St. Mary's Catholic High School Muhaisnah opened in September 2015 and is the second branch of St. Mary's Catholic School in Dubai and part of St. Mary’s Group of Schools which operates schools in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, and Sharjah.
St. Mary's School Muhaisnah has been rated Acceptable for the second time in the KHDA's 2018-19 inspection round. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
The story so far...
St. Mary's Catholic High School Muhaisnah follows 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, and, eventually, will offer A Levels. As the school notes on its website, it "will offer the following subjects at A Level: Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, Psychology and English."
Starting in Primary, the school also offers Bible study which is offered at the same time as Islamic Studies for Muslim children. "Children of other faiths will follow a programme in Citizenship Studies," the school notes.
Currently the school is operating from FS1 to Year 8 only, and additional grades will be added in subsequent years. Student numbers have grown rapidly to 1,160, made up predominantly of Indian students. The majority of the 78 teachers and 14 teaching assistants are from the Philippines. A teacher:student ratio of 1:15 is relatively low and should permit students to receive personal attention. However, the staff turnover rate of 25% is on the high side (the UAE average is between 20-22%) and suggests that staff may not be entirely content. This is a concern, particularly in a new school which will need to "bed-down" its processes and generally benefits from a stable environment.
In common with all schools in Dubai, St. Mary's Muhaisnah participated in its first KHDA inspection in its third year of operation. It achieved a rating of Acceptable, the minimum expected by the Dubai School regulator, showing that children are achieving academically at the expected level for the curriculum. The KHDA's intention is that all schools should be rated a minimum of Good - suggesting that St. Mary's has further progress to make.
What the inspectors say
Inspectors noted the following strengths of the school:
They also noted that "Leaders have a clear vision which is translated into appropriate provision for almost all groups of students. Middle leaders are starting to benefit from professional development designed to improve the impact of their leadership. Partnerships with parents are a particular strength. Governors are working hard to secure a better resourced facility, better qualified teachers and many of the improvements to provision recommended during pre-inspection visits."
Achievement of students in internal assessments, in lessons and over time, was found to be broadly acceptable for almost all groups of students. In fact all key measures for English, Mathematics and English in regard to attainment and progress were rated Acceptable with the exception of the attainment of primary students in English. Attainment in Arabic as an additional language for older students was found to be weak, as was progress in the Secondary School. The school was found to be addressing the challenge of meeting the needs of some students who are both new to Arabic, whilst at the same time, have a low starting point in English. Interestingly, provision for native-Arabic speakers and for Islamic Studies was found to be Acceptable across both Primary and Secondary.
Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills were largely found to be Acceptable, although Personal Development in both the Foundation and Secondary school phases were deemed to be Good. Inspectors commented that "the personal development of students is a strength and particularly so in Foundation Stage (FS) and for the eldest students. Students’ innovation skills, including the creative use of technology, are in early stages of development."
The key indicators of teaching for effective learning and assessment were also rated Acceptable across all phases of the school. Whilst inspectors noted that the quality of teaching was uniform across all phases of the school, good lessons were more common in the Foundation Stage. Teachers use their secure subject knowledge to plan lessons well, but most classroom teachers do not effectively use their knowledge of students’ prior attainment and meet the needs of different groups. In addition, the development of critical thinking, problem solving and independent learning skills is not evident in many lessons which results in underachievement for some groups of students.
The curriculum design and implementation and adaptation of the curriculum were found to be Acceptable with the exception of its design in Foundation Stage which was found to be good. The curriculum was found to be functional and designed to engage the majority of students. It is regularly modified to provide an appropriate range of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities. St. Mary's now needs to ensure that the curriculum is effectively modified to meet the needs of all groups of students, especially for those with SEND, gifts and talents and those who learn English as an additional language.
The protection, care, support and guidance of students was again found to be Acceptable across the Primary and Secondary sections and Good in Foundation Stage. Inclusion of students with SEND was also found to be a focus of the school whose leaders are committed to improve SEND provision and outcomes.
The leadership and management of the school were found to be Acceptable in terms of their effectiveness, school self-evaluation and planning, and Governance. Relationships between the school and its parents and the community were found to be Good, as were the Management, staffing, facilities and resources. Inspectors noted that "Leaders at all levels, including governors, articulate a clear vision for a school. This has a strong family-focus and leaders are committed to raising standards of academic achievement. The school has grown quickly over the past eighteen months." Inspectors praised "Parents [who] are highly supportive and increasingly involved in the life of the school and the learning of their children. They organise fundraising events and contribute to governance. The school communicates effectively with parents, about the progress and well-being of their child. Leaders and teachers act promptly and effectively when concerns arise. There are strong links with many well-established schools and with the wider community."
The key recommendations made by the Inspection team were that:
The facilities of the school are well maintained. Almost all rooms, including laboratories, are well kept, safe and hygienic and are of good quality. Most classrooms and specialist facilities are of a high standard and are very well resourced. A few learning spaces were found to be less suitable, including the temporary rooms for Islamic education and Arabic languages.
Extra-curricular activities are broken down by school phase. Key Stage One and Two (Primary School) offer two periods of activity within their schedules which rotate every term. Key Stage Three and Four (Secondary School) will offer more extracurriculars for students including: Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Cricket, Cookery, Quilling, Scrapbooking, Music, Dance, Science Club, Environment Club, Chess Club and Board Games, and Quiz Club.
The school's website is helpful and offers information for current as well as prospective students. Fees start at AED 11,000 for FS1 rising to AED 15,000 for Year 8. Books, uniforms and transport are additional. School starts at 7:15am.
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