Manor Hall International School is a KG to Grade 12 US curriculum school located in Al Ain.
The story so far...
Despite its rather British sounding name, Manor Hall International School is a US curriculum school catering to children aged 4 to 18 years. Founded in 2008, the school offers classes from KG1 (known as KG4, reflecting the children's starting age) through to Grade 12.
MHIS currently has just over 615 students of 43 different nationalities. In common with most Al Ain schools, UAE nationals make up the largest proportion of students at 37%, followed by Americans at 16%, Jordanians at 15% and Canadians at 5%. Children are also fairly evenly split across what is an established school, with 18% of students in KG, 43% in the Elementary section, 22% in the Middle School section and 18% in the High School.
Manor Hall has a maximum of twenty students in each kindergarten class (KG1 or KG2) and a maximum of twenty-five in each class of Grades 1 to 12. The school typically does not enroll non-English-speaking students above Kindergarten, although some 10% of students have SEN requirements. Students are taught by some 59 certified teachers, all of whom hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Education and/or their subject specialties and are supported by a further 19 teaching assistants. Teacher turnover, at a very low 7% in 2017, would suggest that this is a happy environment for staff.
Head of School, Jeremy Williams, served as Regional Vice President and Superintendent for a charter school network in the USA prior to joining Manor Hall. He was also a Head of Secondary and Vice Principal, who as a teacher, taught elementary mathematics (using inquiry-based learning) and also English/Language Arts for several years.
Manor Hall states that it exists "to help students discover and develop their personal passion. MHIS will continually strive to be an innovative community that will ensure all students discover their passion to create, lead, and serve as global citizens." The School Mission states "We inspire all of our students to discover their passion through empowering them with the skills, competencies, and values to create, lead, and serve as global citizens."
MHIS's core values are Confidence, Integrity, Tolerance, Responsibility, Generosity, and Respect.
The school says that "Preparing our students to be global citizens is an important part of what drives our Character Education Development at Manor Hall International School. We want students to exemplify grit, integrity, voice, and enthusiasm."
As required for all schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi MHIS is licensed with the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), but importantly was the first school in the area to be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This accreditation ensures that the High School Diploma issued to graduating students will be recognised by colleges and universities around the world. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the school was also awarded the international award from the University of San Francisco for the mentoring its high school students.
What about the curriculum?
MHIS follows the AERO curriculum which is a curriculum approved by the US government for American schools operating internationally. However, MHIS has enhanced their focus to a range of specific skills designed to ensure that students are capable of contributing to the demands of the 21st Century society and economy.
The focus is specifically on Literacy, numeracy and technology skills, Accessing and Analyzing Information, Effective communication, Being multilingual and multicultural, Collaboration and Leadership, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Curiosity and Imagination, Initiative and Entrepreneurialism, and Adaptability.
A focus on Innovation is at the core of the school's curriculum which seeks to improve how things are already done or create entirely new ways to get things done. The school states that "an innovative school is one where teachers, students, and parents are actively involved in designing a dynamic and effective educational environment."
In fact, Manor Hall International School is very direct in terms of the type of student it seeks to engage, stating:
"If you want to maintain the status quo or keep things the same, this isn’t the best place for you. We want to do things better and differently than most schools."
Among the activities that have a particular focus at MHIS, is their Maker Project. The school says that "Making allows a child to bring ideas to life while acquiring important skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and overcoming failures without even realizing it. Maker is a school focus where Manor Hall emphasizes prototyping and the re-purposing of found objects in service of creating new inventions or innovations. Culturally, makerspaces are associated with collaboration and the free flow of ideas. At Manor Hall International School, maker education stresses the importance of learner-driven experience, interdisciplinary learning, peer-to-peer teaching, iteration, and the notion of “failing forward,” or the idea that mistake-based learning is crucial to the learning process and eventual success of a project."
A second and rather obvious focus for the curriculum is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), with Engineering included in a specific curriculum for the Elementary School. The Engineering is Elementary (EIE) programme is designed to allow teachers, to facilitate accurate, high quality, scientific learning to students of all ages. It builds capacity in teachers and students to effectively utilise the engineering design process, and become independent and collaborative learners.
At Manor Hall, engineering starts in Kindergarten and is taken through to Grade 6. The EIE curriculum was created by the Boston Museum of Science. By learning the engineering design process, children build their problem-solving skills - skills that transfer to other disciplines, including Maths and Science.
The school explains the reason for this specific focus, noting that "Despite the critical need to develop STEM literacy in all students, the number of American high school and college students who take courses in STEM subjects (and who go on to careers in STEM fields) is small, and it’s also declining."
The Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum has been expressly designed to address this critical need by increasing children’s STEM literacy. However, STEM is not the sole focus on learning. Throughout Elementary school literacy is viewed as the most important foundation skill for students to enable them to discover their passion. MHIS sees its most important responsibility as teaching students to read.
The school believes that students need the opportunity to explore through making and tinkering. Students work with their teachers to make things that are new and solve real problems within their school community. Students can participate in music, 2D Art, 3D art, ceramics, arts and crafts, and the digital arts. Within the Digital Arts programme, students are often engaged in completing design projects for real clients within the school or for the community. They are learning to code and programme. MHIS has a fully functional robotics lab and programme.
The Elementary School curriculum uses a variety of traditional and modern approaches to develop character education, language arts, phonics, science, social studies, Arabic, math, physical education, computer, art, and music. Students move from concrete experiences to increasingly more complex levels of a deduction and critical thinking. Skills related to each area build upon previous learning and measurable performance objectives.
In addition to the usual core subjects of Math and English Language Arts, Technology, and Arabic, Middle School students follow a combination of Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science courses, together with a Social Studies curriculum that includes integrated History, Geography, Economics, and Politics.
The core curriculum in High School consists of World Geography, World History, US History, Comparative Politics, and Economics in addition to Maths and English. All Social Studies classes incorporate UAE History, culture, and heritage comparisons. Science subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Biology 2, AP Biology, AP Chemistry and AP Physics. Students are exposed to subjects designed to support business and technology skills through coursework and exposure to subjects such as Design Technology, Coding, Entrepreneurship, Psychology, and Philosophy.
Students who display advanced skills in their college preparatory courses can qualify to enroll in Advanced Placement courses. MHIS offers AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Human Geography, AP Literature, AP Language, AP Calculus, and AP Physics.
The school promises that it does "not offer a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, we focus on every individual students’ and parents’ needs."
In addition to the academic focus of the school, MHIS ensures that students receive a well rounded education, including promoting a healthy lifestyle as well as building valuable motor, collaboration, and teamwork skills through athletics.
The school is the founder of the Al Ain Private School Athletic Conference (AAPSAC). The AAPSAC features competitive conference play in boys' and girls' basketball, as well as boys and girls football. Students also participate in inter-school athletics against other private schools in Al Ain and participate in outside events such as American University of Dubai (AUD) high school tournaments. Other sports in which students compete include boys and girls' Cross Country, Dance, Ballet, Cheerleading, Swimming, and Volleyball.
Other extracurricular activities include theatre, robotics, and music. After school clubs are formed at the beginning of each semester and are offered to all students in Grades KG -12. Examples of these clubs include chess, photography, drama, art, Math Olympics, Model United Nations, Pottery, Chess, Checkers, Books and Crafts, French Club, and Tutoring and enrichment in all subjects and grades,
What about academic achievement?
MHIS provides a range of in-school assessments which are designed to check students' learning. These include benchmark assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics for children entering the school in KG1.
Students in KG2 and Grade 1 undertake benchmark assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics, using MAP Reading and Maths tests based on the US Common Core Standards. These tests are repeated for students in Grades 2 through to Grade 5 annually, based on the AERO standards for Reading, Maths and Language.
All students from Grade 3 to Grade 9 are tested using the AERO General Science standards. Similarly, students in Grades 6 to 12 are MAP tested, again based on the AERO standards for Reading, Maths and Language.
Finally, Junior High and High School students from Grades 9 to 12 are offered tests including PSAT, ACT and SATs and students are entered for the MOE Arabic and Islamic Studies Examinations.
Students receive individual guidance to prepare them for university or their future career path. The School Counsellor assists them in researching universities in their preferred countries, as well as offering advice regarding additional options that students may not have considered.
To-date, all graduating students who applied have received university offers and 97% of High School students have taken College Prep courses.
Among universities to which graduates have continued are, in the UAE, Dubai Medical College, Dubai Medical University, American University of Sharjah, Gulf Medical University, University of Balamand-Dubai Campus, and the University of Sharjah.
US and Canadian universities have included Cleveland State University, East Carolina University, Houghton College, Loyola University of Chicago, Lynn University, North Carolina A&T University, Quinnipiac University, Siena College, Saint Louis University, SUNY Albany, University of Hartford in Connecticut, University of Colorado, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario), University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, York University Canada, Western University (London, Ontario), and University of Waterloo-Canada.
UK universities include East Anglia University, Leeds University, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Birmingham, University of Bradford, University of Canterbury, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, and West of England University.
Other universities to whom graduates from MHIS have gone include Deakin University, Victoria, and RMIT Melbourne, Australia, Central University of Technology, South Africa, İstanbul Bilgi University and Özyeğin University, Turkey, Lebanese American University, Jbeil, Lebanon, Saxion University, Netherlands, and University College Dublin, Ireland.
What about the facilities?
Manor Hill provides very little information about the school's facilities, other than to mention that it is equipped with a computer lab. All school computers are part of a local network, and most of them have internet access. There are computers in classrooms and at other locations in the school building to provide a high degree of computer access for instruction, research, and projects. All classrooms are equipped with interactive white boards.
However, ADEK confirms that MHIS has an Art room, music room, auditorium, drama room, Science laboratory, library, and Sports facilities including a football field, school gymnasium and swimming pool and that notes that the school is well-resourced.
What the inspectors say
Manor Hill International School was again rated Acceptable in its most recent inspection during the 2017-18 academic year, and was due to be inspected again in 2019-20. The Acceptable rating in the last inspection was attributed in large part to significant staff turnover that had taken place between 2016 and 2017, which included the change of Principal.
Any significant loss of staff, particularly at the leadership level, is almost certain to impact improvement plans. The inspection reports notes that "it has been challenging for the school to maintain continuity of provision in the care, protection, guidance and support for students, which is now acceptable. Leadership was particularly focused on appointing new staff and on enhancing teaching and learning."
Despite these somewhat negative comments at the introduction to the inspection report, it is clear that improvements have focused on developing teaching and learning with a range of initiatives that were received positively by the ADEK inspection team.
The strengths of the school were found to be:
Inevitably, the list of areas of improvement is significantly longer and more detailed. Manor Hall International School should:
Despite the number of recommendations, it is evident that the school had already recognised many of these areas for improvement prior to the inspection. It is to be hoped that the 2019-20 inspection, which should have taken place in February 2020, will not be delayed as a result of the Covid-19-related school closures, and that the report will be published.
Meanwhile, however, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are very encouraged by the Vision of the school, and the clear focus of the leadership on delivering a high quality, US-accredited curriculum. Inspectors praised the school’s new shared vision, its Day-to-day management and the well-resourced school facilities. Provided that Manor Hall International School has continued along the pathway to realisation of its vision through the practical implementation of its curriculum and improvements in teaching, this school could well be a rare school that genuinely delivers an internationally focused US curriculum.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report, and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to discover the reasons behind the ratings and the positive evidence of improvement on which the school had started to journey at the time of its inspection two years ago, you will find it here.
Unfortunately, ADEK does not have any formal feedback process for parental or student views on the school. Two years ago, they commented that "Partnerships with parents and the community are acceptable. School leaders seek parents’ views, but they do yet take these fully into account in relevant decision making. Communication with parents is regular, and they are kept informed of their children’s progress, behaviour and attendance."
The school's website, which was updated in 2019, and in particular, its current (2019-20) Parent Handbook states that "Manor Hall will encourage parents to take on voluntary participation in School and community events such as the UAE’s National Day celebrations, graduation ceremony, and other similar activities and events, after obtaining ADEK approval for them, and other relevant entities. Manor Hall will make opportunities available for parents to visit a classroom in which their child is attending a lesson at least once during each academic year, after informing the Principal and receiving permission to do so, if necessary."
If you are a parent, student or teacher at Manor Hall International School and would like to share your experiences with other potential members of your community, please complete our Survey here.
What about the fees?
Fees at Manor Hall International School start at AED 21,800 in KG rising to AED 40,200 in Grade 12. Fees are payable at the start of each of the two semesters that the school operates. Fees are inclusive of books and transport charges.
Detailed fees can be found under the Fees and Availability tab at the top of the review.
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