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 relatively small school, with just under 700 girls and boys, aged three to 13 years on its register.
Star International School Mirdif (SISM) follows the National Curriculum of England and Wales. SISM offers education to children from the age of 3 years (FS1) to 13 years (Year 8) and will continue to grow to an all-through school, opening Year 9 in September 2020.
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 largest nationality group is described by the KHDA as Arab. In addition, the school has a growing number of Emirati students (just over 10%). Approximately 30 students have been identified as students of Determination, requiring SEN support.
The school has 57 full-time teaching staff, and 30 teaching assistants offering a relatively low (and therefore desirable) teacher to student ratio of 1:12. The majority of teachers are also British.
Teacher turnover has been a cause for concern in the past - it has been as high as 50% - although two years ago, the figure had dropped to a much less worrying 12%, well under the UAE average of 20-22%. However, in the current year, the number has grown to a significant 31% - almost one if three staff. How much of this turnover is simply natural, with young international teachers often very mobile, and how much as a result of improvements that have taken place in the school over the past three years with the arrival of a new Principal, Gill Roberts is hard to say. 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 three 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, a rating it has retained for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Star International School Mirdif aims to deliver a creative, yet skills based approach to teaching, which incorporates the objectives associated with the English National 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.
Most classes in the Primary section are taught by the class teacher, with a broader range of Specialists in Secondary. 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.
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. The inspection report notes that "Specialist facilities are well-equipped, with sufficient resources to enhance curricular provision, independent and collaborative learning and students’ well-being."
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. In the afternoon, there are separate ‘Stay and Play’ programmes for Foundation Stage and Primary children.
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".
That SISM has retained the Good rating for two further years is clearly a positive signal and also an important one, given that this has permitted the school to grow to include its Secondary section (currently open to Year 8), although this section of the school is still establishing itself.
Overall the strengths of Star International School Mirdif were defined by the inspection team as:
In terms of Student Achievement, the inspection team found that "a majority of students in almost all areas of the curriculum, in both Foundation Stage (FS) and the primary phase, make better than expected progress. Progress is even better in FS English and in secondary science. Achievement is not as strong in secondary mathematics, Arabic or Islamic education." In fact almost all measures for attainment and progress in the core English-based subjects were rated Good. Attainment and progress in Arabic and Islamic Studies were more of mix, stronger in Primary but with Weak levels in Arabic. This will clearly need to be a focus for the school going forward.
All other key performance measures - for Students' Personal and Social Development, Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum, the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, and Leadership and Management - retained their ratings from 2018-19. This does not mean that improvements have not continued, but that they have not yet been sufficient to warrant an improvement in ratings.
Whilst students' personal development were again rated Very Good in this report, their social development and innovation skills retained a Good rating - the same rating as that for Understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati and world cultures.
Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum design and implementation, and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students all retained their Good ratings.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students was again rated Very Good for Protection and safekeeping and Good for Care and Support. Provision and outcomes for students with SEND were found to be Good.
The strong leadership of the school was again acknowledged in the final performance area of Leadership and Management, with three of the five ratings rated Good, and Parents and the Community, together with the Management, Staffing, Facilities and Resources rated Very Good.
In terms of the next steps for Star International School Mirdif, the KHDA inspection team recommended that the school should:
Regularly review the curriculum across all phases to ensure that modifications are put in place to effectively identify and meet the needs of students of different abilities.
Improve the quality of teaching across the school so that it is consistently good or better.
Place strong emphasis on securing rapid improvements in secondary phase teaching, particularly in Arabic, mathematics and Islamic education.
Refine the comprehensive new procedures for the analysis of assessment information to ensure that they:
- allow the valid and accurate tracking of students' progress over time
- enable teachers to adapt their lesson plans to meet the needs of all students
- allow all leaders to effectively monitor teachers' use of assessment data for teaching and learning interventions.
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise you to do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Parent opinion at SISM is also largely positive. Some 200 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey and the majority of parents were satisfied with the quality of education that the school provides and reported that teachers enable their children to learn effectively. A large majority said that school leaders and staff listen and respond to their views and believe that their children are kept safe at school.
22 students from year six responded to the KHDA's Well-being survey. All students reported that they feel a strong sense of emotional engagement with their teachers and feel safe at school. Most students expressed a high sense of academic self-awareness and feel that teachers and students treat each other with respect.
Our own WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Survey has not received sufficient feedback for us to be able to publish parent opinions voiced to us. If you are a parent, student or teacher at SISM, please complete our survey here to share your experience with other potential members of your community.
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. The latest inspection report notes that " Governors provide a clear strategic vision and fund the school well, investing first in a high calibre of new senior leadership, including those now establishing the new secondary phase."
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 for 2020-21 start at AED 26,500 at FS1 and rise to AED 38,500 by Year 6. Secondary fees range from AED 40,500 for Years 7 and 8, and AED 42,500 for Year 9 which will open in September. These are significantly reduced compared with the approved fees from 2017-18.
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