United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Warqa / Newlands School

Newlands School Review

Newlands School is a British Curriculum school operated by well-known Beaconhouse Education which opened in Al Warqa in Autumn 2017.
Parents' Rating
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3.4 out of 5 based on 22 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
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Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 25,500
Annual fees
AED 19,200 - 31,800
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2017
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Matthew Edwards
Community

Nearby nurseries

2km • Montessori curriculum
2.1km • EYFS curriculum
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Newlands School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
hourglass_empty
Availability 2021/22
Annual fee average
AED 25,500
Annual fees
AED 19,200 - 31,800
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2017
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Matthew Edwards
Community
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Newlands School is a British Curriculum school operated by well-known Beaconhouse Education which opened in Al Warqa in Autumn 2017.

The Story so Far...

Newlands School, operated by the Beaconhouse Group opened in September 2017 initially from FS 1 through Year 6 with a Secondary school that has now expanded to include Years 7 to 9, will add Year 10 in September 2021 and will ultimately offer an all-through education to Year 13. 

The Beaconhouse group has over 315,000 full-time students in eight countries and was established in November 1975 in Pakistan as the Les Anges Montessori Academy with 19 toddlers. Beaconhouse has since grown into an international network of private schools, offering education to students all the way from birth – through its partnership in Pakistan with Gymboree Play & Music – to post-graduation, through Concordia Colleges and the Beaconhouse National University. 

The group operates in the UK, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Oman, Pakistan and Belgium in addition to the UAE. In addition to Newlands School, the group also operates the US curriculum Beaconhouse Al Khaleej International School in Sharjah and the UK curriculum Beaconhouse School in Al Ain.

The school's Mission is:

To "enable(s) every child to achieve their potential. Students gain an excellent quality British education in a values-based, internationally-minded environment so that they may understand, contribute to, and succeed in an ever-developing and competitive world".

The vision is for the school to provide:

  • opportunity and challenge
  • a commitment to continuous improvement
  • a route to university and lifelong learning.

Newlands is located in the heart of Al Warqaa 1 neighbourhood. . Capacity of Newlands, when fully open, will be 1,200 students.

According to the school's first KHDA inspection report (in February 2020), the school had close to 750 students, (a number that will now have grown with the addition of Year 10 in 2020-21) with the majority nationality group described as Arab, including 38 Emirati students.  The school includes students and staff from 60 nationalities.  The school had 62 teachers (predominantly from the UK), one guidance counsellor and 28 teaching assistants.  With a teacher:student ratio of 1:12, we would expect teachers to be able to provide focused support to groups and individual students.

Staff turnover at 20% in 2019 was around average for the UAE where the norm in international schools is between 20-22%.  However, the fact that the school has now welcomed its third Principal suggests that all has not been well at the most senior level.  It is to be hoped that with the arrival of Matthew Edwards, that the stability will be now achieved in this context. 

Mr. Edwards is supported by Zeba Khan, Vice Principal, Gihan Mansour, Head of Languages and Islamic Studies/Emirati Lead, Aanchal Talwar, Head of Early Years Foundation Stage, Norma Morrison, Head of Primary and Nicholas Pain, Head of Secondary.

Smaller Class Sizes, Best Practice 

The ethos of the school is based on "best practice" which is the educational term for pedagogy and methods that are tested through research and proven with data. As the school notes, "Evidence has shown that students learn best when they have home, peer, teacher and school support that is focused, accountable, sustained in quality, supported by data and aligned with the student’s ambition to achieve." 

Class sizes are capped at 25 students  in the FS and 26 students in the Primary Stage. However, under current Covid 19 requirements, students are taught in bubble groups of not more than 10 children in FS and Year 1, with sneeze screens in place on the desks. Children are taught to maintain a safe distance of 1.5 meters.

Year 2 to Year 10 students are taught in bubbles of 13 children, are taught to maintain a safe distance of 1.5 meters and sneeze screens dividers are fitted where children are sharing a table.  The school says it is working diligently to follow and exceed the stringent safety & hygiene guidelines set by the KHDA and Dubai Health Authority.

What about the curriculum?

Newlands School is committed to offering a "high quality British education" with class sizes that are smaller than competitors, coupled with fees that are price pointed in a way to "make it possible to study the full English curriculum without facing the burden of those high charges at Dubai’s most expensive schools," as the school's website explains.

The school follows the National Curriculum for England, including the Early Years Foundation Stage for Foundation Stage children. Children follow the UK curriculum from years 1 to 9 and then embark on their IGCSE subjects, undertaking a ‘core’ programme consisting of English Language, one science and one humanities subject (geography or history). Students will also have at least four options available to them to supplement this core, with subjects including further sciences, modern foreign languages, a further humanities subject and an arts subject (drama, music, art).

After completion of their IGCSE students in Years 12 and 13 (Sixth Form) may study BTEC, AS-levels and A-levels - the school has not yet specified which subjects will be offered.

The school has a focus on innovation that is built into the curriculum as well as offered through cross-curricular opportunities. The focus on innovation and creating an innovation mindset is one that the KHDA has been steadily focusing on so the implementation of this ethos at the founding of the school indicates that it has become an inherent part of the school culture.

What about support for students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

Newlands School says that it is "an inclusive school that caters for the diverse population of Dubai". 

The school has a team of qualified, special education staff who conduct assessments at the admission stage, in cases where the parents identify potential learning difficulties, and after teacher referrals, where students’ difficulties have emerged through normal classwork. 

The school support students, once admitted, with a range of special needs including behavioural, social and emotional; communication and interaction; sensory and physical; medical conditions or health-related disability; learning difficulties; gifted and talented, and disabled.

The support involves addressing gaps in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, early difficulties caused by adopting English as an additional language, mild dyslexia and dyspraxia, certain forms of autism, mobility difficulties and manageable difficulties in hearing and sight.

Students who are not proficient in English are identified on admission and a teaching programme put in place and agreed with their parents – with the target of bringing them to proficiency for their age group within the first term.

Students with specific talents – including sports, music or particular skills – will receive support in clarifying those talents so that the school can work with the student and his/her parents in finding the right long-term coaching and support. Gifted students – identified as those performing in the top five per cent of students in a particular cohort – are identified through teacher assessment and by benchmarking students against international test results. They will receive support from a teacher with training in recognising and supported giftedness.

The school does not clarify whether additional fees are payable for SEN or G&T support.

What about the Facilities?

Newlands was originally constructed as an‘Arabic style,’ school and therefore was designed for boys and girls to be segregated.  Some modifications to the building have taken place to allow for mixed-gender use.

Facilities at this new campus include: 

42 standard classrooms, Activity Rooms, four science labs with three of them as specialist labs (for secondary physics, chemistry and biology) and 1 general lab for primary, one specialist room for computing, coding and ICT, specialist art, media and music rooms. There are external play spaces of more than 1,100 sqm including separate areas for FS, primary and secondary.

The Foundation Stage layout features a separate entrance, ground floor location, and separation from the rest of the school including immediate toilet access, and access to the outside FS play area.  Linked classrooms with corridors provide space where supervised activities can ‘spill over’ for free flow in addition to an Activity Room. 

All primary classrooms from Years 1-3 are also located on the ground floor, including an Activity Room. The school also includes a library/learning centre and a staff development/training centre.

The school also includes a Special Needs base and resource centre and the entire building has been designed to aid the mobility of students with physical disabilities.

Sports facilities include a multi-purpose hall, an outdoor football pitch and cricket net and a 10×20 metre swimming pool with changing facilities

The school's neighbours include the Rajnagiri/Primus Indian School (with 1,500 students) and Sharjah American International School ( with 1,600 students), which means the management team at Newlands has needed to work on imaginative logistics to achieve a seamless drop-off and pick-up schedule.

What the inspectors say

The school stated that it was pursuing British Schools Overseas Accreditation (BSO) whereby it would be inspected following the standards of the UK regulator OFSTED in conjunction with the KHDA inspection.  We are not aware that BSO accreditation has been achieved.

With no physical inspections by the DSIB teams after March 2020, Newlands, in common with all UAE private and public schools, participated in the Distance Learning Evaluation and received the second of three ratings - that of Partially Developed. Read the report here.

Newlands was one of only two new schools due for inspection in 2019-20 whose inspection by the KHDA's DSIB inspectors actually took place. The inspection, held in February 2020, shortly prior to the cancellation of inspections as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, resulted in the award of an Acceptable rating. This is the minimum required rating by the KHDA to enable schools to continue with their operations - and notably for new schools - to enable them to continue to expand their provision through the addition of additional year groups.  However, the KHDA's stated intent is to ensure that all schools achieve at least a Good rating.

The KHDA inspection team found that the strengths of Newlands School were:

  • The effectiveness of leadership in overseeing the rapid growth of the school, supporting new teachers to contribute to effective teamwork, and establishing a strong foundation for improvement
  • The effective implementation of the school’s arrangements for students’ health, safety, care and wellbeing
  • Students’ good behaviour and positive attitudes to work and to other people, particularly at the secondary phase
  • Improved communication with parents and their increased involvement in the life of the school.

The inspectors found that attainment in English was weak at the primary and secondary phases, whilst attainment and progress were acceptable in all other cases. Students’ learning skills were adequate in the Foundation Stage (FS) and in the secondary phase, though good at the primary phase. Skills in independent learning, enquiry and the use of learning technology were underdeveloped. 

Inspectors also noted that students behaved well and had positive attitudes to work and to other people, particularly at the secondary phase. They appreciated Islamic values and understand Emirati heritage and world cultures.

In terms of the key performance standards fundamental to Student Achievement, Teaching and Assessment and the Curriculum, teachers were found to show good subject knowledge and to explain things clearly. However, they did not promote critical thinking or independent learning effectively. Teachers were increasingly using assessment information to match learning tasks to the needs of different groups of students, but this aspect was not fully developed. The school's procedures for assessing students' attainment and tracking their progress were systematic, but teachers' implementation of them was inconsistent.

The inspectors noted that for the other key performance standard of Curriculum, senior leaders had focused on improving the curriculum with some success. The structure to promote subject-specific or general learning skills was not fully developed, though this aspect was better at the primary phase. Staff modified the curriculum to meet the needs of different groups to an adequate degree.

In terms of the leadership and governance of the school, the inspection team found that Governors had improved staffing and some aspects of facilities. However, they did not exercise accountability fully. The (then) new principal (who has subsequently left the school) and vice-principal were working with other leaders successfully to improve partnerships with parents and set the school on a firm foundation for the improvement of teaching and academic outcomes.

In terms of areas of improvement, the inspection team recommend that Newlands School should:

  • Improve attainment in English at the primary and secondary phases by addressing gaps in students’ knowledge, skills and understanding, particularly in reading and writing.
  • Accelerate students’ progress in all subjects by ensuring that work is consistently challenging and modified to meet the learning needs of all students.
  • Improve the achievement of FS children by improving the curriculum, assessment and teaching.
  • Ensure that lessons are more consistently of good or better quality, by spreading the positive practice which exists.
  • Ensure that governance systematically holds leaders and teachers to account for the accurate analysis of assessment information and the evaluation of teaching, and uses the findings to target more closely the key areas in need of improvement.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to read the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here. 

The Buzz

152 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey with 88% stating that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school, but a further 11% disagreeing. According to the inspectors' comments, almost all parents who responded to the survey felt that their children were safe in the school. They felt that leaders listened to and acted upon their views, though a large minority had concerns about their limited opportunity for involvement in the school. A minority feel that bullying was an issue.

A small number of 24 secondary students responded to the KHDA's Well-being survey. They felt that there was a positive ethos and felt a sense of belonging to the school. A majority felt that there was weekly or monthly verbal or social victimisation. The students’ responses to several questions were less positive than the average for all students in Dubai.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a reasonable number of responses from parents to our Survey, though it should be noted that respondents' children were solely in the FS and Primary sections - there were no respondents with children in the Secondary section.

Overall, parents rated the school 3.3/5 - an approval rating of 66%.  Close to 80% of parents were satisfied (67%) or partially satisfied (14%), leaving almost 1 in five parents dissatisfied with the level of academic achievement.  However, well over 40% of parents believe that additional outside tuition is required for their children and a third of parents had considered moving their child from the school.

Parents were largely satisfied with communication and disciplinary policy.  67% of parents agreed that the fees they pay represent value for money, though 19% did not. And despite their reservations, 71% of parents would recommend Newlands to others, though 24% would not.

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

Our View

It would seem that Newlands has not had the smoothest start - a not uncommon problem with new schools, but one that we would have expected to see avoided here, given the Beaconhouse group and its experience standing behind the school.  There is no question that with a third Principal having taken up the reigns in its fourth year of operation, the stability at the top that the owners had no doubt hoped for, has taken time to achieve.

However, the school clearly has a solid base from which to develop and the outcome of the first inspection indicates that Newlands is on the right track.  No doubt the leadership team is working hard to ensure that the improvements required by the DSIB team are being implemented.  With no physical inspections taking place in 2020-21, the school will surely welcome the return to the full inspection process, hopefully in 2021-22.

At the fee level at which Newlands operates, parents can reasonably expect a solid, though no-frills, UK curriculum-based education which we would expect to show significant improvement under the current leadership. 

What about the Fees?

Fees at Newlands School start at AED 19,200 for FS1 and rise to AED 31,800 for Year 10. These fees can be paid in three installments at the beginning of each term. A sibling discount is being offered in the current academic year.

The school charges an additional fee for textbooks which is AED 1,200  per student in FS 1 and 2, AED 1,750 per student in Years 1 to 6, and AED 2,000 for Years 7 to 10. 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Newlands School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

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