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.
From very small beginnings, Ranches Primary School has achieved a Very Good rating, on only its second inspection, in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. This is a real achievement, and evidence of the ambitious plans that the leadership has for the school. 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...
Ranches Primary School was something of a surprise opening in September 2015. Located at the Ranches 2 (Casa) area, many families will be 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.
Q&A - For the official WSA Q and A with Ranches Primary, go here.
The involvement of Emaar at Board level would seem to indicate a return to the Education business which they withdrew from when they outsourced the management of Emaar Education to the Innoventures Group some years ago. Between them IMV and Emaar have total responsibility for the school.
The relatively late in the year entry into the market, just prior to the summer holiday period, meant that the Ranches Primary School – located in a purpose-built, large (but somewhat uninspiring) structure, opened with much smaller numbers of children than would have been originally foreseen. The school opened with approx. 60 children which offered Foundation 1 and 2, years 1 and 2 and a single mixed year 3 and 4 class. Now in its third year of operation, numbers of students at this UK curriculum school have grown significantly, with over 400 children and classes from FS1 to Year 6. There is also a nursery located on-site. All staff are UK trained and the 37 teachers and 21 teaching assistants enable RPS to offer a staff:student ratio of 1:11 - numbers that ensure personal attention. Teachers appear happy at the school - an important factor in stability - there were no staff losses during the last academic year.
The leadership of the school is keen to encourage a holistic approach to education for each child. 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.
The school has an inclusive ethos with over 10% of students being provided with SEND or Gifted and Talented support.
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.
What the inspectors say
The KHDA inspection team praised the following strengths in relation to Ranches Primary School: School leaders’ clarity of vision and good capacity for improvement, together with, the shared commitment to inclusion of staff, students, parents and governors; Children’s progress in the Foundation Stage, and students’ progress in, and use of English across the curriculum; Students’ personal and social development, their well-developed learning skills, and their contribution to the school community; The quality of the curriculum design and the innovative approaches to teaching and learning, including the very effective use of learning technologies; [and] the very good facilities and resources, and the attention given to students’ safety, protection, health and well-being.
Closer review of the report shows that Students' attainment in English, Maths and Science, were rated Good across both the Foundation and Primary sections of the school. Progress was rated Very Good for all three subjects in the Foundation section and Good in the Primary 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 will need to be an area of focus for the school if it is to improve its rating from Good in the next inspection round. Learning skills were rated Very Good across the school.
The report notes that " Foundation Stage children make very good progress and attain levels that are above expectations for their age. Primary students make very good progress in English and apply their language skills across the curriculum. Achievement in mathematics and science is good. Students have very well developed learning and innovation skills."
Students' personal and social development were again rated Very Good across the school, whilst their Understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures was rated Good. The inspectors noted that "Students' personal and social skills are very well developed. They are courteous,respectful and very well-behaved. Their attendance is good. Students regularly participate in activities to stay healthy, and enjoy being involved in community projects. They care for the environment very well".
Inspectors found that "Teaching is strongest in the Foundation Stage and in English. Most teachers know their students' strengths and weaknesses. They make very effective use of assessment information to plan lessons that meet the needs of most students." Assessment methods were found to be Very Good across the school, as was teaching for effective learning in the Foundation Stage. It was found to be weaker in the Primary School, but none-the-less rated Good.
Similarly, the curriculum design and its adaptation were found to be Very Good in Foundation, although the quality of adaptation was rated Good in the Primary School. Again, inspectors commented that "The Foundation Stage curriculum is matched to the children's stage of development. The primary curriculum provides an appropriate balance for the development of knowledge, skills and understanding in most subjects. It is adapted effectively to meet the needs of most groups of students." However, inspectors noted that "it is not sufficiently modified to meet the needs of all students with SEND and for some higher-ability students." In addition, inspectors found that "Although the curriculum is designed well, it does not sufficiently promote students’ knowledge and understanding of the heritage, culture and values that underpin life in the UAE." On a positive note, they also found that Arabic is taught in the Foundation Stage for three 30-minute sessions, where children
learn letters, sounds and some common phrases.
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 Good in regard to the provision and outcome of students with SEND. Inspectors found "A well-qualified and experienced leader [who] provides a clear vision for the development of inclusive provision. The school is resourced well with very good facilities and access arrangements. The specialist team works very effectively with students and provides guidance and support to classroom teachers."
Leadership and Management were rated Very Good for their relationships with Parents and the Community and for the Management, Staffing, facilities and resources. The report commented that "Parents speak very highly of the school. Those who are members of the advisory board are very well informed of the school's priorities... Links with the local and wider communities and with other schools, are increasing and have a very positive impact on students' personal and social development." In addition, " Time is used efficiently to maximise opportunities for learning. Teachers are suitably qualified and experienced ...staffing levels are generous. The premises and resources are of the highest quality. Learning areas and corridors are bright and spacious. Displays celebrate, as well as support students’ learning." The effectiveness of leadership and the school's self-evaluation were rated Good.
The KHDA inspection report made the following recommendations to Ranches Primary School for improvement in the coming year, noting that the school should:
Overall, Ranches Primary School can be satisfied with its first inspection report and with continued focus on those areas identified by the Inspection team, the school will no doubt move further ahead in the inspection ratings.
All classrooms 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. Unusually for a Primary School, there is a STEM room where staff aim to address the lack of graduates in Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology through engaging children in these fields at an early age.
All activities are floor-based with no chairs in the room to allow children to move around and use diverse resources easily. In contrast to this “tech-enabled” environment of the STEM room, 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, but may only be used following direct approval from the Principal to ensure there is a specific learning purpose.
Other facilities include a canteen where staff and children eat together and where a range of prepared food is available. The school has a strong healthy eating policy and this is visible in the fruit desserts and other unprocessed foods. FS1 children tend to bring packed lunches. 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 the current small school. These include 2 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 years 1 to 4, but swimming lessons will be introduced to FS2 children in the third term. There is a large shaded playground area which is separated into different sections for the differing age groups. Large outdoor play resources are on order. It will be interesting to see whether the developer will make more external space available as the school grows, particularly for ball sports for older children.
The leadership of the school is keen to encourage a holistic approach to education for each child. 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 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.
Ranches Primary School is becoming more established each week. Additional resources are being delivered and children are clearly happy and the centre of attention within their small class groups. For families relocating during the school year and moving within the immediate geographical area, the school offers a very pleasant and friendly option, where children will inevitably settle in quickly. The staff are able to support children with English Additional Language needs due to the small class sizes.
There are currently no plans for a Secondary school, but this may change if Emaar feels that its return to Education is a good decision. Alternatives such as JESS Arabian Ranches, the Jebel Ali School (moving across the road to Akoya in 2016) and several other schools close-by including Nord Anglia, Safa Community School and GEMS Metropole among others, mean that there will be nearby options available.
Fees at FS1 and FS2 are AED 45,000 per annum (in 2 payments); Year 1 – 6 AED 55,000 + AED 5,000 for SEN support which is a requirement if a child is identified with SEN.
Entrance test fees are AED 500 and there is a registration fee of AED 500.
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