Al Diyafah High School serves a predominantly Indian expatriate demographic, but with 23 other nationalities also represented at the school. It is one of the longest established UK curriculum schools in Dubai and one of the few that is still under family ownership - the daughter of the Founder is now responsible for the management and overall direction of the school.
Al Diyafah High School, which opened in 1982, teaches the UK's national curriculum, with International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examinations at Year 10/11, and Advanced/Subsidiary Level examinations at the post-16 phase.
The school is located in a quiet area of Al Nahda, in a building with a traditional appearance which belies the imaginative use of the space both within the school buildings and outside. Facilities at the school include interactive boards in each classroom, a library located in the senior school, science laboratories, and a canteen. To find out more about the school, its staff and facilities, read our Experience here.
The school offers a wide range of after school activities - the long list of both sports and more cerebral activities is available here.
The school is presently attended by 1,629 students, and served by 125 full-time teachers and 16 teaching assistants. A staff:student ratio of 1:13 is not atypical of Indian-staffed schools, irrespective of curriculum. The school has recently celebrated 35 years - its current headteacher has been in the role for the last three years. The school's staff turnover - an indicator of staff satisfaction and stability - has dropped from a relatively high 26% in 2014-15 to 10% for 2015/16 and to 6% for 2017-18. This is a very positive indicator.
The school had identified 29 students as having some type of special educational need and, in line with all Dubai-based schools, is gearing up its provision and support in this area.
What the inspectors say
Al Diyafah High School has been rated Good by the KHDA for the last seven years, up from Acceptable for the three years before that. Improvement had come from the school's action on the recommendations in the previous inspection reports, including improvements in teaching, learning, and developing the role of parents in supporting the Board of Governors.
In its latest report the KHDA confirms the strengths noted in previous reports including school leaders’ commitment, experience and skills in sustaining and improving students’ academic and personal outcomes; students’ very good achievement in English, Mathematics and Science in the secondary and post-16 phases; the high regard all staff have for students' safety and protection, and the highly supportive, committed and actively involved parent group.
In particular, the report highlights the School Leadership and Management which is "is fully committed to improving students' outcomes. The sense of teamwork in the school is strong and staff morale high. Training for staff has successfully improved the quality of teaching in the secondary and post-16 phases. Thorough evaluation of the school’s work provides leaders with a realistic view of how well the school is doing. Governance arrangements continue to be very effective and supportive of school leaders." Recent comments from Dr. Abdulla Karam - Head of the KHDA - particularly focused on the evidence that the most successful schools are those that are also the most well-led.
In terms of Student Achievement, it is striking that every measure for English-based subjects for the Secondary and post-16 provision is rated Very Good, whilst Primary and Foundation ratings are Good. It is this difference that is the key focus of the inspectors' recommendations, noting that the school needs to "Improve teaching and learning in the primary phase by: ensuring teachers plan lessons which provide a wide range of appropriately challenging activities; routinely providing students with opportunities to work collaboratively and to lead their own independent learning; providing access to a wider range of learning technologies to support students’ research, inquiry and investigation skills, and make the necessary modifications to lesson content and approach to ensure that students with SEND make good progress."
The other key area for development - in common with many Dubai schools - is in relation to the provision of Arabic-based subjects. Here the focus is on "Improv[ing] students’ attainment and progress in Arabic and Islamic education by: providing opportunities for students to work more independently, raising teachers’ expectations of what students can do [and] enhanc[ing] teachers’ understanding of how to plan work that meets students’ different needs." Whilst the ratings for Islamic Education and Arabic as a first language are Acceptable across the school, Arabic as an Additional language is newly upgraded to Acceptable in the Primary section and remains Weak in the Secondary school. Until Al Diyafah can make further progress in this area, this will continue to be viewed as a weakness by the Inspectors, with the ever increasing focus on Arabic-based subjects by the regulators.
An absolute strength of the school is the Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills of students in the Secondary and post-16 phases where all aspects are rated Outstanding. The same measures are largely rated Very Good in the FS and Primary phases. The inspectors commented that "Students’ personal and social development throughout the school is very strong. Younger students demonstrate good or very good attitudes and behaviour toward each other and in their day-to-day interactions with their teachers. As they move into the secondary phase, they develop outstanding understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures. Students have an excellent appreciation of the role and importance of innovation."
Similar differentation is found between the FS and Primary, and Secondary/post-16 phases in relation to Teaching and Assessment (rated Good in the former and Very Good in the latter). The strengths of the Secondary and Post-16 phases are also reflected in the ratings for the Curriculum Design and Implementation (rated Very Good and Outstanding respectively) and the Adaptation of the curriculum to meet the needs of individual students (rated Outstanding for both). In FS and Primary, the same measures are largely rated Good. In WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's experience, it is rare for a Secondary and post-16 phase of a school to be rated more highly than the Foundation and Primary phase.
Another key measure - that of the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - has also seen some changes in rating in the latest report. Whilst Health and Safety arrangements remain Outstanding, the ratings for Care and Support in all but the post-16 phase, have been been downgraded to Very Good. This appears to be a result of the sharper focus by the KHDA inspection team on the provision of support for students with SEND requirements and Gifts and Talents, with the report stating that "The school uses a range of strategies to identify students with SEND and those who are gifted and/or talented. Systems for the effective support and challenge of the students in the classroom are not sufficiently well refined. This results in variable progress across a range of subjects." Indeed, the provision and support of students with SEND is rated Good, unchanged from the previous report.
In the final key indicator - that of the Leadership and Management of the school, the inspectors highlight the effectiveness of the leadership and Governance (rated Very Good), and the Outstanding rating of the relationship between the school, parents and the community. This is reflected in the input of 577 parents (a remarkable number) who participated in the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. "Almost all parents who completed the inspection survey express positive views and satisfaction with the effectiveness of the school and how leadership plans carefully and thinks through any new ideas and initiatives. Most, but not all, feel the staff know the students well and assess their learning in an informed way to ensure progress. The inspection findings reflect these views."
In addition, well over 80% of students who responded to the survey were happy to be at the school, commenting that "the school strives hard as an organisation to help them succeed and has their best interests at heart, a few felt they would like more enrichment activities, but feel overall that their learning and achievements are progressing well and that these are acknowledged and they are congratulated when they do well. The inspection findings support these views."
WSA strongly believes all schools should be transparent about the results of their students. The school has a very good web site, where it publishes its academic results. Full details of A Level and IGCSE results can be found on the website, but the highlights for 2017 were at A Level, the school achieved 67.4 percent A* to B grades and for IGCSEs for 2017, 54% received A* to A, 77.2% A* to B and 90% A* to C.
Parents are satisfied with the quality of education in the school. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has had limited feedback for its survey, but so far results show that of those responding most were pleased with their children's academic attainment, and school discipline.
That said the school performs poorly in our key metric on the WSA School Survey - the question as to whether parents would recommend the school to prospective parents, with a score well below the UAE average. Looking through the stats it is hard to determine exactly why. Attainment, value for money, children enjoying school all perform well. The one area parents do highlight a particular concern with however is bullying- with 5/10 parents responding to our survey claiming some level of concern. This could explain the discrepancy, although the most recent inspection report noted that "Relationships in the school are exceptionally respectful and strong" and it may be that this parental feedback relates to an isolated incidence. Click here to drill into parent opinion regarding Al Diyafah High School.
Fees at the school range from AED 10,800 per annum at FS1, rising to AED 22,930 for Year 13 A Level studies. That makes it one of the most affordable UK curriculum based schools in the UAE, however parents should note one of the trade offs is the range of subjects on offer.
A Levels include: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Business studies, Economics, Accounting, Applied ICT, Environmental Management, Art & Design, English, Psychology and Computer Science. Psychology is offered to AS level only. Like many schools focused on an Indian demographic, there is a clear focus on either science or commerce, although Diyafah is broader than some of its peers, with its Art, English and Psychology offerings.
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