New Academy School is a US curriculum school located in the heart of traditional Dubai at Al Raffa. The majority of students are from Arabic backgrounds and join the school with little or no English.
New Academy School (NAS) was established in September 1990. It is located in Al Rafaa-Dubai, behind the Gold Souk and is owned by the Al Mutaiwei Group. It is one of a growing number of US curriculum schools that has completed the process of ensuring that they genuinely are providing a curriculum and teaching standards that meet both US accreditation and KHDA requirements. This thus ensures that their High School Diploma is recognised by universities and colleges in the US and other international destinations.
New Academy School has met the requirements for accreditation by AdvancED (a US regional Schools and Colleges association representing several US states that works with international schools) and by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) which is a KHDA requirement. The school is also an authorized SAT and AP testing centre (both US pre-college entry examinations) and an authorized TOEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) testing centre.
NAS's Vision according to its recently updated website is as follows:
NAS community inspires the passion for learning, where students achieve at their fullest potential to become responsible, productive global and innovative citizens and ambassadors of their own culture. Its Mission statement advises that New Academy School is a diversified learning community which empowers learners through a challenging American curriculum, instilling a culture of mutual understanding, international mindedness and compassion that prepares students to be passionate lifelong learners, responsible future citizens and leaders of an ever-changing world.
The school's Core Values are:
International Mindedness: Acknowledging and respecting different cultures, religion and nationalities.
Innovation: To change outdated ideas and products into new and improved outcomes .
Team Work: Teamwork is collaboration and cooperation with peers to achieve a common goal effectively and efficiently.
Inclusion: To facilitate and support all students' learning through creating environment and attitudes where barriers to learning are removed; valuing, reaching and accepting different abilities.
Discipline: To use positive proactive non-aversive methods to support positive behavior among students and develop self- responsibility .
Respect: To value others' feelings, point of views and rights, and to treat them better than you want to be treated
NAS offers formal education for students from the age of 4 to 18, following a US curriculum. The school range of grades includes KG1 (4 years old) through 12th grade (18 years old), covering 14 years of school divided in a clear (and traditional) school education structure; KG, Elementary, Middle and High school sections.
Students from 40 different nationalities attend the school, and staff are of 28 nationalities. The most recent KHDA report (for 2019-20), and our direct contact with the school, confirms that there are some 1,300 students at the school of whom just over half (53%) are Emirati. Students are supported by 85 teachers, two Guidance Counsellors and 20 teaching assistants.
The school has a total of 12 classes in KG, 22 Elementary classes, 10, Middle school and an unspecified number of High school classes. The average class size is 26 students per classroom with a maximum number of students of 30. Girls and boys are segregated into different sections from Grade 5 upwards.
The teacher to student ratio, at 1:13, should enable the staff to provide teaching and curriculum modification to meet individual student needs.
Teachers are from a wide range of nationalities including US, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Syria, Albania, and Zimbabwe. Teacher turnover has been a challenge in the past, with a figure as high as 38% in 2017, with a further 23% in the following year - somewhat higher than the average 20-22% that is the norm in UAE International schools.
Whilst ordinarily this would be a cause for concern, the arrival of a new Principal, Nazia Daha, four years ago, perceived positively by the KHDA for her strong commitment to improvement, indicates that positive changes are being made in respect of staffing. For 2020, the turnover figure had reduced to 10%.
All teachers are required to have a Bachelor of Education degree. The school describes the mix of more experienced to younger staff as "a good blend of experience because it maintains a balanced working atmosphere in the school.The juniors can also benefit from the senior teachers experience. Younger staff members bring innovative ideas which experienced staff also benefit from".
NAS also has a thorough Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme. The budget allocation varies from year to year depending on the PD needs of the staff. Individualized PDs are also provided to staff in order to enhance teaching and learning practice.
NAS offers an international curriculum that is based on the California Common Core Standards (CCS) in Maths and English, and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), alongside the UAE requirements of teaching Arabic language, Islamic studies and Social studies using the UAE national curriculum framework.
The school offers a bilingual environment with a traditional Emirati, Islamic ethos. English is not typically the language of the home. Most students join NAS with no English.
KG classes have a class teacher-based programme (plus specialist teachers) where core English medium–instructed subjects (Maths, English and Science) are taught by one teacher and Arabic medium-instructed subjects (Arabic and Islamic Studies) are taught by an Arabic speaking teacher.
The core subjects of the Elementary curriculum include English, Arabic Language (MOE curriculum), Islamic Studies, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies (in Arabic as per MOE curriculum for native Arabic speakers), Global Perspective (GP), ICT (Information Communication Technology) and activity-based subjects including Creative Arts and Physical Education.
In the Middle school - the core subjects are extended through Social Studies with divisions (History, Geography, Civics as per the MOE requirement), Art and Music. French is offered as an Extra-curricular activity.
NAS offers English Language Learner classes for Middle school and in other sections classes are with the main English teacher. Foundation courses are offered in Grades 8 and 9 in the Middle/High School /HS sections. In High School students are offered support via in class differentiation and additional after school support. PSAT style questions are practiced in classes for Grades 10 and 11, whilst IELTS and TOEFL is provided to students in Grades 11 and 12.
Once students join the High School in Grade 9, the range of options is significantly extended including some less conventional subjects such as Bio-medical Innovation, Marketing, Robotics, Psychology, Engineering and Business. In Grade 10 a further option group includes HTML/Psychology B/Robotics. In the Senior High school section a wide range of options is available including Environmental Science, Psychology, Nutrition, Economics, Engineering, Media & Technology, Marketing, Innovation, Robotics, and Biomedical Innovation to name a few.
As a US curriculum school, NAS offers Advance Placement programmes in the following subjects: English, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Biology.
Most graduates (95%) go on to Tertiary education (usually in UAE, but some internationally, such as to universities in US, Australia, Canada, Jordan and Cairo). Those remaining in the UAE favour Zayed University (17.6%), Sharjah University (14.6%) and the Higher Colleges of Technology (12%).
Some 117 students (just under 10%) had been identified with additional learning needs in our latest update from the school. At the time of the last KHDA inspection, the provision of SEN support is rated Acceptable.
According to NAS,
All students are equally valued, and all staff strive to provide for the individual needs of students in a way that recognizes their specific talents, individualized learning styles, backgrounds, and culture. Different abilities are handled through various provisions which include differentiation, modifications, accommodations , options for alternative curriculum pathways and or vocational skills, career advice and preparation for the less academically oriented.
A further 6 students have been designated as Gifted & Talented in the fields of football, swimming, boxing and drawing, whilst a further 42 have been identified and designated Cognitively Gifted as per CATIV tests.
The facilities for Students of Determination are the same as for all students as the school was established as an inclusive environment where Students of Determination are generally taught in the same classroom with their peers.
A team of 11 staff has been appointed for SEN support. This comprises a leader for the provision, one social counsellor, five Inclusion support teachers and four support staff/teaching assistants who work with students in the classroom. There is no additional cost for general SEN provision.
Where there is a requirement for a dedicated Learning Support Assistant, this is agreed between parents and the school. It is the responsibility of the parent to hire a full time LSA, but this is supported by the school in terms of the recruitment process, whilst salary arrangements are between the parent and LSA directly.
In line with UAE Ministry of Education requirements, NAS students participate in a range of external bench-marking tests and on-going assessments. These include MAP, CAT4, PIRLS, TIMMS and PISA, with Grade 4 and 8 students participating in TIMMS, and Grade 10 students participating in PISA.
In the 2018 PISA tests in Mathematics, students exceeded their targets with an average of 8 points better than other US curriculum schools in Dubai. In the 2018 Science tests, students achieved their target. For the 2015 TIMSS tests, NAS students exceeded their targets iin mathematics and science and showed an improving performance in PIRLs in 2016.
Overall, students perform better in MAP assessments compared to their to CAT4 potential with 80% of students attaining levels that are above curriculum expectations and with a minority of students performing above this level. The highest score in AP exams has been 84%.
The school also offers a range of Extra-curricular activities including BasketBall, Football, Gymnastics, Quran Recitation, Science Club, Drama Club, Robotics Club, Chess Club, Karate, Guitar and Piano, Press Club, MUN Club, TED Talk, Art & Craft, and Baking.
According to the DSIB inspection team, 'Programs and extra-curricular activities provide sufficient choice for students and promote interest and enjoyment. The curriculum is regularly reviewed by leaders who give consideration to the aspirations and needs of students, including students of determination.'
The school usually also organises an international school trips to Europe and Egypt for Grade 12 students.
NAS is located on a plot of approximately 110,000 sq.ft, with one third of this built up and 67% used as green areas, outdoor play areas, sports fields and parking facilities. Most of the buildings and school facilities have been renovated in recent years as part of a master buildings and refurbishment plan.
KG facilities have been upgraded to include extended learning areas aimed at developing cognitive, fine motor, sensorial and computational skills. The learning areas are extensions of the class room which also includes a reading corner.
Improvements have included the provision of WIFI access points throughout the school and the installation of 37 smart boards, and 12 LED Panels. Two ICT labs are equipped with sufficient computers and the school has a range of portable computer trolleys aimed at incorporating digital tools in lessons. Facilities also include two science laboratories and a STEM room to facilitate the introduction of a comprehensive STEM program which aims at integrating math, technology, engineering and science concepts.
Recreational and sports facilities include a multi-purpose hall, two basketball courts, soccer pitches with artificial surfaces, a swimming pool and recently updated indoor and outdoor KG play areas. Other facilities include two learning resource centres/libraries and an auditorium. Music rooms and an art studio are among other facilities available. The school also has two clinics and two cafeterias.
New Academy School was rated Acceptable for the sixth year in a row by the KHDA inspection team who visited the school in February 2020. This is the minimum rating expected of all Dubai schools.
Within three months of the Acceptable inspection rating, the school also achieved the highest category 'Developed' rating for their Distance Learning Evaluation, implemented as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
In terms of the school's strengths, the KHDA's DSIB inspectors found these to be:
In terms of areas of improvement, New Academy School should:
We are encouraged by the clear evidence of strong progress on the road to improvement. There were 45 improved ratings in the last inspection, with the vast majority now Good or Very Good.
If New Academy School can raise Student Achievement in the Elementary and Middle school sections to those that they are already achieving in the KG and High school sections, we can see the overall achievement of a Good rating in the near future.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
The KHDA's pre-inspection survey was completed by 157 parents, the majority of whom said that they were satisfied with the standard of education provided by New Academy School. The inspectors noted that 'almost all parents indicate that their children are kept safe at school. The majority of parents disagree that bullying is an issue in the school. Most parents feel that their children work hard and are academically confident, enjoy life, and are cheerful and positive about their future.'
Over 450 students participated in the KHDA's well-being survey and feedback was largely positive. The inspection team noted that 'students see positive relationships with adults and their peers at schools as important. They report that they feel safe at school, and there is at least one person that they can talk to. A number indicate that they have experienced cyber-bullying. Inspectors found that the school takes a firm approach towards bullying and that any reported incidents are investigated and dealt with promptly.'
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a limited number of responses to our Parent Survey. There is insufficient feedback at this stage to draw conclusions about parents' views of the school.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at New Academy School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
There is often a tendency among schools who reach an Acceptable rating with the KHDA to maintain that rating on a long term basis. This does not mean that a school is no longer continuing to improve - the demands from the regulator for improvement are on-going and schools must continue to improve in order to stand still, in fact. We had thought that New Academy School had fallen into this group.
However, the latest inspection report clearly shows that this is not the case.
The inspection report notes that "Achievement across the school in Islamic education and Arabic is strong. In all key subjects,children's achievements in the Kindergarten (KG) are strong and continue to improve. High school students’ attainment and progress are almost always good. Across the school, students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills are at least good. In both KG and the high school, these are very good.
Students' understanding of Islamic values, and awareness of Emirati and world cultures, are very good in most sections of the school. Standards of teaching are good across KG, elementary and the high school. Assessment systems are at least good, across most phases.The curriculum and its adaptation for different groups of students continues to improve. It follows closely the required State standards.
Without question, the most significant statement made by the inspectors is the following one:
This is a rapidly improving school, with many good and very good features, led by a highly knowledgeable and determined principal, with the highest of expectations. The principal is well supported by parents and increasingly strong governance."
We asked New Academy School to tell us briefly what makes the school special and were encouraged to see the emphasis placed on Student Wellbeing. This was their response:
"New Academy school introduces a warm atmosphere for students where each student feels unique and special. We at New Academy School care about our students' wellbeing and safety more than anything else; therefore counseling and advisory sessions are offered across the whole year. In addition, students take the PASS test that provides us with the required information to plan for interventions to maintain students’ mental health".
What about the fees?
Fees range from AED 11,950 in KG1 and AED 28,255 in Grade 12.
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