United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Nad al Sheba / Kent College Dubai

Kent College Dubai Review

One of the most read reviews on our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com, and now something of an evergreen read here at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, Kent College Dubai is steadily establishing itself as a school to watch.
Parents' Rating
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4.5 out of 5 based on 118 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2021/22
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Availability 2022/23
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Annual fee average
AED 77,500
Annual fees
AED 54,000–98,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Jared Nolan
Owner
Mir Hashem Khoory LLC
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Kingdom
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Kent College Dubai
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2021/22
hourglass_empty
Availability 2022/23
hourglass_empty
Annual fee average
AED 77,500
Annual fees
AED 54,000–98,000
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2016
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Jared Nolan
Owner
Mir Hashem Khoory LLC
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Kingdom
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One of the most read reviews on our sister site, SchoolsCompared.com, and now something of an evergreen read here at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, Kent College Dubai is steadily establishing itself as a school to watch.

The story so far...

The team at Kent College Dubai are now well into their sixth year of operation, having opened in 2016 with a joyous shout of ‘We have made history!’ to the inaugural assembly (a favourite memory of many of the children we encountered during our second review visit to the school).

Having arrived in Dubai with fairly limited promotional activity (more of a gentle whisper of its 130 year, highly regarded reputation as an ‘Outstanding’ English boarding school, rather than the expensive marketing campaigns of many new schools) Kent College has been quietly industrious, building its own solid reputation amongst parents and educators alike.

The UK school achieved an ‘Independent Schools Inspectorate’ “Outstanding” rating in every category of inspection. In 2019, after three years of operations, and with their first KHDA inspection imminent, our team returned to Kent College Dubai to reflect on their stated aim of being: 'Not just a franchise of Kent College Canterbury – but effectively a second campus, with close collaborative management between Dubai and the UK’. Principal, Anthony Cashin

As any new school grows and begins to solidify its own identity, its defining personality and values also begin to emerge. 

What does the school feel like when you walk in? Click here for the Kent College Dubai 'Experience'.

The Kent College Dubai team have taken their collaborative approach to working with their community one step further, inviting every family to have their say in defining the ‘mission, vision and values’ of the school.  The outcomes of this careful consultation process has given the school a very clear set of defining principles:

  • The Vision of Kent College Dubai - developing the full potential of each individual
  • The Mission of Kent College Dubai - to develop happy pupils, in an engaging, enabling and empowering environment, based on traditional core values, in pursuit of career readiness and excellence
  • The Values of Kent College Dubai - Integrity, Tolerance and Respect

Based on feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com from parents, teachers and students who have participated in our Survey, it would seem that the Kent College team is more than meeting their aspirations.

These two recent comments from parents are reflective of the opinions of the 40+ parents who have responded to our Survey so far:

"It's a happy school - staff have been hand picked. What stands out most is the type of pupil that graduates from Kent. KCD places strong emphasis on their learner attributes and pupils are encouraged to learn and display these. They are therefore resilient, internationally-minded, open-minded, tolerant, kind, principled people. At Kent you get more than just curriculum: pupils take part in all sorts of clubs such as TEDed, Model United Nations, ECOllege (sustainability/recycling/environmental club), etc. Top performing Arts school now that Urdang (London's West End Perf. Arts Academy) runs it"
"Our experience with all the staff (teachers, TAs, admin staff, bus staff, security etc) has exceeded all expectations!! We love the team at the school and for that reason wouldn’t consider ever changing!"

However, it is not just the parents who appreciate Kent College- the staff who receive such high praise clearly appreciate their work-place too:

"A very happy place to work. SLT trust their staff and give them autonomy. Whilst we have had to take some financial cuts due to covid, which is frustrating, I would find it hard to leave as I enjoy so much about my workplace. Having taught for almost 15 years, this is the happiest I have been in a school."

And finally, feedback from the third, and most important contributor to the College, its students:

"Strengths: Small classes especially in senior school. Teachers care. I am on the G&T list and we are given the opportunities to excel. Weakness: not enough pupils to make large sports teams".

Find out more about the views of parents by reading The Buzz.

Teachers and the leadership team use the College's core principles to guide an international student body, coming from "a great range of countries" - 71 in total according to information supplied by the College to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.  At the time of their first KHDA inspection in March 2019, there were 880 students enrolled at the school including 22 Emirati students. There are now just over 1,000 students.

In October 2022, it was announced that there had been a fairly sudden change of leadership at the school. The second Principal since its opening, Antony Cashin, had announced earlier that he would be leaving to return to Australia at the end of the calendar year.  For unspecified reasons, Mr. Cashin departed earlier than planned, as did, unexpectedly, Carmella Jodrell, who had been Head of the Junior School and was expected to assume the Principal's position. The new Principal is Mr. Jared Nolan.

In a statement issued by Mr. Nolan, something of his unusual, but highly successful, background was revealed to the school and wider community.  Mr. Nolan joins KCD from "a brief but very positive period" at Taaleem Education as Director of UK Curriculum Schools and strategic expansion.  Mr. Nolan states "I came to realise that I was missing the opportunity to directly engage with, motivate and inspire young people and those who lead them. So having the opportunity to join the ‘Mir Hashem Khoory’ (MHK) Group in the capacity of Director of Education and to lead Kent College Dubai, was both timely and an opportunity I was incredibly honoured to take." 

After working for twelve years as a Detective in the UK, specialising in Serious Crime and Child Protection, Mr. Nolan used the skills and knowledge he acquired to follow an accelerated path into school leadership. He was fast-tracked to an appointment as Deputy Headteacher and then, to Headteacher at Usk Church in Wales Primary School, before later being appointed Headteacher of the Charles Williams Church School, prior to his first international appointment as Head of School at Nord Anglia’s British International School Shanghai (BISS Puxi).

Prior to the brief period at Taaleem, Mr. Nolan spent three years as Executive Principal leading Aldar Education’s Al Yasmina Academy in Abu Dhabi, a school that progressed from ‘Very Good’ to ‘Outstanding’ in a relatively short time under his leadership. 

Mr. Nolan holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, a Post Graduate Certificate in ‘Child Forensic Psychology’ and a Master’s degree in ‘Leadership & Management’. He also holds UK Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers (NPQH) and was a qualified UK School Inspector. He is now just about to embark on a Doctorate of Education with Bath University exploring the connection between theory and practice in the context of philosophical, organisational, political, managerial and technical dimensions of international schools. 

With some 80 teachers (predominantly from the UK, Ireland and UAE) and a further 17 teaching assistants, the teacher:student ratio of 1:11 is what we would expect for a school of this calibre and price-point.  Despite being a considerably larger school than their Canterbury counterparts, teacher to student ratios will be broadly similar.  




During a visit to the school in early 2022, our reviewers were impressed in the Junior School by the ‘Class Ambassador’ system, whereby each class has two designated children to greet visitors each day.  Right from Year 1 onwards, we met confident children, clearly able to articulate their own learning.  Despite having nearly 700 students, the junior school maintains an air of ‘busy calm’. 


A busy Foundation Stage class at work

Moving on to the Kent College Senior School which, in common with many new schools in Dubai, has had a somewhat slower uptake of seats than primary.  Now with a comfortable 350 children across years 7 to 13 the Senior School is most definitely ‘in action’.

The Senior School, (led by Tim Hollis, an experienced school leader who joined the school from Repton School Dubai) currently offers the typical British curriculum qualification pathways of iGCSE and A Levels. 

Looking ahead, Kent College has already signified its intent to be dual curricula post-16, and also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.  

"We currently offer A-levels in the Sixth form but, by 2022, our older children will have the choice to undertake IB or A levels, allowing them the choice to really play to their own strengths educationally.  Our teaching staff begin their IB training in 2020".  Anthony Cashin, Principal.

This decision will make Kent College one of only eight schools in Dubai offering dual curricula post 16, with Nord Anglia International School Dubai, Repton School Dubai, Sunmarke and GEMS Wellington Academy Dubai Silicon Oasis also intending to offer A Levels/IB and Global Indian International School and GEMS New Millennium School offering CBSE/IB whilst GEMS Modern Academy offers CISCE and IB.  This move also underscores the ‘second campus’ approach, so important to the ethos here; Kent College Canterbury also offers both A Level and IB.


A typical Senior School classroom at Kent College

Clearly this is a school that aims to tailor the curriculum to the needs of their community, as Mr Hollis tells us that the BTEC pathway has now become an additional priority for the school.  Formal approvals are not yet in place, but the school hope to begin offering BTEC Business Studies from September 2020.  Eventually, the BTEC will form part of the IB Career Programme, to complement the IB Diploma and A Level options.  The school has broaden pathways further by offering BTEC Sport .

The College is also placing increasing focus on its Art and Performing Arts departments and has recently concluded an agreement with Urdang International who are based at Kent College Dubai. Urdang International has over 50 years of experience and expertise in training young people in exceptional dance and musical theatre.

The college offers a range of Arts-related pathways including the Urdang Musical Theatre Syllabus, Pearson GCSE Drama, AQA GCSE Music, A Level Drama and Music and BTEC Level 3 extended diploma in Performing Arts.  Additionally students may take ABRSM Music exams (currently on hold due to COVID precautions), and will be offering LAMDA qualifications from September 2021.


Kent College student production

The college offers all Performing Arts disciplines (Drama, Dance and Music) from foundation stage through the entire school and in addition to lessons included within the core curriculum, also offers an extensive range of ECAs including school productions, Musical Theatre Club, Improvisation workshops and various dance classes. A high percentage of students are expected to choose to become involved in a school production or Performing Arts Club at some point in their school life, whether treading the boards or experiencing life behind the scenes

What does the school feel like when you walk in?  Get the Kent College Dubai 'Experience' .

What about academic achievement?

For prospective parents what this ultimately means is that your children's development should not be interrupted either by a curriculum that does not suit, or by a paucity in subjects offered.  Currently the offering of subjects is respectable, although not quite best in class. GCSEs offered are English, Maths, Science, Arabic, Art, Design Technology, Drama, Geography, History, Islamic Studies, Music, Spanish, and PE.

At A Level students can choose four subjects from: Arabic, Art, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Design & Technology, Drama, English Literature, French, Further Maths, Geography, History, Islamic Studies, Maths, Music, PE, Physics, Psychology and Spanish.


An impressively equipped Music Room

Kent College has also recently introduced the ‘Peter Jones Academy’ entrepreneurship courses.  Led by Head of Business Studies, Mrs Jane Barker, this is clearly an initiative that the management team believe will give a real-world underpinning to their students more academic course work. 

Whilst still a small and growing school, Kent College has seen relatively small cohorts through their first round of examinations.  That said, their results have so far been impressive.

In 2021, students again were unable to sit their A Level and GCSE examinations as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and results were again based on Centre (Teacher) Assessed Grades.

2021 saw 13 students waiting their results who were no doubt delighted with the outcomes.  14% of all grades awarded were at A*,  51% at  A* to A, 83% at A* to B and 97% of grades were A* to C, with 100% achieving A*-E and a 100% pass rate. Stand out students included Salvador Palacios with two A*s and an A who headed off to Charles University's Faculty of Medicine in Prage, and James Awinyo, whose grades of A* and 3 As secured his place at the University of British Columbia to study engineering!

The 2020 GCSE cohort of 37 students must have been equally happy with their results. 12% of all entries were awarded Grade 9, 24% achieved A* (Grades 9-8), 48% were awarded A*-A (Grades 9-7), 69% A*-B (Grades 9-6) and 94% A*-C Grades (9-4) with an overall pass rate of entries of 94%.

In 2020, Kent College celebrated what it described as 'exceptional' GCSE examination results. 98 per cent of all GCSE examinations entries resulted in grades 9-4 (A*-C). Additionally 47% of all examinations were graded 9-7 (A*-A), an increase of 7% over 2019.

In line with all UAE schools, examination results for 2020 were based on Centre Assessed Grades due to the cancellation of examinations due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The College provided less detail about its 2020 A Level results, advising only that 26 students had been entered for the assessed exams, with 83% of results being graded A*-C and 99% receiving A*-E pass grades.

In 2018, the school had its first GCSE cohort of 14 students.  24.8% scored A* or 9/8, 47.9% achieved A* - A or 9 to 7, while 95.9% scored A* - C or 9-4.  Whilst a small group, these results are on par with some of the very best schools in Dubai.  There’s clearly ambition ahead too; this year, more than 50% of the current year 10s will take early entry Mathematics GCSE.

What the inspectors say

Kent College was inspected for the first time by the KHDA's DSIB inspection team in March 2019. The College was awarded an overall Good rating - one above the minimum Acceptable rating that the KHDA requires. 

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, most inspections  were cancelled in 2020 and none took place in the 2020/21 academic year.  The College did however participate in a Distance Learning Evaluation in May/June 2020 and received a Developed rating - the highest of the three ratings.  The DLE report may found here.

The 2019 report showed that progress in English, Maths and Science was found to be Good across the school but only Acceptable in Arabic and Islamic Studies - the Achilles Heel of many international schools in the UAE. Attainment was mostly acceptable, with the exception of first-language Arabic-language students in the Secondary school, where it was weak.

Whilst students' personal development and behaviour was found to be Good in the FS and Primary school sections, positive attitudes were less evident in the Secondary school and Sixth Form. 

The inspection team was positive about the delivery of the National Curriculum for England, noting that the promotion of enterprise and innovation were being developed in the FS, Secondary and Sixth Form sections. Support for students of Determination through curriculum adaptation was also found to be good, though this was less well applied to students with Gifts and Talents.

However, when it came to Teaching and Assessment, the inspectors found that the quality of teaching was inconsistent. It was found to be best in Maths and Science, but less developed in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Students and teachers had strong, supportive relationships.  Assessment was Good in the FS but only Acceptable in the other sections of the school, driven by a lack of understanding by some teachers of how to use assessment informaiton to promote learning.

The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students was found to be Good and the College was found to offer a highly inclusive environment.  The Governors and leaders were found to have an ambitious vision for the school and a strong capacity for further improvement. Governance was found to include wide representation and expertise and the relationship with the community and parents were good.

In terms of the strengths of Kent College, the inspectors found what the school does best:

  • Students' personal development which is very good in the Foundation Stage and Primary section;
  • Children and students demonstrate positive attitudes, very good behaviour and a strong commitment to their own health and safety;
  • Staffing, facilities and resources across the school are very good. The school benefits from exceptionally good facilities and resources to support students' learning.

In terms of areas of improvement, key recommendations include:

Raise attainment and progress by ensuring that:

  • there is greater consistency and coherence in the quality of teaching and in the understanding and use of assessment;
  • teaching strategies meet the needs of all students, especially those with gifts and talents;
  • teaching in Islamic Education and Arabic matches the quality of teaching in the very best lessons across other subject.

Improve the quality of self-evaluation and improvement planning by ensuring that:

  • school improvement plans are coherent, ambitious, have clear priorities and are widely understood;
  • the evaluation of the quality of teaching is carried out in all subjects and phases and is accurate;
  • all teachers understand how to use assessment data to check and promote learning.

Develop the role of middle leaders to support teaching, learning and assessment across the whole of the school, particularly by ensuring greater consistency and coherence across the Primary and Secondary phases.

As first inspections go, no doubt Kent College will have been pleased with the overall Good rating.  However, the inspectors have clearly flagged those areas where improvement is required in order to ensure that the school is able to progress towards the next higher rating of Very Good to which they will clearly aspire. 

In common with many UAE international curriculum schools, quality of teaching and assessment in general, and particularly in the core Arabic language subjects, will need to be a focus of the school before it is inspected for the second time - hopefully in 2021.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to get a real understanding of what the inspectors are seeking and the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here

The 'Rounded' Curriculum

The management team were unified in their praise for the Performing Arts departments at Kent.  Right from the first year of operation, there has been a ‘whole school’ (bringing together children from Year 3 to Year 13) musical theatre production (held in the impressive state of the art 458 seat auditorium).

Performing Arts is an area the KCD leadership hope to amplify further, as mentioned earlier in our review, through the partnership with UK Performing Arts college, Urdang Academy.  

Music is delivered by specialist teachers from FS1 (age 3-4) and Drama from year 7.  


Some of the youngest members of Kent College learning to swim


Kent College is also now home to a burgeoning competitive sports programme, with teams across the age groups representing the school in football, rugby, netball, basketball and more.  Nominated for the SchoolsCompared.com Best School for Sport Award 2019, the school has also seen individual children achieve considerable success in more niche sports such as Girls Boxing and Fencing.

The school already has a reasonably developed set of extra-curricular activites, including sewing, papercraft, a multitude of sports, puzzle games, board games, maths club, reading club, fitness, dance, singing, mindfulness colouring, music, arabic stories, film club, pinata, yoga, construction, tumble tots, animation making, 3D design, chess, photography, drama, and an entrepreneur club. 

There is also an extensive 'external' extra-curricular activity provider, Just Play, who offer a broad range of (paid) sporting activities including martial arts, gymnastics and football. Rugby is provided by Mike Phillips, ex Welsh National and British & Irish Lions team player, under the banner of his academy, The Mike Phillips Academy.

What about the Facilities?

Facilities are as you would expect – top tier. Noteworthy are the outdoor & indoor sports facilities including sports hall, swimming pool and training pool, and specialised hockey astro pitches.

Classrooms are equipped with Promethean smartboards. From Year 3 upwards children carry around state of the art equipment, each being issued with a Chromebook (purchased by parents, via the school).  Each stage of the school has its own library, with reading time built into each child’s curriculum through to Year 13.  In the Senior School, we were particularly impressed by the Design Technology suite, with one room entirely given to 4-D printers. 

Innovative technological resources are top notch at Kent College with every child given access to learning with drones, a robotics programme and regular robotics competitions and (as excitedly reported to our reviewers by the students) a brand new bank of ‘Virtual Reality goggles’.  The use of coding begins in Foundation stage, with even the very youngest children having access to readily programmable ‘Beebots’ (small, toy like robots).


Indoor Sports Facilities

The Buzz

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey has received a sizeable number of respondents.  Those parents who had given their opinion seem to be happy with their choice, although one in five have considered moving their child to another school - but this is down from almost one-third two years ago, so clearly levels of satisfaction have increased. 84% were happy with the level of academic performance of the school, although 28% of parents (in line with the UAE average) felt that their child needs additional tuition to supplement their learning.  56% of parents are extremely confident that Kent College can meet their child's academic needs (one third higher than the UAE average).

Children clearly love their school - with 70% having a tremendous sense of belonging and tremendous enjoyment of going to school (20 points above the averages for the UAE). Communication between school and home is also a strength with 76% being fully satisfied in this regard and a small minority of 9% being less impressed. The College is also highly regarded for its disciplinary policy and its implementation.

82% of parents would recommend Kent College to others, whilst 11% of respondents were not quite sure.  Whether this doubt was driven by some concern around value for money in relation to fees is hard to say - for whilst 64% of parents totally agreed that the school's fees represented value for money (well above the UAE average of 49%), 25% only partially agreed and 11% totally disagreed!

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Kent College, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.

Our second source for feedback from parents and students is the KHDA's pre-inspection survey sent to parents and students before the DSIB inspection takes place.

In 2019, some 270 parents responded to the KHDA survey. Of these 93% professed themselves satisfied with the quality of education offered by Kent College. 7% strongly disagreed. Those who agreed believed that their children were happy at school and felt safe. Most agreed that school leaders listened to and acted on their views.

103 senior students participated in the Student Wellbeing Census. A largely majority of students said that they felt happy, safe and optimistic. They persevere with their studies and enjoy positive relationships with their teachers and peers.

The Future of Kent College

The school will no doubt benefit in terms of future growth from its location in Nad Al Sheba 3, next to a 1500 villa development built by Meydan for Emirates Airlines.  Keen to point out that they are not just a school for the immediate area, however, Kent College has bus services from Arabian Ranches, Jumeirah and Dubai Silicon Oasis, with more planned concurrent with parent demand.  The school now offer a corporate discount of 15% for many employers. 

Our View

To replicate or, maybe better put as, translate a school with the heritage of a long-lived and very traditional English private school in Dubai is a goal with many inherent challenges.  Here in the UAE, the expectations of parents are incredibly varied, the tenure of children within our schools a perennial issue and the bringing together of many cultures both a challenge and a significant strength of our education system. 

It’s clear that in four short years of operation, Kent College Dubai has laid the foundations of becoming more than simply a second campus to its sister school in Canterbury.  We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Kent College Dubai.

What about the fees?

Fees at Kent College Dubai are premium, as would be expected for a school of this standard and background.  They range from AED 54,000 in FS1 to AED 98,000 for Year 13.

 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Kent College 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.

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