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Nibras International School Review

Nibras International School was founded in 2005 and is based in Dubai Investment Park. After 10 years of inspection, the school has yet to achieve a rating above Acceptable. A recent change in ownership is expected to address this long-standing situation.
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3.2 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
At a glance
School phase
All through
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
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Availability 2020/21
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Annual fee average
AED 33,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Michael Cipriano
Main teacher nationality
US Citizen
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities

Nearby nurseries

0.3km
1.3km • EYFS curriculum
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Nibras International School
School phase
All through
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 33,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Michael Cipriano
Main teacher nationality
US Citizen
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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First Published:
Saturday 24 December, 2016

Updated:
Friday 25 October, 2019

Nibras International School was founded in 2005 and is based in Dubai Investment Park. After 10 years of inspection, the school has yet to achieve a rating above Acceptable. A recent change in ownership is expected to address this long-standing situation.

Al Nibras International School has been rated Acceptable for the eleventh year in a row in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed once the full report has been published.

The story so far...

Established in 2005, Al Nibras International School is a school with a chequered history. Despite being by no means a new school, the previous owners appear to have struggled to make the investment in staff and resources necessary to raise standards beyond the Acceptable rating that the school has achieved for eleven years in a row - since inspections began. 

The announcement that ISP - the International Schools Partnership - which currently educates 27,000 students in 8 countries, spanning locations as diverse as Mexico and Costa Rica, the USA, UK, Spain, Qatar and Malaysia, has taken over the school should at last mean that the necessary investment will take place.  The Group employs 3,000 plus staff operating 34 schools with 8 different curricula.

In addition to Nibras International School, ISP also owns Reach British School and Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi. It is also the organisation behind The Aquila School, which opened in Dubai in September 2018.  The ability to call on key staff at other schools and to organise staff training and development workshops across all the UAE schools is a significant factor in raising teaching quality and retention of staff and has been an immediate focus of the new leadership.

The majority of the 61 teachers are from the US and teacher turnover, whilst still high at the end of 2016-17 academic year at 33%, has improved considerably compared with 48 percent at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. This is always a cause for concern, as high teacher turnover can create instability in a school. A further 22 teaching assistants support the students and an overall staff:student ratio of 1:13, means that there is provision for good student support. The vast majority of staff are expected to remain with the school for 2018-19 and this is as a direct result of the investment made in their training and development since ISP became the owner.

What about the curriculum?

Nibras International School follows the American curriculum and is aligned with the State of Colorado's standards. It also has accreditation with NEASC to ensure that its High School Diploma is recognised by colleges in the US and overseas. There are currently 770 students at the school.  Students come from over 80 different countries, with 30% being Expat Arabs from Egypt and the Lebanon.

Class sizes in the Elementary, Middle and High School are between 24-26 students. There are approximately 340 children in Elementary (Grades 1-5), and 200 in the Middle and High School (Grades 6-12). The school now carries out standard assessment tests (MAP tests) 3 times per year in order to track standards and progress. A review of electives currently available at the school (26 in total) will result in a reduction to more manageable and useful options.  French - currently compulsory from Grades 1 to 8 - will remain an elective in the High School.

The school, under its new ISP ownership, is increasing the number of AP subjects on offer (currently Biology) to include English Language and English Literature, Social Sciences, Statistics, Calculus and Physics. These will be offered in addition to the PSAT and SAT tests already available at the school. Students have recently also been permitted to participate in their first overseas study tours, with 14 student taking part in a Model United Nations event in Spain.  Prepared at very short notice, one student achieved "Highly commended" for his debating skills.  Debating is now  part of the curriculum as a direct result. A further group of 16 students participated in a Social Studies visit to Greece. Nibras plans to ensure that there are increasing opportunities for students to take part in external trips on a regular basis.

What about academic achievement?

The school does not currently publish details of students' achievement in terms of SAT or AP results. The majority of Grade 12 students join local UAE universities or go overseas to the USA, Canada and Lebanon. 

A Careers Guidance Counsellor works with Senior Students and supports them both in terms of advice, but also in respect of practical activities to include in their applications.  Over 30 universities have visited the school in the current academic year to provide students with information about further study options. The school is currently running a work-placement pilot, and students are actively encouraged to participate in Community service activities. 

Clearly there  still much to be done at Nibras International School, which has received an Acceptable rating since inspections began, including for the 2017-2018 school year, but it is also evident that many of the areas of improvement identified in the current report, are already being addressed by the new owners.  This includes a highly experienced newly appointed Principal, and an additional Senior member of the leadership team, due to join the school for the next academic year, with a strong background in both the US curriculum and also the enquiry-based approach of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. 

Facilities

Nibras International School is located on a very large site at the main entrance to Dubai Investments Park.  It is surrounded by grass playing fields and has plentiful outdoor space and facilities for both sports and play.  Outdoor play areas have recently been refurbished as part of the investment in the school by its new owners.  The building itself - in the shape of an E over two floors - is spacious, offering large rooms, all with outdoor aspect, which have recently been updated.  More investment in improvement of the facilities is planned.

KHDA Inspectors commented that "The premises are of high quality, although there are no elevators or ramps to grant full access to the buildings."  Improvements to the appearance of the school and closer engagement with parents have been important factors in creating a more positive atmosphere across the school and between its key stakeholders. 

Investments have also been made in the physical structure of the school with major renovations of outdoor areas, including the provision of large size play equipment for Elementary students, upgrading of the tennis court and KG swimming pool, and internally, the school has been brightened and lightened, with class-rooms opened up and now visible from corridors. Science labs have been added, together with a Chrome lab and Robotics, and the very popular Art Department has been equipped to offer Ceramics.  New Extracurricular activities - largely focused around sports to raise their profile within the school - have also been added, including Softball, Basketball and Soccer.

Classrooms now feature learning-focused boards, showing progress, and communication with parents has been dramatically improved as a result. Parents have been invited to participate in Curriculum Workshops and receive weekly updates from staff. New teachers arrange a coffee morning to meet with parents within two weeks of their arrival at the school where they are able to provide informal guidance on their students' learning. There is also now an active Parent Advisory Board with representation from across the school. 

What the inspectors say

The most recent KHDA inspection (2017/2018)  took place in November 2017, prior to ISP's team becoming directly involved in the day-to-day management of the school, although the additional resources and upgrades to the school facilities had commenced.  The rating was again Acceptable.  However, despite the involvement only from January of an interim Principal (an extremely experienced UK Principal), the KHDA inspection team was able to comment on significant progress that had already been made.

The inspectors noted the following strengths of the school:

  • "The accurate self-evaluation that has brought about improvements in curriculum provision, standards of teaching and students’ academic outcomes;
  • Students’ good behaviour and attitudes towards learning and towards each other, their understanding of Islamic values and Emirati heritage and their good social responsibility; 
  • The school's good arrangements for health, safety, care and support."

In particular, the report comments on the improvements in Leadership and Management which are already having a positive impact noting that "With support from governors, the principal and senior leadership team have achieved much in the relatively short time since the previous inspection. Some performance indicators have improved in quality, and there is now a firm foundation for further improvement. Most aspects of leadership, including management, self-evaluation and improvement planning are now effective."

In terms of Students' Achievement, the report makes it clear that student attainment and progress need focus, with the majority of measures found to be Acceptable.  However, there have been no further downgrades in rating and, indeed, attainment in English and Learning Skills in the KG have improved to Good.  These improvements follow the introduction of the International Primary Curriculum (essentially an international development of the UK curriculum designed for Primary-age children), but cross-referenced to the content of the US Common Core curriculum to ensure that learning areas are covered. Teaching is based on a themed approach rather than individual subject teaching and is now considered best practice for KG children.

In summary, the inspection report notes that "Across the school, most students achieve at least in line with expectations in all key subjects except Arabic. Students make good progress in elementary and high school mathematics, and in Kindergarten (KG) English. Progress in Arabic as a first language is now acceptable in the high school against a backdrop of weak achievement elsewhere in the subject. Students’ learning skills are acceptable from elementary to high school."

Inspectors also noted positives in relation to the Personal and Social Development, and Innovation skills of students. "Students' personal and social skills remain at a good level. Their attendance is good, and their behavior has improved. Students’ attitudes towards learning, towards others and towards the wider community are positive, particularly in the high school." Indeed, all measures related to this key indicator were found to be Good.

Clearly a fundamental area for improvement is in relation to the quality of teaching at the school.  Teaching for Effective Learning has now improved in both the Kindergarten and High School to Good.  Inspectors noted that whilst "the quality of teaching varies from weak to very good across the school, it is more consistently good in the KG and in the high school, where teachers promote independent learning more effectively than in the other phases. In the KG, teachers successfully encourage children to explore the world around them."

Reasons for the improvements can be seen through the developments that have been implemented across the school.  When the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team visited Nibras International School in April 2018, we found much that had changed. The 180 KG children now participate in Guided Reading daily, together with 20 minutes of Arabic per day in classes sizes of between 20 and 22. Children work individually or in groups in a relaxed, but focused, environment where they are able to sit or lie on a carpet or to take part in activities at small tables. Windows in the corridor have been unblocked so that adults can peak in to classrooms and children have light from both sides of the room. Bright artwork is on display, creating a much more child-friendly environment than in the past.  Staff have received training in the practices of Reggio Emilia and enquiry-based learning in order to adapt the curriculum to KG needs.  In addition, the KG swimming pool has been refurbished and offers a popular additional learning activity.

The KHDA Inspection team noted that "teachers were found to have good subject knowledge and usually apply it well to provide interesting lessons. Questioning which promotes some critical thinking is mostly evident in the high school. In the best lessons, teachers differentiate activities to meet the learning needs of different groups of students. Teachers benefit from professional development activities that focus on differentiation and student-centered learning. There are early signs of improvement in the latter aspect across the school."

Inspectors also found that the quality of the curriculum has improved, and it is now good across all phases - an upgrade across KG, Middle and High School, bringing it to the same level as the Elementary school.  Inspectors also noted that the range of courses available is extensive in the middle and high school, "whilst there have been some innovative curricular changes in both the KG and the Elementary school".

Every aspect of protection, care, guidance and support of students has been upgraded to Good - a significant achievement. The inspection report notes that "Staff have actively addressed recommendations from the previous inspection. The arrangements for health, safety, care and support are now good across all phases. The school promotes health and well-being in a range of ways. The progress of students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) remains broadly in line with their peers."

The improvements that have taken place in the year prior to the inspection have resulted in the Leadership and Management of the school also receiving improved ratings across every aspect.  All measures are now rated Good, with the sole exception of relationships between the school, parents and the community.  Whilst inspectors found that "The school successfully engages parents in the school community. Workshops, parent-teacher conferences, and a range of communication technology ensure that they are aware of school initiatives and know how well their children are progressing", they felt that links with local and national communities required greater investment.  As a result, this aspect was found to be Acceptable still.

Without question, the most recent KHDA report is positive in many aspects.  Inspectors clearly believe that significant improvements are taking place.  The ISP team, with its experience both in the UAE and internationally, is clearly well-placed and committed to bringing about still further significant improvements in the current academic year.

The key recommendations from the inspection team were that the school should:

  • Improve students’ attainment and progress in Arabic.
  • Ensure that the school's revised assessment policy, which is now of high-quality, is fully implemented, consistently by all teachers.
  • Modify the overall structure of the curriculum to meet the learning needs of all groups of students more effectively, including the gifted, talented and Emirati students.
  • Improve consistency in teaching, by using the assessment information from data analyses to match tasks and activities to the learning needs of different groups of students, including those with SEND.
  • Build on the positive practice which already exists in the school, to improve teachers' questioning to develop students' critical thinking and independent learning skills.

The next inspection due in the 2018-19 academic year is expected to confirm that the Nibras International School is firmly on the road to improvement. It is clearly a school in transition.  ISP's experience globally can only add value and strengthen the performance of the school - and through that, ensure that students receive a quality of education that clearly reflects the investment being made in infrastructure, curriculum development, staff development and retention - and in the students themselves.  At its price-point, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believes that Nibras International School can provide a quality education at an affordable price. 

School fees for Nibras International School start at AED 22,364 for KG1 and rise to AED 44,454 for Grade 10 - 12. 

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