Al Dhafra Private School located in the Al Manaseer district of Al Ain has a student body of over 2,770 students and offers predominantly the UK National Curriculum, with the option of the US Common Core Curriculum from Grades 9-12. It has a sister school in Abu Dhabi which has recently moved to US curriculum only.
The story so far...
Al Dhafra Private School, located in Al Ain, was founded in 1993. It is a sister school to Al Dhafra Private Schools, Abu Dhabi, which historically offered the dual UK/US curriculum but is in the process of phasing out the former.
The school describes itself as "a family school set in the heart of Al Ain where we have been helping students to achieve their potential and realize their dreams since 1989".
The school's Vision states that "Al Dhafra Private Schools will enshrine educational excellence, where culture and tradition are honoured and everyone is safe. Students attending Al Dhafra Private Schools will become internationally-minded, global citizens, possessing the skills and character to thrive in a challenging and changing world".
The school's Mission is "To provide a trusting and supportive school community, in which students are placed at the centre of learning, developing personal responsibility and self-discipline, as they become independent and creative learners and thinkers. Teaching will be inspiring and all students empowered to succeed within an innovative culture of high expectations, high standards, and outstanding quality".
Al Dhafra Al Ain has over 2,770 students of some 39 nationalities. The majority of the students (56 percent) are Emirati. The other significant nationalities are Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian. The school is coeducational up until Grade 3 and then boys and girls are taught separately from Grade 4 to Grade 12.
The school is structured as KG, Primary (from Grades 1 to 6), Intermediate (Grades 7 and 8) and Secondary from Grades 9 to 12. The KG accounts for approximately 13% of students - some 360, whilst the majority of students are in the Primary school (1,200). The Middle school has some 30% of students (830) and the Secondary school currently has approximately 390 students, making it the smallest section.
There are 155 qualified teachers at the school and 31 teaching assistants, putting the teacher to student ratio at 1:18 in the KG section and 1:15 throughout the rest of the school. Teachers come from a range of countries including the UK, US and Canada, as well as a number of Arab countries. These ratios should allow for considerable individual attention and curriculum adaptation for individual student needs. The teacher turnover has increased from a low 10 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2018, although this is still below the UAE average of 20-22%.
What about the curriculum?
The school offers predominantly the English National curriculum to the end of Grade 8, and then a choice of either an English or American Curriculum from Grade 9 through to the end of Grade 12. The school is accredited by the Cambridge International Exam Board for IGCSE, AS and A Level, and by AdvancED for the US High School Diploma. The school also offers SAT1 and TOEFL courses and examinations for Grade 12 students. Students also participate in GL testing from Grades 1 to 8 and MAP testing in Grades 9-12 (for US curriculum students) on a regular basis to track their progress.
Al Dhafra School says that it offers a range of after-school activities and clubs, though details are limited. Various activities held in the school include Sports, Interschool Competitions, Environmental Club, Art Exhibition, Science Fair, Annual Concerts/ Prize Giving Ceremony, Graduation, Book Fair, and Music Classes.
What about academic achievement?
Al Dhafra School does not publish its examination results on its website though some results are available from 2015-16 in the ADEK report (see below). The Principal notes that for 2017-18 "our recent Cambridge Examination results have been most pleasing and last year’s Grade 12 alumnae have moved successfully into strong university courses both within the UAE and beyond". The latest ADEK inspection report for 2017-18 notes that Students’ performance in IGCSE and A-level examinations is a relative strength of the school in relation to Student Achievement.
However, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com would encourage the school to provide more detailed information - in terms of student numbers, exam papers entered, and the results across the grade boundaries - in order to provide parents and potential students with meaningful information. We also strongly encourage schools to share their students' achievements through this process. General information about the school's performance for exams and tests as noted by ADEK can be found here. Given that Al Dhafra Al Ain students appear to do rather well, the school has every reason to shout about their achievements!
Results were included in the ADEK inspection report for 2015-16 as follows: Students studying Maths following the UK curriculum in grades 9 and 10 achieve very good results in their IGCSE exams with over 60% gaining grade B and above. Most students who take the British AS and A-level exams in Mathematics are very successful with over 70% gaining a pass at A* to C.
Results for UK curriculum Science subjects are also deemed to be very satisfactory by the ADEK inspectors. The IGCSE Physics, Chemistry and Biology exam results are very good with an average of 81% A* to B grades. Average scores at A level for the three sciences are strong with 79% achieving A* to C, and in Chemistry, half of the A level students achieve an A* or A. Students were also found to make outstanding progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) lessons and almost all who take the IGCSE and A level exams achieve a very high grade.
What about the facilities?
The school's website provides little information about facilities. However, comments from the AdvancED and ADEK inspection reports mention a range of facilities across the various floors/divisions of the school's campus in the secondary, elementary, and pre-school levels including outdoor playground and athletic areas, a cafeteria, computer labs, science labs, and libraries. ADEK notes that "KG classrooms provide lively and interesting learning environments with a good range of practical and sensory resources that support children’s intellectual, social and creative development. Although the school has increased the number of books in the classrooms and these are enjoyed by students, the library is still not the vibrant environment that would entice students into a love of reading".
Art and Music facilities are well developed with keyboard players, violins and guitars heard regularly during school hours. The size of the campus has limited the school's ability to incorporate arts in a traditional classroom sense, but innovative school leaders have created partnerships outside of the campus to to allow students the opportunity to collaborate off campus. "A collaboration with the House of Art, in Al Ain, has provided some reciprocal arrangements that allow students to work with professional artists and musicians in exchange for space in their studios".
What the inspectors say.
Al Dhafra School Al Ain was inspected by a team from AdvancED, the US accreditation organisation, in 2015. The detailed report can be found here. The inspectors made a number of recommendations, but supported the accreditation of the school for a five year period.
In the 2015-2016 Irtiqaa Inspection Report the school was rated Good, a rating it has retained in the 2017-18 inspection process. All key indicators were rated Good, although progress and attainment in Arabic and Islamic Studies lagged behind academic standards in other subjects.
The ADEK inspection team determined that five of the six key performance standards were Good, whilst the sixth - Students' Personal and Social development, and their Innovation skills - was Very Good.
The strengths of the school identified by the inspection team were:
Students' achievement is largely rated Good across the core subjects of English, Maths and Science, and is a particular strength in the Secondary school, where all three subjects are rated Very Good. Science is rated Very Good across the school. Where the school performs less well is in the context of Arabic as both a first and second language in the Primary and Intermediate sections of the school (Grades 1-8) which is rated Acceptable - this will need to be a focus of the school in the coming two years. Arabic provision in the KG section has improved from Acceptable to Good since the last inspection.
Although the school does not publish its exam results, the ADEK report notes that "Recent Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), IGCSE and A-level results show that the large majority of students are attaining well above age-related levels and international standards in English, mathematics and science. Students in the High [Secondary] phase make very good progress overall. Recent PISA mock examinations show that students attain well above the standards in the British [UK curriculum] section and in line in the American section in English, mathematics and science. In 2016-2017 MOE examinations for Grade 12, students’ performance was outstanding in Islamic education and Arabic as a first and second language, indicating the majority of students attain well above the curriculum levels".
Progress in other subjects is also generally Good. Students make good progress in Music, Art, French and Social Sciences (the latter taught as part of the American programme).
Teaching and Assessment were rated Good overall, with the need to improve Arabic as the main area of concern. Similarly, the curriculum was also rated Good, with both curricula described as "broad and relevant and help students to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding in the subjects taught. The curriculum makes effective provision for continuity and progression in the students’ learning, and prepares them well for the next stages of their education. Older students are offered a broad range of curriculum choices to meet their aspirations and aims".
The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students was also rated Good and particular praise was given to the provision for students with additional learning needs, with the report noting that "There are well established systems in place to identify and support students with SEN and those who are gifted and talented (G&T). Staff devise individual educational plans and provide good support for students with SEN. The school provides well for G&T students through extra-curricular activities and in subjects such as mathematics and science".
The leadership and management of the school was also found to be Good. The introduction of a new Principal to the school in 2017 and a new CEO to the Al Dhafra group has provided greater impetus to improvements. The leadership are at one with the owner in wanting to see an inclusive school that reflects the powerful sense of family that exists within Al Ain and the wider UAE culture.
Key areas for improvement identified by the inspection team were the need to:
There is no question that the Al Dhafra Schools as a group are committed to improvement. There is much that is Good or better in terms of standards at the Al Ain school; it will be interesting to see what further progress has been made when the school is next inspected in 2019-20, when the AdvancED accreditation is also due for review.
Fees start at AED 11,900 for KG1 to AED 23,200 for Grade 12 in the American Curriculum. The UK curriculum has slightly lower fees, ranging to AED 22,300 for Grade 12. Books are an additional fee and range from AED 800 in KG to AED 3,420 in Grade 12 for students studying the US curriculum, with UK curriculum costs approximately half this amount.
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