Horizon English School (HES) is a long-established UK curriculum Primary-only school located in the heart of Jumeirah/Al Safa. After having been rated Very Good for three years, HES finally reclaimed the KHDA Outstanding rating in 2018-19 which it had held previously.
Purely a primary school, Horizon English School (HES) achieved an Outstanding rating from the KHDA in 2018-19, after three years at Very Good. In line with the KHDA's announcement in September 2019, as a school rated either Very Good or Outstanding, HES will no longer receive a full DSIB inspection on an annual basis. Instead, a one day review visit will take place for which no new report will be issued.
When our team met the Principal, Ian Wallace, just prior to the publication of the school inspection reports, it was clear that Horizon English had a clear vision, a strong community and its sights very much on being an 'Outstanding' school. That hard work is now done, although it was also clear that Horizon is not a school to rest on its achievements.
In March 2021, it was announced that HES has been acquired by the Cognita Group. The school will be Cognita's second in the UAE. The first, The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, is set to open its doors to students in September 2021. Both schools offer the English National Curriculum.
UK-based Cognita was established in 2004 and opened its first overseas schools, in Spain and Singapore, in 2007. At the end of 2020, the group had 82 schools in 11 countries, educating 55,000 students across 9 different curricula. The connection between Horizon English School and Cognita is underscored by the recent appointment of David Baldwin as Managing Director, Middle East for Cognita. Mr Baldwin served as Principal of Horizon English School between 2013-2015.
Horizon English School is a member of the British Schools Middle East (BSME) network and was first established in 1989. The school currently caters to just over 1,000 children, an increase of around 50 compared with the 2017-2018 academic year. Children come from a variety of backgrounds and some 70 nationalities, but the largest overall nationality group is from the United Kingdom.
The school employs 69 full time teachers, largely from the UK, 38 teaching assistants and a small number of learning support assistants. The school claims class sizes of between 19 and 26 and the teacher to student ratio has remained at a creditable 1:14. According to the 2018-19 KHDA report, Teacher turnover is at 26%, an increase of 2% on 2017-18 and above the prior low of 19%, but a significant drop from three years ago when it hit a very high 37%. On average, international schools in the UAE expect a turnover of around 20-22% each year.
Mr. Wallace told us, “I love coming to work and we have a very happy team. Teacher retention is forecast to be the best ever this year. We have worked really hard on that. We try to create an environment where we all love coming to work”.
With a relaxed and good natured personal style, it was clear that Mr Wallace had achieved his aim of creating a work climate centred on staff happiness and wellbeing.
What does the school feel like? Get the Horizon English School Experience here!
Popular with parents, staff and children, Mr Wallace has taken on a school which is clearly settled and happy, and one that is rated amongst the best in Dubai by the KHDA's Inspection team.
Horizon English School is said to welcome students with SEN needs. The school has "excellent identification procedures" that ensure that the needs of students with special educational needs and disability (SEND) are addressed early. Some 50 students are supported by the SEN team in the current academic year.
“As a department, our inclusion team is just incredible and this reflects the hard work and commitment that has been put in.,” says Mr. Wallace. “It comes down to this for Horizon English; ‘no elitism’. Education is education for all”.
What about the curriculum?
The school teaches the English National Curriculum. Classes are taught in English with a number of core subjects including Maths, Science, Islamic Studies, Music, I.C.T., P.E. and swimming.
When reflecting on the future of education, the school’s head is intent upon redefining the curriculum and constant improvement.
Mr Wallace told our team:
“Education has changed, and I don’t mean that just from a ‘jobs of tomorrow’ viewpoint. I look at it as a moral need for all society. People need to learn emotional intelligence, about identity, communication, inter-personal relationships. That is what is going to enable our children to succeed. The academic attainment will be a by-product! I couldn’t believe in this more than I do now.”
What about the facilities?
Horizon English School is located on a prime and very spacious plot of land in Al Safa - close to Safa Park and the Gulf News offices, but in a relatively quiet residential area. Early plans to build a Secondary school on the site (one which would have been in considerable demand) have since been withdrawn.
Under the ownership of Al Najah, a range of new and improved facilities and amenities, including new specialist teaching spaces including a creative ‘STEAM’ zone to stimulate new ideas, innovation and invention; upgraded sporting facilities (including a raised playing area with a view of the iconic Dubai skyline); upgrades to the pool and new fitness facilities. Further improvements include new dining and auditorium spaces together with improved parking and new classrooms to accommodate the wait list.
For the academic year 2018-19, Horizon English School received an Outstanding rating after three years at Very Good, a return to the rating it had held for the previous three years from 2012 to 2014.
Following a decision by the KHDA announced in September 2019, when it was decided that all Dubai schools rated Very Good or Outstanding were no longer participate in a full DSIB inspection annually, the 2018-19 inspection report is the most recent to be issued. The most highly-rated schools will now only receive a one day review visit, for which no new report will be issued unless there is a change in the overall rating.
Overall, the DSIB Inspectors found the school Outstanding in almost every possible area, with room for improvement found only in Islamic Education, Arabic (both first and additional language) (rated Good or Acceptable) and for 'Curriculum Adaptation' (rated Very Good). Other than these points, the report is an impressive sea of 'Outstanding'.
The Foundation Stage has made notable progress, with the inspection team recording that both Progress and Attainment has improved from Very Good to Outstanding in the core areas of English, Mathematics and Science.
As we record in our Horizon English School EXPERIENCE , the team have ambitious plans to improve Arabic attainment.
Students' personal and social development and innovation skills are rated Outstanding, as are most aspects of the curriculum. Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment also improved to Outstanding for the year 2018-19.
As reported in the 2018-19 KHDA report, the school's relationship with parents is also a strength. "Parental engagement remains highly successful and effective. Parents are willingly involved in all aspects of their children’s schooling and would wish to contribute more to their children’s learning. Parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the quality of education provided and with the committed leadership of the school."
Governance, leadership, and the relationships on campus are a strength as well as the student culture. "All students have a very strong sense of personal responsibility both within the classroom and in the wider school community. Students, even the youngest, are committed to doing their very best in all aspects of school life. They are immensely proud of the school, enjoy their lessons and achieve very high levels of attendance. Almost all give their time and energies to the very wide range of cultural, sports and performing arts activities, competitions and events."
The KHDA inspection team determined that the strengths of HES were that:
In terms of areas of improvement, the inspection team had only one specific area of focus and recommended that HES should:
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do - please go here.
Feedback from almost 100 parents to the KHDA as part of their pre-inspection survey was very largely positive. 99% are satisfied with the quality of education provided by HES and feel that their children are safe in school. A high proportion also feel that the school's leaders and staff listen and act on their views. Most agree that bullying is not an issue in the school and a majority confirm that students are respectful.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey also received positive responses from parents. 77% of children enjoy attending school 'a tremendous amount' and the vast majority of parents feel fully or in part that the fees they pay a good value for money. 74% have never considered moving their child/ren to another school, and a whopping 81% said that they would recommend it to other parents.
If you are a parent or teacher at Horizon English School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
There is no question that the team at Horizon English School have worked incredibly hard to achieve the Outstanding rating again. The demands from the KHDA in terms of standards have increased every year, so not only have HES had to address the original reason for their downgrade (large Arabic and Islamic Education), but they have also had to raise standards across all areas of the school. They deserve to be congratulated for this achievement.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com have always been fans of HES. This is a very friendly and welcoming environment for Primary age children, and one that we can most definitely recommend. HES now joins Dubai English Speaking School, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, Jumeirah English Speaking School and Kings School Dubai as an Outstanding Primary School - back where it deserves to be.
Tuition fees (and an annual Medical Fee) for Horizon English School range from AED 40,872 in FS1, AED 48,740 in FS2 to AED 54,770 per year from Years 1 to 6. Parents have in the past complained [to us] of additional 'optional' fees that are not really optional, so we advise parents to do their own due diligence here.
The school teaches up to Key Stage 2. Many students move on to Dubai College (DC), Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), and The English College, Dubai - three highly regarded schools in the UAE. Students have seamless entry to Horizon International School (also owned by the Al Najah group) from year 7.
Horizon English 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:
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information