Located in close to Nad Al Sheba at the still under development Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum City, Hartland International School was developed by Sobha Developments to provide a premium UK curriculum school for residents.
Hartland International School has been rated Good for the second year 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...
Hartland got off to a bumpy start, but the intervention of a new principal, some needed time to bed down processes, buoy sentiment as well as relationships with the school’s wider stakeholders, and Hartland has really begun to come into its own. Fiona Cottam (formerly of GEMS Education and a highly-regarded Principal of its KHDA Outstanding-rated Jumeirah College) used her considerable experience to steady a ship that looked not entirely in control. Today Hartland International performs quietly and efficiently, for the most part delivering on its original promise – for the school's students, leaders, management, and its parents.
First impressions of Hartland International School can probably best be rounded up as “Impressive” and “Isolated”. Located close to the Al Khail and Al Ain roads, the school can be a little difficult to reach, but a turn off by the Quarantine stables at Nad Al Sheba before Meydan leads the way through a vast desert area to the school. Part of the Mohammed bin Rashid development and owned by Sobha, an Indian group active in the Gulf for many years, Hartland International School certainly stands out among the sand and has been surrounded by trees and greenery to good effect. The buildings are white and designed in groups of grassed quadrangles, with the front of the school featuring 3 protruding glass and steel prongs into which the Foundation, Primary and Secondary sections of the school are arranged.
The Sobha Group is committed to education and has shown this both through a charity school that it has operated in India for a number of years and the development of its first education venture in the UAE.
What the inspectors say
Hartland's first KHDA inspection took place in January 2018. According to the Inspection report, student numbers have grown to 434 - an increase of around 20% since its opening. Students are supported by 53 mainly British teachers and a further 23 teaching assistants. Remarkably, according to the KHDA report, not a single member of staff left the school over the preceding year, although as most staff would have a minimum 2 year contract, this may change at the end of the current academic year. The staff:student ratio of 1:8 is very low, meaning that children are able to receive substantial individual support. A little over 10% of students have been identified with SEND or Gifted and Talented support requirements.
The school is currently open from FS1 to Year 8 and will expand organically until Year 13. The current plan appear to be to offer the IB Diploma programme for post-16 students, but this is not yet written in stone. The new presence of North London Collegiate School Dubai (also owned by developers Sobha), an IB through school, may give pause to consider Sixth Form curriculum provision.
Inspectors were clearly pleased with their initial inspection of Hartland International School. Inspectors noted that "Attainment and progress in English, Mathematics and Science are consistently good or better. Students’ understanding of Islam, and of wider world cultures, alongside their social responsibility and innovation skills, are good across the school. Personal development is very good. Teaching, learning, assessment and curriculum adaptation are good across the school. Curriculum design and implementation are very good. Health, safety, safeguarding care and support are all very good. Students say that they feel safe."
This positive feedback was emphasised by further comments noting that "Parents and teachers wholeheartedly agree. The passion, commitment, determination and enthusiasm of the principal and senior leaders are a real strength. Staff share the school’s vision and work very hard to raise achievement." These comments very definitely reflect the significant input of Fiona Cottam and her team since her appointment to the school after its first year.
This is reflected further in the comments on the leadership and management of the school - "The principal and senior leaders provide strong leadership, acknowledged and appreciated by students, staff and parents. Parents and teachers say the school is well led. Leaders have a robust and strategic vision for the school. Leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of the school. Relationships across the school are very strong. Partnerships with parents are very good". It is clear that there is much happening that is better than good.
In terms of Students' Attainment, the report notes that "Attainment and progress in English, Mathematics and Science are good with very good progress in English across all phases, and in Science, in the secondary phase. Students’ skills in innovation, enterprise, enquiry and research, although inconsistent, are developing. Problem solving and critical thinking skills are evident in English and Mathematics." Closer examination of the ratings for Attainment and Progress show that for English, Mathematics and Science, attainment is rated Good across all phases of the school. Progress for English is rated Very Good across all phases, whilst Science attainment and progress also achieve this rating for the Secondary School.
In common with the majority of international schools in Dubai, the level of attainment and progress for the Arabic-based core subjects are not as strong. Islamic Studies, Arabic as a first language and as an additional language were all rated Acceptable across the school.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills were found to be Very Good for personal development and Good for the other two measures. Inspectors noted that "The personal development of students is very good. At all times, they are well behaved and exceptionally courteous. Their attendance is mostly very good. Students’ understanding of wider, world cultures is particularly strong. Social responsibility, innovation skills and environmental awareness are good across all phases of the school."
Teaching and assessment (both for Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment) were found to be Good. "The quality of teaching is good across the school because of teachers’ strong subject knowledge and careful planning. Problem-solving, critical thinking and students’ use of learning technology are developing."
Curriculum design and implementation was found to be a particular strength of the school with all three phases found to be Very Good. The adaptation of the curriculum (to meet the needs of individual students) was also rated Good. Inspectors found that " The curriculum is enhanced with a wide range of creative and enrichment activities. Curriculum adaptations are used well to support students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), English as an additional language and those who are gifted and talented."
Protection, care, guidance and support of students was found to be another strength of Hartland. with both Health and Safety aspects, and the care and guidance of students rated Very Good. The report notes that "Support for students with SEND and those who are gifted and talented, are strengths across the school. Staff are supportive of students’ personal progress, as well as their health and well-being."
Leadership and Management were rated Good in terms of the Effectiveness of Leadership, School self-evaluation, and Governance, whilst relationships with Parents and the Community were rated Very Good and Facilities, Outstanding.
Recommendations for improvement revolved largely around Attainment and Progress in Arabic and Islamic Studies, and in relation to Teaching, Learning and Assessment. Inspectors asked the school to focus on:
Overall, the first inspection at Hartland International School has clearly been a positive one. The challenge now will be to raise the level of attainment and progress and other key indicators a step further, in order to achieve the next level - that of a Very Good rating. In the current inspection round three schools achieved this step up in their second inspection year, and we can see that Hartland clearly has ambition to follow this trend.
The facilities of Hartland International School, (together with Management, Staffing and Resources) were rated Outstanding in the first Inspection report. Certainly no expense seems to have been spared in creating a learning environment with the best of facilities and resources. The Foundation and years 1-3 classrooms are located on the ground floor. Classrooms are colourful and corridors are decorated with murals. Furniture is bright and appropriate. Each classroom has access to external play and learning areas and there is also a very large soft play area for use during warmer weather.
One of the highlights of the school is the Junior Library which contains 8,500 books. An Arabian Tower at the centre reminds children of the local culture and during their weekly library period, they are able to enjoy reading, sat on soft, tactile seating, surrounded by curved book cases, which makes this such an attractive environment.
Years 4, 5 and 6 are housed on the first floor of the school and children are divided into tutor groups of approximately 12 children. They meet together with their tutor for 2 registration periods per day, but spend the rest of their time moving from one classroom and lesson to another (as is the usual arrangement in Secondary school), with differentiated learning applied within the groups. Science rooms and IT rooms (offering IT/coding and digital citizenship and Lego mind-storm activity), as well as Food Technology, a Dance studio and Blackbox room, ensure that children are able to participate in a wide range of learning activities, both as part of the core curriculum and also the Enrichment activities that take place for one hour per day, four times per week and which are included in the school fees and timetable. In order to ensure that children receive a well-rounded programme, they are required to select up to 2 sports activities, as well as a creative and an intellectual activity.
Further facilities include a vast Auditorium, a canteen serving hot meals that is shared by teachers and children together, a Sports Hall where technology is integrated into the teaching through swipe boards that explain the activity or task to be undertaken, a 25meter swimming pool with touchpad technology and a smaller 90cm deep pool for beginners. In addition to the usual classrooms, there are also a range of specialist rooms for Music, Art and Languages. Music rooms offer a wide range of instruments, as well as a recording studio and music technology suite. Arabic is taught from FS1 and French from year 1. The school will also offer Mandarin, German and Spanish – all taught 3 times per week. Hartland is committed to ensuring that all staff receive the same professional development and support, so that language teaching is integrated into “The Hartland Way”.
And it is “The Hartland Way” that we felt really distinguished in this school, beyond the modern buildings and resources.
At its heart are the staff, all of whom are UK trained and at their lead, Mrs. Fiona Cottam, an inspirational Principal.
The Hartland Way is a philosophy of teaching and interaction with the children that leads them to become “self-learners”. We were told the school sees its role not so much as to teach children, but rather to give them the skills to be able to learn and to become independent in this learning process.
Classroom assistants are referred to as Learning Assistants to emphasise that this is their role. The curriculum is built as a jigsaw, with each element relating to the next, so that no subject is taught in isolation and without reference to other subjects or topics.
Staff are encouraged to teach through meaning and context and follow the Unit of Enquiry concept common to the IB curriculum, but increasingly being adopted by progressive UK curriculum schools, where the approach is cross-curricular rather than siloed single subject learning. Often the teacher will pose a problem and through this, children will find out about the subject themselves with guidance from staff. This enables children to develop their literacy and communications skills and to develop the art of effective questioning – a pre-cursor to “flipping the classroom”, where students are responsible for researching their topic outside of the classroom and then presenting it wearing the mantle of the expert.
“The Hartland Way” also ensures that children not only receive the academic input from the school, but also grow into responsible individuals with a strong sense of moral value. Every child receives a passport which contains a targeted set of core values and behaviours (as well as academic goals), which students will retain throughout their time at the school. As they show their capabilities and activities to support their achievement of the targets to staff, so they are rewarded through the issue of “visas” in their passport that enable them to benefit from specific benefits.
Hartland International School is also very serious about achieving academic success and communicating with parents to ensure that they, too, are fully involved and committed to their children’s education. Baseline testing and reporting is carried out at the start of the academic year and parents receive a weekly update in relation to progress. Prior to parent-teacher meetings, parents are also asked to complete a questionnaire on their expectations and goals for their children and these are translated into the “hopes and dreams” against which progress is measured alongside the UK SAT (standard testing) programmes. Hartland also organises regular coffee morning and workshops for parents about specific ways in which subjects (such as Maths, Reading, Arabic) are taught and how they can support this at home.
The school places great emphasis on providing value-added academic success to students and supports this through an extensive Gifted and Talented programme for the most able and also strong EAL and SEN resources for the less academically able or for those in need of specific additional support. For children requiring EAL support, they are registered and targeted on a one to one basis with an EAL teacher in place of MFL classes. For children with special educational needs, the schools works with parents (and therapists where required) to provide an integrated and inclusive approach, with the provision of an Individual Education Plan to staff working with each child that provides an overview of the most appropriate learning strategies. The school meets with, and shares policies and practices with both parents and shadow staff.
During our first visit to the school, we met a group of parents who had just attended a workshop and were enjoying a refreshment from the coffee shop that is available in the main lobby. They had nothing but enthusiastic comments to make about the school and its staff, many of whom were singled out for their inspirational information sessions.
There is no doubt that concerns have grown since that first visit, and that the evolution of the school since opening has not been linear. To some degree this is understandable – new schools will hit bumps on the road. In Ms Cottam’s leadership those early challenges have to a large degree been tackled head on and a happier and more positive atmosphere is beginning to pervade the school – see the results of our second visit below.
A growing number of parent groups have formed to take charge of activities around the school including the establishment of a Library Club, and Parent reading sessions for Foundation children. Hartland is still a small school in terms of student numbers, and in some parts, the school is still very empty, but we very much hope its committed parents will help it grow and ultimately flourish. In terms of location, facilities, resources – and the mission and philosophy laid out this is a school that could well be a guiding light for schools in the region.
Fees at Hartland International School are premium - to be expected given the facilities and the quality of the leadership. They start at AED 49,750 for FS1 and rise to AED 85,000 for Year 8.
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