A mum and her daughter were embracing in the middle of the road. They were oblivious to the traffic, well to the one car they were holding up, namely mine. A brief toot on the horn and they happily took their celebrations to a slightly safer location.
As we walked through JESS Arabian Ranches towards the Sixth Form Centre we were met by animated, emotional children and their parents on their way home. They’d just received news that will define their immediate future and beyond. Hopes, fears, ambitions had either been realized or dashed.
Entering the Sixth Form Centre was like coming upon a rather strange party. 18 year olds who would usually rather play water polo with 20 boxfish than spend a minute with the middle aged, but most particularly their parents, were high fiving, hugging and it seemed, actively enjoying the company of ‘The Embarrassingly Out of Touch’.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com had been invited by JESS Arabian Ranches to attend the unveiling of this year’s IB results as they were delivered, the only such invitation we received. So there was no chance to finesse the response, to analyse and spin the story. As an event it was, as they used to say in the IT world WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get.
The headlines were positive – the school had an average score of 35.2, down slightly on last year (35.3) but, according to Shane O’Brien, Principal ‘that was expected. Last year’s cohort was exceptional. The guys this year did better than we’d expected.’
The number he was keen to stress was the 100% pass rate, the first time that JESS Arabian Ranches had achieved this result. There were 84 students who took the exam, almost double the number from 2011 (43) when the school achieved a 30.8 average.
JESS Arabian Ranches is a mixed ability school and what was most striking speaking to Shane, Ian Thurston, deputy head & head of sixth form and Kosta Lekaides, Head of IB Programmes was the evident pride they had in all of their students’ achievements.
We met Aiden Taylor who was clearly delighted as he’d smashed the target set by St Peter’s College, Oxford to study medicine. He was being gently teased by the team for being a bit forgetful – ‘I seem to have mislaid my results’. According to Kosta, Aiden had been identified as a potential Oxford candidate some time ago and had been encouraged by the team and the highly experienced university counselor to do so.
The Sixth Form Centre which JESS Arabian Ranches opened last year has played a ‘key role’ according to the team in creating an environment and ethos where students are treated like adults, encouraged to take responsibility and have developed a collegiate environment.
Students we spoke to talked about being overwhelmed by the ‘wall of work’ when they began IB. ‘Don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be,’ was a comment. But they also all spoke of the overwhelming sense of achievement they now felt having come through the IB experience.
The JESS Arabian Ranches IB team talked about their role as ‘IB myth busters’. IB wasn’t just for the very bright and the very capable. They said that there were ‘huge results’ achieved by children who had learning difficulties including dyslexia, ADHD as well as adverse family circumstances. The great benefit of a mixed ability school, they said, was that it fostered a genuine caring community where the very able encouraged and helped those with issues. The level of hugging and embracing among the students that we saw clearly backed this claim up.
‘The comment I’m most proud of is the parent who just came up to me and said ‘thank you for caring’, said one of the team. As we were leaving a gift was delivered to a teacher who when she began reading the message burst into tears. A night to remember indeed.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would appreciate it if all IB schools in the UAE could send details on their 2016 results as soon as possible. We are very keen to publish a comprehensive round-up on the results. Please send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org