hereThe BSO inspection team rated the school Good with excellent features.

The Buzz

BSD says that it actively involves parents in the school and the Parent Teacher Group (PTG) is a group that helps with a range of activities for parents. Meetings take place in school throughout the year. Events include (but are not restricted to) the walkathon, a ‘seasonal’ visitor event and the Annual Spring Fair.

This is clearly a long established school that now has the facilities to enable it to develop its curriculum and subject offering and to attract further students both locally and internationally as families move into the area.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at ISG British School Dhahran, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community and complete our survey.

What about the Fees?

Tuition fees at BSD range from 29,975 SAR for FS1 to 73,200 SAR excluding VAT.

The school offers a Sibling Discount, where families with three (3) or more children at an ISG school are eligible for a discount. The discount applies to the third child (and subsequent children) in the youngest grade(s) only. The discount will be 20% of that child's tuition. If the installment plan is chosen, the discounted rate will be applied equally to all installment payments.

There are also a range of additional fees.

Application Fee: An application fee of SAR 1,380 (SAR 1,200 plus 15% VAT) must accompany each application. 

Seat Reservation Deposit: A non-refundable SAR 5,000 seat deposit, per student, is required to reserve a seat for the school year. This is credited towards tuition.

New Student Enrolment Fee: New students enrolled in FS2 to Year 13 will be charged a one-time, non-refundable New Student Enrolment Fee of SAR 10,000 (excl. VAT). This also applies to those students transferring from FS1 to FS2.

Installment Plan Fee: BSD offers the opportunity to pay the annual Tuition and Fees in three (3) installments through the Installment Plan Method. The associated cost for the Installment Plan is SAR 2,000 (excl. VAT) per student per year.

Partial-Year Enrolment Plan Fee: For students who will not be in attendance for the whole school year, provided it is declared before the start of the school year, a Partial-Year Enrolment Plan is available at a cost of SAR 2,000 (excl. VAT). 

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