Al Twar located Star International School is one of now two schools bearing the Star name - the other is located in Mirdif, whilst the Umm Suqiem school was sold to Al Najah Group and is now known as Horizon International School.
Star International School has again been rated Acceptable in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update to this review will be completed once the full report has been published.
The Story so far...
Star International School Al Twar is one of originally three schools built and operated by Eta Star Construction. Its sister school in Mirdif is still part of the same group, whilst the third school, located in Umm Suqeim was taken over by Al Najah Education in 2013.
Star International School is one of the smallest UK curriculum Foundation to Year 11 schools with 587 boys and girls aged from three to 15 on its register. Arab children currently form the largest demographic segment at the school, with just over 10% of students Emiratis. With over 50 nationalities represented in total given the size of the student body, this is a very international school.
The school has a low teacher to student ratio of 1:11 which, in theory, should allow good one to one attention, with 46 full-time, mainly British, teachers (as of 2017/18), including the Principal and senior leaders, and an additional 19 teaching assistants. The Principal has been at the school since 2007, providing continuity throughout the past 10 plus years.
Unfortunately, teaching staff are clearly not especially happy with their roles at the school. Staff turnover, at 45% at the end of 2017, means that almost 1 in 2 teachers left and would have been replaced for the new academic year. This inevitably causes instability as new staff are inducted into the school, its processes and management style. It is double the average figure for the UAE (usually between 20-22%).
It is also evident from photos of the staff on the school's website, that teachers are generally young - not a bad thing in that they will be up to date with current UK curriculum practices - but a balance with experienced teachers is also required. The employment of largely younger, less experienced teachers is is a common trend in schools who are trying to minimise their salary bill and would appear to result in heavy workloads for the staff - the inspection report notes that "Some teachers have a very heavy workload and are expected to teach a number of subjects". Whilst it is common for Primary School teachers to cover the full range of subjects with perhaps specialist teaching for Music, ICT and PE for instance, specialists are most certainly required for a Secondary school curriculum.
What about curriculum?
Star International Al Twar follows the National Curriculum for England and Wales and offers the Cambridge International programme at Key Stage 4 (IGCSE). The range of subjects offered is relatively limited but includes the core English, Mathematics, Science, Arabic, together with ICT, Psychology, Art and Business Studies.
What about facilities?
The school is located on a sizeable plot and is set in a horse-shoe shape around the playing fields.
Read our WSA Just Walked In Review here!
What the inspectors say
Star International School was one of a very select few schools to have improved its KHDA rating in the 2013-14 period, moving up to a Good rating from Acceptable, a rating they maintained in 2015-16 and 2016-17 before being downgraded to Acceptable in 2017-18. The downgrade has evidently been driven by the KHDA Inspection team's view that the governance, leadership and management of the school do not have an accurate evaluation of improvements required to raise standards.
Indeed, the inspection report states that "The governance, leadership and management of the school has declined to acceptable. Selfevaluation lacks the accuracy required to identify the improvements which will improve teaching - and learning and raise students’ achievement".
The most recent KHDA inspection report identified a range of issues that have affected the overall rating with the school being one of several that were downgraded this year, though most were more highly rated.
It was by no means all bad news; many aspects of the school remain Good according to the inspection team, but they have clearly identified issues that require action in order to prevent a further negative impact.
The Inspection team identified the following strengths of the school:
However, these positives do not entirely make up for some clear concerns about other key measures within the school. Fundamental among these are the perceptions and actions of the leadership and management of the school, who, according to the inspection team are responsible for "The school’s action plan [that] has set out goals that are more aspirational than measurable. Many aspects of school performance have declined as a result. The vision for the school is not consistently implemented by leaders at all levels."
In addition, they note that the school’s self-evaluation of its own performance "does not accurately describe either provision or outcomes. There has been little progress in addressing the recommendations of the previous inspection report. As a consequence, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment has not improved and students’ achievement is variable". These must be significant concerns for the school leadership but also for parents whose children are potentially being affected by these apparent failings.
The inspection team's main concerns appear to have arisen from their evaluation of Student Achievement, which saw the ratings for progress in English in the Foundation stage fall from Very Good to Good, Mathematics attainment and progress in the Secondary school fall to Acceptable, and attainment and progress in Science in the Primary school also fall to Acceptable. Islamic Education, and Arabic as both a first and second language are all now rated Acceptable - and there is no doubt that the failure to improve outcomes in these specific subjects will have been a focus of the inspection team. Learning skills have also declined to Acceptable in Primary and Secondary.
The reduction in ratings in Student Achievement is also reflected in those for Teaching for Effective Learning, and Assessment. Whilst both measures are rated Good in the Foundation stage, they have fallen to Acceptable in the Primary and Secondary sections. Inspectors commented that "the pace of teaching and choice of activities and resources, do not always meet the learning needs of all students. The use of assessment is inconsistent and teachers do not always take sufficient account of students’ prior learning when lessons are planned". Assessment of students, using both internal tests and external international bench-marking tests such as PISA and TIMMS are a major focus of the UAE regulators as part of the National Agenda aims to improve the country's standing in international tests. This area will need to be a key focus for the school.
Ratings for the Curriculum design and implementation, and its adaptation to meet the needs of students have remain unchanged at Very Good in the Foundation stage and Good in the remainder of the school. However, inspectors commented that whilst "the curriculum remains good overall, in Year 10, the school is not compliant in Islamic education and Arabic, with regards to allocating the appropriate teaching times. The school provides enhancement opportunities and adaptations through a range of extra-curricular activities".
Students' personal development remains a strength, being rated Very Good across the school. Inspectors stated that "the quality of students’ personal and social development ranges from good to very good and is demonstrated in positive and responsible attitudes. Students demonstrate a strong awareness of Emirati culture throughout the school and are knowledgeable about UAE heritage". However, they found that "innovation and enterprise skills are underdeveloped and major issues about the wider environment are not fully understood by students".
The protection of students was another key measure where ratings fell, from Outstanding to Very Good. This appears to have been due to concerns about two specific infrastructure issues - the school has no canteen and this provides a challenge for staff to implement a consistently successful policy on healthy eating. The lack of a lift prevents those with physical disabilities from accessing all teaching and learning facilities. The ratings for the care and support of students remained unchanged, with the inspectors finding that "the overall quality of care and support has been maintained since the previous inspection but there remains inconsistency in the quality of support provided in some lessons".
As mentioned earlier, the key concerns for the inspection team were very much related to the leadership and management of the school. The ratings for four of the five key performance measures fell from Good to Acceptable. Concerns were not only stated in regard to the leadership and their improvement planning for the school, but also in respect of governance and the overall Management, staffing, facilities and resources.
In relation to Governance, the report notes that "the monitoring of compliance, school improvement and self-evaluation is not rigorous. Little or no progress has been made in improving outcomes for students of Islamic education and Arabic". However, the inspection team also found that "governors are working diligently to maintain staffing levels and ensure all staff have appropriate qualifications". Whether this alone is sufficient to improve the staff turnover at the school is a different matter.
In terms of staffing, facilities and resources, the inspectors commented that "facilities and resources require improvement in science. Some teachers have a very heavy workload and are expected to teach a number of subjects. Professional development is generally well-organised but is not followed up and its impact on the quality of learning, measured accurately".
The only measure that did not see a fall in its rating was that of the relationship between the school, parents and the community. It maintained its Very Good rating based on the evidence that "Parents are very positive about the school’s reporting and communication procedures. They believe they are listened to and are always welcome to meet teachers and leaders". Of the 94 parents who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, almost all stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school.
Which School Advisor has had insufficient feedback from parents to comment on perceptions of academic performance, communication or discipline. If you are a parent at Star International School Al Twar, please provide us with your opinion of the school by taking our School Survey.
The main recommendations from the KHDA inspection for the school are that it should:
The most recent KHDA report appears to be "a shot across the bows" for the leadership of the school. Clearly concerns will need to be addressed in order to ensure that there is no further decline in the outcomes for students at the school. Given that 2018 is the first year in which students will be taking their external IGCSE examinations, the inspection team will certainly expect to see improvements overall.
Fees at Star International School Al Twar are mid range for a UK school, starting at AED 20,365 at Foundation Stage 1 and rising to AED 52,630 in Year 11. There is an AED 500 registration fee. Sibling discounts of 10% apply to the second child and 20% for the third child onward (applicable to the lowest fees).
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The fee was increased last year.
Pupils from multicultural families
Small school and a good student to teacher ratio
Some inexperienced teachers