What Makes a School Outstanding? KHDA, 2017

The reports are out and the ratings awarded, but what were the inspectors actually looking for? WhichSchoolAdvisor.com takes a look at what was on the DISB agenda for this academic year...
What Makes a School Outstanding? KHDA, 2017
By C Hoppe
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Over the past eight years that the KHDA has been facilitating school inspections, the emphasis of the Dubai School Inspection Board (DISB) has continually evolved and developed.

For parents it is important to understand the criteria, so you can assess how valid a school's overall rating is for you.

For details of this year's results, go here.


The National Agenda Parameter
In 2014, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, provided schools with a set of concrete targets against which to measure progress towards achieving the aspirations of the UAE Vision 2021.

By 2021, the UAE plans to be in the top 15 countries for TIMSS results and in the top 20 for PISA testing. To get there, the National Agenda Parameter was introduced in 2015/16.

The National Agenda Parameter requires all schools to participate in annual international and external benchmarking assessments and then use them to monitor their progress in meeting their individual UAE National Agenda targets.

This year, the DSIB evaluated the impact of the previous year’s National Agenda Parameter results and assessed the effect they were having on the quality of education in each school.

For the 2016/17 academic year, the National Agenda Parameter requirements included three components;

  • All students in Grades- 4, 6, 8 and 10 must sit a GL cognitive ability test such as the CAT 4
  • All Grade 10 students must sit the OECD ‘PISA-Based Test for Schools’
  • All students in Grades 4,6 and 8 must sit one benchmark assessment in mathematics, science and English

Inspectors then evaluated the progress schools were making towards meeting their National Agenda targets, plus considered other sources of evidence and the schools’ individual analyses of the data.

The results were then used to determine the effect each school’s curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment had on progression towards meeting their National Agenda targets.


Evaluating students’ attainment against curriculum standards
Inspectors were also looking for students’ attainment against the curriculum standards. In essence, this is the number of students above, on or below the standards of the curriculum.

For schools to be rated Acceptable, at least 75% of the students should be attaining ‘in line with curriculum standards.’

The proportions of students reaching the ‘level above curriculum standards’ are then used for evaluating whether attainment is Good, Very Good or Outstanding.

For CBSE Grade 10 and 12 examinations, 75% or more of students are required to achieve a grade C1 or above. For schools to be rated above Acceptable, students were required to achieve specific percentages of a B1 grade or above.


Innovation The UAE Vision 2021
Innovation was introduced in the 2015/16 inspection cycle with schools required to promote innovation through meaningful learning opportunities with elements of enterprise, enquiry, research, critical thinking and the use of learning technologies.

During the 2015-16 inspection cycle, schools were evaluated on how well they were promoting innovation.

The 2016-2017 School Inspection Framework performance standards and elements focused on innovation in curriculum, teaching, learning skills, school leadership and students’ personal and academic development. Schools needed to demonstrate a commitment to the integration of innovation through their vision and interpretation of innovation in each of the selected performance indicators and elements.


This year the focus was on schools developing their identification of SEND and removing the barriers that restrict the achievements and educational experience of students with SEND.

For this to happen, senior leaders and governors were expected to develop and implement a policy to guide inclusive provision and practice so that students with SEND are not disadvantaged.


In 2016/17 firm emphasis was placed on self-evaluation and in fact this year schools were required to complete a self-evaluation plan, self-improvement plan, plus supplementary information on  the National Agenda, social studies, SEND and innovation.

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