United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Mirdif / Star International School Mirdiff

Star International School Mirdiff Review

Mirdiff located Star International Private School is one of two schools owned and operated by ETA Star Education. Like its Al Twar sister, this is a small school, with just under 400 girls and boys, aged three to 11 years on its register. The school is open only as a Primary school.
At a glance
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 32,000
Annual fees
AED 25,500 - 37,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2008
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
12%
Principal
Gillian Roberts
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities

Nearby nurseries

0.8km • EYFS curriculum
1.4km • EYFS curriculum
2.6km • EYFS curriculum
2.7km
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Star International School Mirdiff
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Good
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 32,000
Annual fees
AED 25,500 - 37,500
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2008
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
12%
Principal
Gillian Roberts
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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First Published:
Thursday 25 July, 2013

Updated:
Monday 13 May, 2019

Mirdiff located Star International Private School is one of two schools owned and operated by ETA Star Education. Like its Al Twar sister, this is a small school, with just under 400 girls and boys, aged three to 11 years on its register. The school is open only as a Primary school.

Star International School Mirdiff has retained its Good rating for the second year in a row in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process.  An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab.  An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.

The story so far

Star International School Mirdif  (SISM) is one of a small number of Primary only schools in Dubai, all of which follow the National Curriculum of England and Wales.  SISM offers education to children from the age of 3 years (FS1) to 11 years (Year 6). 

The school states in its Vision that it is "Aspiring to produce learners who are knowledgeable about the world they live in, adaptable to change, and able to function successfully in an ever changing world".

The largest single nationality of pupils at the school is Arab, but 50 nationalities are represented in total. The school has 41 full-time teaching staff, and 21 teaching assistants offering a very low (and therefore desirable) teacher to student ratio of 1:9. The majority of teachers are also British, who between them run 18 classes across the school. 

Teacher turnover has been a cause for concern in the past  - it has been as high as 50%  - but in the last academic year, the figure had dropped to a much less worrying 12%, well under the UAE average of 20-22%.  This stabilisation can almost certainly be attributed in part to the improvements that have taken place in the school over the past two years with the arrival of a new Principal, Gill Roberts.  Ms. Roberts is the fifth Principal to have joined the school in six years, but has clearly managed to establish herself and to make important changes during her now two year tenure.

Most significantly, after 6 years of Acceptable ratings from the KHDA, the inspection that took place in November 2017 determined that the school had finally made the grade and was elevated to Good overall.  This is a significant achievement for a school that had languished at its prior rating for so long.

What about facilities?

The school is located on a plot adjacent to the Abaya Shopping Mall.  It is based in a large two storey building with teaching wings located to the sides of the main entrance and foyer. In addition to a multi-purpose sports/assembly hall, the school also offers a large external playing field, a covered swimming pool and play areas.  The school does not currently offer a canteen.  

Classrooms are equipped with interactive white boards and technology in the form of pads and computers are available to students. However, the inspection report notes that "there are insufficient resources, such as technology devices and library books, to support students’ independent investigation and research".

No doubt one popular service provided by the school for working parents is its ‘Stay and Play’ programme, designed for those parents who need to drop their child off early in the morning or collect them later in the afternoon. The programme starts at 7.00am and offers a range of fun activities for children aged 4 – 11 years. In the afternoon, there are separate ‘Stay and Play’ programmes for Foundation Stage and Primary children. 

What about the curriculum?

Star International School aims to deliver a creative, yet skills based approach to teaching, which incorporates the objectives associated with the British Curriculum. The Curriculum is taught in such a way that  children’s learning is linked to six themes across the entire school year. This thematic approach is also delivered in such a way, so as to help provide a real-life context to children’s learning; the school calls this its Concept-Curriculum. These themes not only help provide a context to learning, but they also celebrate international cultures from a British perspective, as well as an Emirati one.

The school encourages its students to become curious about the world around them, think critically about problems and issues which arise, to problem solve and to become independent learners.  Learning does not just take place in the classroom, but also when moving through the corridors, in the canteen, on educational trips, in assemblies… or wherever teachers and students may gather.  Learning might be academic or understanding the social mechanisms that children need to learn in order to become well-rounded citizens.

In common with the standard Primary school environment, most classes will be taught by the class teacher, but the school also has specialist staff for ICT, Music, PE, French and Moral Education, and Social Studies.  There is also a Specialist SEND Leader and two further Learning Support teachers. 

The school also aims to offer a balanced range of Extra-curricular activities, which include Quran Recitation, Dodgeball Club, Newspaper Club, Science Club, Funky Fitness, Drama Club, Lego Club, Origami Club, Eco Club, Multiskills Club, Construction Club and Star Orchestra. Each term sports teams participate in fixtures and tournaments against other Dubai schools as a means of encouraging sportsmanship, fair play and healthy competition amongst students. 

What the inspectors say

After so many years of Acceptable ratings, it seems that the new leadership of the school has really blown a breath of fresh air through SISM.  The opening comments in the 2017-18 inspection summarise the importance of these key roles stating that "All aspects of the school’s leadership and management are good. The school’s new leaders are shaping the school into a caring, well organised, learner focused, community school. Their understanding of the school’s strengths and areas for improvement is developing. Partnerships with parents and the community are strengthening. The active governing board fulfils its role with increased diligence, but does not provide sufficient resources to support the school".

Overall the strengths of SISM are:

  • The principal and her leadership team [who] are embedding the new school vision effectively, and systematically enhancing most aspects of the school.
  • The improving quality of teaching and assessment across both phases of the school, [which] leads to good progress in all subjects and phases.
  • The culture of the school [which] is purposeful, with caring, on-task, well-behaved and respectful students.
  • The very good provision for health and safety including all aspects of child protection and safe guarding, and the improved provision for SEND and Emirati students.

In terms of Student Achievement, the inspection team found that "although students across both phases and all subjects make good progress, their levels of attainment are variable. In Islamic education, Arabic as a first and additional language and primary phase science, most students meet expected curriculum standards. In all key subjects in the Foundation Stage (FS), and in English and mathematics in the primary phase, the majority of students attain levels above curriculum standards".  Improvements had particularly been found in the Primary section, with ratings having risen to Good in all three English-based subjects (English, Maths and Science).  Arabic and Islamic Studies had retained their ratings of Good for progress and Acceptable for attainment.  This will no doubt a focus of the inspection team for further improvement.

Whilst students' personal development had been rated Very Good again in this report, their social development and innovation skills had improved to Good, achieving the same rating as that for Understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures.  The inspection team commented that "Students across the school have positive attitudes, are very well behaved and enjoy positive relationships with others. They have a good understanding of Islamic values and are well aware of Emirati culture. They have limited knowledge and appreciation of cultures in the wider and global communities. Students’ social responsibility and innovation skills have improved. They make a positive contribution to the community and take good care of the environment".

Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum design and implementation, and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students all retained their Good ratings. In an area of key focus for the inspection teams, the report notes that "the quality of teaching for effective learning and the school’s assessment systems and practices are good in both phases. Teachers’ planning and questioning are of a high standard. Most teachers are becoming more confident at utilising external benchmark and cognitive assessment data to modify the curriculum and to meet the learning needs of individuals and groups of students".  In addition, the curriculum was found to be "appropriately designed, implemented and adapted to ensure that the learning needs of all groups of students are adequately met. It provides a balance of age-appropriate activities to develop students’ knowledge, skills and understanding. Assessment information is increasingly used to guide its modification to ensure close alignment to the different needs of all students". The link between these two key performance measures could not be clearer.

The protection, care, guidance and support of students also achieved improved ratings for Protection and safekeeping which was rated Very Good.  Inspectors found that "the protection and care of students has improved since the last inspection and is a strong feature of this caring community school. There are effective systems for monitoring students’ physical, social and emotional well-being. They receive good guidance and support for their personal and academic development".  Provision and outcomes for students with SEND were found to be Good with the inspection team finding that "school leaders and governors have a clear commitment to providing well-resourced provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). An experienced inclusion governor and champion support the strong leadership of special educational needs coordinator".  The school does not currently have a lift to enable students with mobility impairments to reach the second floor of the school.

The strong leadership of the school was acknowledged in the final performance area of Leadership and Management, for which all five ratings were now deemed to be Good. 

In terms of the next steps for Star International School Mirdif, the KHDA inspection team recommended that the school should:

  • Raise levels of students’ attainment in all subjects and phases but especially in Islamic education, the Arabic languages and primary science by: ensuring that teachers’ subject knowledge and skills are as strong as the school’s best teachers, providing a greater level of challenge to students, increasing teachers’ use of enquiry- based, open-ended questioning, [and] improving the feedback provided by teachers to inform students of their next steps for learning.
  • Increase the availability, the application and the use of technology in classrooms, and the range of library books and other resources, to support students’ learning.
  • Improve boys’ reading and writing abilities in the Foundation Stage by using curriculum planning, teaching strategies and resources more effectively.
  • Install a lift to enable students with restricted mobility to access the upper floor facilities.

Parent opinion at SISM is also largely positive. Some 40% of parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey and "were overwhelmingly positive about almost all questions. All parents felt that their child was safe at school, while on school transport, and is well prepared to safely browse the internet".

Our own WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey has not received sufficient feedback for us to be able to publish parent opinions voiced to us.  If you are a parent at SISM, please complete our surveyhere to share your thoughts with other prospective families.

Star International School Mirdif's Good inspection rating looks to be a solid and well-deserved one.  The key to this development has been the improvement in Student Achievement, and this must be where the focus remains in order for the school to improve further.  After several turbulent years in terms of leadership, it seems that a stable hand is now guiding an enthusiastic team towards further progress.  It is to be hoped that the governors of the school will heed the advice in relation to investment in the necessary resources to enable the staff to continue along the improvement path. 

Star International School Mirdif really does seem to be a school that cares and is creating a caring community.  We, at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, hope it continues down this path; such schools are increasingly difficult to find in a market where big is seen as beautiful.

KHDA approved fees at the Mirdif-based school start at AED 31,600 at FS1 and rise to AED 48,729 by Year 6. However, the school is offering significant discounts for 2018-19, with FS1 fees starting at AED 25,500, rising to AED 37,500 in Year 6.

 

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