Greenwood International School (GIS) is a private K-12 US curriculum school located in Muhaisnah 1, Dubai. The school first opened its doors in September 2006 and currently caters to over 1,280 students, approximately 75 percent of whom are Emirati. Girls and boys are separated from Grade 5.
The school has recently changed its curriculum from one aligned to the State of Florida to an American curriculum aligned with the State of Michigan and US Common Core standards. Greenwood International School does not yet meet the regulators' requirements for accreditation with a US accrediting body - in most cases this is with NEASC, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The change of curriculum alignment appears to be in order to achieve this accreditation target. The school curriculum is now accurately aligned with that of the State of Michigan.
The most recent inspection, carried out by the KHDA team in November 2017, noted that some teachers are not sufficiently proficient in English to meet the KHDA requirements also. Since students are taught in English, the language proficiency is an absolute requirement. Students are prepared to sit the US SAT exams, and core subjects from grade 9 include English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Humanities (including Islamic Studies, Civics, Geography and History), Science (Physics, Chemistry or Biology), Arabic and PE. Graduating students receive the US equivalent High School Diploma. All students are also required to take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.
Greenwood International School has approximately 100 teachers and a further 15 teaching assistants. With a teacher-student ratio of 1:12, this is a good ratio for a UAE-based school. Unfortunately, teacher turnover, at 26% at the end of 2017, is on the high side compared with the Dubai average of 20-22%. This is a concern if it impacts upon the stability of staffing and practice within the school.
What about facilities?
Facilities and resources at the school are described as very good by the KHDA inspection team. A new building as recently opened to support Upper Middle and High school students and contains very good facilities in terms of teaching areas, classrooms and specialist Science and IT rooms. Facilities within the KG and Elementary sections are also described as good. In fact, the report notes that "students in Grades 8 through 12 are housed in a new building with modern facilities, but the quality of the learning environment is great throughout the school".
Classrooms are equipped with computers and internet connection, projectors and Promethean/ Smart boards and white boards. Specialist facilities, in addition to Science Labs and Computer Labs, include Music rooms, Art rooms, Libraries, a Multipurpose hall, outdoor areas and playgrounds, a Canteen, a KG indoor playroom and KG outdoor play areas. Sports facilities do not appear to be as spacious as would usually be expected of a school following a US curriculum, where sports is generally a major area of focus. The school states that its outdoor facilities include a mini football pitch, a basketball pitch, 3 recreational tent-covered areas, a KG play area and a newly landscaped outdoor corner for student usage.
The school does apparently also run a number of clubs (including an Eco Club, GIS Wanna Read, Innovation and Creativity Club and a Model United Nations Club) and offers Extra curricular activities, but details are not provided. The KHDA report notes that the school provides many opportunities for enterprise. "Clubs, fairs and special activities engage students and generate a high level of enthusiasm among them. Some students are provided with opportunities to think as innovators and find ways to support the UAE in areas such as environmental protection, healthy eating and exercise".
What the inspectors say
As of 2017-18, the school received the KHDA inspection rating of Good, the eighth year in a row it has done so. In looking at the ratings for each of the six key performance indicators across the school, it is clear that this is a school that has reached a Very Good or higher standard in some areas, but has not improved sufficiently in terms of Student Achievement and the standards related to the Curriculum and to Teaching and Assessment to move up to the next overall inspection level of Very Good.
Student achievement has remained largely Good for those subjects taught in English and for Islamic Studies, but remains only Acceptable for Arabic as both a first and second language (where the majority of students are native Arabic speakers). There have been no improvements in ratings since the last inspection, with the sole exception of progress in High school Mathematics (up to Very Good) and this is counterbalanced by a downgrade from Very Good to Good in progress in High school English.
The key indicators of Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum Design and Implementation and its adaptation are again rated almost entirely Good across all sections of the school, with the exception of Teaching and Assessment in the Elementary school which have been downgraded to Acceptable. The inspection team commented that the quality of teaching is inconsistent across the school. Whilst most teachers have thorough subject knowledge, fewer are skilled at optimizing students’ learning. Some teachers plan tasks that match students' levels of attainment, but some mismatched tasks slow students' progress. Lesson plans are detailed and linked to the curriculum standards, but they are often too ambitious and cannot be implemented in the available time. Teachers’ use of assessment test results in lesson planning has not been effective. In many lessons, teachers do not interpret the data appropriately.
With the ever increasing focus on the quality of teaching and the use of external bench-marking and internal assessment data by teachers to inform their planning and teaching, this will need to be an area of focus for Greenwood International School over the coming period.
Inspectors found that the curriculum supports the development of a balance of knowledge, skills and understanding and the school conducts regular reviews to align the curriculum to students’ needs. However, although the school has developed new course descriptions based on the requirements of external assessments. these have not been fully implemented and, therefore, have not had a measurable impact on students’ outcomes. In addition, opportunities to challenge the most able learners are insufficient.
As part of the curriculum adaptation requirement, the school has engaged an external provider with whom staff work closely on formal diagnoses for Student of Determination (SEND). The provision and outcomes for students with SEND was rated Good again in this inspection. Although Greenwood International School successfully promotes an inclusive ethos and appropriate systems have been developed to ensure that identification of SEND leads to timely interventions, the school is not making effective use of assessment data to identify potential learning difficulties. Students are supported effectively by special educators when they plan pull-out sessions, but although class teachers plan a range of activities for different abilities, they rarely consider students' starting points and next steps in learning when doing so. The KHDA's Inclusive Education policy launched in 2017 will also place greater demands on schools to effectively support students with additional learning needs.
One area in which Greenwood International School does shine is in the Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills of its students - which were rated Very Good in KG, Elementary and Middle school sections and Outstanding in the High school. Inspectors commented that "students’ personal and social development is very good or better across the school. Almost all students are well-behaved and respectful to their teachers and to one another. Their interest in innovation is growing. Pockets of students’ enterprise and entrepreneurship are now more frequently seen".
Greenwood International School is clearly also very conscious of its responsibility towards its students. The safety and protection of students was rated Outstanding across the school, whilst the care and guidance provided was rated Good. This was in part a reflection of the provision for students with SEND and judgements by the inspection team that, although staff are supportive when students have worries or concerns, students do not have access to professional counselors to support their personal development. They noted, however, that older students benefit from high quality careers guidance.
The overall leadership and management of the school was largely rated Good, an improvement in relation to the management, staffing, facilities and resources. The inspection team found that "the school is materially very well-resourced for learning. Staff are generally well qualified and suitably deployed. However, the school still has teachers with limited English proficiency which shows that the school is not fully meeting that KHDA requirement for US curriculum schools".
The area of greatest concern remains that of the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning processes which was rated Acceptable. "Evaluation of the school’s performance and the resultant school improvement planning are not systematic and do not depict an accurate picture of students’ attainment and progress. Many of the judgements in the self-evaluation document are inflated. As a result, improvement planning is not fully focused on addressing the school’s key weaknesses". On a positive note, the inspection team also commented that "senior leaders, led by the principal, have a clear vision for the school which is effectively conveyed to teachers, students and parents. They communicate with parents effectively".
It is now necessary for the leadership of the school to translate the recommendations from the inspection team into action plans. Interestingly, since the inspection, the long-serving Principal has moved to a position of governance within the school and its day to day management has been taken over by her former Deputy. It will be interesting to see whether a new leader, albeit it one with a thorough knowledge and experience of the school, is able to translate the plans into action more speedily or effectively than his predecessor.
The inspection team recommended that the school should:
The KHDA's pre-inspection survey received only a limited number of responses from students, parents and teachers. Almost all parents who responded to the survey reported that they are satisfied with the quality of education that their children receive. We have not received enough responses yet to the Greenwood School Survey on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com to comment on attitudes to academic performance, or feedback to parents - although responses are coming in. If you are a parent with children at the school, please take the survey found here.
School fees range from AED 18,229 to AED 27,952 per year depending on the student's grade - good value compared to other Good rated US curriculum schools in Dubai.
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