Innoventures managed Raffles International School is located in Umm Suqeim and currently has 1,326 boys and girls on its roll, aged between four and eighteen years.
With the previous eight inspection ratings having consistently been Good, Raffles International School has been rated Very Good for the first time in 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.
The Story so Far
Originally owned by Emaar Education in a joint venture with Raffles Education, Singapore, Dubai-based Innoventures Education took over the management of Raffles International School (RIS) just under 10 years ago. The school is located in Umm Suqeim and currently has approximately 1,326 boys and girls on its roll, a reduction of some 150 since the previous year. There are currently 124 fully qualified teachers and 14 academic support staff including librarians, learning support and Arabic reading assistants. The majority of teachers are UK passport holders. Staff turnover, at 14.2%, is well below the UAE average of 20-22%, a good sign of a relatively settled team. More recently, these changes have included Senior staff at the school, including the Principal and additional staff for the Secondary school.
Currently over 80 nationalities are represented in the student body - Arabs, Asians and Europeans. The largest nationality group has Arabic as a first language. Some six percent of students have some form of special educational needs.
What about the curriculum?
The school operates a separate nursery section with offers a combined Montessori and Early Years Foundation Stage approach to classes, and follows the National curriculum for England in the Primary and Secondary schools. Students follow the Cambridge and Edexcel Exam Board curricula leading to IGCSE and A' Levels. With the growth of the school to include Year 13 in the current 2018-19 academic year, Raffles will have its first set of graduates - and A Level results - in the summer of 2019. The school does not publish its subject options.
RIS has also recently added the option of a BTEC Level 3 qualification in Business, (equivalent to 3 A Levels) which is a university accepted entry qualification. The BTEC Business is a practical course linked closely with real businesses to provide students with a sound, basic business education. It is suitable for those seeking a range of careers in industry, commerce and public administration. It is a well-regarded qualification for entry to Higher Education and advanced professional studies.
RIS has always had a strong reputation for supporting students with English language learner requirements. Students in need of EAL services are identified through admissions at entrance. Homeroom teachers also help identify EAL children and their ability through observations in the first few weeks when the child enters the school. Children are then placed in one of three learning groups, dependent on their support requirements. They may initially receive one-to-one support, prior to moving on to less intensive support as necessary.
A further focus of the school, driven in part by the very wide range of nationalities that it has attracted, is foreign languages. The main school curriculum includes Arabic A and B (for native and non-native speakers) and introduces either French or Mandarin from Year 3 where students have 60 minutes per week. From Year 4 onwards, students have 120 minutes of MFL instruction per week. The school also offers a very popular programme for Mother tongue languages - French, Spanish, Russian and Hindi. Mother Tongue is offered to native speaking students only. These classes are run by private teachers and there is an additional cost to participate in these classes. Though not compulsory, RIS recommends that native speaking students participate in these classes. Mother tongue students may have the option of taking IGCSE in their mother tongue at the end of Year 10.
RIS is also committed to offering a wide range of co-curricular and extra curricular activities, with a mix of both teacher-led and paid options. The school believes that well-rounded students are usually more prepared for challenges in life. Co-Curricular Activities are made up of 3 components: Science, Sports and Performing Arts in support of the core curriculum. The approach to science through the CCA programme allows students to investigate, experiment and be hands-on.
Sports are seen as essential to the development of students of all ages and RIS aims to provide a completely inclusive curriculum, which allows students to develop a healthy, active life and strong leadership skills. In performing arts, music, dance, drama and theatre are used to develop confidence and communication skills. These activities encourage the appreciation, development and understanding of local, regional and international cultures, dance, music and traditions. The focus for Fine Arts is to enable students to learn to appreciate the great masters and through the use of painting, pottery and ceramics develop their own individual skills and confidence.
Paid CCA's include a wide range of sports (from Ballet, Basketball and Gymnastics to Karate and Swimming), as well as activities such as Art, Cheer-leading, Latin and Hip Hop Dance, Drama, Engineering and Robotics. The school also has teams actively involved in the DASSA leagues for Basketball, Football and Swimming.
RIS also offers strong support to students with SEND or who are Gifted and Talented. The school states that it "recognizes that students will come with a variety of learning styles and aptitudes. Diversity is celebrated and acknowledged in its many forms. Some students will require curriculum adaptation and some a more personalized approach. RISE (Raffles International School Extends) recognizes that this includes students who are gifted and talented, have English as an additional language as well as those for whom learning can present challenges. The RISE team works with all stakeholders; students, parents, teaching staff and where applicable outside agencies to ensure that all students reach their true potential".
What about academic results?
RIS does not publish its exam results in detail. However, the school has informed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that for its first iGCSE cohort in June 2017, 83% of Year 11 students achieved A*-C grades, whilst in June 2018, that figure rose to 86% A*-C. This is a very creditable performance, but we would have liked to see greater detail in terms of student numbers and particularly achievement across the UK baseline of 5 passes at A*- C including English and Maths.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com feel strongly that full publication of results should be the norm in schools in the UAE. Whilst we recognise that exam results alone are not the be-all and end-all of education's purpose, we do believe that parents are entitled to know how well students perform. We are sure that RIS will want to share the successes of its students with parents and potential parents alike for both IGCSE and A Levels next summer and will hopefully provide a more detailed analysis.
What about facilities?
The school is set on a large 30,000 square meter site in Umm Suqeim 3, with views towards the Burj Al Arab. The capacity of the school is 2,000 students. The design of the buildings very much reflects the original set up of the school, with two buildings set around central covered quadrangles, joined by a central spine. Corridors run around the edges of the quadrangles with iron fencing enabling a view of the activities taking place in the central area. This is used for assemblies, indoor play on warmer days, and gives access to the library, canteen area and sports facilities (including swimming pool) at the rear of the building.
The nursery and facilities for Primary children are largely on the right hand side of the school, with an external area specifically designed for the younger children. Secondary students largely occupy the upper floors and the left side of the building. The design of the building is not especially aesthetically pleasing, but serves its purpose.
School facilities - educational and otherwise - are in general very good, with classrooms equipped with latest instructional audio-visual facilities (LCD projector/visualiser/sound system), nursery facilities for up to 250 children, tutorial rooms, a theatre, art rooms, a dance studio, music rooms, science and computer labs, a football field, swimming pools, a sports hall, basketball courts, badminton courts, tennis courts, and prayer rooms.
What the inspectors say
RIS was inspected by the KHDA's DSIB team in November 2017 for the tenth year, and achieved a Good rating - the ninth since the inspection outset - and for the eighth year running. Good is the minimum rating that the KHDA expects schools in Dubai to achieve. The school was also inspected by British Schools Overseas and were awarded a Good rating by the inspection team, which has validity and recognition through the UK Department of Education for a period of three years.
The KHDA inspection team found that the strengths of Raffles International School during the most recent inspection were:
Certainly in terms of Student Achievement, it is the Early Years section that is the star performer of the school. Mathematics is rated Outstanding, whilst English achieves and Outstanding rating for progress and a Very Good rating for attainment. Science is rated Very Good and Good respectively. In the Primary section, the majority of measures are rated Good, an improvement in attainment from Acceptable for English and Science, whilst progress in Maths has improved to Very Good. The picture is almost identical in the Secondary section, with only English attainment still rated Acceptable. Since neither Maths or Science were being studied at post-16, only Maths was rated - at Good for both measures.
The larger challenge for RIS is in improving the provision of its Arabic subjects. They are not alone in this. Many international schools in the UAE struggle to raise achievement in these subjects. Islamic Education, and Arabic as a first and second language are almost entirely rated Acceptable with no improvement on the previous inspection. With the focus on Arabic as part of the UAE National Agenda, improvement here will be fundamental to any change in the overall school rating.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills are rated Outstanding across the school. Students' understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures is rated Outstanding in FS and Very Good across the remainder of RIS. Inspectors commented that "Students' personal and social development is outstanding across all phases of the school. Students have a positive work ethic and participate in a range of school and community activities. They have a strong understanding of their own culture and that of the UAE".
Inspectors determined that teaching is very good in the Foundation Stage and good in the other phases. They noted that very good use is made of assessment information to check progress and support the learning of individual students - another major focus of the inspection teams. They also noted, however, that the work set in some lessons in the upper phases lacked challenge for higher ability students.
In terms of the curriculum design, its implementation and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students, inspectors found that "the design and implementation of the curriculum is very good in the Foundation Stage and good in all other phases. UAE social studies is well integrated and students are provided with opportunities to be innovative. Adaptations of the curriculum to meet the differing needs of students with SEND are very effective". Curriculum adaptation has now improved to Very Good across Foundation, Primary and Secondary.
The protection, care, guidance and support was also rated highly, with protection and safeguarding rated Outstanding across the school. Care and support of students was rated Good. Inspectors commented on the generally respectful and courteous attitudes of students and noted that "through teacher interventions and curriculum adaptations guided by individual education plans, systems to support students with SEND are becoming more embedded. Additional opportunities for gifted and talented students are developing but not as strong. Appropriate academic and careers guidance is provided at transition points".
The final key performance area of Leadership and Management also showed improvement. The inspection team found that "the new leadership team is providing clear direction on the school's journey towards further improvement. A shared vision is appropriately focused on raising students’ achievement by ensuring that teaching and learning are consistently good and better". Concerted action has been taken to tackle all of the recommendations from the previous report and improvement plans are focused on appropriate development priorities.
The relationship with parents and the community is now rated Outstanding. Parents were found to be highly supportive and very much involved in the life of the school. Their views
are valued and taken into account in school planning. The school is involved extensively with the local and international communities, and students engage in a variety of fundraising activities.
Governance of RIS was also highly regarded by the inspection team, who found it to be Very Good. This has been another major focus of the KHDA in recent inspections, aimed at ensuring a broad mix of voices are involved in the direction of the school. Inspectors reported that "the advisory council includes representation from all stakeholders and provides the school with considerable expertise. Through visits to the school and reports from the principal and other key staff, members of the council have a very good knowledge of the school’s performance. The views of parents and students are routinely sought".
It seems that resources at RIS have also not been spared. The report states that "the school is well staffed to achieve its vision. The very high quality of the premises enables students to access an excellent range of academic and sporting facilities that are accessible to all. Resources are plentiful and of a very high quality".
The key recommendations for RIS from this inspection were to:
If RIS can raise the level of achievement among its students to the same standards as many other key performance areas, the school is well on its way to achieving that long awaited improved overall rating. There is no question that the KHDA requirements have increased during the past ten years, and RIS has been able to largely address them successfully. But nine years is a long time to appear to maintain the status quo and the school will certainly be keen to take the step up a level.
Almost 450 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey. Almost all of the parents who responded to the survey were satisfied with the school leadership and the quality of education. They feel their children are happy and kept safe at school.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com also gets largely positive feedback. Most parents we speak to are happy with their decision, and 80% of respondents would recommend the school, the first question in the WSA School Survey. If you are a parent at RIS, please share your opinion with us.
Fees for Raffles International School range from AED 30,384 for FS2 which is low to mid-end, up to AED 78,408 for years 12 and 13 - very much mid-end. There is an array of additional costs and charges. New students will need to sit an assessment test and pay AED 1,000 (non-refundable) for the privilege. If accepted, the registration fee is AED 9,000 for FS2 and AED 10,000 for Years 1 to 13 (which is non-refundable but adjustable against the first semester's fees).
There is a sibling discount of 5% - but only applicable for the third child onwards (!) with a 10% discount offered for the 4th child onwards.
For returning students there is a 10% re-registration fee starting at AED 3,650 up to AED 7,840 (non-refundable but adjustable against the first semester's fees). In addition each year there is an 'Educational Material Fee'.
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This year the student number is 1600, up 400. You can feel the difference.