Mirdif American School - formerly Mirdif Private School - is a US curriculum school located in the Al Mizhar area, close to Mirdif, which opened in 1995. Despite its relative age in terms of established schools in Dubai, the school, which caters mainly to Emirati children, is open only from KG1 to Grade 8.
The renamed Mirdif American School has been rated Good for the second year in a row in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
In September, 2009. the school relocated to its newly purpose-built campus and expanded its provision to grades 7 and 8 in September 2010 in order to offer Kindergarten, Elementary and Intermediate sections.
The school’s educational programme caters to Arabic and International expatriate students. Although the school says that it implements a policy of accepting children from all nationalities and backgrounds, provided they can cope with the school’s academic requirements and standards, in reality, 75% of students attending the school are Emirati.
With some 890 students, this is a relatively small school by Dubai standards and the school states that its size and the limited numbers ensure that a friendly atmosphere is maintained and that the children’s individual abilities and potential are fully appreciated.
In keeping with the school’s motto, the main objective of the school is to inspire “high ideals” and motivate in children academic achievements, and to show understanding in coping with the pressures of modern life.
Whilst the majority of students are Arabic speakers, the majority of the 59 teachers - in line with the curriculum - are from the United States of America. A further 26 teaching assistants support the teachers and students. With a staff:student ratio of 1:14, plentiful individual attention should be possible. Staff turnover in the last academic year was 24% - somewhat on the high side, although reading between the lines, it may be that there have been some deliberate changes made by the management. The school has only relatively recently appointed a number of well qualified staff with US school experience which is leading to improvement in teaching standards and student achievement.
The school follows the American Common Core, using California State Standards, together with the Next Generation Science Standards, and achieved it accreditation through NEASC - as required by the KHDA - in the past year. This would be good news for students wishing to achieve an accredited High School Diploma, should the school ever choose to expand to this level.
The school's Principal, who has been with it since its opening in 2009, outlines the areas of focus of the school thus: "Our emphasis not only lies in developing linguistic and scientific abilities, but creative and physical skills as well. Strengths and talents in other areas like sports, drama, music and art are greatly encouraged, providing a sense of adventure and challenge which children enjoy. The school is committed to and conducts special programs like Nature Appreciation, Character Development, Articulate Communication and Social Skills Training with emphasis on courtesy and etiquette. It is here where the classical values of integrity, respect and politeness are witnessed, governing our everyday interactions where adults and students show thought and respect for each other at all times. The school as well exposes children to experiences that teach taste acquisition and the development of style." It is clear that the school sees itself as responsible for well beyond the academic alone.
What about facilities?
The school provides relatively little information about its facilities. It is located on a modern, purpose-built site which is described by the KHDA inspectors as being of high quality and "[which] encourage[s] learning through the ample supply of resources, providing opportunities to use a variety of learning approaches in creative lessons".
A specialist Art and Design department caters to all students from KG 1 to Grade 8. Students study concepts which include various artistic disciplines such as Drawing, Painting, Collage, Clay, Printmaking, Graphic Design and Textiles. Specialist provision for Music is also included and students study Visual Arts and Performing Standards for Music. The five major areas of study for all grades spans a wide range of applications and skills within the discipline. From artistic perception, creative expression, historical and cultural context, aesthetic valuing, to careers and connections with other disciplines, students not only have the opportunity to improve their notational, listening, performance, and compositional skills, but also develop their creativity and higher-order thinking. Numerous online platforms are also incorporated into lesson planning, effectively bringing music education into the 21st century.
The school provides a range of sports and extra-curricular activities, but little information is provided in relation to these.
What the inspectors say
Having been rated Weak in the first inspection back in 2008-9, Mirdif Private School was able to raise its standards and had been rated Acceptable for the following 5 years. In 2014-15, the school made the step up to Good, only to drop back to Acceptable in 2015-16 and again achieved the same rating in 2016-17. In the most recent inspection, in 2017-18, Mirdif Private School has again been rated Good - the minimum rating which the Dubai School Regulator, the KHDA, expects schools to achieve. It is to be hoped that this will result will be the end of the yoyo years.
It seems that much of this improvement - bearing in mind also that the demands of the inspection process are growing each year - has been driven by the Senior leaders, who, according to the KHDA "are skilled practitioners fully committed to the school and its vision as a quality US curriculum school serving the Emirati and international community. The newly expanded, distributed leadership model has a positive impact. Leaders and teachers share their understandings of how to bring about improvement with the goal of raising student achievement. Communication has improved and staff are actively involved". In addition, the quality of teaching was found to be good in each phase, as new and established teachers share best practices for effective lessons.
Indeed, the KHDA inspection team summarised the strengths of Mirdif Private School as:
In terms of Student achievement, all indicators for English, Mathematics and Science were rated Good in the KG section. One of the evident challenges for the school is that many children speak very little English on joining. Given that all non-Arabic subjects are delivered in English, this is an obvious challenge for both students and staff. In the Elementary and Middle School sections, whilst measures for Arabic as both a first and additional language and for Islamic Education were for the most part rated Good, in the non-Arabic core subjects, the majority were rated Acceptable. There had been some improvements (to Good) for progress in English in the Middle School and for Mathematics in Elementary, and this was also reflected in the measures for the students' learning skills, which were found to be Good in the KG and Elementary School sections, but only Acceptable in the Middle School.
Students' personal development was found to be Very Good in each phase, an improvement from Good in the previous report. Inspectors noted that "Students show good manners and are very supportive and caring towards their peers. They are respectful of teachers, are developing an understanding of a healthy lifestyle, and have high attendance levels. Overall, students demonstrate their love of learning through positive relationships with others". Their understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures were also rated highly with KG and Elementary students found to be Very Good and Middle school students, Outstanding. Social responsibility and innovation skills were found to be Good.
Reflective of the influence of new staff and sharing of best practice, the effectiveness of teachers was rated Good across all three sections of the school, an improvement for both the Elementary and Middle School sections. Given that the inspection took place in October 2017, when staff would have only been teaching for approximately 6 weeks, this is clear evidence of significant improvement. Assessment of students' learning - a key focus of the inspectors throughout the UAE as part of the Vision 2020 agenda - still evidently needs work - this was rated only Acceptable in the Elementary and Middle School sections.
The design of the curriculum, its implementation and adaptation were also areas rated Good. Inspectors commented that "The curriculum is clearly set for all subjects, with smooth transitions between levels. Most subjects include the development of skills as well as concepts, with activities that give students opportunities to think. Modifications to meet the needs of all students are still developing. The curriculum is enhanced well with an extensive array of extracurricular activities, and links to Emirati culture".
In terms of the protection, care, guidance and support of students, Mirdif Private School provides a Very Good standard of health and safety and safeguarding. Some concerns were raised by the inspectors in relation to the registration of visitors and health and safety in the science labs. Provision and outcomes for students with SEND requirements was rated Acceptable with improvement in identification procedures required for both students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents. The report notes that the school needs to ensure that "effective modifications to instruction are provided by SEND teaching staff along with learning support aides, who provide students with effective support. Teachers in whole-class lessons do not fully accommodate the learning needs of this group of students, nor do they provide instruction that effectively accelerates their learning".
The leadership and management of the school will no doubt be very pleased with the Inspection team's assessment of the key indicators for this set of measures. Several of the measures have improved to Good, whilst the school's management, staffing, facilities and resources were rated Very Good. Only the relationship between the school, parents and the community had slipped back to Very Good from its previous Outstanding rating. Although parents are regularly informed about their children's academic and personal development and paths for improvement, the school's overall achievement and reading levels on external assessments are not fully communicated. As part of the UAE National Agenda, participation in international bench-marking tests is a requirement for all UAE schools and the results of these tests enable parents to see whether the school is performing above, below or on a par with other UAE schools and international schools.
Overall, the KHDA inspection team made a number of recommendations for Mirdif Private School to address in the current academic year. The school is tasked to:
This is a substantial list of recommendations which will require not inconsiderable dedication on the part of the leadership and staff of the school. It may well be that to make significant improvement in the course of one academic year is likely to be a stretch for any school, no matter how well resourced. It will be interesting to see how far Mirdif Private School has come in twelve months' time, when the next KHDA inspection takes place.
Parents who responded to the school's pre-inspection survey are generally very satisfied with the school. Although only a relatively small number 66 respondents participated, 93% stated that they were happy with the school and the standard of education it offered.
Fees at Mirdif Private School range from just over AED 23,000 in KG1 to almost AED 34,000 in Grade 8. The school does not provide any information about the destination of students for High School.
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