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Dwight School Dubai Review

Dwight School in New York was the first in the United States to be an all-through IB curriculum school. Dwight School Dubai first opened in September 2018 in collaboration with Abu Dhabi-based Bloom Education. Following an announcement in October 2021 that Bloom Education and Dwight School New York had mutually agreed to end their cooperation, in August 2022 the school will re-locate to a new campus in Sports City where it will be operated independently by Dwight.
Parents' Rating
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3.8 out of 5 based on 56 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
Availability 2022/23
Annual fee average
AED 81,500
Annual fees
AED 62,700–97,850
Price band help
Ultra-premium
Status
Open
Principal
David Hutson
Owner
Dwight School
Community

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Dwight School Dubai
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
Availability 2022/23
Annual fee average
AED 81,500
Annual fees
AED 62,700–97,850
Price band help
Ultra-premium
Status
Open
Principal
David Hutson
Owner
Dwight School
Community
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Dwight School in New York was the first in the United States to be an all-through IB curriculum school. Dwight School Dubai first opened in September 2018 in collaboration with Abu Dhabi-based Bloom Education. Following an announcement in October 2021 that Bloom Education and Dwight School New York had mutually agreed to end their cooperation, in August 2022 the school will re-locate to a new campus in Sports City where it will be operated independently by Dwight.

The story so far..

Founded in 1872 in New York, Dwight is a leading international IB World School with with global campuses in London, Seoul, Shanghai, and as well as Dwight’s Global Online campus. The school was founded in 1872 by Julius Sachs as part of the Sachs Collegiate Institute. Dwight School was first known as "The Sachs School" and has been evolving through mergers and acquisitions New York style ever since.

Dwight School in New York has been owned and operated by the Spahn family for over 50 years, with Chancellor Stephen Spahn leading as the longest serving head of an independent school in the US; his son Dr. Blake Spahn is vice chancellor and head of Dwight’s global operations. Alumni of Dwight schools internationally, includes: John Williams, Truman Capote, Vin Diesel, Michael Mansfield QC, Ray Davies CBE and a “who’s who” of figures from politics, the Performing Arts, business, sports and the Sciences worldwide.

Dwight School Dubai opened its Barsha campus in 2018, and will be moving to its new permanent campus in Dubai Sports City in August 2022 following the decision to end the cooperation with Bloom Education with whom the school was originally opened. 

Dwight School Dubai’s partnership with Dubai Sports City offers access to an enormous array of sporting facilities and expert coaches, alongside the on-campus 25m swimming pool, multiple outdoor courts and full sized indoor wooden floored basketball court.

Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com through our school survey has been largely positive, with the following comments from parents certainly painting a positive picture:

"Very diverse nationalities truly serve value of international school, there is no dominant nationality like rest of schools in Dubai has mostly Brtits, hence no bullying I’ve ever encountered or unheard of. In here my kid feel a strong sense of belonging by being inclusive that creates happy motivational learning environment which develop and supports emotional intelligence that I highly value than any others. Also personalized supporting curriculum according to child best interest and good at, so no child is left behind, There is always their place to shine rather than school picks selective group and focus."

"They empower the child on being independent and a lifelong learner and inquirer. They work with the children on setting personal goals and benchmark against those focusing on their own progress and growth. They provide the necessary support to the children academically, socially and emotionally. The facilities of the school are in line with STEM learning. The school has a strong sense of community which helps the children feel that they belong".

Interestingly, parents have also commented on the decision to end the agreement with Bloom which appears to augur well for the new independent situation:

"Dwight is a school with years of history in education and their program is well rooted and well rounded in an untraditional way. Their weaknesses have been all their administrative issues with Bloom Education and therefore could not offer what they promised when they opened in Dubai."
"The leadership team from Dwight globally is the overwhelming benefit. The school cares about maximizing the capability of every child."
"Family feeling. Care. Each child’s specificity is taken into account. I had the pleasure to see Dwight in NY as well and I can confirm that for them the child is at the centre, not the profitability"

Find out more about parents' opinions by reading the Buzz.

Blake Spahn, vice chancellor of the group of Dwight Schools has committed to an open door policy for Dubai's students into its sister schools:

"When you are admitted to one Dwight school, you are admitted to them all.” Students moving to countries with Dwight schools will be "admitted immediately" and should there be no places available, existing students will be placed at the top of the waiting list. This is not the norm for branded schools.

The original Dwight School is located on Manhattan's Upper West Side and eschews the US High School Diploma in favour of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which it uses for students from ages two through grade twelve. 

While far from out of the ordinary here, the fact that forty countries are represented among its US school student body - international students account for one-third of the total cohort -  is a source of some pride and actually quite core to the school. Dwight is international in outlook through and through.  The same can be expected of the branch in Dubai, and with a current student body from 51 countries, it would seem this goal has already been achieved.

Each Dwight School shares the same commitment to 'igniting the spark of genius' in every child, a common thread that runs across all schools.

The schools share a common Mission & Philosophy. The Mission statement says:
Dwight is dedicated to igniting the spark of genius in every child. Kindling their interests, we develop inquisitive, knowledgeable, self-aware, and ethical citizens who will build a better world.

The Vision of the Dwight schools is: To foster the next generation of global leaders who can thrive anywhere in the world.

'The schools’ goal is 'to nurture that potential to help our students learn, grow and make the world a better place. This done through a commitment to three pillars: personalized learning, global vision and community. The three pillars provide students with the tools they need to ignite this spark, turning passion into purpose.'

The Founding Principal of Dwight School Dubai is David Hutson who remains the leader of the school following the more direct involvement of Dwight New York. Mr. Hutson has been an educator for over 20 years, starting as a Business and Economics teacher and subsequently achieving an MSc in Education and Training Management and the National Professional Qualification for Head Teachers. In addition, he is a certified School Inspector and a Council of International Schools Evaluator.

Following two senior leadership positions in two UK schools, Mr. Hutson moved to Abu Dhabi in 2011, joining Aldar Academies' Al Bateen Academy as Vice Principal, where he subsequently spent six years at the same school as Principal.

The IB Diploma Programme Coordinator, Mr Peter Atkins is an experienced school leader with 16 years experience teaching the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. He has held senior leadership positions in schools in the U.K., Italy and the UAE, with his subject specialisms being Business Management and Economics. Mr Atkins completed his undergraduate degree in Economics and Management Studies at the University of Leeds before spending time working in the banking sector. He studied for his PGCE at the University of Lancaster and then later completed his Masters in International Education at the University of Bath, at the same time receiving the IB Teacher Award for his emphasis on the IB during his studies.

Currently, Mr Atkins is enrolled at Harvard Business School, with his work focused on school management and leadership development. Mr Atkins brings with him a wealth of IB experience. Through his work as an IB Workshop Leader he has facilitated training for over 150+ IB Coordinators and Senior Leaders. He is a Senior Examiner for IB Business Management and the IB Extended Essay. Mr Atkins has successfully led IB World Schools through all stages of authorisation, implementation, development and evaluation of the IB Diploma Program. A regular participant at the IB Global Conferences, Mr Atkins has also presented to his peers on 'the use of augmented reality in classrooms'.

Mr Atkins is also PENTA and CIS trained for school inspections and accreditations, having a comprehensive understanding of inspection frameworks. He has hands-on experience of helping to ensure schools are inspection ready and has helped lead his present school through three UAE inspections, with the most recent resulting in a top score across all categories for distance learning provision



291 Central Park West. A "focus on creating well-rounded students" who "can become the innovative leaders of tomorrow".

The current cohort of 54 teachers at the school are from 20 countries with the largest nationality groups from North America and the UK. All teachers have teaching degrees and a minimum of two years of teaching experience.  Students are further supported by a team of 18 teaching assistants and two student counsellors.  This means an enviable teacher:student ratio of 1:7 and average class sizes of 15 with a maximum class size is 19 for the just over 400 students who attend the school who include 15 Emirati students and 26 students of Determination.  The largest student nationality groups are 16% American, 8% Canadian, and 7% Indian. There are a slightly higher number of boys than girls at 1.2 male:1 female. 

What about the curriculum?

Dwight offers the IB curriculum, starting with the Primary Years Programme in KG and moving through the Middle Years Programme, prior to offering the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11 and 12.  

Dwight School Dubai is organised into Early Years for Pre-K to KG2, Primary Years Programme for Grades 1 to 5, Middle Years Programme for Grades 6 to 10, and opened the first section of the Diploma Programme in 2020, with Grade 12 having opened in September 2021.  The first cohort of IBDP students will graduate from the school in summer 2022.

The move to the new campus will see the introduction of the first MIT developed ‘Fab Lab’ in the UAE, enabling students to learn new ways of working on and developing ideas; and bringing those ideas to life by utilizing the vast array of equipment and digital devices on hand in the lab.

Core subjects in the PYP are mathematics, science, literacy, social studies, the arts, physical education, and language (Arabic, French and Mandarin). The school provides Arabic for all children in KG. The MYP curriculum requires mastery of eight subjects: Language and Literature, Language Acquisition (Arabic plus choice of French, Mandarin, Spanish or German), Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, Physical and Health Education, Design, and Arts. Islamic Studies.

In addition, the MYP provides 'experiential learning' through Community Action and Service (CAS), whereby, students take planned action and reflect on their personal growth. Students in Grades 6 – 10 are encouraged to engage in meaningful community service, participate in physical activities, and explore their creativity. Dwight School Dubai believes that these are important components of an IB education and personal development.

The MYP culminates with the submission of a Personal Project in Grade 10, an independent, eight-month long assignment that showcases the skills that students have developed throughout the five years of their MYP studies.

In keeping with the school’s mission and the IB curriculum there is a CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) requirement for all students in Grades 11 and 12.

A particular feature of Dwight is the Spark Tank, its incubator programme designed to nurture student innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills beyond the classroom. All Dwight students can participate in the Spark Tank Programme to develop their ideas for new businesses, non-profits, or products.

Dwight is one of the only K-12 schools in the UAE to offer this incubator experience. The school believes that the next “big ideas” will come from the under-18 sector. Spark Tank provides students with real-life experience and essential skills beyond academics and theory, so they can pursue their dreams now rather than at some uncertain time in the future.

Dwight School Dubai also have a particular focus on the Arts which they describe as integral to a Dwight education. Beginning in Preschool with exposure to the fundamentals, and continuing through to Grade 12 with deeper learning in history, theory, and technique, students are exposed to the arts and learn to appreciate them from a global perspective. Opportunities to develop students’ talents and express themselves are provided through music, theatre, dance, and the visual arts.

The new campus will enable students to benefit from the school's plans to bring music and performing arts to the forefront, with a fully equipped auditorium, recording studio, individual practice rooms and spacious classrooms, along with a mini stage in the Early Years building.

A particular benefit of the connection across the Dwight Schools is the opportunity for students to perform on campus and at leading global venues. One tradition is the concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, where students have the opportunity to audition to perform alongside their peers from Dwight’s global campuses at this annual concert.

Starting from 2019 this grand music performance went global and will be hosted every other year at a stage in either Dubai, London, Seoul or Shanghai and every other year at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Sports and healthy lifestyles are a further focus of the school. Healthy lifestyles are promoted with the support of School Counselors, a student well-being committee, and student council members. The Behavior for Learning Policy encourages students to listen, speak, participate, and take responsibility for their own actions in a way that promotes respect and good learning behavior.

Dwight School Dubai’s approach to co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is one that builds on activities and learning covered in the school’s curriculum and that also relates to the student’s personal interests and enthusiasms. There is a range of after-school activities offered across different subject areas (sports, arts, music, STEAM, etc.) with a selection of free activities that are part of the curriculum and paid activities that are offered through third-party providers.

The World at Your Feet programme offers co-curricular opportunities to students to participate in exchanges, collaborations and study abroad activities that include other schools in the Dwight network. Students at Dwight School Dubai also have the chance to host their peers from Dwight schools in shared activities and cultural visits.

International trips are offered in Upper school for students in Grades 7 and up. Through the Global Dwight Network, students have the opportunity to travel to other campuses in New York, Shanghai, Seoul, and London. Examples of trips are Dwight Network Music Choral, Model United Nations conference, Global Issues Network Conference, Dwight Network Ski trip.

What about Students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

Dwight School Dubai says that "we recognize that students have learning differences and through individual evaluations we try to understand and address these differences. We work collaboratively with students and their families to recognize and remove barriers, which impact their achievement, participation and learning."

Dwight differentiates teaching in all classes but also offers additional support through the Quest Programme which supports students with learning difficulties and students that are gifted and talented..The programme is planned in collaboration with parents and teachers and replaces the need for outside tutors by using a Quest mentor who works with teachers. Students who are English Language Learners are also supported through this programme free of charge.

Similarly, the school tries to recognise and foster each students’ gifts and talents by connecting them with exceptional mentors, designing tailor-made enrichment, providing tutorials and much more. Dwight's Spark Tank programme is in part aimed at its gifted and talented children and aims to develop innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership among students. 

Given the non-selective nature of Dwight Dubai, an additional component to run alongside the IB Diploma could be beneficial for some of its students longer term. The IB  requires strong all round academic ability to pass with a good enough grade to get into a top-tier university.  BTEC, T-Levels and the IB CP would be a vocational way to go, and one we think would provide a valuable alternative pathway for less academic or more career and technically oriented students.

What about Academic Achievement?

No information is available currently in terms of academic achievement given that the school will not have its first cohort of IBDP students until 2022.  However, in common with many Dubai schools, it uses CAT4 external benchmark tests and MAP tests (more commonly found in US curriculum schools) .

Regular Parent conferences take place including two teacher and one student led annually.

What about the facilities?

Dwight School Dubai’s new sports city campus features premium facilities and large classrooms, in a quiet location with a sprawling campus of independent buildings and green spaces.

The campus will also see the introduction of the first MIT developed ‘Fab Lab’ in the UAE, enabling students to learn new ways of working on and developing ideas; and bringing those ideas to life by utilizing the vast array of equipment and digital devices on hand in the lab.

In particular, Dwight School Dubai’s partnership with Dubai Sports City offers access to expert coaches and a wide array of sporting facilities, accessible through a private secured walkway, including three full size outdoor football pitches, tennis courts, cricket pitches, a full sized running track and athletics facilities, a full sized indoor football pitch, and padel courts.

Sports facilities within the campus include a large Multipurpose sports hall with wooden sprung flooring, a 25m competition and separate shallow training pool, a practice football field and two multipurpose outdoor courts, a large Early Years playground and separate Primary playground.

What the inspectors say

Dwight School Dubai received its first KHDA inspection conducted by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) in March 2022, following a delay of 12 months due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

There is no question that the school was disappointed with the rating of Acceptable - the minimum required standard to which schools are expected to operate in Dubai.  To some extent, given the evident turmoil through which the school appears to have operated, and the decision to separate from Bloom Education  in favour of the direct management of Dwight School New York from August 2022, the Acceptable rating is perhaps not surprising.   Staff turnover of 45% - twice the UAE average - is a clear indication that all was not well.

Overall, the performance of the school across the six key performance standards was largely Acceptable in terms of Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum.  There is clear evidence that these three inter-dependent performance areas have a direct impact on the success of students.  Perhaps unusually, performance across all three standards was rated Good in the Senior High school grades (11 and 12) for students studying the IB Diploma Programme - which bodes well for the first cohort of students who will graduate in June 2022.

Inspectors commented that students achieve well in the Diploma Programme (DP) but only acceptably in the Kindergarten (KG). From low starting points, students achieve expected rates of progress in Arabic and Islamic Education. In English, mathematics and science, students’ achievement is variable across Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP). Students are cooperative in lessons and use technology well but do not regularly demonstrate high levels of critical thinking.

As far as Teaching and Assessment are concerned, the inspectors found that the quality of teaching is variable across the school, except in the DP where it is more consistently good across areas of learning. Teachers generally know their students well and develop learning targets for individuals. However, teachers’ planning does not always sufficiently meet the needs of all students. The quality of teaching is broadly adequate but varies significantly between classes, especially within PYP and MYP. 

More positively, in regard to the Curriculum, the inspection team noted that the IB programmes offer a breadth of learning experiences. Provision within the DP ensures students have a variety of subject choices and appropriate curriculum progression. Within PYP and MYP, the written curriculum begins to promote inquiry-based learning effectively. The curriculum is currently being reviewed to ensure that, in the future, the diverse needs of all students are met, and high achievement is assured across all areas of learning

Students' personal development, and social social responsibility and innovation skills were rated Good, and the inspectors found that students display positive attitudes to learning and enjoy good relationships with other students and teachers. They have an appreciation of the values of Islam, life in the UAE, and willingly participate in charitable projects and national celebrations. Students appreciate their own and other world cultures. They enjoy the opportunities provided for enterprise learning and innovation, alongside projects to promote sustainability. 

Whilst Health and Safety, including Child Protection and Safeguarding were rated Good across the school, Care and Support was rated Acceptable. Inspectors notes that students and staff enjoy purposeful, working relationships, and behaviour is well managed. The school is focused on increasing levels of attendance and punctuality. There are effective systems in place for the identification of students of determination and those who are gifted and talented.

The leadership and management of the school was rated Acceptable for the most part, though the two key criteria of Parents and the Community and the Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources were also rated Good.

The inspection team found that leaders set a vision for learning and teaching based on the IB programmes. This vision embraces innovation in promoting the effective use of technology. The quality of educational leadership is inconsistent, and it is strongest is the MYP and DP sections. Communication with parents is effective, engaging them in the life of the school as well in the support of their children’s learning.

In terms of the strengths of Dwight School Dubai, these were defined as:

  • The healthy, safe and well-resourced learning environment
  • The good progress of students in a majority of subjects in DP
  • Students’ ability to co-operate in lessons and their skilful use of technology
  • Relationships between students and their willingness to engage in opportunities that promote leadership.

As far as areas of improvement are concerned, the inspection team made the following recommendations: 

  • Governors should provide greater clarity of vision, lines of accountability and additional support to ensure high levels of student achievement across all areas of learning and most notably, in the core subjects.
  • Senior leaders should work strategically to:
    o ensure that middle leaders possess the skills and have sufficient time to collaborate in the raising of standards,
    o provide robust monitoring, support and challenge to ensure greater consistency in high-quality provision and excellent outcomes for students, and
    o engage middle leaders in developing further a school-wide model of high-quality learning and teaching.
  • Teachers should work to improve the consistency of teaching, so that in all lessons:
    o they use questioning strategies effectively to develop critical thinking,
    o teaching strategies are carefully selected to meet the needs of all students, and
    o assessment data are used to focus learning interventions and advance the rates of progress for all students.

It is evident that considerable steps forward need to be made by the school in addressing the recommendations made.  However, the report indicates that a range of actions are already being undertaken across the key areas for improvement.  The change of overall operational control means that Dwight School New York will now be able to support the Dubai branch with its expertise and investmentWe expect to see this deeper involvement lead to significant improvement by the time of the next DSIB inspection.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in  order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a substantial number of responses to our Parent Survey; and feedback thus far as been largely positive.  With a rating of 3.8/5 - or a positivity rating of 76%, students clearly have a strong sense of belonging to, and enjoyment of, the school. Almost 70% of respondents had made a deliberate decision to move their child to Dwight from another school in Dubai and 83% of respondents have never reconsidered their decision - well above the UAE average of 73%.

83% of respondents are also completely satisfied with the academic performance of the school with only 4% dissenting (again well below the UAE average of 6%). In a country where 29% of parents believe that additional outside tuition is needed to supplement in-school learning, 78% of respondents from Dwight do not see this need. In fact 38% of parents are 'extremely confident' and 49% 'quite confident' of the school's ability to meet their child's individual learning needs.

Communication and the school's disciplinary policy and its implementation are clearly also strengths of the school. And an overwhelming 91% of respondents would unreservedly recommend Dwight School Dubai to other parents.  If there is a niggle - as is so often the case - this relates to fees. 6% of respondents believe that these do not represent value for money, and although 43% take the view that they do, 51% believe that fees represent partial value for money. 

It is evident that the switch to a school wholly organised and led by Dwight School New York will need to convince these parents who are not yet entirely satisfied with the offering they receive versus the fees that they pay, that the decision has been a positive one.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Dwight School Dubai, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community and complete our survey here.

Communication is clearly a key focus of Dwight School Dubai.  Dwight’s Parents’ Association is a volunteer organisation that provides a focal point for the school community. The Parents’ Association (PA) plays a vital role in Dwight School Dubai’s community building efforts and educational objectives.

The school says that Parent volunteers are essential to furthering the school and the PA’s joint mission to build a responsible, global-minded community and ignite the spark of genius in every child.

From an Academic information perspective, the school holds Parent Information Sessions with the Head of School weekly and based on the feedback from our Survey, these efforts are paying off.

Our View

There is no doubt that the opening of Dwight School came at a challenging time for premium schools in the UAE.  Add to this the impact of Covid 19, and any school is going to have to be able to convince parents every day that they are providing real value for money.

Unsurprisingly, growth in students numbers has been somewhat slow - but in many ways this is no bad thing, allowing the school to develop at its own pace and to provide very individualised support through its low teacher:student ratio to its students.  With the enhanced ties to the Dwight Schools globally, the prestigious IB curriculum and an experienced team on board in Dubai, we believe that Dwight School Dubai has a lot to offer.  

The new campus to which the school is relocating is in many ways much more 'homely' and attractive than the previous one, including spacious classrooms, with all the specialist facilities in place on site, and separate buildings and outdoor space for the different sections of the school.  Its access to the facilities of Dubai Sports City will provide students with the best sports facilities in the city.  

What about fees?

The original KHDA approved fees range from AED 85.000 to AED 130,000. However, clearly mindful of the economic circumstances over the past two years in particular, Dwight is offering reduced fees that range from AED 58,500 for pre-KG to AED 99,500 for Grade 12.  This is in line with other Premium plus fee schools in the city.

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Dwight School Dubai 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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