Kings’ School Dubai, known as Kings’ Dubai, was the first of the Kings Education group of schools to open in Dubai, with the launch of its all-through sister school, Kings Al Barsha, an almost inevitable follow on to the success of the original, primary-only school, and the demand for a Secondary school to which access would be automatic. A third school, Kings Nad Al Sheba, located close to Dubai Silicon Oasis, is expanding to Secondary from September 2019.
The story so far...
Kings’ School Dubai is the only school in Dubai to have achieved an Outstanding ranking from the KHDA for ten years in a row – since Dubai’s regulator began inspections. Kings is, inevitably a highly popular primary school, following the British curriculum, that aims to “replicate the high standards of achievement at the best Preparatory and State Schools in England”.
Based in Umm Suqeim 3, the mixed gender school is a six form entry school in FS1 (with 20 children per class), moving to five forms from FS2 to Year 6 with 24 children per class. Each class is supported by a learning assistant in FS1 to Year 2, with shared assistants in Years 3 to 6. Learning assistants focus specifically on supporting children with English and Maths. Children are set for the core subjects in years 4, 5 and 6.
The school capacity is 940 children aged from 3 to 11 years. The majority of students are British (as are the majority of staff), but a total of more than 40 different nationalities is represented within the school. Some 40 children are Emirati and, in total, approximately 120 children are Arabic passport holders. There are currently 75 teachers and 40 learning assistants on the staff, most of whom trained in the UK or have English National Curriculum experience.
Teacher to student ratio is 1:13 in primary. This is low by UAE standards, meaning staff should be able to give pupils good levels of individual attention. Teacher turnover is also low - 9% in the last academic year - suggesting a happy and settled team. The UAE average is between 20-22 percent.
A small number of students are identified as Students of Determination (SEND), and are supported by the LINK Department. This team consists of three teachers and five Learning Support Assistants who support learning difficulties such as Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. The school has a Sensory room and additional support, such as Occupational Therapy, is provided on site with the support of an outside specialist.
Such is the demand from siblings, that approximately 80 of the 120 places in Foundation 1 are already "spoken for" at the start of the registration process. For this reason, the school closes applications within a short period - in 2018, this was within 36 hours of opening the application process. However, as with any school in the UAE, there is some inevitable student turnover, particularly in higher year groups, and parents are therefore still encouraged to apply.
A core focus of the school is on building its community. The Senior Leadership team can be found at the gates each day, and the school has an unwritten curriculum in terms of building relationships and improving communication. Principal, Bede Higgins, says that he is most proud of the culture of the school. It strives to be a happy, positive and inclusive environment where all members of the community, from teaching staff, to children, to parents to facilities staff are expected to support a culture of tolerance, marked by respect for others and the provision of a nurturing, supportive and safe place, where everyone has the opportunity to Learn, Grow and Experience. A House system, where children earn coloured pom-poms, is a popular method for rewarding both academic and pastoral achievement, and is very popular with the students.
September 2014 saw the opening of two new schools under the brand – Kings’ Nad Al Sheba, and Kings’ School Al Barsha, both of which were rated Good in their first inspections in 2016/17 - a highly creditable start to the inspection process. Kings Al Barsha, in fact, has been rated Very Good in only its second inspection in 2017-18 - a clear sign that it intends to follow its "little sister" on the route to Outstanding.
The newer schools allow the Kings' brand to offer schooling from FS1 to Secondary for the first time. Kings’ School Al Barsha is located on the Umm Suqeim Road in Al Barsha South; Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba is close to Dubai Silicon Oasis, the Meydan development and the upcoming Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid City. A paid shuttle bus is offered for students between Kings’ School Dubai and Kings’ School Al Barsha for parents who have children at both campuses.
What about the curriculum?
A bespoke curriculum is rooted in the English National Curriculum "with a creative, concept based approach which enables children to achieve 'results the right way". According to the school, the English National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is followed with a clear emphasis on teaching skills and concepts that challenge children at all levels. "Every opportunity is used to embrace first hand experiences and educational visits are used widely to enhance learning."
The schools says that "The children at Kings' are integral partners in driving its success and range from roles such as Student Council and House Captains to Sports Council and Librarians who drive and shape the school with independent thinking."
The concept-based curriculum enables children to use a wide range of skills across a cross-curricular thematic base. Teachers define the outcome they are seeking, and work back to model the skills to be developed. They use an acronym - WAGOLL - What A Good One Looks Like - to share successes. An example, which might appear to be a Science-themed topic, includes the regular beach cleanups in which children participate. This feeds into discussions around Sustainability, whereby children identify what can be done to improve the environment (recycling or replacing plastic, for example), then using their English skills to write letters or blogs explaining how this can be done, and even reaching out to external organisations to encourage their participation.
There is a constant focus on maximisation and development through innovation. Innovation in this case, refers not simply to technological innovation, but to changing what needs to change in order to improve. More recently, greater focus is also being given to the Performing Arts (a specialisation of the Deputy Principal who has a background in this field), as schools increasingly recognise the need for students to develop their soft skills and to build confidence in their ability to present themselves.
Kings Dubai has always had a strong reputation for its competitive sports, which has reflected well on the school as a whole. Whilst there has, perhaps inevitably, been a stronger focus on the new Kings schools in recent years, facilities at Kings Dubai have not been overlooked, with the investment in two new Sports pitches, four new changing rooms, a remodelling of the school's swimming pool, the addition of synthetic grass and additional outdoor play areas.
What about academic achievement?
According to Mr. Higgins, children make rapid progress once they join Kings Dubai. All children are assessed using CAT IV testing to measure their baseline standards in English, Maths and Science. Learning skills and student achievement are rated Outstanding across the board for all English-medium subjects by the KHDA inspectors.
Historically, Kings Dubai was a major contributor of year 7 students to the highly selective Dubai College (DC). Nowadays, 50% of students from year 6 move to Kings Al Barsha, 25% still go on to DC, and the balance to either Dubai English Speaking College, Jumeirah College or JESS Arabian Ranches.
What the inspectors say
In the 2017-18 DSIB inspection, Kings Dubai was again rated Outstanding - the rating it has achieved at each inspection since the process began in 2008-9.
The most recent report notes what the school does best as:
Historically, the sole area of weakness identified at Kings Dubai has been in regard to Arabic and Islamic Education - in common with almost all international schools in Dubai. Students’ progress in Islamic education and Arabic as a first language has improved, with progress in both Islamic Studies and Arabic (first and additional language) having improved to Very Good and Good respectively in the most recent inspection. In fact, aside from Arabic attainment in both First and Additional languages (both unchanged with an Acceptable rating), and attainment in Islamic Studies and progress in Arabic as an Additional language (both unchanged at Good), these are the only ratings that do not achieve the Outstanding - a rare achievement among even Outstanding-rated schools.
The inspection report notes that the leadership of the school is not complacent "and fully understands that there is more to do, especially in Arabic". Indeed, this is the sole area for improvement identified by the KHDA inspection team who note the need to:
It is not only the DSIB inspection team who remain convinced of the Outstanding performance of Kings Dubai. The pre-inspection survey carried out by the KHDA achieved feedback from some 380 parents (a significant proportion of the families represented in the school). 98% of respondents said that they were satisfied with the quality of education at Kings Dubai. In fact the report notes that "All parents who responded to the survey, agree that students are well behaved and respectful of adults and that the school is helping to make them into better people who care for others. Almost all think that adults really care for students and that teachers are helping their children to become independent learners". The only negative comments were from a "few" parents who [expressed] a concern for the provision of Arabic in the school.
61 of the 75 teachers also responded to the survey. The inspection report notes that "All teachers who returned the survey, strongly agree that adults at the school prioritise students' well-being and, as a result, students get along well together. They feel that it is a good school to work in because of the trust and collegiality among members of staff. Almost all staff believe that professional development has helped them become better teachers". Little wonder then that Kings Dubai's staff turnover is so low.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is generally positive, though not as glowing as to the KHDA. Close to 70% of parents surveyed would recommend Kings Dubai to other parents, the majority are satisfied with the academic performance of their children. Close to 70% believe that their children are receiving an education that is on a par with, or better than the quality of education they would receive in their home country. There was a more balanced view as to whether the school offers good feedback, on discipline and on “Good Value”.
Fees at Kings' Dubai currently start at AED 42,734 for Foundation Stage and move to AED 65,037 by Year 6. Once a school place has been offered, as per KHDA regulations the school requires a “new student registration deposit” which is 25% of the annual school fee (quite a hefty amount to find, but deducted from the first terms fees). Before the end of the summer term, a re-registration fee for the following academic year is required for all Kings’ Students. This fee is 10% of the annual school fee (deducted from the first terms school fees).
At all Kings’ schools fee payment options were reviewed and in order to give parents more options a new structure was introduced, where parents can either pay in full for the year, pay termly by 3 cheques or pay with 10 post dated cheques. The 10 post dated cheque system was introduced in order to give parents the option to spread payments over the year in line with salaries.
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Wow. Absolutely fantastic results. Now I am definitely thinking of enrolling my daughter in Kings school for grade 3. I am impressed. Keep it up Kings school. Way to go to quality and differentiation teaching.