Apple International School, established in 1994, is a mixed gender school located on two campuses in Dubai in Al Qusais (for Primary School) and a brand new purpose-built Secondary campus near the Sheikh Rashid colony, approximately 1km distant from the original school. It offers private education (FS1 to year 11, expanding to Year 13) with a UK based curriculum.
The story so far...
Established in 1994, Apple International School (AIS) has been something of a fixture on the Dubai education scene. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that only in the 2017-18 academic year, was it able to expand beyond Lower Secondary (years 7 and 8) to offer Year 9 and subsequently Year 10 and Year 11, and to establish a full Secondary school that will eventually offer A Levels. It also added Foundation 1 to the Foundation Stage.
It seems that the key factor which encouraged this expansion (which must be a relief for parents who were obliged to seek new schools for their children by the end of Year 8 for many years) has been the school's achievement of a Good rating from the KHDA in 2016-17, a rating which has been consolidated in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. For more details, see below.
In 2019-20, the school opened a branch campus less than a kilometer from the original school site, which has opened as a Secondary school. The original school has reverted to Primary only. However, leadership, management and admissions are still with the original team.
Overall and across both campuses, AIS currently has 2,750 children on its register, and there are 269 teachers and 46 teaching assistants working at the school. The largest student nationality group is Philipino, and there are a small number of Emirati students (22). Most teachers are from India. Student numbers had fallen quite significantly in the past few years (down from 2,310 in 2016-17). However, with the expansion of student numbers by close to 600 and the addition of a further 60+ teachers this has had a positive impact on the staff to student ratio of 1:10 which is on the low side. In addition, teacher turnover at 10% (compared with 12%, 10% and 5% over the previous three years) is also well below the average of between 20-22% and represents a key indicator of stability within the school.
The ethos and vision of the school, shared by all staff, together with inspirational leadership, are, according to the Inspectors, the main drivers of its success.
The school's Vision states 'The Apple International School, as a multi-cultural and diverse learning organization, aims to provide a learning environment which empowers students, staff and the community to maximize their personal, creative and academic potential in order to become lifelong learners and responsible world citizens'.
Its Mission is 'We teach not for school but for life. We believe our children are talented and the pedagogic principles we apply must guide them to achieve their true potential'.
The Principal’s message states that “…We realise that skills of the 21st Century are what we should be looking forward to build in our young ones. This means learning has to have a different meaning now. It cannot be limited to acquiring information and memorising facts. Thanks to the light speed with which technology is moving these days, very soon information is going to be just a blink away from us. Therefore, it is essential for schools to help students build skills of applying the given information/knowledge on various platforms so that their cognitive skills are chiselled and they are ready to face the fancy future head on”.
The school is led across both campuses by Executive Principal, Mrs. Jaya Menezes.
What about the curriculum?
AIS offers the English National Curriculum, following the EYFS curriculum in Foundation Stage, the Cambridge Primary Programme in Years 1 to 6 and The National Curriculum For England in Years 7 and 11. The school’s curriculum is designed keeping in mind the multicultural mix of the student community and their individual learning needs. AIS aims to ensure that excellence is pursued, that lessons are challenging and have pace and direction to promote the skills essential for all round development of each child.
The EYFS curriculum encourages young students to learn through first-hand experience and structured play activities. Education at this key stage is a foundation for the future where Literacy and Numeracy skills are introduced, together with communication and language, experience and understanding of the outside world, personal social and emotional development, physical development and expressive art and design.
In Primary, students build on the skills developed in the Foundation Stage. The learning process is aimed at gaining knowledge methodically and comprehensively, with a range of subjects including Literacy, Numeracy, Science, French, Urdu, History, Geography, UAE Social studies, ICT, Art , PE and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
Co-curricular activities such as sports, drama, debate and theme based projects are organised on a regular basis. Art and Craft, Painting, Library, Audio Visual classes and ICT skills are also part of the daily time-table. A ‘hands- on’ approach, exploration and discovery rather than rote learning is at the core of learning with the aim of strengthening teamwork, encouraging self- reliance, awakening intellectual curiosity and fostering global awareness. Research skills are developed through independent enquiry, communication skills through drama, elocution, role – play, listening and speaking as an effective communicator - and social skills through mutual respect and tolerance, and developing the ability to deal and resolve conflict.
The Lower Secondary curriculum (Key Stage 3) covers student learning in Years 7, 8 and 9. The curriculum essentially builds on the learning in Upper Primary (Key Stage 2) and provides the foundation for Key Stage 4 when students undertake their IGCSE studies, moving on to A Levels in Years 12 and 13. There is strong impetus on developing foundation in all key subject areas. Core subjects in Years 7 to 9 include English, Social Studies, Mathematics, ICT, Science, French or Urdu, Arabic, Islamic Education (for Muslim students) and PSHE (for non-Muslim students).
However, the most recent KHDA report notes that students are permitted to give up Science at the end of Year 9 - highly unusual as this is almost always a compulsory subject for IGCSE students - and the Inspection team have expressed concern at this fact. In addition there is little information available of the subjects offered for IGCSE (or A Levels), but there are apparently no options for arts, technology or vocational courses - a surprise in a school that seems to recognise the need for these subjects in other curriculum stages.
AIS states that music, art and drama are important teaching practices for language learning and the school's performing arts programme offers an essential method and learning, which is strongly linked to language development and provides another outlet for students to interact with others and to use language to understand and express more complex ideas. Music is developed through vocal activities and students can participate in choir, musical and cultural performances, dance and drama – again aimed at improving self-confidence among children
The school offers a range of after-school activities which include sports activities such as Badminton, Basketball, Cricket Club, Football, Volleyball (some sports are included in inter-school competitions), Footloose Club, Karate and Kinder Ballet, together with Abacus Classes, Art and Craft (including clay modelling), Cooking Club, Environmental Club, Islamic & Arabic Club, Literary Activities, Mad Science Activities, Melody Club and Public Speaking (involving Elocution, Debate, Recitation).
In addition to a range of educational trips, the school offers workshops with a specific focus including Environmental, Multi-Media and Technology as well as general behavioural programmes.
Apart from academics, AIS students are encouraged to cultivate leadership qualities at all stages of learning. They are given a platform to voice their opinion and share responsibility in the school improvement and development through the school prefectorial board. This provides students an opportunity of assuming responsibilities. Head Boy, Head Girl, House Captains, Vice Captains, Sports Captains, Student council members and Prefects are elected from Year 4 – 10. Every class in the Upper Primary School has a system of Monitors who are appointed on a rotation basis. The school aims to encourage a sense of belonging towards the school and a commitment towards society at large.
What about inclusion?
Apple International School is an inclusive school. It seeks to provide education for the holistic development of all students and values diversity. The school welcomes students from all cultural and ability backgrounds and does not discriminate on any basis.
An SEN team is dedicated to supporting students and teachers in identifying and including students with special educational needs and/or gifts and talents in a mainstream educational setting. The school makes appropriate provisions in curriculum and other aspects of the students' learning experience to ensure they are appropriately challenged and can make the most out of their learning experience.
AIS was rated Good for the provision and outcomes for Students of Determination in the most recent KHDA report, which noted that that "a dedicated and committed inclusion education team is successfully leading the development of provision".
What about the facilities?
The school does not provide expansive information about the facilities it provides to enable students to develop their skills, but does confirm that it has a range of good facilities on a spacious campus that includes a library, science lab, ICT labs and an audio-visual facility.
The new purpose-built Secondary campus is said to offer state-of-the-art facilities and is spread over 230,000 sq ft of land. Facilities include a Library (including e-books available through the ICT facilities incorporated within the Library), Science Labs, a Multipurpose Hall, Music and Dance room and Indoor Sports Hall, and a playground with turfed football field.
Previous reviews of Apple International School by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have been somewhat negative due to past KHDA inspection results. However, the latest KHDA inspection, which took place in February 2020, rated the school as Good for the fourth year. As is so often the case, the overall KHDA rating does not tell the whole story!
Whilst it is true that in terms of Student Achievement (one of the six key performance standards, and arguably the one that says most about the school), many of the ratings for Attainment and Progress have remained the same as last year - largely Good with exceptions in progress in Foundation Stage English and Secondary Mathematics, and both progress and attainment in Primary Science - rated Very Good, Learning Skills in both Foundation are rated Very Good, they are now rated Good in Primary and Secondary (the latter down from Very Good). This change is rating has been driven by the inspectors' recognition that the use of technology to promote innovation is not fully embedded in all areas of learning.
This is also a factor in the inspectors' less positive view of the role of the school Governors.
Islamic Education also retained its Good ratings across the school, whilst the ratings for Arabic as a Arabic first language in Primary is now rated Good (Secondary is Acceptable as is Arabic additional language progress).
The absolute strength of AIS in terms of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills is once again reflected in the current report. All indicators are now rated Very Good (with improvements in Foundation and Primary), with the exception of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovations Skills in Secondary which are now both rated Outstanding.
The other two key performance standards which have such a direct impact on Students' Achievement, those of Teaching and Assessment, and Curriculum Design and Adaptation, received more mixed reviews from the inspectors. Whilst Assessment is a further strength of AIS, ensuring that teachers know exactly how their students are performing, and retained its Very Good rating across the school, Teaching for effective learning retained its Good rating. Given that Assessment is so often the area for development in UAE schools, the fact that this key indicator is rated more highly than the teaching it supports is a little surprising.
And whilst the Curriculum is a strength in the Foundation section, with both its design and implementation, and adaptation now rated Very Good, these indicators retained their Good rating in Primary, whilst the Curriculum Design and Implementation, previously downgraded to Acceptable in Secondary returned to its previous Good rating, suggesting that concerns related to the lack of IGCSE subject options is being addressed.
The report notes that "After a recent review, new subject options have been introduced for secondary students. These extend the range of choices available and help develop students’ talents and interests."
There was no change to the ratings for the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - again rated Very Good across the board, nor were any changes in ratings made to the five indicators included under Leadership and Management with the exception of Governance, which was downgraded to Good. The effectiveness of Leadership, and Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources were again rated Good, whilst the school's Self-Evaluation and Improvement Planning, Parents and the Community were each rated Very Good.
However, it is evident from the comments related to Governance, that the expansion of the school has had an impact which, in some instances, has not been entirely positive. The report notes that the Governors have had a positive influence on the school’s direction through the setting up of a second campus, allowing for the expansion of all phases. However, they have not considered carefully enough the impact of this expansion on, for example, staffing, admission policy or learning resources.
The KHDA inspectors identified the school's strengths as:
Students’ outstanding personal development in the secondary school and their ability to take the initiative to suggest and lead innovative projects
The very good assessment processes that lead to broadly accurate self-evaluation
The very good systems for care and guidance that contribute to an ethos of respect and to very good relationships among students and between students and staff
The partnership with parents and their contribution to their children's learning.
In terms of recommendations for improvement, the inspection team advises the school to
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do so in order to fully understand the reasons behind the ratings, and the additional insight that you will receive about Apple International School - you will find it here.
Some 585 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey of AIS and 92% professed themselves satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. Most parents have positive views of the school. They are satisfied with the quality of education provided and confident that the school helps their children to learn well. Although a few parents expressed concern regarding how well the school communicates with them, most responding to the survey indicated that the school listens to them, responds to their views and provides them with good quality information. Almost all parents confirm that the school keeps their children safe.
Students (some 288 seniors) who participated in the KHDA's Well-being Census were less positive than those from students in other Dubai schools. Students’ relationships with teachers are positive, and students are confident in their own abilities. Whilst almost all students say they work hard, only a large majority say they are absorbed in their schoolwork. Most students confirm they feel safe in school, but almost twenty percent say they experience verbal bullying on a weekly basis.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has so far had limited feedback for the school for its survey - although we would have to say so far it is broadly positive - with one notable exception and in line with the KHDA pre-inspection feedback - with 75% of respondents expressed concern about bullying - be this from moderately to extremely concerned. However, a higher than national average number of parents (88%) would recommend the school, and a majority of parents believe their children feel included and look forward to going to school.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Apple International School, please share your feedback with other potential members of your community by taking part in our Survey here.
The main indicators are positive for Apple International School. As we anticipated in our review two years ago, the school has solidified its Good rating for the third time and has continued on its road to sustained improvement - this will be a boost to the leadership and staff of the school and, hopefully, continue to provide motivation for continued improvement.
The areas of challenge are often the harder ones to address - Professional development of teaching staff, and investment in new teachers to develop the curriculum will be key. AIS is fortunate to have highly motivated leadership and supportive governance.
However, with the introduction of the new Secondary school campus and the focus we believed this would bring, we had hoped to see further significant improvements at Apple International that would have moved it closer to the coveted Very Good rating.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, whilst the school has largely been successful in maintaining and making some improvements, the expansion of the school and the opening of the new campus has evidently taken away some of the focus. We would hope that with the rapid inspection and feedback from the DSIB inspection team, Governors and Leadership will be taking rapid steps to address the concerns raised to ensure that AIS will be back on the improvement track without delay.
What about the fees?
Fees for the school are in the affordable bracket, ranging from AED 6,334 in FS1, rising to AED 15,310 for Year 10 per annum. Year 11 to 13 fees have not been provided.
There are, however, a number of further fees which affect the total cost of attending the school: these include a non-refundable registration fee, a non-refundable admission fee, an annual activity fee, a termly computer fee from Year 1, an annual medical fee, an annual E-Learning Fee, a stationary fee (for FS1 and 2) and a school registration card fee. The total costs of these additional fees are between AED 2,000 and AED 4,500 depending on the year group of the student. Whichschooladvisor.com does not condone this practice, although we believe that any additional fees will be with the approval of the Regulator.
Note: The original (now Primary) school is located in a very crowded area with only one exit to Al Doha St. With a school, a driving institute and lots of residents all trying to get in and out by car, student safety has been raised as an issue during the morning and afternoon pick up and drop off periods.
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