Wellbeing in Dubai Schools: How is it Evaluated?

The KHDA has rated Dubai's private schools on wellbeing for the first time, but parents may find themselves asking what exactly this means, and how wellbeing in schools is being evaluated.
Wellbeing in Dubai Schools: How is it Evaluated?
By Susan Roberts
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Dubai's education regulator, the KHDA, has rated the emirate's private schools on wellbeing for the first time, as part of 2022-23 inspections, with a total of 47 schools receiving the highest rating of 'Very High'. Parents may find themselves asking what exactly this means, and how wellbeing in schools is being evaluated.

View the full list of Dubai school wellbeing ratings here

When was the new wellbeing framework introduced?

The KHDA has long been ahead of other regulators in its focus on wellbeing, which began in 2007 with the launch of the Dubai Plan 2015, highlighting wellbeing as an essential enabler of social development and a key driver of strategic excellence.  This commitment was strengthened further in the Dubai Plan 2021 and the Dubai Plan 2030, bringing wellbeing and education to the forefront of national priorities.

Over the years, the KHDA has worked with Dubai’s private schools to raise awareness and support the wellbeing of students and staff; the best known initiative being the introduction of the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census in 2017. 

The KHDA announced the introduction of the new Wellbeing Framework , as part of the existing DSIB inspection framework, in 2022. Wellbeing evaluations have been included in school inspection reports for the first time in 2023. 

What comes under the wellbeing umbrella?

The KHDA uses the OECD definition of wellbeing in its framework document, which is:

"the psychological, cognitive, social and physical functioning and capabilities that students need to live a happy and fulfilling life."

The document also makes clear, however, that it is not only the wellbeing of students that is considered a priority:

"The role of teachers and other staff members, with whom students spend much of their time, is essential to the work of school-based  wellbeing advancement."

How has wellbeing in schools been evaluated?

There are three key focus areas detailed in the KHDA Wellbeing Framework, from which performance indicators are detailed (see detailed below). 

1. Leading and Pursuing Wellbeing
a) Setting and pursuing a wellbeing vision School culture is informed by a shared vision of wellbeing that influences policy, practice and provision. This vision is clearly communicated to an engaged school community.
b) Sustaining and embedding improvement The school’s evaluation, monitoring, and review systems inform the ongoing improvement of wellbeing provision.
c) Using data and information Using reliable information and data, leaders collaborate to design and implement provision that actively promotes wellbeing.
d) Creating an enabling environment  The management of routines, activities and resources informs the development of a wellbeing-focused environment.
2. Listening and Supporting Stakeholders
a) Caring for students Care, guidance, and support is provided by trained and trusted adults in the school to ensure students are safe and have access to wellbeing help.
b) Caring for staff The school takes action to optimise the wellbeing of their staff.
c) Listening to each other Feedback from stakeholders influences wellbeing provision
3. Enhancing Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes
a) Wellbeing and the curriculum  The school uses a holistic approach to wellbeing development, including dedicated curricular programmes and the teaching of social and emotional skills.
b) Choosing safe and healthy lifestyles Students can make safe decisions, healthy choices and adopt healthy lifestyles.
c) Students’ wellbeing experiences in schools  i) external and internal information, including student and stakeholder surveys, show that students feel safe, valued, and engaged at school ii) during the school day, students demonstrate their wellbeing through their behaviour, attitudes and engagement

Schools were assessed on wellbeing as part of the 2022-23 inspections, which, typically, take place over a period of four days, and include observations, meetings with staff and school leaders, parent feedback surveys, and an examination of school policies, procedures, self assessments, action plans and other documentation. 

While a school's day-to-day classroom practice and pastoral support is an element of this evaluation, inspectors will also have assessed schools according to their documented strategies in this area, how they assess the success of their practice and respond to these results. Documentation and clarity of school strategy is also key in this framework. 

Which schools have come out on top?

In total, 47 Dubai schools have received the highest rating of 'Very High', 100 have been rated 'High', 50 have been rated 'Moderate' and two schools have been rated 'Low' in wellbeing. 

View the full list of Dubai school wellbeing ratings here

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