Innoventures-managed Raffles International School is located in Umm Suqeim and currently has 1,100 boys and girls on its roll, aged between four and eighteen years.
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) in 2008. RIS must be one of the most genuinely international schools in the city, with close to 90 nationalities represented in the student body - Arabs, Asians and Europeans. The largest nationality group has Arabic as a first language and many students are English Language Learners.
The school is located in Umm Suqeim and currently has approximately 1,100 boys and girls on its roll. Some six percent of students have some form of special educational need. On average, there are five classes per year group and an average class size of 24. Girls and boys are split on a 50:50 basis and the school is fully co-educational.
There are currently 93 fully qualified teachers and a large number of academic support staff including librarians, learning support and Arabic reading assistants. The majority of teachers are UK passport holders. Staff turnover, at 16% in 2018 and 14% in the year prior, is well below the UAE average of 20-22%, a good sign of a settled team, and according to the Principal has fallen further to around 6%.
The school states that its vision is "to provide world class education to empower students with a holistic rigorous and international education for success in an ever changing world".
Principal Tim Richardson has now been with the school since January 2018 and has clearly brought his influence to bear, with RIS having stepped up to the KHDA's second highest Very Good rating after 8 years at Good. As requirements from the regulator have increased, so have the demands being placed on schools, and any improvement in rating can only come as a result of very hard work by the entire school team.
What about the curriculum?
The school operates a separate nursery section with offers a combined Montessori and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) approach to teaching, 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 2018-19 academic year, Raffles received its first set of graduates - and A Level results - in the summer of 2019. Whilst these results were not published in detail to our knowledge, those of the cohort from 2019-20 (who did not, in fact, sit the examinations due to Covid 19 cancellations, and instead received assessed grades) can be found below.
In addition to the more traditional (and somewhat limited) A Level options, RIS has also added the option of a BTEC Level 3 qualification in Business Studies, (equivalent to 3 A Levels) which is a university accepted entry qualification.
The BTEC in Business Studies 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.
iGCSE courses include compulsory English, Mathematics and Science courses and all Arab students must take Arabic. Optional subjects include Additional Mathematics, Art and Design, Business Studies, Computer Science, EAL, Economics, French, Geography, ICT, Physical Education and a range of language options.
RIS has always had a strong reputation for supporting students with English language learner requirements. Students in need of EAL support 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 teaching 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 do 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 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".
RIS did not publish its exam results in detail during the first years of iGCSE and A Level entries. However, the school informed WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that for its first iGCSE cohort in June 2017, 83% of grades achieved by Year 11 students were A*-C (pass) grades, whilst in June 2018, that figure rose to 86% A*-C. In 2019, 71% of results were at A*-B and 84% A*-C.
This was a very creditable performance, but we would have liked to see greater detail in terms of student numbers and exam entries, and particularly achievement across the UK baseline of 5 passes at A*- C including English and Maths.
The first cohort of Year 13 students was only six in number, and accordingly, RIS chose not to release individual or overall results. However, we were informed that all six students had gained entry to their first choice University or College.
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 were therefore very pleased to see that RIS has provided far more details in relation to the exam results for 2020. Although there was no information in relation to the number of students involved, details of results for both iGCSE and A Level, together with the first BTEC cohort are available in detail on the school's website.
IGCSE results were as follows:
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For A Levels, RIS students achieved the following results:
BTEC results were as follows:
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As student numbers grow, we would expect to see further subject options for A Level and improved results across all three examinations.
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 2018 for the eleventh year, and achieved a Very Good rating - finally breaking the long list of Good ratings that the school had achieved over eight years. Very Good is the second highest rating that schools in Dubai to achieve.
Following the decision by the KHDA in September 2019, RIS will no longer, as a school rated Very Good or Outstanding, undergo a full inspection by the DSIB inspection team on an annual basis. Instead, the highest rated schools in Dubai while receive a one-day review visit (focused, we assume, on those areas identified for improvement). Unless there is a change in overall rating, no new report will be issued.
The school was also inspected by British Schools Overseas in 2017 and was 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 remains the star performer of the school. Mathematics is rated Outstanding, whilst English achieves an Outstanding rating for progress and a Very Good rating for attainment. Science is rated Very Good and Good respectively. However, there has been significant improvement in the Primary section, with progress in Arabic as a Second language now rated Good and with English and Science progress, Science attainment and Learning skills all having improved their ratings to Very Good.
The picture is almost identical in the Secondary section, with English attainment still rated Acceptable, but progress across English, Maths and Science now rated Very Good and all three Arabic subjects rated Good for progress. Learning skills are also rated Very Good. Post-16 Maths and Science are rated Good with the exception of Maths progress which has improved to Very Good. Islamic education and Arabic as a first language share the Acceptable and Good ratings with the other sections of the school.
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.
Teaching and Assessment is now rated Very good across all phases with the exception of post-16 Teaching for Effective learning which remains Good. Inspectors noted that "the systematic development of students' entrepreneurial and innovations skills is at an early stage, particularly in post-16."
In terms of the curriculum design, its implementation and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students, the ratings in all sections aside from post-16 are now Very Good. Post-16 remains rated Good due to a lack, in the inspectors' view of subject options for further education or chosen careers. The inspectors commented that RIS should "broaden and strengthen the design of the curriculum in post-16 to provide opportunities for all students."
The protection, care, guidance and support was also rated highly, with protection and safeguarding rated Outstanding across the school. Care and support of students is now rated Very Good across the school, although RIS is advised to review and enhance the careers advice and guidance for students in Secondary and post-16.
The final key performance area of Leadership and Management also showed improvement. The inspection team found that "changes to leadership roles and new appointments are having a significant and positive effect on the school's overall performance." The effectiveness of leadership and school improvement planning are now both rated Very Good.
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.
The key recommendations for RIS from this inspection were to:
The focus for RIS is now very clear in terms of the continuous improvement across the key performance standards overall, and in respect of post-16 in particular. 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. No doubt the highly rated (and clearly ambitious) leadership of the school will wish to ensure further improvement, with their eye on the Outstanding rating which is clearly more achievable now.
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you may find it here.
Just over 300 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey. Almost all of the parents who responded to the survey were satisfied with the quality of education. They value the opportunities given to share their views, and believe teaching is effectively supporting learning. Parents are particularly appreciative of the way that the school keeps their children safe and the importance of inclusion in the life of the school.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com also received a relatively low number of responses from parents in the WSA School Survey. Over 70% felt that their children enjoy going to school. A similar number are satisfied or partially satisfied with the quality of education provided by RIS. Communication seems to be something of a concern among our respondents, though not from the KHDA survey. Fees too are something of an issue, but despite these concerns over 80% of parents who responded to our survey would still recommend RIS to other parents.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at RIS, please share your opinions with us and other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
There is no doubt that it took some time for Raffles International School to develop and improve its academic offering. In its early years, this may well have been driven by leadership and staff who did not, perhaps, have the experience of the current team.
With the arrival of the current Principal, Tim Richardson, there has been a real feel of gathering momentum at the school and this has been evidenced by the improvement in KHDA rating and encouraging delivery of exam results among students who, by and large, are not native-English speakers.
Parents seem to be happy with what RIS is delivering and so long as that is the case, we would certainly advise parents who are seeking a British curriculum education in a very international environment to look closely at Raffles International as an option.
Fees for Raffles International School range from AED 30,384 for FS1 and 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 500 (non-refundable). If accepted, the registration fee of 5% of the annual fees (which is non-refundable but adjustable against the first semester's fees).
There is a sibling discount of 5% - applicable for the second and third child onwards with a 10% discount offered for the 4th child, 15% for the fifth child and 20% for the sixth.
In addition each year there is an 'Educational Material Fee' which varies from approximately AED 1,100 in the lower Primary school to AED 2,100 in Years 12 and 13.
Raffles International School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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