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.
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 (SIS) is one of the smallest UK curriculum schools offering a Foundation to Year 11 programme. However, according to the school's Principal, it is in the process of acquiring a building for Secondary students with the intention of expanding its offering to Key Stage 5 (A Level). A date for the building opening has not yet been provided. However, in February 2021, the school announced that it would be offering AS and BTEC programmes from September 2021, followed by A Levels in 2022.
There are approximately 550 boys and girls aged from three to 15 on its register. Arab children currently form the largest demographic segment at the school, with almost 20% of students Emiratis - a significant growth in the past two years. With 43 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 52 full-time, mainly British, teachers (as of 2019/20), including the Principal and senior leaders, and an additional 22 teaching assistants. The Principal has been at the school since 2007, providing continuity throughout the past 10 plus years.
Whilst teacher turnover - which inevitably impacts the stability, cohesion and smooth operation of any organisation - has been a challenge in the past, reaching 45% at the end of 2017, meaning that almost 1 in 2 teachers left, the situation has improved in 2019-20 with turnover at 22%, in line with 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 had been identified as a concern in the previous inspection report. However, the new report notes that "The school has improved learning by appointing experienced staff and developing the middle leadership team."
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 school is currently open to Year 11 only and organises its teaching is such a way that students study for IGCSE over a 3 year period (starting in Year 9, as opposed to Year 10).
Starting Sept.2021, Year 11 students will seamlessly move on to Year 12 (A/S Levels), and then to Year 13 (A Levels). Star Al Twar offers vocational subjects (BTEC) as well as GCSEs. They use a teaching style that is training and work-based combined with digitally-enhanced learning.
Recent additions to the Primary curriculum include guided reading and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which is also offered in Secondary. Inspectors noted that "Innovation is a developing feature of the school."
In February 2021, the school announced its latest plans to launch a state-of-the-art “STEAM” curriculum with the aim of providing students with an enhanced overall educational experience. The school has recently invested in additional resources to ensure students have access to the latest, innovative design-based science learning methodologies within the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to solve problems in an engaging way. Also, as part of the school’s expansion plans for this academic year, it will be opening new cutting-edge science and tech laboratories for students, and an urban art room developed for the modern industries.
The range of subjects has improved and includes mandatory subjects of English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Science (Combined or Separate) and Arabic (Arabic A Students). Non-examined subjects are Physical Education, Social Studies, Moral Education, and Islamic Studies (For Muslim students). Options choices include Arabic B, History, Geography, Art & Design, ICT, Media Studies, Individual Science subjects (Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Psychology and Business Studies. French is offered from Year 2 to Year 11 (optional at IGCSE). SIS has also introduced Level 2 BTEC qualifications, but currently does not provide any details in this respect.
The KHDA inspection report notes that, in the 2015 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), students exceeded the school’s targets in mathematics and science. In 2016, students met targets in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), they significantly exceeded targets in reading, mathematics and science.
In successive cycles of GL benchmark tests, most students make the expected progress in English. Most make above the expected progress in science, and a significant majority do so in mathematics. Progress, in relation to the expectations arising from the cognitive ability test (CAT4), is good in English, very good in mathematics and outstanding in science.
Students sat their first set of IGCSE examinations in June 2018. Unfortunately, SIS did not publish the results - something that we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com encourage all schools to do. Whilst examination results should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all of school evaluation, it is clearly an important factor when making decisions about schools.
However, a statement by the Principal in early 2021 in relation to GCSE results in 2020 noted that:
"Our very first GCSE results last year set a new benchmark for us. Our students achieved outstanding results, and I am so proud of the commitment of our school’s secondary teachers who motivated the Year 10s and 11s Star Al Twar has gained KHDA approval to launch its Post-16/Key Stage 5 programme".
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.
However, in its British Schools Overseas inspection - carried out in keeping with the UK-based OFSTED inspection process - the school was rated Good. This has now been reflected by the KHDA's DSIB inspection process for 2019-20, where SIS achieved a return to the Good rating.
With no in-school inspections taking place in 2020-21, the KHDA has again carried out Distance Learning Evaluations, and Star International School Al Twar was rated Developed in the second DLE round - the highest possible rating.
The Inspection team responsible for the 2019-20 inspection identified the following strengths of the school:
Almost all ratings for the key indicators of achievement and progress are now rated Good for English, Maths and Science, although the ratings of Arabic-based subjects are largely Acceptable and will need to be a focus going forward.
The inspection team also commented that "The personal and social development of all students is a strength of the school. Their relationships, attitudes to learning and self-discipline are positive."
Improvements in Teaching and Assessment were also noted, and this together with the Curriculum (rated Very Good in Foundation, and Good across the rest of the school), have clearly played an important role in SIS achieving its improved rating.
The fifth key performance indicator, that of the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, also showed almost entirely Very Good ratings, whilst all aspects of Leadership and Management are now rated at least Good - an area of performance that was a concern at the last inspection.
The main recommendations from the KHDA inspection for the school are that it should:
This most recent KHDA report is clearly a very much more positive one than that of a year ago, and the team at SIS should be congratulated on their achievement over such a short period. It is to be hoped that they will be able to maintain the impetus as the plans to expand the school to Sixth Form and A Level are brought to fruition.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to gain a detailed understanding of the reasons behind the ratings, you will find it here.
67 students responded to the KHDA's Student Well-being survey. Most students reported that there are staff in whom they can confide and that they are cared for in the school. Most stated that they feel safe at school. Nearly all report that they have good attitudes to learning and can persevere with tasks. A minority stated that they have experienced some form of verbal bullying this year, but that issues were dealt with quickly.
Some 124 parents also participated in the pre-inspection survey, commenting that most are satisfied and stated that the school listens and responds to their views. They believe that they have the information to support their children’s learning at home. Nearly all feel that their children are kept safe. They believe that their children have strong relationships with their teachers and fellow students, and that on-going bullying is not an issue.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has had insufficient feedback from parents to comment on perceptions of academic performance, communication or discipline.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Star International School Al Twar, please share your experiences with other potential members of your community by taking our School Survey.
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 40,297 from Year 7 to Year 11 (a significant discount on the approved fees). 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).
Star International School Al Twar 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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