Dove Green Private School, located at Dubai Investments Park, provides a UK curriculum education to a growing community of approximately 560 students.
The story so far...
Dove Green Private School is currently the only UK curriculum school within the Dubai Investment Park area - home to The Green Community, The Palisades, Ritaj, Dunes Village, Dubai Lagoon and the EWAN Residences. The school serves the Green Community particularly well with a footpath linking the two, "enabling children to walk from their homes... We encourage families to walk, scoot and cycle to school."
Following its original management by Evolvence Knowledge Investments (EKI), best known for its development and ownership of Repton Dubai and Repton Al Barsha (formerly Foremarke School Dubai), Dove Green Private School is today part of the Study World Education group which runs the sister to the UK's De Montfort University (DMU) in Dubai. DMU is ranked Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework.
The school opened in 2015 with just 40 students and, initially and in its own words, was a "little quiet". Over the last seven years it has grown substantially, however, and is now home to 560 pupils, which puts space at a premium, even if capacity is said to allow 650 students. The school describes itself as "a wonderfully small British school with a fantastic community spirit".
The main reception area at Dove Green Private School
DGPS initially provided an education based on the National Curriculum for England with students from FS1 to Year 6. However, Years 7 and 8 opened in 2019-20,with Year 9 due to open in 2022. The school currently has 34 classrooms, with another 26 classrooms being built in their new senior school. There are a maximum of five classes per year group and class sizes average 18 students with a maximum of 22. These class sizes are line with premium-priced schools in the city.
The school is led by Founding Principal, Patrick Affley, who graduated from the University of Wales as a specialist in Primary Education and Physical Education. Mr. Affley joined DGPS on its opening in 2015 and must now be among the longer-serving principals in Dubai, now in his eighth year of leadership at the school.
Mr Affley secured his Headship qualification from Cardiff University (NPQH) and is studying for a Masters in Educational Leadership and Management at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. His experience includes more than two decades in education, fourteen years of which were in the UK where Mr Affley, prior to relocating to Dubai, worked for the Welsh Inspectorate of Schools (Estyn). Mr Affley has a keen interest in Rugby and has coached with both the Dubai Exiles and Dubai Warriors.
With the expansion of the school to Secondary, and the opening of the new Secondary building scheduled for March 2023, the leadership team will be expanded to include a new Head of Primary and Head of Senior School.
The school's 50+ teachers are almost all UK nationals or UK trained, with the exception of Arabic and Islamic Studies staff, and have both a Bachelors degree and PGCE (a post graduate certificate in education) or equivalent. They are supported by a further 18 teaching assistants. The teacher:student ratio is 1:11, in line with expectations for a school offering a premium fee range. A staff turnover of 20% was noted in the last KHDA report in 2020. This is average for the UAE, but still a little towards the high side we feel, particularly as this has been the case in previous years also.
The largest student nationality group at the school is from the UK; in the last set of figures we had from the school, 25 percent of students come from the United Kingdom, 25 percent are from a range of European countries, and 50 percent from "other" nationalities. A total of 64 nationalities are represented at the school.
Dove Green is open to Year 8, expanding to Year 13 over the coming 5 academic years.
In its first KHDA inspection in January 2018, Dove Green was rated Acceptable - but made rapid strides to achieve a Good rating in the 2018-19 inspection round, and followed this up with a second Good rating in 2019-20.
The school is a member of the British Schools in the Middle East and has requested an inspection by British Schools Overseas (BSO) in November 2022. British Schools Overseas, which falls under the responsibility of the UK Government's Department of Education, is an accreditation organisation that, through its independent inspection process (based on the OFSTED inspections carried out in England), ensures that English National Curriculum schools overseas meet the minimum requirements of the Department of Education.
The school covers “all National Curriculum subjects and set high standards in all.”
The school offers the Early Years Foundation Stage for children in FS1 and FS2 which leads to the English National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 (years 1 and 2), Key Stage 2 (years 3 to 6) and Key Stage 3 (years 7-9). Dove Green says that students will study for GCSEs in Years 10 and 11 and there is mention of BTEC qualifications also.
The English National Curriculum has a strong focus on English and Mathematics. According to DGPS, "These are delivered with a rigour stemming from proven and traditional teaching methods and are bolstered by the latest innovations in modern practices such as interactive white boards and other ICT tools. Every child will have access to an iPad to develop their enquiry skills at appropriate times during lessons."
Dove Green describes itself as an inclusive school that focuses on the 'whole child', and as such, a wide range of learning experiences are offered, underpinned by a focus on teaching and using a variety of 'thinking tools' that are used across all subject areas. The school streams subjects for different abilities to tailor material and teaching for those who may need more time, as well as for those gifted and talented children within a subject that grasp the concepts more quickly.
Whilst the focus of the EYFS programme is very much based on developing the whole child, largely through play-based learning, the aim of the Key Stage 1 department is to give children the best possible start to a more formal education. According to the school, "entering a more structured curriculum can be daunting, but by providing a welcoming and caring environment the children are able to grow into independent and self-confident thinkers and learners".
The focus in Key Stage 2 is to build on the children’s previous knowledge and give them the tools to be resourceful, resilient learners. The skills the students are taught in both English and Maths subjects are transferable and used in other subject areas, so that they become embedded and the students can move on to the next stage of their learning more quickly.
DGPS believes in a strong teaching of the basics, coupled with creative, investigative work, supported with the use of the latest technology. Students are taught all subjects of the National Curriculum for England, (including English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, ICT, Art and Design, Music, a Modern Foreign Language - French - and PE) plus Arabic.
In Key Stage 3, students continue with all the National Curriculum subjects plus Arabic, Social Studies, Moral Education and a modern foreign language, with specialist teachers for all subjects. By the end of Year 9, the school aims to teach its students the skills needed to be able to move from Year 9 onto Year 10 and the start of the IGCSE programme, ensuring that they are well informed about the curriculum choices for Years 10 and 11. In due course, the school will open its Sixth Form, offering A Levels, and there will also be other pathways in place for all students at this age, with other courses such as BTEC being offered to ensure that DGPS continues to be inclusive.
Extra-curricular activities offered by the school include football, swimming, dance, martial arts and yoga. Of these the teacher led extra-curricular activities are free to all students.
The school has a separate inclusion department which aims to ensure that there is equity for all students in all subject areas. Seven members of staff work with students, including an Inclusion champion, two special needs coordinators and four support teachers. A sizeable 25% of students have been identified with additional learning needs or Gifts and Talents - the latter are approximately 10% of the student population. There is no additional fee for this support.
Students who are designated as in need of English Additional Language support are provided with specialised booster sessions led by teaching staff, for which again, there is no additional fee.
Although it is too soon for students at Dove Green to have taken any public examinations, the school states that "Our aim is to enable all children to be working at a level above what would be expected in most other schools. Although using and following aspects of the National Curriculum for England we are not bound by it, ensuring that we can offer a broad, exciting and rich curriculum whereby the children are constantly challenged to excel."
The school takes part in external GL testing and has participated in PISA and TIMMS testing. According to DGPS, students consistently perform higher than the UK national average.
And whilst it seems that students make Good progress from their starting points in English, Maths and Science across the school, attainment is rated by the KHDA as only Acceptable. Attainment and progress for both Arabic as a first language and Islamic Studies are also rated only Acceptable across both measures. More concerning to DGPS will be the evaluation by the KHDA inspection team of Arabic as a second language which is rated Weak. Whilst this might not be a major concern for parents necessarily, it will certainly remain one for both the school and the KHDA.
Facilities at the school are very good, offering an attractive and 'bright' environment for learning. The school is set on a large plot of land, part of which is now under development for the new Secondary section.
The school is essentially an inverted T shape with the main reception area located at the front of the building and the three teaching blocks located behind. The corridors are wide and bright – unlike many schools, there is natural light throughout the building which includes a main Assembly Hall and Theatre, 30 purpose built classrooms with shaded outside access, a Library, a Science Suite, an IT Centre, Music rooms, and a Specialist SEND Centre with Sensory Tent.
To the side of the main block is a very spacious indoor sports hall, and a multi-purpose dance studio, four astro-turfed areas including one dedicated only for FS children and a multipurpose outside football, rugby and athletics pitch, both artificial and grass cricket nets. There are two outdoor swimming pools - a 20m meter pool and a Toddler pool. Outdoor spaces also include a green area with play equipment, a large covered, shaded area with rubberized flooring, an area with garden play spaces including two wooden climbing houses, and a Nature learning area.
The new senior school facility, opening in March 2023, completes the site and will provide 26 further classrooms, three science labs, a Drama room, three music rooms, a Design and Technology room, a Food technology room, a Strength and conditioning suite, an eight lane 25 metre swimming pool, and an additional Sports Hall with Performing Arts auditorium and stage.
Extra-curricular activities offered by the school include football, swimming, dance, martial arts and yoga. Of these the teacher led extra-curricular activities are free to all pupils.
What the inspectors say
Having managed the minimum expected level of Acceptable for their first KHDA DSIB inspection, Dove Green was able to pick up speed in terms of progress rapidly to achieve a Good rating in its second inspection in 2018-19. However, it seems that impetus has slowed in 2019-20, with the Good rating having been retained, but no improvement significant enough to warrant any changes in ratings for the key performance measures. In fact the only changes were downward, with Assessment in both the Foundation and Primary stages having been downgraded to Acceptable.
Strengths of the school were found to be:
The inspection team commented that leaders were yet to implement robust processes and protocols for recording and analysing internal assessments. The accurate measurement of the progress of all groups of students remained underdeveloped. This has been an area of key focus for the DSIB in recent years, given the significant impact on student achievement through a more personalised approach to individual student learning.
Whilst teaching was found to be typically good across both phases, the inspectors noted that it was not always as strong in Islamic education and Arabic, where challenge for most students was below expectations.
The curriculum was found to be generally broad and balanced and enriched with Arabic,French and social studies, though the social studies curriculum was not fully aligned to UAE curriculum standards. The curriculum was modified to meet the needs of most students in English, mathematics and science, but less effectively in Islamic education and Arabic.
Health and Safety were rated Very Good across the school and Good in both sections for the care and support of students. The support for students of Determination was also deemed to be Good. The relationship with parents and the community - a very clear strength of Dovecote Green - was again rated Very Good.
However, whilst the leadership of the school and the Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources retained their Good rating, self evaluation of the school and improvement planning were downgraded to Acceptable, as was Governance.
Overall, the inspectors noted that "The processes and systems for self-evaluation lack rigour. School improvement planning is not fully informed through assessing accurately the quality of teaching, learning and assessment. The processes of accountability, monitoring of school outcomes and impact of school improvement planning require greater levels of support and oversight by governors."
In terms of areas of improvement the inspection team determined that the school must:
Despite the overall rating remaining the same and the concern about those areas where improvements had not been achieved, there are many positive comments in the report; the challenge for the school will be to take substantive measures to improve across a range of areas in a relatively short timescale.
The fact that this is a relatively small school is likely to be a significant benefit. With a teaching staff of only just over 30, together with a small team of teaching assistants, winning hearts and minds, delivering training and putting in place effective monitoring systems should be somewhat easier than attempting the same in a much larger school.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to understand the detail behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Dove Green believes its strength lies in it "catering firmly for the 'whole child', developing each child's thinking skills in order to become a successful 21st century learner." Even when it reaches full size it will much smaller school than many found in Dubai which will appeal to parents seeking a smaller, more homely environment. The focus of the school will be on educational quality and sports activities whilst developing strong links to the local community.
According to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Survey, respondents were similarly happy with Dove Green. Although a relatively small number of parents have completed the survey, those that have done so believed that their children felt a tremendous amount of belonging to the school, and enjoyed going to school equally highly. Almost 95% of respondents said that they had never considered moving their child to another school.
Every respondent was satisfied with the academic performance of DGPS, with none believing that additional external tuition was required. Communication and disciplinary policy and implementation were equally highly regarded. Even there was one area that parents were slightly less happy about, it was the usual topic of school fees. But even here, over 70% agreed that fees were value for money, and not a single parent disagreed entirely with this statement. This would also explain why every respondent would unreservedly recommend the school to others.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Dove Green Private School, please share your experiences with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
According to the KHDA, parents hold the school in high regard and praise the efficient day-to-day management. They are highly appreciative of the school’s inclusive and community ethos. Regular parent representative meetings, including representation on the governing body, ensure that parents are well informed.
A total of 54 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, and almost all parents were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. Parents believed that teachers know their children well and supported their academic and emotional needs very effectively. The quality of school leadership was well regarded by most parents and communication was regular and supportive. Parents considered their children safe in the school and they appreciated the good resources and modern facilities.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com asked Dove Green Private School what makes it special. Its response was as follows:
"Dove Green is a truly unique school in the UAE. The focus of the school is to create a 'home away from home'. We have created an environment where all are welcome and we serve the Dubai Investments Park and Green Community plus other communities in the locality. The number of students who walk, scoot and cycle to school every morning helps create this buzz. We encourage parent partnership and strong links with our teaching staff. Many of the comments from visitors to the school are centred around the warm feeling in the school and a lovely atmosphere.
Our focus for next year is to develop the Primary section of the school with dedicated Primary Heads and deputies, giving opportunities for all our staff to grow and develop their leadership skills through a strong coaching and mentoring programme. We are looking to develop all aspects of the school to ensure that students develop and cultivate a love of learning. In addition, our senior school staffing is growing with the school and our students in Years 7 to 9 will be the first children to use our new purpose-built facility. The challenge, as we grow, is to ensure that our ‘every child matters’ agenda is maintained and those students grow and develop, taking the ethos they have been exposed to and develop that through the senior years."
Whilst the KHDA may still have some reservations about the performance of Dove Green Private School - though with the pandemic, it is now over two years since their last inspection visit - it seems that students and parents most definitely do not. We have no doubt that DGPS will be working hard towards addressing the regulators' concerns, but provided that the school continues to keep its customers happy, we can only see the school going from strength to strength.
The school is in a good location for growth - just watch how the area has grown with Expo 2020 on its doorstep - and with a very defined set of objectives, including the growth of the school to include the Secondary school, thereby offering an all-through option for parents - this is, rightly in our opinion, a school to watch.
Fees range from AED 42,000 in FS1 to AED 55,000 in Year 7-9 - definitely on the premium end.
Dove Green Private School 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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