Dubai Heights Academy (DHA) is now into the third year of operation, having opened its doors to students in September 2017. The school is about to embark on its next adventure, with the opening of the Secondary phase in September 2020.
We begin our morning visit by meeting four of the current Year 6 cohort. Bright with energy and enthusiasm for the school, our four arrive to our meeting wearing their PE kits – ready for a day of sporting action. They later tell us that PE lessons and sporting extra-curricular activities are some of the highlights of life at DHA. They were particularly excited by the imminent arrival of match kits for netball, basketball and football, so they could go to fixtures and represent their school with pride.
We asked our student panel what made them most proud of their school. “You can rely on us for kindness here” said the first to respond. They all agreed with this thoughtful evaluation. “It’s a very inclusive and kind community” said another, going on to say that “…we like that about this school. We play with everyone, no-one is ever left out”.
This is a growing school, a fact which the students saw as having given them many “chances to be independent”. They felt that the teachers made the effort to know the students well as individuals, and truly trusted them. “You feel smart and grown up here” said one young girl. In fact, some of the students we meet had had the same teacher each year for their time at the school. “The teachers listen to our opinions. They never ignore us!” another pupil panel member told our team.
A popular aspect of student life at DHA is the presence of numerous school animals.
“We have a budgie, canaries, tortoises, lovebirds, ducks and rabbits,” we were told. “I bet no other schools have as many pets as we do!”
In all our WhichSchoolAdvisor.com visits we have rarely seen a school so inundated with pets, so we would have to agree!
The students would like to see a student council in the school, something that they think their new Principal, Ms Lamb is about to implement. The only other change they would like to see is “more school trips”!
After a most enjoyable chat with the students, we meet a panel of parents with children spanning all of the year groups FS1 to Year 6.
Read more about Dubai Heights Academy in our SCHOOL REVIEW HERE
Our parents begin by telling us what makes them most happy about the school. Comments ranged from “They see children as individuals here” to “it’s so welcoming”. One parent had moved their child from another school and “…he is so much happier now. We had wanted a smaller school, somewhere happy and relaxed! That is what we got”. Finally, one parent said that the schools appearance matched the atmosphere, “it’s light and bright, in appearance and everything else”.
The parents had felt the loss of the previous Principal (the Founding Principal of the school, Mr Prosser, who left in the July 2019) keenly, but so far were happy with the progress and “lots of positive changes” made by new Principal Ms Lamb.
“It was hard to fill his shoes and after one term, I feel like we are still getting to know her [Ms Lamb], but…so far so good!” The parents were aware that the school is facing its first DSIB Inspection and subsequent report from the KHDA, but they felt that Ms Lamb and her team were ready for it.
Communication between home and school was considered good. Parents liked the various apps that were used for reminders and progress updates. Throughout the school, there is an open door policy, which the parents really appreciated and felt that the teachers were genuinely committed to. “They are always willing to give you their time” they agreed. The fact that all classes, throughout the school, have their own teaching assistant (unlike many schools which have a shared teaching assistant per year group from Year 3 and up) was very popular and really aided connection and communication, our parent panel believed.
For all of our parent panel, it was the care of the children, both “academic and social” that was the standout feature of this school. There were challenges, of course. Parents would dearly love to see the long promised car park completed, although they were aware that this was a matter beyond the school’s control (the proposed area for the car park being still under the control of the RTA). The canteen does not as yet have hot food provision, again something that parents would appreciate being put into place.
When it comes to value for money, the parents felt that the school represented ‘good’ value. That said, most current parents are recipients of discounted Founders fees, which (as our panel stated), are due to come to an end this year. This discontinuation of discounts had caused some discontent and our panel reported that “lots of parents are not happy about it”. For the parents we met, the facilities, teachers, resources and leadership plus sibling discounts and a free school uniform (on enrolling) meant that they continue to be satisfied with the costs associated with the school.
Alison Lamb strikes us as energetic and purposeful and is obviously keen to ‘get stuck in’ to improving on the foundations already in place at Dubai Heights Academy. Ms Lamb jokes that she never really considered any other career than education as it “runs in the family”. Both her Grandmother and Mother were teachers, her mother specialising in Special Education, something which remains a passion for Ms Lamb to this day.
Read more about Dubai Heights Academy in our SCHOOL REVIEW HERE
“I wasn’t naturally academic as a child, but I did want to achieve. I had to work hard and really explore how best to drive my own learning” Ms Lamb told us. Reflecting on how this has impacted her own teaching style, she went on to say that “…arts, sports and music helped my focus and my concentration. I learnt early on that you need to look at the whole child and help them to find their talents. This is something DHA is good at, I believe”.
Ms Lamb has been working in schools in the UAE for more than 17 years. She has previously worked with the prestigious Latifa School for Girls, The School of Research Science and was Director of Education for Al Rabeeh Education in Abu Dhabi. Ms Lamb is a Penta trained School Inspector and holds the National Professional Qualification for Headship from the University of Newcastle in England.
Ms Lamb has a particular interest in school design and is enjoying the unusually bold and thoughtful architecture at Dubai Heights Academy. For the future, she is keen to continue to embed a focus on inclusive education with academic excellence into the ethos and ‘DNA’ of the school.
At the time of our visit, the school were just about to announce the appointment of Mr Rob Hitchings, Vice Principal and Secondary Leader, Mr Hitchings also joined the school from Al Rabeeh Academy. Ms Lamb is excited to see the impact that he and the soon to be appointed secondary specialist teachers will have on the trajectory of this rapidly developing school.
Dubai Heights Academy is perhaps one of the most attractive new schools we have visited. We would describe the design as having ‘hyper-attention’ to detail. These details are perhaps best typified in some of the standout features; such as the design of the Foundation Stage area, where almost oval shaped classrooms have huge windows out onto the many outdoor areas and classes encircle grassy play areas. The youngest children also have an indoor swimming pool, a thoughtful touch that ensures that swimming takes place all year round, not just in the hottest months.
Throughout the school, students have access to small group areas and break out spaces to allow work outside the usual classroom environment. A sweeping staircase makes a grand entrance to the wonderfully well -equipped auditorium and on the ground floor we pass a suite of rooms for therapy and inclusive education support. This is a school that has been designed with the needs of every unique student in mind.
For more details on the facilities at Dubai Height Academy, read our SCHOOL REVIEW HERE
Dubai Heights Academy is a school that is entering a new era under a positive, can-do new Principal and with an“all through school” status from September 2020. With a focus on academic attainment in a truly inclusive environment with stunning facilities, the future is looking good for students, staff, and parents, at Dubai Heights Academy.
Dubai Heights Academy 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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