Nord Anglia's Dover Court is a hugely popular all-through school that offers outstanding SEN provision, an extended STEAM and music programme, and the option of taking the IB Diploma Programme or a more vocational BTEC in Business.
It’s smaller than other schools here – half the size of Tanglin Trust and third of the size of UWCSEA – and its friendly, nurturing learning environment (that has the feel of a British village school) is part of its appeal. The school’s teddy bear mascot even has its own Instagram account!
Non-selective Dover Court International School (DCIS) is owned and run by Nord Anglia, the world's largest listed education group. Aside from the school's own pedigree, that should give parents some confidence because whilst it does mean the school is profit making, it's also extremely concerned about your happiness too. It sees your child's success and well-being very much as its own.
This is pretty much part of Nord Anglia's DNA. Its schools the world over are in general very well managed and Dover Court, one of Singapore’s oldest and most established international schools – set up in 1972 – is no exception to the rule. Whilst it has yet to break into the rarefied space of the top academically oriented schools in the city, DC promotes itself as more than the sum of the bits of paper a child leaves with.
Read the school's own letters to parents, and the marketing on its website, and you'll notice serious investment in all those facets that go beyond the academic into what schools like to call "whole child" development. If your child is a musician or into performing arts, think the global Nord Anglia-Julliard tie up; if your child is into sport, or the outdoors in general, welcome to 12 acres of green open space 12km from the city centre.
Dover Court is also well known for its support for children with special needs, and offers provision for students that require small class size instruction. The school offers support across four learning pathways, where the level of support changes according to the needs of the child. Around 10% of the student body receive support in Pathways 3 and 4 where the teacher to student ratio is 2:8 and 3:8 respectively. The school complements a tailored curriculum with therapy services including speech, language, and physiotherapy, and facilities such as an art sensory room and therapy suite.
While being part of a group of schools that cover the world, Dover Court itself, with a student body of around 1,400, is not a large school and takes pride in the fact that everyone knows each other's names. That actually is a pretty strong selling point given the fact that for many of its target audience it will be a new school in a new country. Dover Court is said to be particularly good at settling young children in, who get to know one another and all their teachers very quickly.
Waitlists remain long here (its popularity never fades) but the school never appears complacent and shows signs looking to drive forward and improve. For example, Dover Court was the first international school in Singapore to offer college students a vocational alternative to the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) - the BTEC Level 2 and 3 in Business.
The general feedback from parents is that Dover Court is a community, family school that is wonderfully and academically inclusive. Teachers are caring and supportive, the charm of its older campus makes it all the more welcoming, the curriculum is creative and engaging.
Dover Court delivers a British-style curriculum in its upper and lower primary schools, which is based on the National Curriculum for England; this includes core subjects and specialist teaching in art, music, drama, PE, and Mandarin.
The secondary school continues to follow the National Curriculum for England, which includes core subjects and specialist teaching in art, music, drama, PE, Mandarin, French, and computing. Students also have Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education (PSHE), a feature of the National Curriculum for England that looks at issues such as bullying, healthy lifestyles, dealing with stress and emotions, alcohol and drugs, friendships and relationships, and global issues. In Years 10 – 11, students work towards their IGCSE examinations.
The school introduced the IB Diploma Programme (Years 11 – 12) in 2017, and launched the BTEC International Level 2 in Business in 2020. DCIS was the first international school in Singapore to offer college students this vocational alternative to the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP); this two year post-16 vocational qualification, which is offered in Years 12 and 13, is a full-time programme.
The Diploma programme plays to the school's strengths of having an all round curriculum. It is a small school with lots of individual attention - almost a prerequisite for getting good grades at the IBDP (that is unless your child is naturally an all rounder, and extremely, extremely dedicated, organized, and hard working).
The IBDP's grade system is very transparent and highly comparable with other schools, and so the school can argue convincingly that the Tanglins, UWCs, and St Josephs are not the only options in town. Dover Court has delivered in the high 30s with its first three IB cohorts (the average score ranged from 35-37 from 2019-21), which is particularly impressive given its non-selective intake.
As Singapore - and most forward thinking countries know - tomorrow's economy will have little to do with today's. In 20 years by some estimates almost 90% of careers will not have even been created yet. What's more, the number of future entrepreneurs a country produces, the real engine of any economy, is not directly correlated with strong academic credentials and PISA scores.
It's not actually even things like computer programming, or the study of business. Increasingly successful all round education is about developing children able to cope with change, unpredictability, children that are creative and can see opportunities in a world constantly evolving around them.
This is where Dover Court can really carve out a more unique difference. The school itself says it strives for and achieves the very highest academic standards but, crucially, the mainstream curriculum has also been developed to ensure that ‘soft skills’ such as problem solving, creativity, entrepreneurship, public speaking, collaborative learning, and public service are given significant prominence.
"Children learn across a broad and balanced range of subjects. From STEM subjects in a world class Science Laboratory or Design Thinking workshop, to Performing Arts through the collaboration with the Juilliard Conservatory in New York."
Put simply, Dover Court is a very forward thinking school – and now one that is also a gateway to the world's top universities.
Focus on STEAM and music
What really sets this school apart from the rest is its collaborations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Juilliard School. Dover Court moves away from a traditional schooling approach that teaches STEAM subjects individually; instead it takes an integrated approach that sees students working across, between, and beyond individual subjects.
In line with MIT’s philosophy of ‘mind and hand’, Dover Court encourages hands-on learning, and it sets students real-world challenges every term. You can expect to find students building robots, studying bioengineering and water quality in Singapore, looking at climate change, and much more.
The school’s website says,
“These challenges will be interdisciplinary, critical-thinking activities that will present students with the challenge of a modern day, real-world issue that has yet to be solved. Each will require significant levels of collaboration, experimentation and a designed solution through trial and error. Creating practical challenges for students means that they can develop their knowledge and skills through hands-on exercises.”
As part of the MIT collaboration, students have the opportunity to go to the annual Cambridge Science Festival in Massachusetts, and teachers visit MIT every summer for training from its experts.
Another distinguishing feature of Dover Court is its Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme. Developed in partnership with the performing arts academy based in New York, this arts curriculum puts students in front of Juilliard’s performers and teaching artists at various workshops, masterclasses, and performances. You really get a feel for the love of music at this school. It all starts in Year 1, when students take compulsory keyboard lessons in Dover Court's well-equipped music room. The school’s music curriculum is based on a repertoire curated by Juilliard that is built around 12 categories of music, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Gershwin and John Williams.
The school’s website says,
“Through our music curriculum designed by The Juilliard School, every student can enjoy being an engaged listener, composer, interpreter and communicator. In addition, your child will be developing valuable skills that will pay dividends in all aspects of learning and prepare them for success in future life.”
A global campus
International schools are no longer founded to simply fill the gap for expat education. They are expected to offer students in any given country a global education that offers more than just internationally recognised qualifications. Dover Court does go the extra mile to try and achieve this.
As part of its DNA, Nord Anglia encourages children to see themselves as global citizens from an early age. As a member of Nord Anglia’s global network of 55 schools, Dover Court is part of the group’s Global Campus. This virtual world links Nord Anglia’s 50,000 students and gives them access to online courses, global challenges, and experiences that are run across the family of schools. Previous challenges have included a partnership with the Cambridge Science Festival to create a chain reaction machine.
By logging on to the Global Campus website, students can enter creative writing competitions, take part in photography challenges and virtual choirs, and sign up to Global Campus expeditions. Through Global Campus Worldwide, all Nord Anglia schools offer a variety of summer programmes ranging from specialist camps for the performing arts or leadership to sports and language camps. They also encourage students to showcase their talent in Nord Anglia regional and global competitions, such as sports tournaments, orchestra performances, and science festivals.
The school’s website says,
“Our Global Campus extends your child's learning beyond the classroom and the school day. Your child can participate in a wide variety of activities designed by educational experts and teachers to broaden their knowledge and nurture transferable skills valuable in school, university and the workplace.”
DC offers the best of both worlds – a ‘small school feeling’ and a ‘global community’ – and provides students with plenty of opportunity to thrive in competition and collaboration.
Dover Court is an inclusive international British school that has a reputation for supporting children with special needs both within and alongside its mainstream programme. This Nord Anglia school’s very well-established Learning Pathway programme offers four distinct pathways tailored to student’s individual abilities from as young as three up to 18 years (Nursery to Year 13).
The level of support changes according to the needs of the child in each pathway, and teaching throughout is closely aligned to the National Curriculum for England. The school is well-equipped to support students with offers therapy services including speech, language, and physiotherapy; there are facilities such as an art sensory room and therapy suite; and teachers have training and experience in areas including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and moderate, severe and profound learning difficulties.
Around 10% of the student body receive support in Pathways 3 and 4 where the teacher to student ratio is 2:8 and 3:8 respectively; it’s low enough to offer a very tailored and individualised curriculum to those students who need it. As students move into the secondary school, the ASDAN curriculum focuses on developing life skills such as teamwork, communication and employability skills.
It’s been an inclusive school since it first opened in Singapore in 1972, and the focus has always been on carefully structured integration and twinning opportunities for students that differentiates it from a SEN school. All students will students play, eat and socialise together, but for those students who struggle in social situations, there are quiet zones.
Students with additional learning needs are ‘buddied’ up with mainstream students to help build friendships, and students may join mainstream classes in specialist non-academic subjects such as music, PE and IT.
The Nord Anglia group is renowned for its academic excellence. Students regularly achieve excellent results at IGCSE level and in the IBDP. Around one in five Nord Anglia students gets a place at the world’s top 30 universities; there is a history of students receiving full marks in their IBDP; and around 15% of all Nord Anglia Education students who sit the IBDP have historically achieved a score of around 40 or above, more than double the global average.
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In 2022, the IB cohort of 20 students at Dover Court achieved an average score of 39 (three points above the 36 points of last year) with a 100% pass rate. Three students achieved 44 out of 45 possible points; 56% achieved more than 40 points.
Read our roundup of Singapore's 2022 IB results here.
2021 I/GCSE results (the school has not published its results for 2022): 100% pass rate; 61% (A*); 41% (A*-A) which is far above the UK figure of 28.9%; 96% (A*-C). 96% achieved 5 IGCSEs or more including English and maths, up from 94% and 79% in 2020 and 2019 respectively.
There are also signs of achievement here that can’t be represented in league tables; for example, a Year 9 student is the youngest participant to join the 2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition, which takes place in March 2022.
Principal Richard Dyer, who joined Dover Court in 2021 from The British International School Budapest, says:
"We are highly ambitious for our students in all aspects of their academic and personal growth. Our students are energetic, articulate, motivated, confident, caring and they are eager to make their mark on the world. One of the great strengths of our British style international education is that such growth involves all aspects of students’ moral, physical, emotional, aesthetic, social and academic development focused on each individual’s personal best."
The student body is made up of around 1,400 students aged 3 to 18 years, and representing more than 60 nationalities.
As well as signing up to a variety of student leadership positions, children at Dover Court can speak out on the airwaves, on the school's Red Dot radio station. There's also a very active house system, all named after Singaporean neighbourhoods, and students take part in various activities to compete for the DCIS Cup, which is awarded at every Friday's assembly.
Any school promising to offer a broad education needs to offer a programme of extra-curricular activities. Once again, Dover Court ticks the box with its offering of clubs covering sport, the arts (from music and choir to drawing, drama, and debating), and academia (language skills, science, Mandarin etc). Most activities are included in the school fees.
The school says:
"We’re smaller than other schools here – half the size of Tanglin Trust and third of the size of UWCSEA – so we’re really proud of our sporting achievements. We’re still successful in the sporting arena despite being a ‘smaller’ school."
Facilities at Dover Court include embedded technology in the classrooms, a fully equipped Juilliard Music Suite, and a new TV and radio station. In September 2019, the school opened a new secondary building and sports facility with classrooms, a 300-seat cafeteria, and drama, art, ICT, design & technology, and music spaces. In terms of sports, the school has an upgraded swimming pool complex, six-lane running track, full-size soccer pitch, basketball courts, playing fields, and indoor multi-purpose hall. In terms of green spaces, the school is located in 12 acres of parkland.
Most recently, the school has refurbished its Early Years outdoor spaces, which has meant that it can offer a a wider range of activities on a daily basis to students under the Reggio-inspired Early Years Programme.
Admission and fees
Fees start at S$18,480 for the year at nursery, and rise to S$27,210 annually for Years 9 – 12, certainly not in the value range of schools but far from the most expensive in the city. Given the school's IB programme – a more expensive curriculum to deliver – we believe Dover Court offers good value, a school priced to make leaving a pretty difficult decision.
The school offers a limited number of IB scholarships for outstanding students.
Dover Court is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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