Nord Anglia's Dover Court is a hugely popular all-through school that offers outstanding SEN provision, an existing STEAM and music programme, and has recently introduced a sixth form offering the IB Diploma Programme.
Non-selective Dover Court International School (DCIS) is owned and run by Nord Anglia, the world's largest listed education group. Aside 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 as very much its.
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 pupils 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 and 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.
Dover Court delivers a British-style curriculum in its upper and lower primary schools, which is based on the English National Curriculum; this includes core subjects and specialist teaching in art, music, drama, PE and Mandarin.
The secondary school continues to follow the English National Curriculum, 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 English National Curriculum 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 study work towards their IGCSE examinations.
What the school is not known for is older years education, but change is coming. The school introduced the IB Diploma Programme (Years 11-12) in August 2017. That does not mean this is a school with post 16 pedigree yet – Dover Court will need to earn its stripes, but we think it has good chances to do so.
Why do we think that? Because firstly it is offering the Diploma programme which plays to the school's strengths of an all round curriculum, and secondly 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 a naturally an all rounder, and extremely, extremely dedicated, organized and hard working).
The IBDP's grade system is also very transparent and highly comparable with other schools, so should the school start delivering in the high 30s quickly, given its non-selective intake - it will pretty soon be able to argue convincingly that the Tanglins, UWCs and St Josephs are not the only options in town...
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 COULD 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 actually already a very forward thinking school. It's just not one, yet, that also offers the safety blanket to parents of also being 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, NAIS 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.
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.
While Dover Court has yet to sit its first IBDP exam, the outlook for its secondary students is promising. In 2017, the school celebrated some solid IGCSE results: 100% were graded A*-B in single science, A*-A in French, and A*-C in history; 89% received A*-C in English; and more than 80% were graded A*-C in maths and drama.
The head teacher at Dover Court is British-born Christopher Short, who joined the school in 2016 from the British International School in Hanoi where he was the founding head of secondary. He has more than 20 years' experience in international education.
The student body is made up of around 1,400 students aged three 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 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.
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 has recently introduced a limited number of partial scholarships for outstanding students to complete the highly prestigious IBDP from August 2018 to May 2020.
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