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 but now attracts families from around the city.
The arrival of Fiona Cottam in 2016 (formerly of GEMS Education and a highly-regarded Principal of its KHDA Outstanding-rated Jumeirah College) was a turning point for Hartland International School. 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.
Hartland's Vision is "To create a leading British international school, through a unique blend of traditional values and innovative approaches to education." Its Mission statement notes that "We will create a community of learning within a safe, secure and happy environment where our children are inspired, challenged and supported in all they do. Our passion for learning and teaching will light a fire in the hearts and minds of our students, as will our warmth, humanity and transparency. Student achievement will be limitless and they will leave with the confidence and capability that will equip them for every facet of adult life as a global citizen. Students will be aware of their indebtedness to society and the nature and responsibility of their privilege."
It seems from parental and inspection feedback, that Hartland is well on the way to achieving both.
First impressions of Hartland International School can probably best be rounded up as “Impressive” though still somewhat “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.
Check out and see what we saw during our second Experience visit to Hartland International School here.
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.
Now open from FS1 to Year 10, numbers have grown slowly to 635 students in 2019-20, a figure that is more commonly found in a small Primary setting. The advantage of this, however, is a teacher to student ratio of 1:8 - among the lowest in the city and ensuring that students receive very personalised attention. Students are supported by close to 80, mainly British, teachers, a further 30 teaching assistants and a Guidance Counsellor. Staff are evidently happy at Hartland, with a low turnover rate of 11% - half the average for international schools in the UAE.
What about the curriculum?
Hartland is accredited by COBIS - the Council for British International Schools - ensuring a commitment to offering a genuine UK education. The school offers the English National Curriculum from FS to Year 10 (the first year of the two year iGCSE programme, but has taken the decision to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for Years 12 and 13 (Sixth Form). Regarded increasingly as the Gold Standard for university entry, the IBDP has been adopted by other high-performing UK curriculum schools in Dubai, including Jumeirah English Speaking School, Repton School Dubai and GEMS Wellington International School - all KHDA rated Outstanding. The first cohort of iGCSE students should sit their exams in June/July 2021.
The school offers 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, the vast majority of whom are UK trained and at their leader, 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 (the Hartland 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 incentives.
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.
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 (English as an Additional Language) and SEN (Special Educational Needs) 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 Modern Foreign Language 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.
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 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 25 meter swimming pool with touch-pad 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.
Hartland is still a small school in terms of student numbers, and in some parts, the school is somewhat 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.
Hartland's third KHDA/DSIB inspection took place in November 2019. After two previous years with a Good rating, though there were clear signs that the school was well on the way to a Very Good rating in the second report, the third DSIB inspection has confirmed the ongoing improvement process taking place at the school with the award of a Very Good rating for the 2019-20 academic year.
Inspectors singled out the best aspects of Hartland as:
Inspectors found that in terms of Student Achievement, both attainment and progress have improved in mathematics and science. "These are now very strong across the school in English, mathematics and science. In Islamic education, students make acceptable progress and achieve acceptable levels. In Arabic as a first and additional language, students make acceptable progress in each phase." Students' learning skills were also found to be Very Good across all sections of the school.
Overall, attainment and progress in all three core English-led subjects are now rated Very Good, whilst ratings for Arabic and Islamic Studies are almost entirely rated Acceptable. However, Arabic attainment in the Secondary school for native speakers has fallen to Weak - something that the school will clearly need to focus on in the coming year.
Students' personal development was identified as a particular strength across the school in the 2018-19 inspection and remained rated Outstanding for 2019-20. Social responsibility and innovation skills had improved to at least Very Good and were found to be Outstanding in the Secondary section.
Students were found to be "responsible and self-reliant and have friendly, caring and respectful relationships with their peers and teachers." Their attitudes to work were described by the inspectors as mature, and they increasingly demonstrate initiative and entrepreneurial skills. Inspectors commented that "Students have exceptional attitudes and behaviour across all phases."
Teaching for effective learning, which have a fundamental impact on Student Achievement, is now rated Very Good across the school, whilst assessment processes to enable individualised attention remained Very Good in the FS section, and Good in the remainder of the school. This will be another area of focus for staff going forward, particularly among staff teaching the Ministry of Education curriculum.
The curriculum is a further strength at Hartland and is now rated Very Good across the school. The inspection team noted that the curriculum has a clear rationale, that it is regularly reviewed and complies with the requirements of the English Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and National Curriculum for England. Staff were found to have adapted it very well to meet the international character of the school. The extra-curricular provision has been extended, supporting the mainstream curriculum in promoting cross-curricular links and catering very well for students’ ambitions, interests and talents.
Health and Safety arrangements were found to be Outstanding. Medical and counselling staff provide high quality care and support for students. Students show considerable loyalty and affection for their school. They feel safe and well cared for. Students of determination are identified promptly and receive a wide range of very effective support.
Students with additional learning needs are supported by the committed inclusion team, together with the inclusion governor, who assign a high priority to inclusion. Well-qualified inclusion support staff are deployed flexibly across all phases to provide effective support for students with a wide range of learning needs. Students’ needs are identified accurately and quickly. However, support by class teachers, although mostly good, is more variable,especially in Islamic education and Arabic and in some primary classes. The provision of consistent challenge for students with gifts and talents was found by inspectors to be a rapidly developing focus in the school.
Hartland's senior team clearly continued to impress the inspectors. They noted that the school "is led very well by the principal and an exceptionally strong team of senior and middle leaders. They communicate very well the vision of providing a high-quality, inclusive education which embraces the UAE’s national priorities. They have a very good knowledge of best educational practices and promote innovation well."
Governors were found to support the school well. Membership of the board includes representatives of the school’s owners, staff and parents. The Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources were rated Very Good. Teachers are provided with good quality professional development experiences. The premises and facilities support social and sport activities very well. The resources available for teaching and learning are of a high quality and are well-matched to the curriculum requirements.
However, the inspection team found that "the timetabling of some Islamic education and Arabic classes is problematic, resulting in not all staff being qualified to teach their subjects." This is an issue that the school will need to rectify and results in a downgrade from Outstanding in the rating for this specific key performance indicator.
In terms of areas of improvement, the Inspectors asked Hartland to focus on:
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.
Overall, the third 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, if the school is to achieve its next goal on the road to improvement.
The KHDA inspection team had very positive views on the relationship between the school and its parent body, noting that
"Parental engagement is at the heart of the school community. Parents are fully involved as partners in their children’s learning and are influential in defining priorities for the school. Parents value the extensive range of extra-curricular opportunities offered to families and the school’s commitment to inclusive practice. Parents believe that the leadership of the school is very effective, and they appreciate the school’s communication and reporting systems."
This comes as no surprise to us at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. 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. 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.
Some 227 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, and the vast majority of them declared themselves satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school and felt that their views are valued and welcomed. They reported that their children learn well in a safe and supportive environment. Relationships between students and staff are very good, and students respect and help each other.
58 students from the Secondary school participated in the KHDA Student Wellbeing Survey. The results showed that "almost all students who responded to the survey very highly value the adults at school. Most students feel a strong sense of engagement and connection to school life. They feel safe and have established friendship networks and a strong sense of academic confidence. Almost all participate in organised activities after school."
According to feedback from parents to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey, 73% of students enjoy going to school 'a tremendous amount' whilst a further 13% enjoy school 'quite a lot'. Two thirds of parents agree that fees represent value for money, whilst a further 27% agree for the most part. Whilst just over a quarter (27%) had considered moving their children to another school (against a UAE average of 34%), 73% had not. 80% are totally satisfied with the academic performance of the school. And a remarkable 87% would recommend Hartland to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Hartland International School and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by taking our Survey here.
Hartland is still a small school in terms of student numbers, and in some parts, the school is still rather empty, but we very much hope its committed parents will help it to continue to grow and 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.
What about the Fees?
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 78,000 for Year 10. Secondary fees have been reduced compared with those approved by the KHDA where they were originally expected to be approximately AED 85,000. Details of fees beyond Year 10 are not currently available, but will be updated in due course.
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