You could almost hear the joy. After six years of continuous improvement, Repton Dubai finally achieved an Outstanding rating on its seventh attempt, a long time coming for this high-profile, top-tier but costly Dubai school. The school made it four years in a row in 2017/18 (the rating was retained in 2016/17, when no inspection took place) confirming excellence has now well and truly embedded itself at a school that always set its targets high.
Launched in 2007, Repton, located in Nad Al Sheba, is currently home to over 1,780 students (down 330 compared with two years), three times as many as its sister school in the UK of the same name. Its school grounds are vast, with some new parents describing it as "like walking onto a university campus".
The school takes girls and boys from three to eighteen years of age, and offers both day and boarding facilities (from Year 6). Its "Outstanding" rating makes it one of only 14 schools in the emirate to achieve the grade. Repton Dubai is also rated 'Outstanding' by British Schools Overseas (May 2015).
Repton School Dubai, follows the English National Curriculum from Foundation Stage to Year 11. Students are entered for IGCSE at the end of the secondary phase and then follow the increasingly well-regarded International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at post-16. This is unlike the UK school, which follows a GCSE route, followed by the traditional (for the United Kingdom) A' Level curriculum.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com discusses the relevant merits of each curriculum here in terms of their approach, however you can see the logic in the deviation. While A' Levels are established and recognised by universities around the world, the IB Diploma is more of an international curriculum in terms of its syllabus, and arguably, therefore, more suited to Dubai and 69 of the 70 nationalities that attend the school.
Note: The largest single nationality within the school is, as you would expect, British, however this is a school also favoured by the local community - approximately 15% students are Emirati.
One thing to look for when examining IB schools is staff resourcing. The syllabus and methodology of the IB diploma requires more staff and Repton does not disappoint. It employs 186 full-time teachers, and 54 teaching assistants making the school one of the better resourced institutions in the emirate in terms of teacher-to-student ratios - 1:10 in Repton's case.
One trick no Dubai school has yet to offer, but which a school like Repton probably has the resources, and space to do, is to offer both A' Levels and the IB Diploma programme. The choice is not about which is better, but about which suits the student in question. A' Levels allow focus, the IB allows breadth. By offering both and channeling students towards the curriculum that best fits their needs, any school that has the resources would be able to increase their results in external examinations considerably. We are aware that this debate has taken place internally at Repton in the past, but there does not appear to be any intention to travel this route at the current time. With IB Diploma results which are among the best in the UAE, there does not seem to be any particular reason to consider the A Level option.
The school has recently released its results to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com - something which we believe is a very positive step towards transparency in the UAE education scene and which has been somewhat lacking in the past. Repton does relatively well.
The full results, as issued by the school, may be found here, but 85% achieved A* to C at GCSE English and Mathematics in 2016/17, while IB performance has been improving year on year - and its 2016/17 average, 34, was on a par with the leading IB schools in Dubai. In fact, in 2017, having initially achieved an average of 34 points when results were originally published, the results of re-marks lifted the overall average score to 35 points. Its average score in 2012/13 was 30 and that 5 point increase is hefty in terms of improvement. Each point is the equivalent of 2.2% (1 point divided by 45 points (maximum points), times 100). IB results can be found here.
In 2017-18, Repton IBDP students again achieved an average of 34 points, with 40 students sitting the full IBDP and a further 7 students taking the IB Career-related programme (IBCP) with a BTEC qualification in Business Studies. The global average IBDP score fell slightly to 29.78, whilst the UAE average was 31.41.
Repton School Dubai generated significant publicity at its opening, much of that simply from the famous name of the school itself (Dubai does love a brand), combined with the city's love of the new, and the general need for good quality institutions. Repton UK enjoys a good reputation as an English public school. Academically (and it's more than just academics of course) it is ranked 97th in a league of UK public schools in terms of exam performance ('A' Level), which may not sound high, but puts it top third of a very competitive bunch.
It is perhaps unreasonable to expect Repton UAE to offer the same experience as its UK counterpart - academically or holistically. One is over 500 years old, the other just over 10. The school has had its share of teething problems as anyone who does research on the school will find out from various UAE forums. The school seems quite unlike many others in the heated response any discussion of it gets. Some actually hostile, some very passionate in its defense. To some extent, criticism has been driven by promises made prior to opening - particularly in relation to facilities and staff - which did not materialise. The Performing Arts Centre still remains "under construction" more than 10 years after the school opened.
Having said that, the school, which is often compared with Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books, does have a very fine range of facilities. The school is on a dedicated campus which it claims is the largest in the Middle East. At 1.3 million square feet it's certainly big, with expansive outdoor space. The school, which numbers 10 buildings set around a central circular outdoor space, is nothing if not impressive. Performances and fundraising activities are often held on the lawned area.
The single-storey Foundation section, though part of the Junior School, is housed separately from it and the Senior school, and offers a vast range of facilities (including a gymnasium) and resources. Each classroom opens onto an outdoor space for messy play and other creative activities. Classrooms are bright and spacious and well furnished for younger children.
The Junior School, made up of the Foundation section, together with Infant Department (Years 1 and 2), the Pre-Prep (years 3 and 4) and the Prep School (years 5 and 6) is located to the left of the campus. It is built over two floors in a C- shape with wide corridors offering plenty of space for break-out areas and even performances. Specialist labs, art rooms, technology spaces and a two-storey library are included in the imaginative design. The school states that English, Maths, Science and Computing lie at the heart of the Junior School curriculum.
To the right of the Junior School is the two floor refectory, with formal eating areas supervised by staff for younger students, and a more grown up cafeteria style space for older students and staff on the upper floor. Kitchens on site, mean that food is largely prepared at the school.
Behind this facility lies the Sports area, with two indoor pools, gymnasia and an enormous playing field where students have access to a full-size grass Rugby pitch among other facilities. Tucked away to the left of these facilities are the two Boarding houses. Although the school was designed with Boarding options in mind, this appears to have been relatively limited in its success. One of these buildings has now been turned over to a Music Centre as a (hopefully) temporary measure until the Performing Arts Centre finally opens its doors.
This is an issue that has come back to bite the school in its latest KHDA inspection report (details below), where the rating for the relationship between the leadership of the school, parents and the community has fallen from Outstanding to Very good, with inspectors commenting "However, leaders have been slow to keep parents up-to-date with their efforts to complete the performing arts centre."
The Senior School is spread across three buildings to the right of the main circle, each offering classrooms, together with all of the facilities and resources required to enable the school to offer "a combined British independent school curriculum and one common to international schools around the globe. This curriculum incorporates elements of the English National Curriculum, but also allows highly skilled teachers to develop an appropriate curriculum for an independent school in an international environment." The course of study through the school is designed to develop pupils as independent and lifelong learners as well to encourage "a spirit of intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge both in and out of the classroom."
As would be expected, Repton aims to deliver a holistic approach to education, ensuring that students' focus is not solely on the academic - although this is clearly a key part. The school has too many after school clubs to actually list - but you can find the details here.
What the inspectors say
According to the KHDA, attainment and progress, curriculum and quality of teaching, learning and assessment are 'Outstanding' at Foundation Stage (noted in 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 reports). In the 2017-18 report, (there was no inspection in 2016-17 due to Repton's participation in the KHDA's Abundance Mentoring project), Students' achievement across English, attainment in Mathematics and Science across all sections were rated Outstanding almost across the board. In particular, attainment and progress in Sixth Form English, attainment in Mathematics, and progress in Science have all been rated as Outstanding for the first time. The only measure not rated at this level was Science attainment which is rated Very Good. Learning skills across the entire school were also found to be Outstanding.
The position in relation to Islamic Education and Arabic is rather more mixed. Progress in Islamic Education is now rated Good across all sections of the school (a drop from Very Good in Primary and Secondary school), whilst Arabic (both as a first and second language) is largely rated Acceptable. The rating has dropped to Weak in the Secondary school for native speakers, which must be a concern for the school, given the emphasis placed by the KHDA on improving standards for Emirati and other native-Arabic speaking students.
Students' personal and social skills and their innovation skills were found to be Outstanding with two exceptions among the nine criteria. Similarly, the ratings for Teaching and Assessment are overwhelmingly Outstanding, as are all of the ratings for Curriculum. The protection, care, guidance and support of students reflect a similar outcome. Provision and outcomes for Students of Determination who require additional SEND support was rated Very Good. Inspectors noted that "School leaders promote an inclusive ethos. The experienced team develop effective policies, which are consistently applied across the school. This has a positive impact on the provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)."
High praise is retained for the Leadership and Management of the school with inspectors stating that "The leadership team plays a pivotal role in the drive to create a centre of excellence. The principal, very ably supported by senor leaders, has the confidence of students, staff and parents. Together they sustain and enhance a culture of inclusion and innovation. A strong sense of purpose pervades the school. This contributes significantly to students’ achievement and personal development."
Recommendations for improvement focus on the need for Repton to:
Accelerate student’s progress in Arabic by:
[and] Rigorously pursue the completion of the Performing Art Centre and keep parents informed of progress towards this.
97% of the 311 parents who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey are happy with the quality of education provided by the school. Indeed, according to the KHDA "Parents are very impressed with the levels of teaching and learning and the level of support that is provided to their children. Parents are extremely happy with the positive and effective role played by the school leadership team at all levels." In a similar positive vein, the vast majority of the 160 students who participated "express their love for the school and their adherence to its principles and values. They are fully satisfied with the levels of education offered by the school and the systematic activities."
Fees at the school currently range from AED 52,863 for FS1 to AED 95,000 for Year 13. This follows the introduction of some hefty discounts, ranging between 10% in the Nursery/Reception classes up to a whopping 15% for Years 12 and 13. On launch, Repton Dubai was one of the two most expensive schools in the UAE (with GEMS World Academy), another reason behind the heated response from critics. Its fees still clearly exclude many potential students, whose parents may have wanted them to attend. It also sharpens the senses when it comes to determining 'value' - and certainly puts the performance and facilities Repton offers under the microscope.
Fees for boarders are clearly higher than the tuition fees we have mentioned. For boarding options, fees range from AED 136,221 at Year 6, to AED 161,000 at Year 13. (Note, the cost of boarding in the United Kingdom is presently the equivalent of AED 175,000 annually (£9,760 per term) - it does not seem to matter the age range.) Boarding take up has mainly been from locally-based or GCC boys on a weekly basis. Repton Dubai is still trying to develop interest in this very British offering.
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Everyone does seem to have a very polar opinions about Repton. My personal (subjective) impression was very positive , the children all seem very happy and Repton's been posting some amazing accomplishments recently on Facebook. Just go visit the school and decide for yourself is what I've learned.
The majority of children are very happy at Repton. It is academically focused and as time moves on it, I believe it will become very selective indeed.
From my perspective, Repton lacks a holistic approach in the sense of looking to enable all children to succeed in something. The average child coming from a small school to a significantly larger school, may fade into the background and face a number of other previously unidentified challenges. The result is, unintentional marginalisation and self esteem issues.
The schools provision is for children who just get on with it. Pop your little sausage in to the sausage machine and as long as there are no hiccups along the way, you will get a well formed sausage popping out at the other end. There is no doubt, this school will be the perfect for school for little Tommy.
It is large and culturally very diverse - which is not a bad thing - if your child can cope with it. There is no predominant nationality. It truly is a real melting pot of children with culturally diverse backgrounds which makes for an interesting dynamic.
My suggestion would be (excuse me for stating the obvious but.....) if you have a child who has been at a smaller school and was doing well, scrutinise the school you are choosing in the UAE very carefully. Take a good look around and don't choose a school in haste. It really isn't just about academics - but that is from my view of my world.
Overall, I can say that the majority of the teaching and pastoral care has been excellent. The current Headmaster of the Junior school has been amazing, is very proactive and supportive, offering a very personalised approach to dealing with day to day issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
I would be interested to know if any British parents found that their child's accent changed whilst in this school. Whilst British form a significant group at the school, there are over 70 nationalities - which is great for diversity, but does that mean British kids end up losing their native accent?
My child still has a very British accent.
Dear UK parent, I cannot speak in general terms, but as the parent of 3 children, all of whom attended international schools in Dubai, I can say that their accents became perhaps less regionally identifiable than when they arrived in Dubai, but they are still clearly British. In my experience, children need to be immersed in a different language environment with one strong focus for there to be an impact. My older children have both studies in Australia and have picked up the local pronunciation of certain words, but again, their accents are still identifiably British.
Can't say I would recommend the school from personal experience. The senior school cannot be described as inclusive if you are considering this school for a child with any kind of disability. Despite suggesting testing is part of the selection process for entry into the senior school, I discovered by accident that I was actually 'blocked' from re registering my child for entry into the senior school from the junior school. The poor admissions staff member was really embarrassed having to explain why.
My child is on the mild end of the autism spectrum (you would hardly know apart from some behavioural blips that we are working on). Whilst the learning support staff has been excellent, the antics of the senior management team are questionable. This 'sifting' is tantamount to a form of ethnic cleansing - it would appear that children who are academically capable (have the proof in the form of last terms school report) but have a disability, are deselected from the system.
Shocking considering the school carries the name of a reputable school in the UK.
The problem is, I think parents would feel better if these extra costs were being reinvested back into the school, as opposed to the pockets of certain individuals (ie, non-profit vs. profit). They say you can't put a price on good education? Apparently in the UAE, you can. I do wonder how much longer the market can support this system...there are so many ultra-expensive schools in Dubai and the UAE, I do wonder how all those people are able to afford it (and these are schools with large student bodies).
For all the hype and facilities this school supposedly has going for it, you'd expect a better rating than 'Good'. But then, with the name attached to this school, would it even matter?
Repton have increased their fees by 9% from 2011/2012 to 2012/2013 school years. Then they increased it by a further 2.4% from 2012/2013 to 2013/2014 school years. That's 11.4% in just 2 years. When I spoke to the KHDA and asked why, given the fact that all fees were supposed to be frozen, they said it was due to new classrooms built and additional Islamic study rooms.
I think this is disgraceful given Repton only ever achieved a "Good" rating. Charging premium rates for only a "good" educational rating is outrageous. I'm really happy that I moved my kids to an "Outstanding" school for a 20% drop in fees and 100% increase in quality.
I agree with you. We are in a very similar situation, may I ask you where did you move your children and are you still happy with the new school as all school in Dubai have some issues, thanks, Ella
Hi John, the KHDA made clear that schools that were investing would be able to make increases to school fees - and Repton has been. (It already has a pretty impressive (and expensive) campus - I am sure you would agree with that). It's a balance, isn't it... We as parents want schools to invest in facilities, employ the best teachers, have incentives for staff so there is less churn - but we also want school fees to remain static. That is a difficult trick for any business to pull off...
And, whether we like it or not, education in the UAE IS a business. According to information we have been given it takes schools up to 12 years to pay off original capital costs. Schools are no longer gifted land as they once were, or helped by generous individuals as they once were. It's a private sector play.
Well done for getting your child into an Outstanding school. Let's hope there are more of them come April and the latest KHDA reports...