Ranches Primary School is a Primary-only school with a separate nursery located on the same site that opened in 2015 to serve then new Arabian Ranches 2 Community.
The story so far...
Ranches Primary School was something of a surprise opening in September 2015. Located at the Ranches 2 (Casa) area, many families were delighted to have a second school open within this very popular residential area. Originally planned to open in September 2016, the start was moved forward when it became evident to developer Emaar and operators IMV, that the school would be ready to occupy ahead of plan.
In September 2021, IMV announced that Ranches Primary School had been sold to international education group Cognita, the largest international school group with 85 schools in 11 countries. The purchase of Ranches Primary School follows the opening of the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai in August 2021 - Cognita's first venture in the UAE - and the subsequent purchase of Horizon English School. The Cognita Group of schools in Dubai has now also been added to with the purchase of Horizon International School from the same previous owners of Primary-only Horizon English School.
The company’s Managing Director in the Middle East, David Baldwin, has more than 10 years’ experience working in Dubai and is a former Principal of Horizon English School. He was previously responsible for supporting Cognita’s 40 plus schools in the UK as Director of Education.
In a letter to parents, jointly signed by RPS directors Aahan and Amay Bhojani as well as Cognita’s Middle East Managing Director David Baldwin, they confirm; “There will be no change to the day-to-day life, management, or strategy of the school, and no changes to the terms and conditions of RPS staff or tuition fees.”
Q&A - For the official WSA Q and A with Ranches Primary, go here.
RPS follows the English National Curriculum and describes itself as a "fully inclusive British curriculum school in the heart of the popular Arabian Ranches 2 community, children’s needs will always be at the forefront of all we do."
The school's Vision is: A focused and ambitious community, motivated to achieve excellence.
RPS believes in developing the potential in each student and believes in providing its students with 'a rigorous, stimulating and supportive environment where they are challenged to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners'.
The school lists it core beliefs as:
'Underpinning all we stand for is the value placed on the attributes of our ‘character compass’ namely: commitment, courage, curiosity, creativity, cooperation and compassion.'
The school opened seven years ago with approx. 60 children and offered Foundation 1 and 2, years 1 and 2 and a single mixed year 3 and 4 class. By the time of the school's second KHDA inspection in March 2019, numbers of students had grown significantly, with over 550 children and classes from FS1 to Year 6 and the addition of its on-site nursery which provides direct entry to the school. As at March 2022, student numbers had grown to 730 from 62 different nationalities; the largest nationality group remains UK passport holders.
The majority of staff are UK trained and enable RPS to offer a staff:student ratio of 1:14 - numbers that should ensure personal attention. Teachers appear happy at the school - an important factor in stability - with very low turnover at 8% in 2018-19 and no staff losses during the previous academic year and we understand that this trend has remained.
RPS offers the English National Curriculum, offering the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum to children in FS1 and FS2 - a purposeful, play-based curriculum for the youngest students.
In Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) teachers plan an enquiry-based approach to learning, building on the child-centred foundations set in the Early Years. Children are allowed to develop at their own pace through a programme of concept-based teaching (similar to the enquiry-based teaching being developed in many IB curriculum schools). As an example, children are involved in growing their own produce (fruit and vegetables) which will then be used by the cafeteria on-site for children to see what happens to the products they picked. There is also a strong reward-based approach, with an assembly held by the Principal weekly where the theme is moral-based. A house system (based around 4 famous race horses) is used and enables children to have their house points registered in full view.
Phonics and mathematics activities are provided every day and students further develop their reading skills, writing and problem-solving skills. There is a cross-curricular approach to learning where each term an overarching question is presented such as ‘Will we always need trees?’ to make links between history, geography and science. The curriculum is further supported by subject specialists in music, sports, IT and art. English and Maths is taught by class teachers every day of the week, although English skills are also developed across the curriculum. Students also study French and Arabic during core curriculum time.
In Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6) the focus is on bringing students' learning to life through cross-curricular links and by developing their understanding of the world around them. Teaching is child-centred, but designed to promote a strong sense of independence. Additional specialist teaching and learning is introduced at this stage with students having access to experiments in the science labs as well as residential overnight excursions.
Key Stage 2 students also take part in regional and international competitions in a variety of curriculum areas including the F1 in Schools programme. ICT is embedded within the curriculum, taking the form of discrete skills acquisition as well as in the application to extend and transform learning. ICT supports the aims, principles and objectives of the wider school curriculum and is applied to augment and transform classroom learning and teaching. RPS has a Bring Your Own Device programme (BYOD) that begins in Term 3 for Year 3 students. This is where children bring in an Apple iPad from home in order to increase exposure to technology resources
RPS believes that 'not only is creativity one of our core characters, it is essential to building a well-rounded individual'.
Students participate in Art (with an annual Arts Week, where students and parents create murals, portraits, sculptures), Drama and the expressive Arts. In addition to class drama, class assemblies, Key Stage productions, winter shows, and talent shows (including staff) are provided to promote creativity. All students from Foundation through to Year 6 have weekly music classes with singing, playing and composing, all in the same lesson.
In common with most schools in Dubai - particularly in light of the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic and an increasing focus from the KHDA, Well-being and mindfulness are also areas of focus for the school. A canteen which previously existed on a site that has relatively little outdoor space has been repurposed to a grassed area called The Ranch.
In addition, two well being dogs, beagles named Arthur and Lucy, owned by Vice Principal, Mr Tom Collar are popular, regular visitors to the school.
Sport and physical education (PE) are a core part of the curriculum and students are exposed to a range of team sports and individual events. Multiple games and/or PE sessions are built into the curriculum each week for all students EYFS to Year 6. These include athletics, cross-country, swimming, racket sport, aquathon, striking and fielding, dance, gymnastics, rugby, and football.
ASA After-School Activities or ASA programme is designed to allow the children to try their hand at something completely different, as well as giving them the opportunity to extend themselves in areas of the curriculum where they may have a particular passion, such as coding, chess or creative design. Paid - Martial Arts, Drama, Dance, Scouts, Swimming, Basketball, Football. Gymnastics
RPS is an inclusive school. Approximately 10% of students being provided with SEND or Gifted and Talented support. The overall level of provision and outcomes for students of Determination was rated Very Good in the most recent KHDA inspection.
Provision is available for students with English Language Learner requirements and students undergo the WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment) Online with the Head of Inclusion. This is to determine what level of English Language they are currently have and what they require to excel in the language.
Students who have been identified as Gifted and Talented are identified through teacher observation and the school assessment framework. Individual education tracking will take place with the Head of Inclusion for ensuring enriched provision. This may take the form of extended classes and/ or enrichment booklets. In most cases this will be accommodated through high quality differentiation in the classroom.
RPS makes very little noise about its facilities. We think this is probably because although the building itself is well-resourced, the overall space at ground level is somewhat restricted. Classrooms for younger students are located on the ground floor of the building and open out onto external play and activity areas. The Foundation classrooms open onto a shaded quadrangle area with plentiful play equipment.
There is also a large indoor play space designed to encourage creative and role play with a non-technical focus. This includes basic Lego and other resources. I-pads are available for use by the children .
Well-being is a focus of all Cognita schools and RPS offers a Nurture Room, prioritizing well being and mindfulness. The school has a strong healthy eating policy and this is visible in the fruit desserts and other unprocessed foods. There is also an area for students to grow their own plants.
The previous cafeteria space has been repurposed as a green area called The Ranch, and hallways now offer picnic benches and make full use of the balconies that surround the school. The spacious and well-stocked Library, Music rooms and a range of laboratories are all located on the first floor of the building.
Sports and outdoor facilities are good for a small school. These include two multi-sports indoor halls, one of which is wooden floored and also used for assemblies. Outside, there is an Astroturf play area with courts marked and an outdoor swimming pool which is heated and chilled. This is currently used by children in FS2 to Year 6. There is a large shaded playground area which is separated into different sections for the differing age groups.
With the change in ownership to Cognita, we understand that a range of discussion are taking place with regard to the facilities and layout of the school in line with a desire to increase the focus on sustainability, including the acquisition of more bike racks for families and allocated scooter parking. The school is also looking at enhancements for teacher working areas and upgrades to IT infrastructure.
What the inspectors say
Ranches Primary School experienced its first KHDA inspection in March 2018. It was one of three newly inspected schools that achieved a Good rating on first inspection - a milestone in itself, since, although Acceptable is the minimum requirement expected by the Dubai Schools Regulator, the KHDA aims for all schools to be rated Good or above.
The achievement of a Very Good rating, only one year later, clearly indicated that RPS had continued to make significant improvements. It is rare for a school to make the step up from one rating level to the next in such short order! In fact, in line with the KHDA's announcement of September 2019 that schools rated Very Good or Outstanding will no longer be inspected on annual basis, the 2018-19 report is the last to have been issued. The school will now participate in a one day review process annually and no new report will be issued unless there is a change in rating.
The KHDA inspection team stated, in terms of what the school does best, is that Ranches Primary School:
Closer review of the report shows that Students' attainment and progress in English, Maths and Science, were all rated Very Good across both the Foundation and Primary sections of the school. In the three core Arabic-based subjects taught in Primary only of Islamic Studies, Arabic as a first language and Arabic as an additional language, all criteria were rated Acceptable. This continue to need to be an area of focus for the school. Learning skills were rated Very Good across the school.
Students' personal development received an improved rating of Outstanding, whilst their Understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures were rated Good in FS and improved to Very Good in Primary. However, the rating for Social development and innovation skills were downgraded to Good, the only downward rating move in the entire report. The inspectors felt that students needed further opportunities to develop entrepreneurial and enterprise initiatives, and environmental projects, within school and the wider. community
Teaching and assessment are now rated Very Good across the school, as are the curriculum design and its implementation.
The key indicator of Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students was also found to be very effective overall, with Health and safety, including arrangements for child protection / safeguarding, rated Outstanding across the school, with Care and Support rated Very Good. The school was noted for its inclusive focus and rated Very Good in regard to the provision and outcome of students with SEND.
Three of the five criteria for Leadership and Management were upgraded with relationships with Parents and the Community now rated Outstanding, whilst the effectiveness of leadership and the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning joined the key criteria of Management, Staffing, facilities and resources with a Very Good rating. Governance retained its Good rating.
The KHDA inspection report made the following recommendations to Ranches Primary School for improvement in the coming year, noting that the school should:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
There are no plans for a Secondary school, but RPS says that its excellent links with secondary schools makes this a smooth process and parents and children are fully supported in this transition. Dubai English Speaking College, Jebel Ali School, and Dubai College are UK curriculum schools within the vicinity of RPS, whilst Fairgreen International (located next door at Sustainable City) is an IB curriculum school.
With the Cognita ownership, it may well be that the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai will eventually be offered as a direct route to Secondary for students at RPS, but this is some way off given that RGSG Dubai opened as a Primary school only in 2021.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com parent survey has received only a relatively small number of responses from parents, but those who have responded have rated the school 3.6/5 - a positivity rate of 72%. Despite some concerns about value for money where fees were concerned, almost 80% of respondents said that they would recommend RPS to other families (in line with the UAE average).
If you are a parent or teacher at Ranches Primary School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.
179 parents responded to the KHDA pre-inspection survey, and 96% expressed themselves satisfied with the quality of education provided by RPS.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com were impressed by Ranches Primary School when we visited it for the first time in its early days. Although the school has grown considerably since that time, it is clear from the feedback we have received that the small school environment that is so nurturing for younger children remains as we originally found it.
However, this does not mean that the school is not up to date in terms of its curriculum and teaching - quite the reverse in fact. For families living locally, or for those perhaps seeking a smaller, more sheltered environment for their children at the start of their full-time education, we would definitely suggest RPS for the short-list.
Fees at the Nursery, FS1 and FS2 are AED 45,000 per annum; for Years 1 – 6 AED 55,000. There is also an annual re-enrollment fee of AED 2,250 for FS students and AED 2,750 for Years 1 to 6. A sibling discount of 5% is available for the second child and third child with an increased discount of 10% for the fourth child and beyond.
Entrance test fees are AED 500 and there is a registration fee of AED 500 - both are non-refundable.
Ranches Primary 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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