Regent International School is a long established private school, which having originally offered both Primary and Secondary secondary phases, became Primary only and is now in the process of returning to its original "all through" school roots.
The Story so Far
Regent International School (RIS) was established by Fortes Education in 1993 as a small building in Jumeirah, before relocating to a newer, modern site in The Greens as a through-school, in 2005. Fortes also owns the Jumeirah International Nursery schools and, its newest addition, Sunmarke School, located close by in Jumeirah Village Triangle, to which students from Year 7 have priority.
With the opening of Sunmarke School, RIS closed the secondary phase in 2016, returning the school to FS- Primary only. In 2019, the school announced that it would re-instating its Secondary section from September 2020.
Commenting at that time on the planned return to 'all through' school operations, Steve Dobson, Head of Regent's Secondary Department had this to say:
“Secondary students not only benefit from Regent’s outstanding Positive Education programme that develops wellbeing, resilience and character strengths, but also will be given unique opportunities to apply their imagination, collaborate and innovate improving their academic as well as leadership and teamwork skills".
We can see the appeal of this to parents from a practical perspective, with no need to search for a Secondary school option for Year 7 onwards. We can also understand the motivation for Fortes Education in enabling this - especially if there are concerns about Sunmarke being able to cope with the capacity from Regent, or the risk of losing families altogether, if they choose to look outside the Fortes Group for a Secondary option. However, we would question the suitability of the current Regent buildings and site for the re-introduction of Secondary there.
In November 2020, Fortes Education announced, that with the growth of the school, changes at the Senior Management level would be put in place in January 2021. Whilst current acting Principal, David Williams, will take over the role of Head of Primary, Mr. Jason King has been appointed as he new Principal effective January 2021.
Mr. King was most recently was Head of Secondary at Sunmarke, Regent’s affiliate, where, according to Fortes, he took the school to “Outstanding” in the recent BSO inspection (British School Overseas) and “Very Good” in the KHDA inspection. He has led the Secondary phase for the past three years.
Prior to joining Sunmarke, Mr. King was Principal at GEMS Cambridge International School in Abu Dhabi, and prior to that, Deputy Director of Education for GEMS Education in India. He has more than 25 years of educational leadership experience, 20 of those at senior leadership levels, in multicultural settings across the U.K., U.S.A., Canada, Jordan, Qatar, South Africa, Singapore and India. Mr.King has a Master’s in Education from Bath University in the U.K., and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) and a PGCE in Physical Education & Special Educational Needs from the University of Brighton.
It is clear that Fortes are keen to ensure that they have a 'heavy hitter' at Regent, who has the experience to raise standards and set Regent on the path achieved by the much newer, larger (and it has to be said, more modern and high-resourced) Sunmarke success story.
With the change to Primary only, student numbers initially fell from around 1,100 to 950, but have seen growth again to reach just over 1,000 at the time of the 2018-19 KHDA inspection. Student nationalities are predominantly from the UK or India, with a significant influx of children from South Korea recently. Altogether, children from over 80 nationalities attend the school.
Student numbers are relatively balanced across Foundation and Key Stage 1, with 5 classes and 107 students in FS1, a higher number of 8 classes and 186 children in FS2 (providing an option for children to start school at 4+ where parents prefer this), 9 classes in Year 1, and 8 in Year 2 . Average class sizes in Foundation are 22-23, whilst the current average in Years 1 and 2 is a low 17. Years 3 and 4 have 6 and 5 classes respectively, with average class sizes of 21. Years 5 and 6 are smaller in number with a total of 7 classes and 70 students per year group. RIS says that average class sizes are 22 in FS1, 24 in FS2 and Year 1, and 26 from Years 2 to 6. Clearly whilst the school is still growing and adding numbers, some classes have rather lower average students numbers - which can only be a good thing.
A relatively small number of students had been identified with SEND requirements in 2018-19 (some 50 in total). However, RIS states that it is "an inclusive, non-judgmental school, which exercises a positive admissions policy and considers every application on an individual basis. Our role in the school is to determine if and how we can best meet the needs of a wide variety of learners, so that all students can access an appropriate, meaningful, and suitably-challenging education".
Also in line with its change from an all-through school to Primary only, staff numbers have dropped significantly from well over 120 to approximately 70. The school also has some 20 teaching assistants. Teaching staff are well qualified, from the UK, and hold at least a Bachelor of Education or a Bachelor of Arts and recognised teaching qualification (PGCE or QTS). The teacher to student ratio is 1:14, which should enable a good degree of individual support and adaptation of the curriculum to individual student ability. The school employs specialist teachers for Swimming, P.E, Music and Arabic in FS, supplemented in Years 1 and 2 with specialists in Islamic Studies, and in Years 3-6 by specialists in Computing and French.
Historically, RIS had a tendency towards a high teacher turnover rate, 32 percent in 2015-16, but this situation appeared to have improved in the following academic year with the number reducing to 11%. However, recent information suggests that the turnover of staff in 2017-18 increased to 28% - once again considerably above the 20-22% average for international schools in the UAE and always a cause for concern with the need to integrate such high staff numbers each academic year. Having said this, some 17 of the current staff have been at the school for more than three years.
What about the curriculum?
RIS follows the National Curriculum of England with children in the Foundation Stage following the Early Years Foundation Stage programme. "Learning through Play” is well integrated across the curriculum and teaching methodology in indoor and outdoor activities. RIS has specialist teachers for Physical Education, Music and Second Languages such as Arabic as well as Spanish, Chinese, and Russian, who work alongside the class teacher to enrich each child’s learning experience. The Foundation Stage (FS1 and FS2) focuses on seven areas of learning and development: Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language, Physical Development, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World, and Expressive Arts and Design.
Children in Years 1 through 6, follow the Key Stage 1 and 2 frameworks, which include subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, Art, Computing, Design and Technology, Geography, History, Languages, Music and PE. This time-tested, broad and balanced curriculum is underpinned by a strong research-driven curriculum in Mathematics and English, and provides students with the depth and breadth to obtain a strong educational foundation.
According to the school the focus of the curriculum is to "equip our pupils for their future lives. We explicitly develop higher order thinking. The pupils are taught the principles of Bloom’s taxonomy, which we personalise in the context of our teaching and learning. Our pupils understand the increasing complexity of thinking that leads systematically to creativity and innovation. Increasingly, as pupils move through school, they independently identify the stages of thinking and self-direct their own pathway of thinking through their activities and tasks. Aligned with this is the development of exploratory talk and philosophy. Pupils are taught to communicate using the skills of creativity, critical thinking, care and collaboration; this develops pupil’s abilities to problem solve and work together in a productive manner and without conflict. These skills of meta-cognition and social interaction are purposefully integrated into our Curriculum meaning that pupils achieve exceptionally well".
RIS has a focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) having embedded the use of technology by implementing a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) programme. According to RIS, BYOD supports "teaching and learning methods, establishing greater interactivity, connectivity, collaboration, discovery and processing of information, as well as access to information, and creative thinking and innovation".
In addition to the BYOD programme, students have access to computers in every class; interactive whiteboards; various educational and multimedia software; digital subscriptions, class sets and banks of iPads and tablets, a digital library with thousands of e-books, apps, software, hardware kits and educational tools; printers, scanners, digital and video cameras; and high speed Internet.
Away from the core academic curriculum, RIS has a particular focus on a philosophy of Positive Education which is said to promote all-round spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of children, and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.
The school's website explains that "Positive Education (PosEd) brings together the science of Positive Psychology with best teaching practices to enable individuals, schools and communities to flourish. PosEd drives a person to learn more effectively, and be more resilient, creative, productive, successful and healthy. Research has proven that positive emotions, engagement, purpose, relationships, accomplishments and health are the core building materials for human wellbeing".
RIS is part of the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) that is promoting a paradigm shift in global education by connecting schools, governments and policy makers to the best educational resources to raise the awareness of interconnected nature between a child’s "wellbeing" and "achievement". As part of the Positive Education philosophy, the school has developed a high-impact, holistic education programme called MultiSmart Learning™ that is designed to nurture and unlock multiple pathways to learning. According to the school, students are given a myriad of opportunities in and out of the classroom, through academic study and extra-curricular activity and through personalised instruction and group learning, "to develop multi-disciplinary thinking and a robust growth mindset for learning".
The school offers a wide range of Extra-curricular activities, making use of its sports facilities and classroom space to offer both teacher-led and outsourced programmes including Basketball, Cheerleading, Gymnastics, Football, Martial Arts, Tennis and Swimming. In addition, ECA's such as Ballet, KidzArt, Mad Science, Ace Maths, Robotics, 3D printing, Maker Club, Coding and App Development are offered for an additional fee. Lessons in Mandarin and Russian (native and non-native) are also available.
What about facilities?
There is no question that RIS is a very large school, spread over several floors, with some sports facilities on the roof top. This has been driven by the fact that the overall plot on which the school is based, is somewhat limited. Originally, there was a large outdoor sports field to the rear of the school, but this was subsequently reclaimed by the developer of the Greens. RIS makes good use of the space that is available, however, and its former Secondary school facilities are an added bonus for primary students.
Facilities include 75 activity rooms and an Assembly Hall, specialist laboratories for Science, Digital Technologies (Coding, Programming & Robotics) and Food Technology. a Studio for Art, Dance and Movement, Music, Drama and Fine Arts, an EYFS Library and Primary Library, two Multi-Purpose Sports and Performances Halls, a Semi-olympic Pool and Learner’s Pool, an outdoor astro-turf playing field, an outdoor paved playing field, a roof sports deck with 4 multi-courts and Multiple outdoor Play Zones.
To find out more about our visit to RIS, jump to WSA's Regent Experience
For the 2019-20 academic year, the school has some significant improvements planned to the facilities. These include a major refurbishment of the entire Administration Block that includes the front reception, parents’ lounge, cafe, bursar and transport office, conference rooms, SLT offices, parents’ office, admissions office, assessment rooms, meeting rooms, uniform office, admin office and staff pantry.
There will be enhancements to the Performing Arts facilities, including a revamp and upgrade the Multi-purpose Hall (MPH1) on the ground floor which includes investment in audio and visual equipment for drama and performing arts; additional headphone mics; stage lighting; sound system and speakers; a projector screen with hi-tech software; specialised acoustic wall panels, and a specialised acoustic false ceiling. There will be an upgrade of the play deck on the roof of the school with improved fencing as well as the development of an extra performance and meeting space.
In addition, the outdoor pitch will be enhanced with additional floodlights and new external red rubber flooring.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that these developments are underway.
What the Inspectors Say
After 8 years rated Good by the KHDA (the Dubai education regulator's third highest grade), Regent International School finally broke through the barrier to achieve a Very Good rating in 2018-19. The improvement in rating to Very Good is one that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor,com had forecast in our last review, noting that we "would maintain that Regent International School is rather more than a Good school." We are, therefore, delighted to see this reflected in the overall rating of the school in 2018-19.
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 DSIB inspection team's report notes that the strengths of RIS are:
The inspection report makes interesting reading. Usually, in our experience, improvements in the overall rating of a school are largely dependent on the three clearly inter-related key performance standards of Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum.
However, in Regent's case, only one individual measure in Students' Achievement has improved compared with a year ago, (that of Students' Learning Skills in the Primary section), and two have actually been downgraded (progress in Islamic education in Primary from Good to Acceptable and attainment in Primary English from Very Good to Good, due to the large number of students with EAL requirements). All other measures for English, Maths and Science in the Early Years have retained their previous rating of Outstanding, and in the Primary section, Very Good. Measures for Islamic education and Arabic as both a first and second language are rated Acceptable.
Teaching and assessment has seen no change in the performance measures which are also Outstanding in the Foundation Stage and Very Good in the Primary. The report commentary does also note that there has been an improvement specifically in assessment processes in Arabic and Islamic education. There has been an improvement in the Curriculum Design and Implementation in the Primary section - now rated Outstanding in line with the Early Years. Significant improvements in the identification and assessment of Students of Determination is directly linked to support and outcomes - and rated Very Good.
And so the report continues! There has been no change in the ratings for Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills. Care and Support in the Primary section, as part of the key performance measure for the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students has improved to Outstanding - again in line with the Early Years section of the school.
Whilst the effectiveness of leadership, and the relationship with parents and the community, and Management, staffing, facilities and resources have retained the Very Good rating in this inspection, the rating for the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning has finally also achieved the Very Good rating. However, the rating for Governance has remained Good.
In terms of governance, the report notes in its summary that "Governors have begun to attend to urgent investment issues to improve achievement in Arabic and Islamic education." Our emphasis...the issue of Arabic and Islamic education (including lack of permanent Heads for these subjects) has been an ongoing feature of the improvement directives from the DSIB to RIS in recent years. This report does also note that teaching and assessment are improving in Arabic and Islamic education and that "governors understand the need for continued investment to sustain recent progress." However, this was still not sufficient to enable governance to achieve an improvement in rating.
It seems that no school in Dubai can afford to under-estimate the importance given to the core Arabic subjects, irrespective of how well other aspects of the school's performance are viewed, especially if no significant improvements have been seen.
The key recommendations for improvement for RIS from the inspection team are to:
No doubt the Senior Leadership and Governors of Regent International School will have been delighted that the strengths of the school have been fully acknowledged through the improvement of the overall rating to Very Good, but they will also recognise that continued visible and measurable effort is required if they wish to progress and achieve the final goal of Outstanding.
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do to be able to see all of the very many positive aspects of RIS - you may find it here.
What do Parents and Students Say?
Some 165 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey and 96% professed themselves happy with the quality of education of the school. Positive views were expressed about supportive teachers, proactive school leaders and a conducive learning environment. A minority expressed concerns about lack of communication, high teacher turnover, expensive fees, insufficient engagement with stakeholders and the poor quality of Arabic and Islamic education. However, inspection findings show a very positive parent-school partnership.
Some 54 students from Year 6 took part in the KHDA's student well-being census. They were overwhelmingly positive and happy about being at the school, demonstrating optimism and satisfaction with their school life. They expressed a sense of belonging, valued positive relationships with adults and trusted their teachers.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Regent International School, please share your experience with other readers by completing our Survey here.
Parents who have responded to our on-going School Survey have expressed similarly positive sentiments, and we have been sent particularly strong feedback from parents with children in the Foundation Stage. 77% of respondents would recommend the school to other parents, and whilst only 49% agreed that school fees represent value for money, a further 40% partially agreed.
What is the cost?
Fees start at AED 45,373 for FS1 up to AED 52,933 for Year 6. The school has informed Whichschooladvisor.com that the new secondary phase fees will range from AED 55,900 for Year 7 to AED 64,900 for Year 13.
Regent 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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