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. Its first inspection finds the school ranked as Good, the third highest rating for a school. In the 2017-18 KHDA inspection round, NAS Dubai moved up an additional rating to Very Good.
The Story so Far
The Nord Anglia Education School offers the National Curriculum of England and Wales to Year 12, eventually to be 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 teacher experience.
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Currently Nord Anglia Dubai is open to Year 12 and already full in almost all year groups. The school's current population is, approximately, 1,525 students.
What do the Inspectors Say?
For this first KHDA report, Nord Anglia Education 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 review. 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 indicators of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills; Teaching and Assessment; Curriculum, and Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of Students are 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 improve 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".
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; promoting students’ use of their high-quality, independent learning skills to acquire language skills in innovative ways". In addition, NAS Dubai should "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". Lastly, inspectors recommend that the school seeks to "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". This was clear to WSA in our tour of the school; student art is proudly on display and overall there is a learning "buzz" on campus.
What about Inclusion?
Nord Anglia 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.
What about the Facilities?
Nord Anglia 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 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 school owns the land directly in front has been developed as a sports field for football, rugby and other grass sports.The school building itself is L-shape and 3-storey, with a very modern appearance, set off by the shading outside the windows. 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 large, 450 seat theatre/auditorium, which is at one end of the building.
The interior of the building is light and airy, with a spiral central staircase in front of the reception, as well as a lift to the higher floors. There is a very novel and appealing special pathway, painted with a grass border, (via a tunnel) to the separate Early Years section of the school. The pathway leads to a circular-shaped classroom environment for the school's younger children.
Early Years classrooms are all bright and inviting, with small class sizes (the school has a maximum class sizes of 18 in EYFS grades, and up to 20 from Year 1 onwards), supported by a teacher and teaching assistant. Each room has windows to both the interior courtyard and exterior of the building. The Early Years section also has a dedicated library, an indoor, multi-purpose space used for PE, and an outdoor play area which features a fabulous pirate ship, already a firm favourite judging by the reactions of children during our visit.
The main building houses the remaining classrooms and specialist teaching areas, including IT labs, science labs, art and DT rooms, music rooms, fully sprung floored dance studios, libraries, as well as a canteen serving hot meals.
Again, all the classrooms in this main section are light and bright, with windows opening to both the exterior and to the interior railed corridors that overlook the internal quadrangle areas. One of the unusual offerings of the school is its Lego room, which will be used as a centre for children to participate in robotics competitions, which are becoming increasingly popular globally.
Nord Anglia International School 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.
What about Student Achievement?
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 but 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.
The first full set of IGCSE and GCSE results for 2016-17 can be found here.
This is a very impressive achievement. With its first students now embarked on their Sixth Form studies for the rigorous IB Diploma programme, it will be interesting to compare their results in July 2019 with the Nord Anglia group's average IB score and that of other IB DP schools in the UAE.
Nord Anglia International School Dubai, makes no secret about the fact that it is academically selective, and we understand that the school was true to its policy, refusing places to students whom they felt the school might not be able to support adequately, or where they felt that parents might not be willing to support the school fully in its goals.
Creative Arts and Sports
Music and Sports are seen as key elements of the curriculum and the school also offers a number of languages (French, German, Spanish and Chinese) for native and non-native speakers, as well as Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Underscoring its credentials as a school that cares more than just about the 3Rs is Nord Anglia's partnership with the world famous US-based Juilliard School of Performing Arts.
Juilliard's Performing Arts programme has been rolled out and it is a significant coup for the school and its students. The undergraduate music school is widely regarded as one of the world's best. The partnership established with Nord Anglia will provide for exchange of specialists from Juilliard to the school and enable students to study a programme developed specifically for the NAS Group. Further information can be found here.
A wide range of sports and extra-curricular programmes are also provided.
Plans for Parents
Nord Anglia plans a Parent Advisory Board that will liaise with the Principal in looking at the strategic direction of the school, and a strong commitment to a very Parent-friendly and engaged environment. There is a Parents’ Association that will organise social activities aimed at growing the school community and this has already taken charge of the Parents’ Café on the ground floor.
What are the Fees?
Nord Anglia Dubai is clearly setting itself up as one of the 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 12.
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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.