The second Nord Anglia Education school in the UAE, opened in Dubai at the beginning of September 2014, follows the British International School of Abu Dhabi (BISAD), which has been established for a number of years in the capital.
Nord Anglia International School has again been rated Very Good in its third inspection during the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
Nord Anglia International School Dubai (NAS Dubai) part of the Nord Anglia Education Group of over 30 international schools, offers the National Curriculum of England and Wales to Year 11, followed by the IB Diploma for post-16 students. Teachers have been recruited predominantly from the UK, but with a fairly typical UAE mix from other native English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada and South Africa. All are said have a minimum of three years teaching experience.
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The NAS Dubai population currently sits at 1745 students. Secondary school is home to 702 of these children, Primary 734 and Early Years 309.
NAS Dubai occupies a large rectangular plot of land in Al Barsha 2, close to the Hessa Street and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road junction and within reach of all the residential areas around Arabian Ranches, as well as Dubai Sports City, Dubai Investment Park, Emirates Hills and Umm Suqeim. Access is via a private road, with plenty of space for parking and no other buildings in the immediate vicinity. The surrounding plots of land are very much still building sites (as are a significant, currently separate portion of the school grounds), and parents report fairly regular changes to parking and access to the school as a result.
The 3 storey school building itself is L-shape has a very modern appearance, set off by the shading outside the windows. The reception area features a quirky uneven floor (it’s a ‘bridge’, hiding the secret entrance to Early Years!) – something that most visitors to the school seem to remember and mention! Adjacent to the reception area is the parent run café, Chatterbox, surrounded by tables, chairs and sofas, making this a welcoming space and a seemingly natural hub for the school.
Internally, classrooms are set around two large quadrangles that are used for meeting areas and central common areas, including assemblies and other gatherings that do not require use of the impressive 450 seat theatre/auditorium, which is at one end of the building.
The Early Years section is separated from the remainder of the school. Classes sizes in Early Years are now level with the rest of the school at 20 (an increase from 18 reported in our previous review). All Early Years classrooms are ‘double size’ meaning that 40 children share one very large room, with two teachers and four teaching assistants. Classes circle a well-resourced central play area and we felt that the large double classes and open plan play areas had been sensibly designed with free flow and child initiated learning in mind. The Early Years section also has a dedicated library and an indoor multi-purpose space used for PE and activities such as LEGO and construction.
The main building houses the remaining classrooms and specialist teaching areas, including IT labs, science labs, Art, Food Technology and DT rooms, Music rooms, fully sprung floored dance studios, libraries, as well as two canteens serving hot meals. One room has been purposefully designated for Robotics.
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NAS Dubai is well equipped for sports facilities, with a large gymnasium housed on the ground floor and a purpose-built, shaded outdoor swimming pool area on the second floor, which includes two pools (for non-swimmers and swimmers) and overlooks the expansive playing fields located at the back of the school site. The current construction work (due for completion in 2020) will add to these already impressive facilities, creating more sports facilities, language labs and improving the space and facilities for Post 16 students.
NAS Dubai aims to offer an inclusive environment with some support for students with special needs - although this, it points out, is limited. In the 2017-18 KHDA report, a total of 114 students are noted as having been identified with SEND requirements. Inspectors note that "The school is inclusive and provides a very good level of care and support for students with a diverse range of educational needs. A capable special needs coordinator and small team of skilled professionals have successfully raised the quality of the provision since the last inspection". The school says it mostly focuses on Gifted and Talented extension work, but some support can be provided for children with, for example, moderate dyslexia. The school does not have an educational psychologist. More information on the level of learning support can be found in the Q and A.
Academically, the Nord Anglia group globally has been extremely successful, with students regularly achieving excellent results at IGCSE and the IB diploma. The academic focus of the school is reflected in its small class sizes – no more than 18 students in EYFS and 20 from Year 1 upwards in each class.
An incredible 25% of Nord Anglia IB Diploma students from among its 31 schools achieve 40 points or above, compared with a global average of 5-6%. One of the areas of particular focus in Dubai is the teaching of foreign languages for native speakers, with languages as diverse as Chinese, German, French and Spanish being offered. The school has recently become the only international school in the UAE to act as an official HSK testing centre for Chinese speakers.
In its early days, the school's first cohort of exam takers in 2016 - those taking Chinese, French, German and Spanish IGCSEs - got either an A or A*in their exams. That was indicative of things to come. For the first full cohort of GCSE students, the school achieved 71% A* to A and 98% A* to C. This places the school second in the country.
2018 I/GCSE results for the school's second full cohort achieved equally impressive grades, with 36% of results at A* (9-8 under the new GCSE system),65% A*- A (9-7), 90% A*- B (9-6) and 99% A*- C (9-4).
In 2019, NAS Dubai’s first cohort of IB Diploma students received an incredibly impressive average of 36.6%. The school achieved a 100% pass rate, with 25% of students achieving 40 points or more, 65% achieving 35 points or more, and 95% achieving 30 points or more. The school had a relatively small first cohort of 20 students, but our team felt this was a strong signal of intent that the school intends to position itself at, or certainly, near the top of the IB league table in the UAE.
In our previous review we stated that NAS Dubai was an ‘academically selective’ school. Staff were keen to point out that this is no longer the case, with Principal Matthew Farthing describing the school as ‘wholly inclusive’. As with most UAE schools, children are assessed prior to joining.
Underscoring its credentials as a school that cares more than just about the 3Rs are Nord Anglia's partnerships with US-based Juilliard School of Performing Art, UNICEF and MIT (the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Juilliard's Performing Arts programme is a significant coup for the school and its students. Hailing from New York, the Juilliard undergraduate music and performing arts school is widely regarded as one of the world's best. Positive feedback from NAS students, parents and staff is telling here; this collaboration has clearly become a fundamental aspect of day to day life in the school. The partnership established with Nord Anglia provides a unique curriculum and exchange of specialists from Juilliard.
A second, equally significant collaboration with UNICEF is also making an impact at Nord Anglia. Throughout the school, children have the opportunity to work on projects aligned with the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. Again, not just a ‘headline’ – the children we met spoke proudly of these projects and wore badge indicating their involvement in specific areas.
Lastly, innovation and STEAM at the school has been strengthened by a partnership with MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Students from across the NAS Education group have the opportunity to travel to Massachusetts and Warsaw to take part in MIT conferences and teachers have regular MIT led training and workshops. In the classrooms, students tackle STEAM topics and problems across the curriculum.
For this first KHDA inspection, Nord Anglia International School was rated as Good - the minimum rating that the KHDA is targeting for all Dubai schools - which indicates that the school was well prepared for its first visit by the DSIB inspection team. The achievement of a Very Good rating one year on and only in the second inspection year, indicates that the recommendations from the first report have clearly been acted upon.
Evidence of this can be seen in the number of categories which show improvement in the new report - 13 of 40 in the Students' Achievement indicator alone - with all measures of attainment and progress for English, Mathematics and Science now being rated Very Good or Outstanding.
The most significant improvement has been within the Primary Section of the school for these specific subjects, and the Learning Skills across all four sections of the school have now been rated Outstanding in Foundation and Very Good in Primary, Secondary and Sixth Form.
As tends to be the case in many international schools in the UAE, if there is an Achilles Heel, this is in relation to Arabic and Islamic Studies. Whilst progress in Primary and Secondary for Islamic Studies has improved to Good, attainment remains only Acceptable and this is also the rating 8 of the 10 Arabic language criteria. More significantly, attainment in Arabic as a first language in the Secondary school is rated Weak, although this is counter-balanced by a Good rating for progress in Secondary for Arabic as an Additional Language. However, any rating of Weak is significant and will no doubt be a focus for the school over the coming year and beyond.
The other key performance measures of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills; Teaching and Assessment; Curriculum, and Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of Students were rated Outstanding or Very Good across all measures, with 18 of 36 indicators having improved from a year ago - this is a significant achievement. More significantly, 20 of the 36 indicators are now rated Outstanding. The Leadership and Management criterion has also seen all five measures improve with Parents and the Community and Management, staffing, facilities and resources improving to Outstanding.
The KHDA inspection team describe the school's strengths as:
• Visionary leaders, supported by the dedicated team-work of staff, and their commitment to continued school improvement and the achievement of National Agenda targets;
• The excellent attitudes to learning, the harmonious climate in the school and the mutual respect evident amongst all the students, staff and parents;
• The outstanding provision in the Foundation Stage and the use of the outdoor areas to support learning;
• Excellent parental engagement and extra-curricular activities that enrich an outstanding curriculum provision; and the strong emphasis on students making healthy lifestyle choices, their access to a range of physical activities, and the excellent arrangements for safeguarding children
Principal Matthew Farthing (pictured above), and the school leaders in general, are one of the primary reasons behind Nord Anglia's fast rise up to Very Good status on its second inspection - according to the 2017 KHDA, DSIB report.
Areas for improvement require the school to:
• raise students’ attainment and accelerate progress in Arabic by: ensuring teachers emulate the best practice evident within the school; consistently planning and delivering lessons that engage, enthuse and challenge students of all abilities; providing students with opportunities to use their research skills in writing projects about topics of their own choice; [and] promoting students’ use of their high-quality, independent learning skills to acquire language skills in innovative ways.
• improve the quality of teaching and develop learning skills across all phases by: ensuring the most able students are always sufficiently challenged; providing more opportunities for students to develop their enquiry and critical thinking skills in all phases; [and] ensuring consistent and purposeful use of the school’s technological resources to enrich students’ learning across the curriculum.
• embed the advisory board’s role in reflecting and responding to the views of all stakeholders
Inspectors summarise their impressions of the school as follows:
"Children and students are cheerful, positive and confident and take pride in being active members of the school community. They enjoy positive relationships with each other and adults and display splendid self-discipline. Their behaviour in class and around school is excellent". "Students are highly motivated and engaged in their own learning". "Parents value the high-quality communications they share with the school and are actively engaged in their children’s education".
Furthermore, there is an inclusive ethos at the school that promotes a happy community where all students feed valued. "Personalisation and students’ choice in learning are pervasive at this highly inclusive school. The curriculum is outstanding and teachers devise adaptations to meet the needs of almost all groups of students. Opportunities for students’ innovation skills are actively promoted; they experience creative, physical and practical activities that promote inquiry-based learning. Students and parents value the excellent range of quality extracurricular activities".
Having met a broad cross section of Nord Anglia parents, we noted how they demonstrate commitment to the community, the ethos of the school and to the functioning of the school itself. There is a Parents’ Association that organises social activities and school events.
Nord Anglia Dubai clearly considers itself one emirate's top-tier schools, and fees do reflect that. Fees range from AED 62,160 in Nursery (FS1) to AED 94,000 for Year 13. Scholarships are available, parents should enquire by contacting email@example.com.
What does Nord Anglia International School feel like? Click here for the Nord Anglia International School Experience.
NOTE: Nord Anglia School Dubai declined to allow our team to take candid photos during our visit (their reason: child safeguarding). The photographs above are professionally taken and were supplied by the school.
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A query.. Is there a choice for the students between the IBDP program and the A levels? Thank you
No, there are no UK curriculum schools in Dubai offering both options. This is due to the logistics involved in offering both options from a staffing perspective.
There are a number of UK curriculum schools that offer the IB in Sixth Form and several that offer A levels, but none the combination of both currently.