Diyafah International School in Mohammed bin Zayed City, is one of two moderately priced UK curriculum schools operated as a family business by the daughter (in Dubai) and son (in Abu Dhabi) of the founder of the original Dubai school.
The story so far...
Diyafah International School in Mohammed bin Zayed City, Abu Dhabi is a sister school to the long-established Al Diyafah High School in Dubai. Established by an Indian teacher, Mrs. Winnie D'Cunha, in Dubai over 40 years ago, the two schools still remain under the direct management of the Founder’s family with her husband the Chairman, their daughter the manager of the Dubai branch and their son now being responsible for the Abu Dhabi school. Diyafah International School opened in 2013.
The school's website states that ‘We value each child as a contributor and nurture each to “Let their Light Shine” and be a beacon to others in an ever-changing, complex society'. The same motto - "Let their Light Shine" - stands at the entrance to the Dubai school and is a reflection of the Founder's belief that every child has a contribution to make and can be encouraged to develop his or her strength to its full potential.
The school community has grown to well over 1000 students since its opening, representing 50 nationalities and 43 spoken languages. They are supported by approximately 80 teaching staff.
By 2020, Diyafah International School aimed to be recognised “as an engaged community of children, parents and educators in a values-based international school of over seventeen hundred students from Early Years to Advanced Level.” Given that the school is only in its 8th year of operation, this appears to be an ambitious plan. However, DIS has already shown that it is able to deliver against its plans.
The school states in its mission statement that "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 school has added a year level each school year since opening and now includes Years 8 to 12; it managed the 44% increase in student numbers over two years between 2014 and 2016 effectively. Low teacher:student ratios of 1:15 in FS and 1:11 in other year groups, ensure that students are provided with personal attention. Children from FS1 to Year 4 are in mixed gender classes; thereafter, students are taught in single-gender lessons.
The school reflects its core values and belief that every child has a contribution to make and can be encouraged to develop his or her strength to its full potential through its inclusion policy, with approximately 40 children identified with SEND supported in the Abu Dhabi school.
What about curriculum?
Diyafah International School follows the English National Curriculum, leading to (I)GCSE, GCSE and A Levels. From September 2018 DIS began Key Stage 4 Studies for (I)GCSE and GCSE, followed by A Levels in 2020.
Students follow a combination of core, compulsory subjects and optional subjects. Core subjects include GCSE or iGCSE English Language, Mathematics, Science – Chemistry, Physics and Biology, Arabic Language (also with an MoE option), MOE Islamic Studies (for Muslim students), and MOE Moral Education. Optional subjects from which students will choose a number will include: Physical Education, History, Geography, Spanish, Computing Science or ICT, Art and Design, and Business Studies.
The A level Qualification is accredited by Cambridge Assessment International Examination (CAIE) / Edexcel (Pearson), UK. Students usually take three AS & A level subjects (which is the minimum requirement to apply to an undergraduate course at University). Some students can take four AS & A level subjects, and this is offered based on their performance in the iGCSE/GCSE examination.
The current range of subjects include Art & Design, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Information Technology, English Language, English Literature, Geography, Global Perspectives & Research, History, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology, Mathematics
In common with the sister school in Dubai, the options available to students are somewhat limited, driven in large part by the aspirations of parents and students to follow the traditional professions.
In 2021, Diyafah International School announced that as part of its commitment "to always looking to meet the needs of its students" the school will offer BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualifications which offer an alternative route into university, apprenticeships or employment.
This is a specialist, work-related qualification in subjects that include Business, Art & Design, Performing Arts and Sport. In DIS, staff to have been trained to deliver Science and Business Studies BTEC and the school plans to expand its BTEC offerings.
What about the facilities?
The development of the school is taking place in three phases, with the initial Primary and Secondary building completed and including a full range of classrooms and specialist facilities. Interactive IT is integrated into all classrooms.
Whilst the school facilities are of a high quality and offer a range of facilities that support the curriculum effectively and are used well to enhance learning (as in the case of the science laboratories and internal and outdoor PE areas), the school recognises and has planned for additional facilities. Diyafah International School is addressing these needs (notably in relation to Design and Technology facilities), and is in the process of expanding its premises to enhance specialist facilities and enable development of the Secondary and Sixth Form phases.
Find out more about the facilities and features by reading our Experience Visit
The final phase of the school, which started in 2019-20, extended the Secondary facilities including extensive sports facilities including a pool, a gymnasium and multi-purpose sports fields together with an amphitheatre to extend music and drama facilities, specialist facilities for music, art and foreign languages, fully-equipped science labs and computer labs. Recent improvements include a new School Library which is well stocked and designed to encourage a love of reading. The school has opened a canteen and encourages all children to eat a healthy meal together.
What the inspectors say
The school had its 4th inspection in February 2019,and in line with its third ADEK inspection in April 2017 and was again rated Good - a welcome improvement from Acceptable in its prior inspection in 2015. This rating was solid across all key measures with some areas adjudged Very Good.
ADEK noted that students’ achievement overall is good: the majority of them attain levels above curriculum standards and make good and better progress, including those with special educational needs (SEN) and those who are gifted and talented (G&T). The quality of teaching was deemed to be good in all subjects. The school was praised for the protection, care, guidance and support of students which was rated Very Good.
Students demonstrate keen attitudes to learning, consistently positive behaviour and harmonious relationships. Parents are very supportive of the school, and are satisfied with their children’s academic achievement and in particular with the school’s close attention to the health, safety and security of students, and the caring approach of all staff to their personal development. The purposeful educational leadership and guidance given by senior leaders results in good staff morale and a shared commitment to continuous school improvement. This is reflected in remarkably low staff turnover levels of 3.6%.
ADEK inspectors noted that DIS had made good progress in addressing the recommendations from the previous inspection report. It has improved the quality of teaching and learning so that most lessons are now good or very good. There are now more effective strategies to identify and provide support for students identified with SEND as well as those who find learning difficult.
Importantly, the school has provided successful professional development for class teachers and classroom assistants with the result that effective support for students’ learning has increased. Students are now routinely involved in setting targets, supported by their teachers; they understand when they have been successful and what their goals must be in order to ensure further improvement and accelerate their progress. This is key to independent learning which will support students when they leave school and move on to University or to work.
In order to further improve its standards and rating, ADEK has recommended improvements in the consistency in teaching for effective learning in all year levels in order to further raise levels of achievement, and the provision of regular opportunities, during lessons in all subjects and other activities, for students to develop skills in innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition, further development of effective identification, planning and support in specialist programmes and by class teachers for students identified as Gifted &Talented is recommended.
Finally, the school needs to offer further outreach opportunities for students to participate in and lead voluntary community activities.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to find the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a limited amount of feedback from its survey. Of those parents who have responded, the overall impression is a positive one. Children feel a strong sense of belonging and enjoy going to school. All parents who completed the survey believe that the school fees are good value for money either entirely (44%) or partially (56%). None disagreed with this statement.
Whilst 22% of parents had considered moving their child to another school, an overwhelming 78% had not. The same percentages are either partially satisfied or fully satisfied with the academic performance of the school. Communication and discipline were also felt to be well managed. 93% of parents would recommend DIS to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Diyafah International School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our surveys here.
There is no question that Diyafah International School, with the personal involvement of the Founder’s children as owners and managers of the schools, ensures that there is a commitment at the highest level to continue to improve and to meet their own and their students’ aspirations.
“Although they are important, we believe that school life should be more than simply our students' academic progress and results. We focus on developing the whole child, uncovering talents and skills that prepare them to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Our students leave us having developed a love of learning, together with strong social skills and the ability to take full advantage of the opportunities that come their way, whether that is in higher education or in their future careers.”
Whichschooladvisor.com has followed the development of DIS since its earliest days – we look forward to its continued growth, development and support for its student community.
Fees range from AED 22.500 for FS1 to AED 37,500 for Year 13. These are very much mid-range fees for a UK curriculum school.
Diyafah International School MBZ is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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