United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Umm Sheif / Horizon International School

Horizon International School Review

Horizon International School is located in the heart of Al Thanya/Umm Suqeim 3, close to the older Emirates International School.
Horizon International School

Horizon International School Review

Horizon International School is located in the heart of Al Thanya/Umm Suqeim 3, close to the older Emirates International School.

At a glance

School Type
All Through
Year Opened
Annual Fees
AED 34,517 - 96,980
Annual Fee Average
AED 57,000
Inspection Rating
Lee Davies
Al Najah Education
Main Teacher Nationality
Main Student Nationality

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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9 Archived Comments
Minu Agrawal
Archived 30th May 2016, 21:21

Thinking of putting my kids in year 8 and year 3 ....please help with honest review about school .

Archived 26th Feb 2016, 20:34

Hi all, my child got selected to foundation stage for 2016-17; would love to hear feedback about school from parents who have their kids already going to Horizon International... Thanks.

Archived 2nd Mar 2016, 11:39

Hi There
Both my children moved from a popular British primary school in Dubai to Horizon Intl. We moved when the children were Y4 and Y6 and haven't looked back. Some of the reviews on here are quite old and the school has come along in leaps and bounds, The school class sizes haven't changed in a few years and they are adamant not too. My children are very happy there and love the teachers. There is also an extremely varied after school activity programme. We honestly haven't looked back. The only negative thing is the exam results are yet to be established as this is the first year of GCSE's, although some students took their Spanish exams a year early and all achieved A*. The school is also inclusive rather than selective which I think is a huge positive, but this isn't an opinion shared by everyone. I have friends with children in FS who are also very happy with the school. It's great that you can have the continuity of FS up to A level all under one roof. Good luck whatever you decide!

Mrs realistic
Archived 2nd Oct 2015, 21:02

Mrs Supernova - if I didn't know any better, I would say you work at the school.

Great that you have had a good experience with the school but the majority of parents I know have not.

As for; 'I don’t see many other senior leadership staff standing on the school gates every morning in Dubai' - Errr, no actually, you do and it usually doesn't involve holding a costa coffee in their hand looking gormless.

'Class sizes of 22/24…good in Dubai' - yes, of course but parents pay for it - it's not a state school!

Not trying to 'bash' the school. I am giving my honest opinion that I have not been happy with it. ESPECIALLY, over the last couple of years. As a parent, who has paid thousands in school fees over the last 6 years, I have a right to give my view, whether you like it or not.

M harris
Archived 10th Feb 2014, 17:51

Class rooms getting bigger along with the yearly non refundable deposits. Academically disappointing.

No shining star
Archived 20th Nov 2013, 23:15

No Special Educational Needs provision. NO anti-bullying policy. Definite deficiency in academics (our youngest child was in 'top set' for maths at Star yet failed math assessment at another school admission test. Very worrying. Head teacher/principal seems to be puppet for the head of secondary. Lacking leadership.

mrs segar
Archived 29th Apr 2013, 13:18

Offers hardly any after sport school activities, classes are expanding, non refundable deposits to secure the next academic year have increased and this year (without informing the parents) they decided to charge a penalty fee of 500 AED per child if payment of the deposit was late.

Mr Supernova
Archived 18th Jun 2014, 17:22

To say this school does not offer 'hardly any after school activities' is quite frankly ridiculous! At last count, the school offered over 40 activities per term from Foundation through to KS3. The choice, as mentioned in the above review, is phenomenal. The school has successfully grown year on year and has overcome many of the usual challenges Dubai throws schools way. The staff (always properly qualified) are dedicated to the children and will always listen to the parents. I don't see many other senior leadership staff standing on the school gates every morning in Dubai? 500dhs late fee...sorry, but pay your fees on time and there would not be a problem. Class sizes of 22/24...good in Dubai? Consistently graded as 'Good'. Think there are just some people trying to bash this great school through their reviews. Make your own mind up, go for a tour, I did and have never looked back.

Mr Phillip
Archived 30th Apr 2013, 17:26

My wife and I were also astounded with the 500 dirham penalty charge for late payment of the deposit, especially as we have three children! Star had ample time to warn parents of this charge but chose not to. More worryingly is that the Headmaster believes this is an acceptable way to run a school.