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.
Ranked no.1 on the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com list of the Best Primary Schools in Dubai - based on Parent Feedback - parents (and their children) are clearly extremely happy - a word used to describe HES frequently in their comments to us.
Typical comments from parents include the following examples - all from July 2021:
"Friendly teachers, humble parents, happy students"
"Strong community Supportive Open and friendly"
"I’m in love with Horizon English school. The community feel is very strong. I feel like I’m part of a family and not just a school. I love that it focuses on learning through play especially at early years, and it is definitely a HAPPY school and the children love it! Homework is optional, which is great. Extracurricular activities are amazing (especially before Covid) and I love the natural grass field that the children love running on. Open-door policy is also one of the strengths of this school. Also, very aware and vigilant about screen time, and try to limit it. As for weaknesses, I can’t think of any at the moment..."
"HES is a very happy school, it just feels home!"
"beautiful community. highly qualified teachers and overall respect for children, each child's individuality and character. truly a second home for both of my girls."
We could include many more comments - almost all entirely positive. With responses from 130 parents so far, and an overall rating of 4.5/5 - a 90% positivity rating - find out more about what makes this school so popular in Buzz.
What more can be improved at HES, based on the above feedback, is hard to imagine. However, 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, opened its doors to students in September 2021. Both schools offer the English National Curriculum. Clearly Cognita has made a choice in terms of the quality of schools it wishes to own or develop, and the purchase of HES would seem to underline how highly regarded it is by its new owners.
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.
In June 2021, the first signs of Cognia's commitment to Horizon English School were clearly demonstrated in an announcement of a a comprehensive USD 3 million programme of improvements to the school's facilities and resources. A particular focus is the upgrade of Horizon’s IT infrastructure and Ed-Tech, in alignment with Cognita’s standards, including the implementation of a one-to-one device programme for students. Other significant improvements include the installation of a FIFA-standard hybrid/natural grass football pitch, refurbished netball and tennis courts - and widespread upgrades of shared-learning areas, classrooms and corridors. A brand new ‘fresh-air’ conditioning system will ensure the highest quality of air and a significant upgrade to the fire-safety system is also being undertaken.
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.”
In October 2022, owners Cognita announced the launch of the Cognita ENRICH ME programme in the United Arab Emirates.
Designed exclusively to empower students enrolled at the Cognita family of schools in the Middle East, that include the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, Ranches Primary School, Horizon English School and Horizon International School, the Cognita ENRICH ME programme is said to combine everything that enriches students’ lives from sport to music and the arts, with expert coaching provision to provide unparalleled opportunities in football, swimming and academic excellence. The inclusive programme will allow the four schools to expand their curriculum and provide an even higher quality learning experience to the 4,000 students they have enrolled, as well as developing high-performing students to achieve professional results.
The programme’s founding ambassador, Beth Mead, is known around the world as an integral member of the England women’s football team that won the UEFA Women’s Euro Cup for the first time in history in 2022. Beth’s involvement with the programme will provide the Cognita students with a true role model and give them direct access to the sporting hero’s expert coaching and advice. Students will also be able to learn from her invaluable experience and leadership qualities that have seen her recognised with endless accolades that include Player of the Tournament and Top Assist Provider in the UEFA Women’s Euro Cup 2022. Designed exclusively by Sean O’Shea, ex-Assistant Manager of top division Swedish club, AIK Stockholm, the football programme will provide Cognita students in the Middle East with unmatched pathways to professional sport and will support them to excel in all that they do.
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.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey received positive responses from 130 parents, one of the highest levels of feedback of any school in the city. 75% of children enjoy attending school 'a tremendous amount' - well above the UAE average of 57%. An even higher percentage of parents (85%) are satisfied with the academic performance of the school, with a low 16% feeling that their child requires additional tuition outside school (compared with a UAE average of 30%).
Communication and the school's disciplinary policies and implementation are also evident strengths of HES. The vast majority of parents (82%) have never considered moving their child to another school and a whopping 90% said that they would recommend it to other parents.
If there is one 'niggle' among parents, it is the usual one of school fees. But even this contentious issue resulted in only 7% feeling that the school fees do not represent value for money, whilst 54% of respondents agreed that they did represent value for money and the remaining 39% believed that they partially did so.
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.
Feedback from almost 100 parents to the KHDA as part of their pre-inspection survey was very largely positive. 99% were satisfied with the quality of education provided by HES and felt that their children are safe in school. A high proportion also felt 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.
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 has HES had to address the original reason for its downgrade (largely Arabic and Islamic Education), but the leadership has also had to raise standards across all areas of the school. The leadership team - and indeed the entire staff - 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 the end of 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 - for Secondary education. It will be very interesting to see what Cognita will do to ensure that it retains the students from HES, particularly as its other school (Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai) is also only open to Primary level currently.
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:
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