Dubai National School, based in Al Twar, is one of two branches, the other based in Al Barsha. Just under 1,750 students attend the school; both girls and boys. Boys are separated from girls once they complete Grade 3 and start Grade 4. Just under 70% of pupils are Emirati, and almost all students are Arab nationals.
Dubai National School Al Twar has been rated Good for the fourth year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
The newer of the two Dubai National School branches, established in 2006, DNS Al Twar is located on a pleasant modern campus with a range of good quality facilities. Just under 1,750 students attend the school; both girls and boys. Boys are separated from girls once they complete Grade 3 and start Grade 4. Just under 70% of pupils are Emirati, and almost all students are Arab nationals.
The school's vision is to "to create an open, collaborative school community that fosters the growth of responsible, confident, productive, and critical thinkers who are interested in the issues of their local and global communities and able to respond to different challenges".
The core of the school's philosophy "has been derived from the basic pillars of the U.A.E. society and from the General Objectives of the National Educational Policy. The uniqueness of Dubai National School is through having Islamic beliefs and practices as essential elements in its programs. The Muslim students are encouraged to practice the Islamic faith within the context of the modern American educational system. They are continuously instructed to have a spirit of religious tolerance".
Dubai National School (DNS) employs 203 full-time teachers giving the school a very healthy teacher to student ratio of 1 to 9. The school has a total of 96 classes giving an average classroom size of 21 - well within the KHDA recommended limit of 25. There are additionally 30 full-time classroom support staff. The majority of staff are Jordanian. Teacher turnover, at 20%, is around average for an international school in Dubai, though a little high for a mainly Arabic staff. However, in a key note in the current KHDA report, inspectors found that only a small number of the staff have teaching credentials and only a small minority of teachers has met the required English language proficiency requirements. This must be an area of concern for the school's owners and parents.
Both Dubai National Schools follow an American, English speaking curriculum, and are owned by the Dubai National Group of Schools. The most recent (2017-18) KHDA report notes that the Massachusetts Common Core state standards have been adopted and are well-embedded as the schools’ instructional base. The High School curriculum includes 24 elective courses to provide students with sufficient opportunities to pursue their own interests. Cross-curricular and community outreach further extend opportunities for students. DNS Al Twar has accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) which ensures that the curriculum is in line with US Board standards and that High School Diplomas will be recognised for admission to College or University. The Al Barsha branch has been accredited since 2003 and recently received its re-accreditation which is valid until 2024.
What about Facilities?
Dubai National School, Al Twar is clearly a physically well resourced school. In addition to the usual classrooms, the school has purpose built, fully equipped science laboratories and a full time science technician. There are two well stocked libraries, used by both the Elementary school and the Secondary school. The library is equipped with networked computers for students and staff to use. The school has eight ICT labs that have over 240 computers available for students. All the computers are connected to the school's network and students are provided with Internet connectivity.
Sports facilities include two swimming pools, outdoor grassed playing fields, an indoor sports arena and multi-purpose hall. A separate, well-equipped, covered playing area is available for students of KG1 and KG2. Two well maintained Cafeterias sell healthy snacks and drinks during break times.
DNS was among the first schools to offer a specialist SEN Department for children with additional learning needs. The Easy Learning Department includes a range of resources including special classes, resources rooms and a diagnostic unit which includes speech and language, and psycho academic diagnosis. Staff offer IEPs and programme implementation as well as a Counselling and Parent support unit and a Training and skills development unit. The provision and outcomes for students with SEN requirements is rated Good by the KHDA.
What the inspectors say
Having initially been rated Good for the first three inspections at DNS Al Twar (at that time, the second highest rating awarded by the KHDA), the school was rated a grade lower at Acceptable for the following three years. For the past three years, the school has achieved a Good rating again, although this is now one level lower than the original rating scheme. Good is the minimum rating that the KHDA expects schools in Dubai to achieve.
The strengths of DNS Al Barsha were found to be:
The KHDA has found that the most fundamental requirement for any school on its path to improvement is its leadership. In this context, the most recent report notes that "the school leaders have a clear vision and this is shared by students, parents, and teachers. Their school improvement efforts have resulted in only moderate success, primarily due to inaccurate self-evaluation. The school’s relationship with the parent body remains a strength as is the diversity of stakeholders on the governing board". Importantly, inspectors also found that "leaders demonstrate a commitment to the success of all national goals and projects. They have a secure knowledge of the US curriculum and support middle leaders in their efforts to improve students' outcomes". As with the Dubai National School Al Barsha, the main challenge for DNS Al Twar is to improve the quality of teaching and assessment in order to ensure that students achieve better academically.
Student achievement is essentially rated Good across almost all measures for all subjects and sections of the school. There has been little improvement in the ratings since the last inspection in 2016-17. Arabic as a first language remains largely Acceptable in the Middle and High school sections. Those improvements that have been made are from Acceptable to Good. Overall, only 4 measures have improved to Good, whilst two (in KG Science) have moved down from Very Good to Good. This suggests that overall improvement efforts have remained almost entirely static in terms of academic progress and attainment.
In large part, the lack of improvement in Student Achievement is caused by the standards of, and reflected in the ratings for, Teaching and Assessment. Whilst teaching for effective learning has remained Good across the school, assessment has been downgraded to Acceptable in the Elementary and Middle school sections. The inspection report states that "assessment processes are only acceptable in the elementary and middle school phases. Teachers do not use assessment data effectively to improve the standards of teaching".
Despite obvious efforts by the school to address the quality of teaching, inspectors found that "although the school has conducted professional development programs to improve teaching, the overall quality of teaching remains broadly good. It is not better because new teachers lack models of best practices. Their teaching does not reflect the impact of professional development upon the development of specific and effective teaching strategies". Furthermore, "teachers’ use of data to underpin student improvement is developing but more relevant and focused training is required. Written feedback, self and peer assessments are not consistently effective". Inspectors also questioned the way in which data from internal assessments is linked to the school's curriculum standards. This alignment was found to be poor across all subjects in the Elementary and Middle phases, and as a result, the inspection team has urged the introduction of a whole-school approach to support effective differentiation, improved teaching, learning, and curriculum modification. These are changes in training and implementation that will not be achieved overnight.
Where DNS Al Twar does rate highly is in relation to the Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills of its students. Personal Development and Social and Innovation skills were rated Very Good. Inspectors noted that "The positive attitudes and behaviors of the students contribute to a very respectful and tolerant school climate. Incidents of bullying are extremely rare. Students’ skills of innovation are developing...Students’ understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures is Outstanding".
The protection, care, guidance and support of students has been rated Very Good across all key measures in the current inspection.
Overall, inspectors identified a range improvements on which the school needs to focus. These included recommendations to:
There is no doubt that these are a challenging list of actions and improvements that the school will need to undertake if they are to improve their inspection rating, and more importantly, student outcomes, in the years ahead.
Some 296 senior school students, and 195 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. The majority of student respondents said that they were happy at the school. They also reported that they read English better than they read Arabic. They are confident learners and believe they can take on difficult academic tasks if they set their minds to it. They believe that there is a teacher at school who always wants them to do their best. A large majority of parents reports satisfaction with the quality of education offered at the school. Parents believe that their children learn well mostly because of good teaching. Parents report that their children are beginning to learn independently with the help of teachers. Inspectors noted in their comments on the parental feedback that independent learning was restricted because of limited access to instructional technology.
Fees range from AED 21,458 per year for KG1 students to AED 35,177 for Grade 12 students. These fees are very much mid-range.
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