The long-established Oxford School, located in Muhaisnah, provides a UK IGCSE and A' Level based education.
One of the longest established international schools in Dubai, the Oxford School (TOS) opened in 1988 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018.
The school says that its Mission is to "empower our students with knowledge, skills, character and a passion for learning so as to enable them to thrive as contributing citizens in a diverse and changing society".
The school's Core Values are Cooperation, Friendship, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility.
Approximately 1,600 boys and girls attend the Oxford School ( a considerable drop from three years ago when the total was closer to 1,900), from Foundation Stage 2 to post-16 (four to 18 years). Students come from mainly Pakistani families (representing the single largest demographic), and with children from Arab nations, the second largest. In total there are over eighty different nationalities represented across the student population. All schools in Dubai are pretty cosmopolitan, but this is one of the richest in terms of student mix. There are also 45 Emirati students and a relatively small number of Students of Determination (32).
With 161 (mainly Indian) teachers the school has a low teacher to student ratio of 1:10 - on a par with some of the academically most successful (and most high fee) schools in the city. All teachers are said to have appropriate teaching qualifications and there is a growing number of teaching assistants (over 30 in 2018-19 according to the last KHDA inspection report issued for the school).
Whilst the teacher:student ratio is reflective of some of the city's most highly rated schools, unfortunately, Oxford School is not able to reflect their KHDA ratings. The school has consistently been rated Acceptable since inspections began. However, as is so often the case, the overall rating of the school does not reflect its performance in specific areas.
Oxford School's performance in Secondary and post-16 across the main English-language taught core subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) is rated either Good or Very Good, whilst Islamic Educaton also achieves Good ratings across the school. Unfortunately, Arabic as both a first and second language is rated largely Acceptable. Improvements are also needed in Science and English attainment in the lower sections of the school and probably accounts for the overall rating. Full details can found in 'What the inspectors say'.
Oxford School offers a Learning Support Programme to students experiencing difficulties in accessing the curriculum and learning. The Student Services Team, made up of a counselor, special educator, teachers, together with parents, draw up an individual education plan for each student based upon their observations and after a psycho-educational assessment administered by an external professional.
Student’s progress is tracked based on their performance in weekly and term exams and their achievement of the targets. The individual educational plan is then reviewed to set new goals. Based on the learning needs of the student, in-class and one to one intervention sessions are provided by the counselor and special educators.
What about the curriculum?
The school offers the National Curriculum for England in common with a large number of Asian led schools in the UAE.
The Foundation Stage curriculum complies with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework. Learning is play-based and focused on the core areas of Persona, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Communication and language, Mathematics, Understanding the World, and Expressive Arts and Design.
From Years 1 to 6, students follow the Cambridge International Primary curriculum. Core subjects include Arabic, Islamic Education, English, Mathematics, Science, UAE Social Studies (Year 2 onwards), Humanities, French, Computing, PE, Moral Education (Year 2 onwards), Life Skills, Art, French, Urdu, Music, Drama (year 1), Guided Reading (Year1), and Library.
The curriculum is enriched by exposing students to external visit where they apply concepts in real-life scenarios. Learning through structured play, student-led conferences, exploring the scientific world through investigations, critical thinking and problem-solving forms an integral part of the curriculum.
Islamic education is compulsory for the Muslim students from year 2- 13 and the Arabic language is taught for Arab and Non- Arab students separately. Arabic- A is taught for year 2- 13. Arabic- B is compulsory for year 2-10, and it is an optional subject for year 11- 13.
From Years 7 to 11, students follow the Cambridge Secondary curriculum leading to IGCSE examinations at the end of Year 11. The curriculum from Years 7 to 9 builds upon the core subjects from Primary and includes Arabic, Islamic Education/ Value Education, English, Mathematics, Science, French/ Urdu, Computing, Information and Communication Technology, PE, Art, Urdu, Humanities, UAE Social Studies, Moral Education, Music (Year 7), Geography, and Library (year 7).
Oxford School - again in common with most Asian led UK curriculum schools - teaches a fairly limited range of IGCSEs including, as compulsory subjects, Arabic A (for Arab students), Islamic Education/ Value Education, First Language English/ English as a Second Language, Mathematics, PE, Moral Education, UAE Social Studies (year 10) and Information and Communication Technology. Optional subjects, from which students must choose four, include Accounting, Arabic B, Art and design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, Enterprise, Environmental Management, French, Geography, Physics, Psychology, Travel and Tourism and Urdu.
Whilst the IGCSE curriculum offers at least a wider range of Arts, Humanities and Commerce subjects, the choice at A Level is very much reduced and decidedly focused on Commerce and Science.
Following IGCSE, students enter the two year A Level programme, taking a minimum of three and a maximum of four AS Levels from a choice of optional subjects (Minimum of 3 and maximum of 4 subjects) of Accounting, Arabic B, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, English Language, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, or Information Technology. Students also take compulsory Arabic A (for Arab students), Islamic Education/Value Education and Moral Education.
In addition to the academic programme, TOS also offers a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular programmes.
The Inclusive Enrichment Programme (IEP) is based on the school's mission statement, to cater to each learner’s individual needs. The programme aims to enable students to develop analytical abilities, leadership skills and team work. Inquiry Based Based Learning and Experiential Learning are two main aspects of this programme. The programme is included for one hour weekly in school hours and is held on Sundays for the Boys and Mondays for the Girls and students may select a total of three clubs of their choice.
The clubs have the Sixth Form volunteers as leaders; some clubs are led by them and some have them as assistants. Teachers act as moderators, addressing individual questions and concerns and stepping in to help the students if necessary. Activities include computing, globe trotting, graft and craft, making best out of waste, general knowledge, public speaking, drama, Arabic culture, singing, personality development, different forms of art, nutritious cooking, editing, ecology, and chess among others.
The school offers a rather limited After-school Enrichment Programme which operates on an eight week cycle programme. The programme is open mainly to students from Years 3 to Year 11, depending on the activity selected. Options include Public Speaking, Science, Robots and Automation, Aerobics and Zumba. Somewhat disappointingly, in our view, some clubs, including Cricket and Football, are restricted to Boys only, whilst Abacus Club and Karate are for Primary children only. The school says that it plans to expand the After School programme.
What about academic achievement?
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are delighted to see that the Oxford School has started to publish its exams results - though in a limited way.
For 2020, the school announced that at IGCSE, 74.19% of entries were graded A*-B, and 90.28% were graded A*-C; whilst at AS, 77.61% of entries were graded A*-B and 90.58% were graded A*-C. At A Level, 88,4% of entries were awarded A*-B and 94% achieved A*-C.
We would like to see the school publish further details - notably the number of students, number of exam entries and a broader range of results - particularly at IGCSE where a usual comparison is the percentage of students achieving 5 passes including Maths and English at A*-C, and at A Level from A*-E, since these are the pass grades.
The Admissions section of the school's website makes mention of assessment for students wishing to take BTEC qualifications in place of A Levels. However, the school provides no further information about the available options.
There is also no information about university destinations which again would provide interested parents with further information about the subsequent progress of alumni.
Facilities at Oxford School are adequate and cover the basics - library, ICT labs, play ground - but no more. The KHDA inspection report notes that good use is made of the limited physical resources of the school with learning technology installed in smaller classrooms, but some facilities - notably the libraries - lack essential resources, whilst laboratories are under-used.
Currently the Oxford School is ranked Acceptable, a rating it has now held for twelve years, although the standard of Student Achievement for the most part, their Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills, and the Design and Implementation of the curriculum are all deemed to be at least Good, and in the Secondary and post-16 sections, Very Good. In fact, it is hard to see why the school has not yet achieved a Good rating.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Oxford School was one of a number who were not inspected in the 2019-20 academic year. Therefore, we can only rely on the results of the inspection a year earlier in 2018-19.
Without doubt, the standards of achievement for Arabic both as a first and second language - rated Acceptable in Secondary and post-16, though Good in Primary - still need improvement.
Weaknesses are in teaching and learning, and the curriculum adaptation in the Foundation Stage and early primary years and some inconsistencies in terms of ratings falling in four cases.
Overall the strengths of the Oxford School were found to be:
The inspection report also notes that there has been considerable investment in human resources and developing the skills of teachers and learning assistants, but the impact is not yet evident.
In terms of areas for improvement, the Oxford School must:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to better understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
155 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey prior to the 2018-19 DSIB visit, and although they felt that their children were safe at school, less than half (47%) believed that their children had a close relationship with a member of staff. Although a large majority of parents were very happy with the school overall, around half of parents also commented on bullying issues at the school, though they acknowledged that conflict was dealt with quickly and fairly.
Over 370 students responded to the KHDA Well-being Survey. A large minority felt negatively towards the school with approximately 30% suggesting that they did not feel a secure sense of belonging and with half feeling that they did not have a strong relationship with an adult, though almost three quarters had friends in whom they could confide. Although there was some mention of conflict, the inspection team found a generally harmonious atmosphere at the school.
It should be noted that there has been a change of leadership the school since this report was written and we would hope that there has been an improvement in terms of relationships as a result.
WhichSchoolAdvisor has received only a limited number of responses to our School Survey. Of those parents who have responded only 30% would recommend the school to others, a further 40% were not sure and 30% would not. Half of respondents did not believe that school fees represented good value for money and 70% had considered moving their child to another school.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at the Oxford School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
Based on the KHDA report and the school's examination results, there is no doubt that the Oxford School is a very good option for students in the Secondary and post-16 phases. The Primary sections do also seem to be improving and we are encouraged by the investment that the school is clearly making in providing professional development and resources. We are concerned that some of the feedback in relation to students' happiness at the school is less than positive but would hope and expect that this is being addressed by the current leadership.
Certainly, for parents seeking a solid, if traditional Secondary and pre-university education, they are likely to see this through the schools' IGCSE and A Level results - though students with a more creative bent or interests beyond Commerce and Science will be poorly served.
Oxford School is relatively highly affordable for a UK curriculum school, with tuition fees ranging from AED 11,448 for FS2, rising to AED 18,150 by Year 13. It should be noted that there are a range of additional fees charged by the school which can add up to as much as AED 3,500 depending on the year group.
There is also a registration fee of AED 500 and an Admission fee of AED 500 on offer of a place.
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