At a glance
Horizon International School presently has 944 children on its register. The dominant nationality remains the UK with 35% of students holding a British passport, but 51 nationalities are represented in total.
Read the WSA Q and A with Horizon International here.
The school has had a Good rating from the KHDA for its last eight inspections and it follows the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum at Foundation Stage. Horizon International's secondary department started in September 2011 and offers GCSE and ultimately A Level subjects.
What do the Inspectors Say 2016-2017
Although there has been improvement in student progress and attainment in the FS, especially in core subjects which have risen to Very Good, attainment and progress in the secondary is mostly rated as Good or Acceptable.
The care and support of students has also dropped from Very Good to Good in the latest report. The report notes issues related to behavior in Arabic lessons noting that "behaviour is
not managed well and a few students show a lack of respect to staff."
The FS is a strength of the school. As the report notes, "The Foundation Stage provides an outstanding experiential learning environment and results in very good attainment and progress in English, mathematics and science [and] students' across all phases demonstrate outstanding personal development."
For the next step, the KHDA recommends that the school "Improve the capture and use of assessment information by ensuring that "internal assessments are aligned with reliable external benchmarks and external measures of students’ abilities are taken into account [and] the information is used consistently across the school to guide curriculum and lesson planning."
What do the Inspectors Say 2015-2016
Student achievement has not shifted significantly in the latest report although Progress in Foundation Stage English has dropped to Very Good and attainment and progress in Mathematics has improved in the Primary division.
Teaching is overall Good with Foundation Stage teaching being the exception, rated as Very Good. As the report notes, "Most teachers effectively applied knowledge of their subjects and understood how students learn [and] the majority of teachers planned lessons which had clear purposes, providing interesting learning for students. Students understood what was required of them and enjoyed working to achieve lesson objectives."
The school is set on a large corner site, with the Foundation section separated from the rest of the school in a single storey building with its own access, a Secondary specialist teaching section upstairs to the rear of this and the main L shaped building spread over three floors across the back and along the third side of the plot.
At the centre is a very large Astroturf pitch and, hidden away at the rear of the Secondary teaching block, is a 25m outdoor covered pool which was a hard-fought for addition to the school (due to planning restrictions initially). Finally, to the right of the building at the edge of the plot is the Sports Hall and Auditorium.
This is very much a community based school and the leadership is intent on ensuring active local and parental participation, both during school hours and afterwards. As a result many of the school’s facilities are open to community members after school, including the swimming pool facilities and outside Astroturf pitches. A very large new indoor sports hall and auditorium (which has been remodelled since the change in ownership, to allow more flexible additional indoor space with retractable seating) have recently been opened. Horizon International plans to differentiate itself from other schools by creating the Horizon Performance Institute to encourage students with particular talents in the performing arts and sports, as well as offering them a strong academic programme.
It is always a good sign when the leadership of a school takes time to meet with prospective parents; something that happens quite rarely in most Dubai schools. At Horizon International, not only does the Principal ensure that he is available to introduce the school, but the visit is led by the Head of Primary or Secondary as appropriate.
The leadership team is also clearly very proud of, and committed to, their school. The staff are also very positive about the changes and investments made at the school since the new owners took over (the new owners have added staff and upgraded facilities). Although the school has been under the current ownership of the Al Najah Group for only two years, the Principal and Head of Primary have both been teachers at the school since it opened. They boast enviably low rates of staff turnover with only 5 out of a team of 75 leaving the school at the end of the last academic year. Some 17 new staff joined the Secondary school in September 2015. All staff are UK trained, with the exception of those teaching the 3 languages available – French, Spanish and Arabic.
The Foundation Section of the school is well laid out and fun! At its centre is an open play area, with a sandy oasis in the middle and room for children to play and ride tricycles inside during the warm weather. Classroom are all light and bright and open to the outside. We particularly liked the cheerful update notices for parents to explain what children had been doing in school and upcoming activities. There is an after-school club to which working parents can send their children, which is open until 5pm.
The school offers a broad range of extracurricular activities - some run internally (Tag Rugby, Swimming, Pool, Maths Club, Netball Squad, IAW Games, Quran, Homework Club, River Dance, Knitting, Sailing and Sensory Science), and some external (Karate, IFA Sports, Woodwind, Music, Diving, etc). This is seen as one of the strengths of the school in inspections.
To the rear of the Foundation section, on the upper floor, there are a range of specialist Secondary teaching rooms including Art, Design Technology, Food Technology, Science labs, and ICT labs. There is a Bring your Own Device policy in the secondary school. It was a pleasure to watch a science lesson during our visit, where students were marching around the central desk area whilst looking at, and explaining, the way electricity works. They were clearly not only enthused, but knowledgeable about the subject!
Key stage 1 classrooms (from year 1 to 3) are located on the ground floor of the main building. Though traditional in design, staff are making the best use of the available space (including wide corridors) to arrange break-out areas outside the classrooms for small group work or additional support. Horizon International prides itself on being an inclusive school and applications are reviewed on a case by case basis, to see whether the school has the resources available to support children with additional learning needs.
The ground floor of the school also includes specialist teaching rooms for Primary including ICT and Music rooms, in addition to specialist language classrooms. There is a central hall area which is used for PE for younger children. This was originally designed as a canteen, but is insufficient in space for this purpose. Children therefore bring packed lunches to school and there is also a juice bar where they can buy fresh drinks.
On the first floor, there are again a wide range of classrooms, mainly for Key Stage 2 students. A large library is located in the apex of the building and this is designed to be adaptable for school assemblies and performance for Primary children. The third floor houses the Secondary students’ form, teaching rooms and library with plans in place to turn the apex room on this floor into a Sixth Form Centre in time for September 2016.
There is a strong focus on recycling and ecological matters in the school with student counsellors and their deputies in each class responsible for ensuring that recycling bins are used and other ideas discussed and implemented. The school also ensures that children are not solely focussed on academic subjects and offers are broad range of Extra Curricular activities (over 70) including a wide range of sports. The school actively participates in various sporting leagues and the BSME Games.
An important element of developing the resourcefulness and independence of the students is encouraged through a wide range of residential trips, starting small with an overnight camp at school for year 3, then a 1 night overnight desert stay moving towards longer trips overseas for Secondary students (including a ski trip). Year 9’s organise their own overseas trip (which have included visits to India, Borneo and Vietnam) and are responsible for raising funds to pay towards the trip themselves, as well as ensuring there is a charity focus within it.
Horizon International’s first GCSE results were achieved in Summer 2015 and were all early entry submissions for languages. All students achieved A*. Although this is inevitably a small start - and it is not reasonable to expect such results on a broader scale across a wider subject range in a school that is not academically selective - they clearly represent a great start for Horizon International’s first GCSE cohort, who will sit the remainder of their exams in May 2016.
Fees are mid to top end, starting at 34,517 AED for FS 1 and moving up to 96,980 AED for Year 13.
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