United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Barsha South / Foremarke School

Foremarke School Review

Foremarke School Dubai, located in Al Barsha South, is a co-educational junior school catering for pupils from Foundation Stage 1 (Nursery) to Year 6 currently. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, it will progressively expand from Year 7 to Year 9 offering Key Stage 3 of the UK curriculum. It follows the Early Years Foundation Stage for FS1 and 2, and the National Curriculum for England and Wales leading to 11+/Common Entrance* for Key Stage 2.
Parents' Rating
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3.9 of 5 stars
At a glance
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Very Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
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Availability 2019/20
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Annual fee average
AED 72,500
Annual fees
AED 58,500 - 83,000
Status
Open
Opening year
2013
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Zoe Woolley
Owner
Evolvence Knowledge Investments
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British

Nearby nurseries

1.6km • Montessori curriculum
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Foremarke School
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Very Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 72,500
Annual fees
AED 58,500 - 83,000
Status
Open
Opening year
2013
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Zoe Woolley
Owner
Evolvence Knowledge Investments
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British
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First Published:
Saturday 8 March, 2014

Updated:
Tuesday 1 January, 2019

Foremarke School Dubai, located in Al Barsha South, is a co-educational junior school catering for pupils from Foundation Stage 1 (Nursery) to Year 6 currently. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, it will progressively expand from Year 7 to Year 9 offering Key Stage 3 of the UK curriculum. It follows the Early Years Foundation Stage for FS1 and 2, and the National Curriculum for England and Wales leading to 11+/Common Entrance* for Key Stage 2.

Foremarke School is the partner school of Foremarke Hall, Repton’s Preparatory School in the United Kingdom. Foremarke Hall is a very well-respected British prep school that succeeds both academically and in terms of developing the person.

Small class sizes are said to be a “cornerstone of the Foremarke curriculum delivery”. Foremarke School currently has 480 pupils, an increase of over 100 students from the previous year. This is a school designed for pupil numbers in the hundreds, not thousands. Even its sister school in the UK only has 450 pupils aged from 3 to 13.

The school opened in 2013 and has grown organically with Year 6 opening in the 2016-17 academic year.  The school has recently confirmed its plans to expand to Year 9 from September 2018 over the next three academic year - starting with Year 7 in 2018-19 - in order to enable families considering private education in the UK post common-entrance, for their children to complete this period in Dubai.

The teacher to pupil ratio is currently 1:10 in both the Foundation School and the Prep School. Class sizes have a maximum of 20 pupils (an increase from 16 in previous years) and all classes in Foundation have a full time teaching assistant. All 64 teachers are UK qualified, and many have UK Prep School experience.  There are a total of 18 teaching assistants.

"At Foremarke we have an uncomplicated and straightforward ideal. Inspiring excellence, nurturing respect. This reflects the importance we place on the development of the whole child." 

Foremarke aims to provide a genuine prep school experience in Dubai. To help create that Foremarke School has become the first school in the UAE, and only the second school globally, to have been given the status of an IAPS World Hub School, by The Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS). Highly regarded Tanglin School in Singapore, was the first school, to be awarded the status. IAPS, an association for the world’s preparatory schools with some 600 member schools, allows prep schools to carry the IAP kite-mark only after accreditation.

British ‘prep schools’ are the equivalent of primary and middle schools of the UK’s state education sector. Privately funded, they – in general – offer higher academic standards, more specialist teaching, more teaching time, place greater focus on ‘traditional, moral values’, and offer wider extra-curricular opportunities than their state-owned counterparts.

Foremarke says it aims to build “well-rounded, well grounded, confident young people who display a love for learning and a zest for life.” The school also says it places a strong emphasis on “respect for others, care and courtesy; combined with academic rigour appropriate to ability, [that] will lay a strong foundation for the successful transition to one of a wide range of quality senior schools both locally and overseas.”

In terms of academics the *11+, Common Entrance exams focus means an emphasis on providing the 3R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic necessary to perform well. Note: 11+, CE exams are key to entering into higher performing selective private (and some state) schools. Foremarke effectively prepares pupils for entry at some stage into schools in the independent sector in the United Kingdom. See the note at the end of the review.

The school says it does not sacrifice the breadth of teaching in its focus on the 3Rs however. The school also has a focus on the arts with instrumental music as part of its core teaching time. All children are taught an instrument, including violin and keyboard. In addition, extra curricular Sports, Music and Drama are offered, while some additional academic studies are offered before lessons start in the morning. French is taught as part of the curriculum.

Note: All staff-led activities are free of charge, although there are additional fees when external specialists are required – for Karate and Ballet for example.

Foremarke School also places emphasis on physical activity with three hours of physical education scheduled into each week by Year 3.

The school is selective on intake, with an assessment for all ages and informal interview with parents prior to a place being offered. In total 38 different nationalities are currently represented in the student body, two-thirds of whom come from the United Kingdom. Gender is equally split between male and female pupils.

The school, a partnership between Repton School UK and Evolvence Knowledge Investments (EKI), a Dubai-based investment company, was put together from scratch by founding Head, Mark Atkins and his team. The team worked very closely with the architects and designers to ensure that the school provides the “perfect teaching environment” on its purpose-built 10 acre campus. 

In the past two years there have been a number of changes at the school, with one of the most  significant being in relation to the school's inclusiveness. Foremarke School Dubai previously had limited SEN provision with no specialist support in place. This changed from September 2016 with the appointment of a Head of Inclusion with responsibility for pupils with SEN and EAL needs. The school has a visiting Occupational Therapist and a Speech and Language Therapist two days each week.

The Head of Inclusion has also taken on the responsibility of the school's "gifted and talented students". Small classroom sizes mean Foremarke is able to offer differentiated activities in class, and also extension groups in its dedicated ‘Curriculum Plus’ time before and after school. With small class sizes, classroom planning is also used to ensure any work introduced is aimed at pupils’ current requirements.

"At Foremarke we focus closely on how children learn and our curriculum actively develops strong personal learning skills alongside traditional academic knowledge. Our focus on building the development of characteristics such as perseverance, resilience, resourcefulness and reflectiveness in children, encouraging them to think critically and learn actively helps to make Foremarke a school focused on progress, producing confident individuals and successful learners." 

Facilities

One thing that has not changed are the impressive range of facilities at the school. The school was initially operational only in its “Early Years”, Foundation stage wing. The remainder of the school was completed around May 2014. Foundation stage pupils are in a completely separate building from KS1/2 students with the two parts of the school having separate entrances and separate facilities.

Foremarke School has a 25 meter competition swimming pool (with the Foundation School having its own swimming pool) which was opened by the UAE's first Olympic swimmer, Nada Al Bedwawi, in October 2018; three netball and tennis courts, two multi-purpose outdoor courts, three multi-purpose sports halls, two junior cricket fields including one grass wicket, four junior sized football/rugby pitches, indoor and outdoor cricket nets and a Sports Pavilion. The school also has specialist Sports, Music and Drama rooms and facilities in each section. The school has even thought about parking, the perennial Dubai problem, with staff parking underground so that there is sufficient external parking for parents.

What the inspectors say

The school has now been inspected by the KHDA three times and was rated Good on the first two occasions - the minimum target rating expected by the Dubai Regulator.  The most recent inspection in 2017-18, saw Foremarke make a step up to Very Good - the second highest rating, and only one away from Outstanding.  At the first inspection in 2015-2016, of particular note were the strengths in attainment and progress in English, teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage (FS), students’ attitudes and behaviour and the quality of the facilities and resources provided to support learning. 

The second inspection in 2016-17 noted that the school had been been successful in bringing about improvement in many areas of the school’s work since the last inspection. The second inspection found that the school's strengths lay in Very good teaching and learning which had resulted in very good attainment and progress in English, Mathematics and Science in the primary and in English and mathematics in the FS stage. The inspectors noted Very good care and Outstanding relationships having contributed strongly to students’ personal development. In addition, very effective systems for engaging parents had resulted in a partnership that is beneficial to their children’s learning. The provision of high-quality resources has resulted in the creation of a highly-engaging learning environment.

The most recent inspection which took place in January 2018 inspectors noted that the strengths of the school were its progress against the UAE’s National priorities, which is above expectations [related to the key areas of international bench-marking tests, support of Emirati students, the provision of UAE Social Studies and Moral Education, and innovation]; in both phases, students’ behaviour and attitudes to learning [which] are exemplary; and leadership [which] is quickly improving overall school performance.

The report states that  "particularly impressive are the students’ achievements in external assessments in English, Mathematics and Science; Standards of care and systems of guidance for all students are excellent; The school prioritises the safety and safeguarding of students; and the efficient management of all aspects of school, the high calibre and training of staff, the quality of accommodation and sufficiency of resources [which] enable effective learning."

The majority of key indicators for attainment and progress have been rated Very Good in English, Mathematics and Science, and Acceptable for the core Arabic subjects.  Progress and attainment in Primary English were rated Outstanding.  Students' personal development has also been rated Outstanding, whilst all other key indicators in the Primary school have been rated Very Good with improvements from Good in almost all key indicators in the current inspection round.

These overall improvements have also led to improved ratings for Leadership and Management, with the effectiveness of leadership, school self-evaluation and improvement planning, and governance having been upgraded to Very Good. Parents and the Community, and Management, staffing, facilities and resources have been upgraded to Outstanding.

The inspection report notes the following recommendations as areas of focus in the coming year, reflective of the common challenges faced by many international schools in the UAE:

  • "Improve progress in Arabic as a first language by: enabling teachers to make better use of initial assessment and cognitive ability results; matching students’ learning to their needs; adapting provision according to performance.
  • School leaders should review the curriculum for teaching Arabic as an additional language so that students’ language skills are progressively built, with appropriate levels of challenge"

In addition, specific recommendations have been made for the Foundation Stage in relation to attainment:

  • "Leaders should support, and monitor improvements to the performance of and provision for children in the Foundation Stage so that, at least, they reach a similar level to those in primary. Leaders should establish more appropriate and effective systems to measure and record the progress of students with SEND."

With the expansion of the school to the provision of Secondary from September 2018, it will be interesting to see whether Foremarke can successfully transfer its very effective operations to a Secondary environment.  The fact that the school is only progressively adding year groups as students "grow" into them, means that it will have a strong element of control which should enable stable, organic growth.  Staff turnover, at 15%, is on the lower side for an international school in Dubai (the average is 20-22%).  This will be an important factor.

In addition to the KHDA inspections, applications have been made to BSME (British Schools of the Middle East) and BSO  (British Schools Overseas).  The two bodies aim to ensure that schools are providing a high standard of British Education. Foremarke School is also subject to annual “Quality Assurance visits” led by Repton UK using ISI standards. This report is available on the school’s web site. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it did rather well.

Fees for Foremarke School start high, and move higher – this is a premium school, and that requires funding. Approved Fees started initially at AED 90,000 - AED 98,000 before subsequently being reduced to AED 65,000 for FS1 and are AED 85,000 for Years 3 to 6. However, reductions in fees have been announced from the start of the 2018-19 academic year which will see them fall to AED 58,500 for FS1 to AED 83,000 for Year 7.

The admissions process also requires a registration fee of AED 525 and an assessment fee of AED 1050 (both inclusive of VAT). Both of these fees are non-refundable.

Notes
Common Entrance Examinations are taken by some children in the UK as part of the admissions process for academically selective secondary schools at age 13 or (for girls) 11. They are set by ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board).

Most of the secondary schools that use Common Entrance for admission are fee paying public schools; and most of the schools that routinely prepare their pupils for Common Entrance are preparatory schools. The 11+ is used by academically selective state schools – although these are somewhat of a rarity in the UK today. However where they exist (usually as Grammar Schools) they usually top the academic league tables, certainly for state schools, and the best of them give private schools a good run for their money.

 

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