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, is one of two schools - the other located in Abu Dhabi - which are owned and operated by a family business. The school was established by Mrs. Winnie D’Cunha and the management of the Dubai school still lies directly with Mrs. D’Cunha’s daughter, Michelle, whilst the Abu Dhabi school is managed by Winnie’s son Alan.
The school's Mission states: We are committed to a holistic based education in a caring and enlightened environment. We aim to foster creative thinking, courage of convictions and a positive attitude to draw out the highest potential in every student’s mind, spirit and body.
The Vision Statement offers: At Al Diyafah High School LLC we aim to:
Reflective of the school's specific (and relatively recent) focus on technology and the digital education of its students, the school also offers a specific Digital Vision as follows:
"Encourage and support our staff and students to embrace Digital Leadership;
Embed the 4 Cs of Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking; and Facilitate the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, educators and engineers to take their place in a technology-driven world and to understand the importance and responsibility of digital citizenship".
To find out more about the school, its staff and facilities, read our Experience here.
The school is presently attended by approximately 1,600 students, and served by 109 full-time teachers and 13 teaching assistants. A staff:student ratio of 1:15 is not atypical of Indian-staffed schools, irrespective of curriculum. The school will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2022 and has welcomed a new Principal in the person of Ms. Neetha Shetty in September 2020. Historically, ADHS has had a low level of staff turnover - an indicator of staff satisfaction and stability - with 10% for 2015/16 and to 6% for 2017-18. However, this figure increased to 19% in 2019 - perhaps reflective of the changes taking place at the top, although around the average for international schools in the UAE.
The school had identified approximately 20 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.
ADHS teaches the UK's national curriculum, following the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in the Foundation stage, a revised English National Curriculum in the primary and middle school years and qualifications from the University of Cambridge and Edexcel at IGCSE, AS and A level.
As is often the case in Indian-owned and operated UK curriculum schools, the compromises that enable the school to operate at affordable fees are two-fold; firstly, the vast majority of staff are Indian rather than from the UK, and, secondly, the range of subjects offered tends to be very much more reflective of the Indian curriculum Commerce and Science streams, and does not tend to include the wider range of arts-based subjects common among more broadly-focused 'British' schools.
At ADHS, this is reflected in the limited range of subjects taught from years 7 to 9 (Lower Secondary) of English, Mathematics, Arabic, Islamic Studies/Value education, Science, Social studies, ICT, and French or Hindi.
For students joining the Upper Secondary (Years 10 and 11) when they sit their first public IGCSE examinations, they may take eight IGCSE courses of which four - English, Mathematics, Environmental Management, and ICT/Computer - are compulsory. A further four subjects may be chosen from the options of Accounting, Art & Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, French, Geography, History, Physical Education and Physics. In addition, students are required to take Arabic (General/Special), Islamic Studies/PSHE and Physical Education. They are also expected to take an examination in Environmental Management at the end of Year 10.
The Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) are the final two years of secondary schooling during which students prepare for their A-level examinations. Whilst ADHS describes A Levels as optional, they are the recognised school-leaving, pre-university entry qualification for universities both in the UK and internationally. The first year of A Level studies leads to the stand-alone AS level qualification, which is accepted for university entry in some countries at the Foundation level. Continued study for the second year leads to the A2 (full A Level) qualification at the end of Year 13.
The AS level was introduced at the Al Diyafah High School in 2006 and the A2 courses in 2009. Al Diyafah offers 15 subjects at AS and 12 subjects at A2. AS subjects include Accounting, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental Science, History, ICT, Maths, Physics, Sociology and Psychology. Art & Design stands out as the sole 'creative' subject.
A level subjects are still further restricted, with Accounting, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, Maths, ICT, Psychology, and Physics - all very Science or Commerce focused - with Art & Design again the lone creative subject.
The school offers a wide range of after school activities - the long list of both sports and more cerebral activities is available here. A Personal Enrichment programme, the Duke of Edinburgh International Award Programme, together with the strong Social responsibility programmes, curriculum design and the development of outstanding links with the parent community, are aimed at ensuring that the school is 'creating global citizens of the 21st Century'.
At the heart of the school's focus is the integration of innovation into students' daily life. A detailed explanation of the focus and the investments being made in terms of infrastructure, training and curriculum can be found here.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com strongly believe 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 2019-20 were at A Level, the school achieved 75 percent A* to B grades and 91% A*-C grades with a 100% pass rate. For IGCSEs for 2019-20, students received 61% A* to A, 83% A* to B and 97% A* to C.
On the face of it, these place ADHS' results among the best in Dubai - details of overall UAE A Level and I/GCSE results are available via the links for comparison. However, since the school does not advise the number of students or exam entries, parents should be aware of the need to draw comparisons with some caution.
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, computer laboratories, music and art facilities and a canteen.
Outside are a range of play and sport areas, though with its city centre location, these are somewhat restricted. However, the school makes amazing use of almost every internal and external space.
To find out more about the facilities at ADHS, read our Experience visit report here.
What the inspectors say
Al Diyafah High School has been rated Good by the KHDA for the last eight 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.
No inspection of the school took place in the 2019-20 academic year due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
In its latest report the KHDA confirms the strengths noted in previous reports including Students' achievements which are based upon good or very good learning skills. Students excel at learning English, Mathematics and Science in Years 7 to 13 and those in the Foundation Stage (FS) achieve good learning outcomes in English, Mathematics and age-appropriate science.
Unfortunately, in common with many international curriculum schools in the UAE, students' achievements in learning Arabic are 'less than good', especially as an additional language in the secondary phase.
The personal and social development of students remains a key strength of the school. Students are consistently self-disciplined, enjoy one another’s friendship and are respectful to all adults. Students in all phases have an excellent awareness and appreciation of Islamic values. Most students show an appreciation of UAE culture and heritage. Their environmental awareness, both locally and globally, is very evident.
Both Student Achievement and Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills are rated highly by the inspectors - and, unusually, the Secondary school is stronger than the Primary.
The quality of teaching is very good in the secondary and post-16 phases, and good in the FS and primary phases, but there has been slippage in ratings in the current report - notably teaching in the Secondary phase, and for assessment processes in both Secondary and post-16. And whilst the school’s curriculum was also found to be good overall, there had been a weakening of its implementation and adaptation to meet the needs of individual students in the Secondary section, though the inspection team found that the secondary and post-16 phase curricula prepare students well for the next stages of their education. Inspectors noted that the FS curriculum enables children to make a good start to their schooling.
Inspectors found that the provision for students' health and safety is outstanding. Teachers, leaders, and counsellors promote the social, personal and emotional development of students. The leadership of the school is of good quality overall.
Overall, the inspection team found the Best Features of Al Diyafah High School to be:
In terms of areas for improvement, the inspectors recommended that ADHS should:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to find out the detailed reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
According to the KHDA, partnerships with parents and the community are very strong. Some 307 parents responded to the pre-inspection survey and almost all are satisfied with the quality of schooling their children receive. Most parents agreed that teachers and school leaders listen to them and take subsequent action. Most agreed that their children's teachers help them to develop important learning skills. All parents agreed that their children are safe at the school
In addition, 650 students in Years 7 to 13 responded to the the KHDA's Well-being survey. In what will no doubt have been a disappointing result for the school, only a minority of students expressed high levels of satisfaction with life. Their levels of distress are similar to those of other students across Dubai. More than half reported that there are no adults important to them at the school. Most feel safe at school, but more than a few reported that they are bullied.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has had limited feedback for its survey. That said, the school performs poorly in our key metric - the question as to whether parents would recommend the school to prospective parents, with a score below the UAE average. Attainment, value for money, children enjoying school all perform reasonably well. We can only assume that the limited feedback is not altogether reflective of the overall experience of parents and students at the school.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Al Diyafah High School, please share your opinion with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
There is no doubt that academically, Al Diyafah High School serves its student community very well - certainly at least in the context of examination results. We are pleased to see that definite steps are being taken to provide students with greater access to technology and innovation, and that there also appears to be a stronger focus on well-being and broader aspects of education. The change in leadership at the school seems to be taking it in a stronger direction. We look forward to seeing how this is reflected in student outcomes, parent feedback and well-being surveys going forward.
Fees at the school range from AED 10,800 per annum at FS1, rising to AED 23,110 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.
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