Purely a primary school, Horizon English School, slipped from an Outstanding rating in 2015/2016 albeit to a very credible Very Good rating, which it has maintained for the second year in a row. The fall will have hurt though, especially as it is one of only two Outstanding rated schools to have dropped a place. However, talking with the Head of School, it is clear that Horizon English has a clear vision and a strong community and is very much focused on regaining its footing.
The Story so Far
Horizon English School is a member of the British Schools Middle East (BSME) network and was first established in 1989. It currently caters to approximately 930 students (an increase of over 100 compared with the 2016-17 academic year) from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, but predominantly the United Kingdom.
Horizon English School employs 65 full time teachers, largely from the UK, and 39 teaching assistants - again a number that has grown substantially from 22 a year ago. The school claims class sizes of between 19 and 26. Teacher turnover is at 24%, an increase from the previous year's low of 19%, but a significant drop from two years ago's very high 37%. The Dubai average is 20-22% and schools do generally try to minimise turnover, due to the inevitable impact involved in losing and recruiting staff and the orientation and settling in process. The teacher to student ratio has remained at a creditable 1:14.
Facilities at the school are very good, particularly given its inner-city location. A new building added more recently has provided significant additional space and resources.
What does the school feel like? Get the Horizon English School Experience here!
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.
Since WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's first tour, Horizon English School has been acquired by Al Najah Education, an investment company, and parents have spoken about a change in the climate of the school. This does not seem to have affected the overall quality of the school, and although the previous principal, Ms Sinclair, is missed by those who knew her, the current principal, David Baldwin continues very much in the tradition. Much to the sorrow of many parents, Mr. Baldwin will also be moving on at the end of the current 2017-18 academic year, and no announcement of the new Principal has yet been made. However, he or she can look forward to a school that is clearly settled and happy after the last transition, and one that is highly rated by the KHDA's Inspection team.
In advance of the new Academic year and the arrival of a new, as yet unnamed Principal, the owners, Al Najah Education, have recently made an announcement about the expansion of the facilities at the school. In a statement from Mr. Raza Khan, CEO of Al Najah Education, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has learned that as a result of the company's newest investment in Horizon English School, students are soon to be privy to a host of new and improved facilities and amenities, including new specialist teaching spaces including a creative zone to stimulate new ideas, innovation and invention, especially among older primary children; 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 will include new dining and auditorium spaces together with improved parking and new classrooms to accommodate the wait list. These facilities are due to be ready for the 2019-20 academic year.
What do the Inspectors Say?
Horizon English School has received a Very Good rating for the third year in a row.
Overall, the report has found indicators to show that Horizon English School Dubai will continue to make gains. As the report notes, "The principal and leadership team have a coherent vision for the school as a beacon of educational excellence. Very effective strategic planning and monitoring has resulted in a significant number of improvements." In addition, the inspectors note that "the school instils in students a sense of personal and social responsibility, respect for themselves and others, and a love of learning."
In terms of student achievement, improvements in progress have been made in English, Mathematics and Islamic education,. In Arabic as an additional language, English and Mathematics, attainment has improved. Students’ achievement in English and Mathematics is now excellent. Achievement is better in the Primary school than in the Foundation Stage (though this is also rated Very Good across the non-Arabic subjects). Arabic as a first language in the Primary school is rated Acceptable - the lowest rating overall, but not an unusual one in Dubai schools where the teaching of Arabic remains a challenge.
Students' personal and social development and innovation skills are rated Outstanding, as are most aspects of the curriculum - its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students is rated Very Good in Primary, and Outstanding in Foundation. Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment remain rated at Very Good. Clearly, progress is being made with the inspectors commenting that "Of particular note is the excellent quality of teaching in art, music, ICT and physical education in the primary phase. The teaching of English and Mathematics is equally of the highest quality. Assessment systems, analysis and the use of assessment information are very strong features and are improving". Science appears to be the weaker link - although still rated Very Good. This, together with Foundation stage achievement are probably the two main areas of focus (including the Arabic subjects) which remain the key areas of improvement for Horizon English School if they wish to attain the Outstanding rating held from 2012-13 to 2014-15 .
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."
In order to move to Outstanding, the school needs to "raise student attainment in Arabic by improving students’ progress rates [and] ensure consistency in implementation of all aspects of the school’s assessment policy by modelling the best practice found in English."
A Focus on Inclusion
Horizon English School is said to welcome students with SEN needs. The school is said to have "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.
According to the school's 2014/15 report: "Assessment procedures, the curriculum and arrangements for protecting and supporting students, particularly for students with special educational needs, [is] outstanding." According to the 2015/16 report "students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) [make] at least good and often very good progress because their needs [are] very skillfully identified and activities were usually very well planned to meet their individual needs." The most recent report continues to express much the same views - "Identification of need and support for students with SEND ensures that they make very good progress in both academic and personal development programmes."
What about Fees?
Tuition fees for Horizon English School range from between AED 28,249 to AED to 39,564 per year, depending on the age of the child. Horizon comes with quite steep additional/ 'optional' costs. Many parents complain [to us] that these fees are not really optional.
The school teaches up to Key Stage 2. It was said to have a progression agreement for Year 6 students with Dubai College (DC), Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), and English College, Dubai - three highly regarded schools in the UAE. Students now have entry to Horizon International (also owned by the Al Najah group - from year 7. Horizon International is well regarded but does not yet have the pedigree of the likes of Dubai College (few schools do...).
What does the school feel like? Get the Horizon English School Experience here!
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Having visited this school last night for an amazing presentation by the Librarian Roz, I am back in my own library working out how fast I can recreate and use her ideas. The school oozes child friendly areas of play coupled with learning this has been done beautifully, it's inspiring and well presented, I would love to see it in action. This school is outstanding to me plus I was here in 1982 and it was one of the other schools that was really small and noone really payed much attention to. Big mistake if you do now. Loved it.
Iv just signed my three children up to this school for September 2017 my middle child has special needs so will go to the school with a shadow. Iv lived in fear for years that my child will not be schooled in dubai as the schools are very academic, competitive and commercial loosing the sense of doing the right thing in society. This school Horizon English has the best values and ethics I have ever seen or heard of in Dubai. The headmaster and senco have proved their ethical and values led approach and are more than willing to take my Sen child into this school. Highly commend them and I hope the other schools folllow suit. KHDA should assess schools not just on developing existing Sen pupils but inviting a quota per annum of Sen children to be permitted entry.
Dear, was checking your review and the comments, noticed that you said you have updated the fees? So the total annual fee for foundation stage 1 =32,000 and stage 2 =38,400 are incorrect? Or they are the updated ones? Please clarify
Hi Nathalie, they are correct as of the August 2014 update.
The fees listed still fall short. My son is going into Year 1, and the fees for one term are set at AED15k. This is without any extra-curricular activities.
School fees have been updated to 2014/15 fees.
The fees stated here are incorrect, add another 10k to the above figures .
Many thanks for this DG3. We will look into this and update accordingly.
The fees listed are 50% below the actual fees.
Hi RG - many thanks for your note. You make a valid point. We have quoted tuition fees alone, but there are substantial additional costs at Horizons. These have now been added.
I like the school,I will want my daughter to attend the school because we are planning to relocate to Dubai,thanx.
Hi Zuwaira, yes, Horizon is a well regarded primary.
You need to contact the school and to apply. I would first make sure that there is availability however. Contact details are provided on the review.