SMM High School (formerly St. Mary's Catholic High School Muhaisnah) opened in September 2015 and was originally the second branch of St. Mary's Catholic School in Dubai from which it now has independent status. It is part of the St. Mary’s Group of Schools which operate in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah.
SMM High School originally opened as St. Mary's Catholic High School Muhaisnah in 2015 and was the second branch of the St. Mary's group in the Emirate of Dubai. Its change from a branch of the original Dubai school to an independent member of the St. Mary's Group occasioned the recent change of name. Under the leadership of Apostolic Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church of Arabia, the St. Mary's Group operates six schools throughout the UAE, including those in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Ras Al Khaimah and Fujeirah,
The Muhaisnah school is operated using both secular and non-secular staff. The Principal, Jaime Roth, has overall responsibility for the school, supported by a directress, Sr. Teresita Bayona, who has responsibility for day-to-day non-academic operations and HR.
Currently the school is operating from FS1 to Year 11, with the second cohort of IGCSE students having just completed their final exams. Following a KHDA rated Good inspection rating in the 2022-23 academic year, the school has received approval to open Year 12 and is in the planning stages of introducing the first year of A levels in 2024-2025.
Student numbers have grown rapidly and have settled around to 1,100, made up predominantly of Philippino and Indian students. The majority of the teachers and teaching assistants are from the Philippines, followed closely by teachers from India. A teacher:student ratio of 1:17 is on the higher side - reflective of larger class sizes more commonly found in affordable schools. Staff turnover rate of 17% is on the lower side (the UAE average is between 20-22%).
FS students follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum (which is part of the statutory National Curriculum of England for the children of this age for foundation years), the Primary and Secondary School curricula.
The school is organised between Foundation Stage for children aged 3 to 5 years (FS1 and FS2), Primary School for those aged 6-11 years (Year 1 to Year 6), Secondary for students from Years 7 to 11, extending to Year 12&13 over the next two years.
The Key Stage 1 curriculum for students in Years 1 and 2 is organised following a homeroom-based teaching model, with English, Mathematics, Science, ICT, History, Art, PE and UAE Social Studies taught by the form teacher. Arabic Language, and Islamic Education (for Muslim students, with Values Education or Citizenship for non-Muslims) are taught by specialist teachers.
In Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6), students continue to study the subjects outlined in Key Stage 1, augmented by French and swimming on a rotation with PE. From Year 3 onwards, all subjects are taught by subject specialists.
In Lower Secondary, (Years 7 and 8) students are offered a broad range of subjects including Arabic Language, Islamic Education, UAE Social Studies, English – Language and literature, Mathematics, Science – Chemistry, Biology and Physics, History, Art, Computing, French Music, Physical Education and Swimming, and Personal, Social and Health Education.
In Year 9, alongside Arabic, Islamic Studies, UAE Social Studies, Music and PE, students begin studying for their chosen IGCSE subjects. This innovative approach allows students to begin their IGCSE focus earlier than normal. It not only allows focused study over a longer time period but supports preparedness for external examinations and students’ wellbeing, during what can be a very stressful period of their schooling.
In 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, students in Years 10 and 11 studied for IGCSEs following courses, usually in 7-8 subjects, ranging from English language, English literature, Mathematics, Arabic, Chemistry, Physics, Biology to History, Business Studies, ICT, Art & Design, Religious Studies and Citizenship. The same IGCSE subjects offerings are in 2023-24 continuing with the addition of accounting.
The 2024-2025 academic year will see the introduction of A levels at the school. Students in Years 12 and 13 will be offered a range of A Level subjects, including English Literature, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, Psychology. The school is also considering the addition of BTEC courses, as an additional pathway for students who may not wish to follow the A Level route.
SMM High School has shared with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com details of the Attainment in External benchmark assessments in Reading, English, Maths and Science which are reported by the school as Very Good to Outstanding across both Primary and Secondary. Arabic as a first language attainment is strong, but Arabic as a second language attainment is low and would remain a concern for the school.
Scroll across the page to see results for each year group.
The final line of each section is the rating based on the KHDA inspection standards as follows:
GL New Group Reading test
GL Progress Test English June 2023
GL Progress Test Science June 2023
In the first two years of IGCSE results, SMM informed us that the student pass rate (9-4/ A*-C) was 95% in June 2022 and 86% in June 2023, with almost all students achieving at least 5 IGCSE passes. The lower pass rated in 2023 was to be expected as a result of grade boundaries used by examiners being returned to 2019 pre-Covid levels.
In common with all schools in Dubai, the then St. Mary's Muhaisnah participated in its first KHDA inspection in its third year of operation when it was rated Acceptable. In the most recent inspection, March 2023, SMM High School was rated as Good; this was the first time the school had achieved a Good rating. In seven school months since the previous May 2022 inspection the school improved in 25 categories.
The quality of Teaching and Assessment is now rated as Good across Primary and Secondary, with FS rated as acceptable. Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills remain a relative strength, as does the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students - both rated Good, with some improvements to Very Good. Leadership and Management (viewed by the KHDA as fundamental to school improvement) has improved since the previous inspection and is now rated as Good across all aspects.
The DSIB inspection team identified the best features of the school as:
In terms of recommendations for improvement, the inspectors determined that SMM should:
Some weakness in teaching in EYFS, Inclusion / curriculum adaptation, and Islamic & Arabic teaching and learning remain areas of development, having figured in the inspection recommendations.
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 and the requirements for improvement - you will find it here.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received insufficient feedback from parents to our school survey to be able to comment on parents' views of the school. The small number who have commented have given the school a rating of 3/5 - a positivity rating of 60%.
If you are a parent, teacher or older student at SMM High School, please share your opinions and experience with other potential members of your community and complete our Survey here.
The St. Mary's Catholic schools around the Emirates appeal to a specific group of parents, mainly Indian or Philippino Catholic families who want their children to have a traditional education. For these families, it is the community of which they and their children are part, as much as the curriculum and teaching that matters. There is a significant and growing number of Muslim students in the school. This is a reflection of the popularity of school for its educational programme, its ‘feel’ and as good value for money.
Fees start at AED 11,900 for FS1 rising to AED 18,500 for Year 11. Books, uniforms and transport are additional.
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