Grammar School Dubai is part way through and improvement plan which, through sweeping changes, aims to make the school one where students and parents can access a high quality UK Curriculum at an affordable price.
Grammar School is a private FS2 to Year 13 UK curriculum school located in Al Garhoud, Dubai. The school was established in 1970, making it one of Dubai's oldest schools, having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and currently caters to approximately 1,200 students with 83 full time teachers (a significant increase in staff compared with 2018) and an increase of almost 300 students since new management was brought in in 2016. The school is comprised of a wide range of nationalities with the majority of students coming from Pakistani and Indian families.
Find out about the school's background and facilities by reading about our Experience here!
Since 2016, there have been at least three changes in leadership and management at Grammar School with Athena Education now owning the school. Athena operates a number of relatively low fee schools in Dubai and Sharjah including four US curriculum schools and two nurseries in Sharjah, and two US curriculum schools (American International School and International Academic School) and two further UK curriculum schools in Dubai (Al Sadiq Islamic English School and Oaktree Primary School).
Grammar School states in its Vision that "We believe that every child matters and that learning should be fun, innovative, purposeful and challenging".
Its Mission states: We are committed to delivering innovative and inspirational teaching that develops confident learners by:
The previous Principal, Craig Shipton, joined the school in March 2019 after the unsuccessful leadership, originally installed, which saw the school's KHDA rating fall to Weak in 2018-19. Mr. Shipton stayed long enough at Grammar School to see its rating upgraded to Acceptable in 2019-20. He has now been succeeded in 2020-21 by Ms. Nikke Alley. Reflective of the historical ownership and student base, Ms. Alley is the sole British member of the school's Senior Leadership team.
In her introduction to Grammar School, Ms. Alley notes; "Celebrating our 50th year, we are extremely proud of our diverse and progressive learning community which benefits from an excellent curriculum delivered by our dedicated and passionate practitioners.
Our school’s mission is to inspire students to achieve and guide them to be confident, articulate and skilled citizens to enable them to thrive in a diverse global community. The school is committed to exacting high standards, to expecting excellence from all and to developing outstanding learning with staff and students. We are an ambitious, innovative and forward thinking institution where students’ success lies at the heart of everything we do".
The school is also now transitioning from separate classes for boys and girls into a co-educational institution. All new students will be placed into mixed classrooms whereas up to now, after Grade 6, genders were segregated.
In explaining to parents why they should consider Grammar School, their website states:
"Learning is fun at Grammar School Dubai. All children are able to lead their learning and ensure they achieve at the highest level.
All of the teachers are trained and accredited. As a result, lessons and extra-curricular activities are student-centred, with the well-being of each student placed at the heart of everything. We value our strong partnership with parents and working together Athena values are strengthened to provide a platform for every child to flourish".
What about the Curriculum
Students at Grammar school follow a UK-based curriculum and are entered for International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and/or GCSE at the end of the secondary phase and GCE Advanced Studies Level (AS) examinations at the end of the post-16 phase.
Foundation stage children (FS2 for students who have turned 4 years of age by 31st August), follow the UK's Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, but adapted to a more flexible approach that is mindful of the local educational needs and culture, including the UAE National Agenda. The teaching staff work closely with students through creative play, collaboration and fun to challenge and develop each individual child.
The EYFS curriculum is multi-sensory and play-based. Play time is well integrated across the curriculum and teaching methodology in indoor and outdoor activities. The curriculum maintains a balance between structured activities and free play to meet the early learning goals from the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.
From Years 1 and 2 (Key Stage 1 of the English National Curriculum), students are introduced to more formal activities and achieve greater self-reliance. Through a stimulating learning environment strengthened by values, teachers provide the students with differentiated and enjoyable learning programmes, rewards for achievement and focus on their individual needs, so students build their confidence and learning skills. Specialist subjects include Arabic, French, Computing, PE (Physical Education) and Music.
In Years 3 to 6 (Key Stage 2), students continue to be taught by the class teacher, together with specialist teachers for Art, Music, Computing, Arabic, Islamic and P.E. The focus is not solely on academic achievement but also aims to develop skills in sport, music and performing arts. Grammar School says that it enriches and supports the National Curriculum with educational school trips, competitions and school wide performances.
Subjects taught in KS2 include:English, Mathematics, Science, Computing, Arabic Language, Islamic Studies, Moral Education and Social Studies, Personal, Social & Health Education (PSHE), History, Geography, Art & Design, Music and Physical Education.
Once students move on to Year 7 at the start of their Secondary education, they follow the Key Stage 3 syllabus, they pursue a broad-based and well-balanced programme of studies which enables them to make informed choices for their future education. In addition to English, Mathematics and General Science: Physics, Chemistry & Biology, MoE Arabic, Moral Education, UAE Social Studies and Islamic Studies are compulsory. Other examination subjects include Computing, History, Geography, Art, Music and Physical Education.
Years 10 and 11 (Key Stage 4) are the two years in which students prepare for their first set of public examinations - IGCSE. Students usually take subjects at IGCSE, of which English, Mathematics and MoE Arabic and Islamic Studies are compulsory. Compared with many more affordable schools, Grammar School offers a relatively wide range of subjects including some seldom offered ones including Art & Design, Media Studies and Travel & Tourism.
For families seeking the more traditional route of Business/Commerce or Science streams, these, of course, are catered for in the following options: English Literature, Geography, History, Business Studies, Computing, Economics, Accounts, Biology, Chemistry, Physics,French, Urdu, and Physical Education.
Finally, for the final two years of study, in Years 12 and 13, Grammar School students are offered AS and A Levels subjects that are largely the more traditional Commerce or Science-focused, but with a nod to the more artistic also. Subjects include Mathematics, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Computer Science, Business Studies, Economics, Accounts, History and Media Studies and Art & Design.
Grammar School also states that there are many opportunities during lunchtime and after school for involvement in a comprehensive programme of extra-curricular activities. Sporting, practical and academic interests are all catered for and the extra-curricular programme is considered a key aspect of the ‘learning for life’ process.
Whilst not compulsory, students are strongly encouraged to take up at least one activity. Activities can take place during the lunch hour or after school. Lists are sent home at the beginning of each year for information as activities change from term to term and from year to year depending upon demand. Students are asked to suggest new ones that would be of interest to them; if a viable group can be formed and a leader found, the activity will go ahead.
Grammar School has made a strong statement in terms of its support for SEND and G&T students, noting that it is "committed to embrace the UAE’s vision to be fully inclusive by 2020".
The school says that its leaders share a strong inclusive ethos and understand standards of inclusive education, notably for Students of Determination (SOD), Students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Students with Gifts and Talents (G&T) and Students with chronic medical conditions. The Department of Inclusion comprises highly qualified professional specialist staff, learning support staff and a wellbeing team.
The school offers a range of support including: one-to-one support when needed, small group projects, curriculum support, Individual Education Plans or Action Plans, support for classroom modification and differentiation, a sensory room (achievement centre), social skills development and counselling. Grammar Schools aims to engage parents as partners in all the stages of SOD/G&T provisions and value parental opinion in shaping inclusion improvement priorities.
In the 2019-20 KHDA inspection report, the provision and outcomes for Students of Determination was rated Acceptable. Inspectors noted that "Recent, significant changes in leadership and additional resources are producing considerable improvements in approaches to students’ learning. The inclusion staff have a very clear vision for improvement. They translate this into activities and resources that help support students of determination". This is very positive evidence that the commitment made by Grammar School is being translated into action.
The older students receive effective personal career guidance to help them in their transition to higher education. This comprehensive support enables almost all students, including Students of Determination, to make their best personal and academic progress.
The school's new website provides little information about the facilities of the school. We know from our Experience visit to the school in 2017 that it is located in a traditional (and somewhat aging, given its establishment 50 years ago!) building in Al Garhoud in what has become the school zone. The building consists of relatively small rooms and there is certainly not a surplus of space.
Find out more about the school and its facilities by reading about our Experience visit here!
The most recent inspection report notes that "The school buildings are appropriate for learning, but some facilities and resources are still inadequate. Leaders have addressed many of these issues, but shortages remain, especially in the equipment for physical education and the library resources."
What the inspectors say
The inspection process has been an up and down one for Grammar School.
With the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic, no physical inspections have taken place in 2020-21. All schools participated in a Distance Learning Evaluation in 2020 for which the results were published. Grammar School was one of number of schools which achieved a Partially Developed rating - better than the Undeveloped rating applied to a small number of schools, but not up to the Developed standard achieved by the majority. This will need to be a further area of focus for Grammar School. The DLE inspection report can be found here.
Having been rated Weak for the first three years of inspections, Grammar School then managed to achieve and maintain an Acceptable rating - the minimum required by the KHDA - for a period of five years, before dropping back to Weak in the 2018-19 academic year. Fortunately, shortly prior to inspections being halted as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, the school was able to achieve the Acceptable rating again for the 2019-20 academic year.
Whilst weak areas still remain in regard to Students Achievement - notably in Islamic Education and Arabic as a Second Language, the majority of measures across the core subjects of English, Maths and Science are now rated Acceptable again. However, there is no question that the standards across the Arabic and Islamic curriculum must be a concern for the school as it will most definitely be for the DSIB inspectors.
There is no doubt that Grammar School did make strong improvement between the DSIB inspections in 2018-19 and the following year. The vast majority of ratings across the other Key Performance Standards are again rated Acceptable, whilst Students' Personal Development and the Care and Support of students were rated Good across the board. Overall, 33 key performance indicators improved in their ratings, with only one falling back to Weak.
In terms of the strengths of Grammar School, inspectors found these to be:
However, the list of improvements that is required remains a long one and will demand all of the skills of the Grammar School leadership and the Athena Education teams with much of the focus on improving standards of teaching and learning in order to improve Student Achievement. Recommendations include:
If you would like to read the inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings, you will find it here.
Some 126 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey for 2019-20 with 87% stating that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. Most parents said that their children are happy and feel safe [at school]. The large majority considered that the school provides good value for money. Most believe that school leaders listen to them and act on their views. One third of parents raise concerns about bullying, but the inspection team found no clear evidence of it.
A substantial 376 students participated in the KHDA's Wellbeing Survey. The report indicated that whilst the outcomes of the survey were generally satisfactory, many of the indicators were below those of other students in Dubai.
In general, students were safe, happy and optimistic. They persevere with their studies and enjoy positive and supportive relationships with their teachers and peers. However, they raised concerns over victimization, which the school has addressed. Their participation in sports, music and arts is similar to that of other students in Dubai.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Survey has received a limited number of responses. Whilst almost 40% of parents agreed that fees at the school represented value for money, 12% did not, and the remainder were in partial agreement with this statement. 28% of parents had also considered removing their child from Grammar School to an alternative. Whilst 50% of parents were satisfied with the academic performance of the school, some 40% believed that additional external tuition was required. Perhaps more worryingly, 50% of respondents stated that they were 'Extremely worried' about bullying. Despite these concerns, 75% of parents would recommend Grammar School to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Grammar School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
Tuition Fees at the Grammar School are relatively very affordable, ranging from AED 4,733 at FS2 and rising to AED 6, 509 by Year 13. However, the tuition fees account for only about one-third to one-half of the total costs that parents will pay once additional fees for a range of items including Health and Wellbeing support, ICT Fee, Library/Reading assessment and E-books, Digital License fee, Electronic Educational Software, Educational Resource fees, Sports, art and music fees, School projects, activity fees ID and calendar, Science lab fee, Mathematics / Science tools and resources are added.
Therefore, the full range of fees is from AED 12,053 in FS2 to AED 16,024 in Year 13 - and these are without VAT since the school applies different amounts for new and returning students. Full details can be found here.
Grammar 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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