Nad Al Hamar located City School International, provides education for students from FS1 to Year 11 (3 to 16 years of age). This is a relatively small school, although, during the past year numbers have increased from 425 to 650. This increase is, in part, due to the addition of a pre-primary school section.
The City School International has retained its Good rating for the second year in the latest 2018-19 KHDA inspection round. 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...
'City Schools International' is a Pakistan based organisation with sister schools in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The Dubai school was established in 2006. It has been rated Acceptable - the minimum requirement by the Dubai School Regulator, the KHDA, every year since inspections began in 2007-8, until the current academic year, when it made the significant step up to Good. This is a rare achievement after so many (nine) years at one level, although clearly there has been improvement during this period.
The school's motto is "I am to learn". The Chairman states that "the world of life and work is more competitive than they have ever been and we want our students to have the confidence, independence and intellectual ability to apply what they learn in the classrooms to life. We believe, when young people are empowered and facilitated, they rise above expectations."
At The City School International, Dubai, the predominant nationality is Pakistani, but students also come from the UAE, other Arab nations, Iran, Asia and India. Teachers are also predominantly from Pakistan. The 650 students are supported by some 64 teachers and 16 teaching assistants, giving a staff to student ratio of 1:11 - a good ratio in terms of providing individual attention to students. However, staff turnover of 23% suggests that all may not have been entirely well during the past academic year. Although this figure is only slightly above the UAE average of 20-22%, we wonder whether this may have been driven by a fairly radical change of Principal in September 2017.
At this time, the school's previous Principal, who had been in place since 2013, was replaced by the current Head, Craig Shipton. How directly Mr. Shipton was involved in the scale of improvement that enabled the school to be upgraded to Good, within only weeks of his arrival, is questionable, however. It will be interesting to see how the school performs in the 2018-19 inspection process under his leadership.
What about Facilities?
The school is housed in a two-storey building the design for which is clearly based on the villas located in the area. It is surrounded by limited outdoor space - sufficient for shaded play areas - and limited facilities for basketball and similar sports activities, although it does house a swimming pool. Classrooms appear bright but are relatively small, and specialist Science and ICT labs are provided. A library for both younger and older students is available.
What about the curriculum?
In common with a number of Dubai schools offering the UK curriculum to Pakistani students, The City School follows an England and Wales based curriculum leading to the Cambridge and University of London IGCSE examinations in Grade 11. AS and A Level (A2) exams are not offered, although these would usually follow as part of the pre-university curriculum.
Children follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum in FS1 and 2 and then a range of core subjects from Year 1 to Year 8 which include English, Maths, Science, Arabic and Islamic Education, together with a range of Foundation subjects which include Social Studies, History, Geography, Music, ICT, PE, Library, Art and Moral Education. Once in Secondary school (Year 7 and 8), Music is dropped in favour of PHSE (Personal, Social, Health Education). Non-Muslim students follow a programme of Moral Studies in place of Moral Education.
Once students enter the IGCSE programme - taught over three rather than the usual two years - in Year 9, compulsory subjects include English, Mathematics, Arabic, Islamic Studies, ICT Social Studies and Moral Education. Elective subjects include Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Business Studies, Accounting, Economics, Sociology and Travel and Tourism. As can be seen, the subjects offered are very much in line with the Commerce stream, with little in the way of creative options.
The school claims to offer a holistic approach to education and offers a range of co-curricular and extra curricular activities which take place during school hours on Thursday mornings. This period is also used for students in need of additional support to receive this from teachers. Detailed information is not provided on their website, although there is evidence of a range of clubs in support of Arabic and Islamic, and there are a range of competitions from Debating and Elocution to Poetry and Story Recitation, World Maths Day and a Young Entrepreneur's competition. The school also apparently regularly participates in sports activities and league competitions. However, it is evident that much of the activity is still rather academic in nature, with something of a dearth of the more creative activities usually included on an ECA list.
What about Academic achievement?
We, at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, applaud the City School International for its transparency in publishing its IGCSE results on its website. Although this information is not provided in the form used within the UK, which would enable a comparison against other schools, it is a definite step forward that this information is available at all.
The data provided shows that 100% of Science exams (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) were graded A*-B, as were all ICT results. A*-B grades for English (83%), Maths (92%), Environmental Management (92%), Business Studies (83%) and Economics (86%), were similarly strong showings. It would be even more helpful if the school would publish the full range of grades from A*- E, the overall pass rate per subject and the number of exam entries and of students taking each subject.
What the inspectors say
After nine years at Acceptable, the achievement of the Good rating by The City School International is something for which the school can be justly proud. The DSIB inspection team found that what the school does best is:
They found that the Leadership and Management of the school was characterised by "Leaders [who] are effective in creating a positive learning environment and in ensuring good standards of attainment and progress. The school has a good understanding of its strengths and areas for development supported by an increasing use of data when planning for individual needs. Partnership with parents is positive but it does not include representation on the governing board".
Behind the improvement in the rating to Good seems to have been a combination of improved ratings in Students' Achievement, Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum, all of which now have a smattering of Good ratings. In terms of Students' Achievement, English, Maths and Science were found to be Good in the Primary section and largely Very Good in the Secondary section and Learning Skills across FS, Primary and Secondary also made the Good grade. There is still work to be done in the FS section in most subjects (rated largely Acceptable), although progress in English is now Good. In terms of Arabic and Islamic in the Primary and Secondary sections, whilst Islamic Education is rated Good across the board, Arabic as both a first and second language is predominantly rated Acceptable.
As with the previous (2016-17) report, Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation skills were found to be Good across the Foundation stage, a mix of Good and Very Good in Primary and Very Good in Secondary school, with students' understanding of Islamic values, and awareness of Emirati and world cultures again rated Outstanding. Inspectors commented that "Students’ positive behaviour is seen throughout the school and this contributes to a harmonious learning community, especially strong in secondary. Students in primary and secondary are very respectful of the culture and life in the UAE and have a deep understanding and awareness of their own and other world cultures. All students understand their responsibilities in school. They have a positive work ethic".
It is in relation to Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum Design, implementation and adaptation that most progress appears to have been made. Ratings are now at least Good across both key performance areas, with the Secondary curriculum design found to be Very Good. The report notes that "the quality of teaching is variable across the different subjects. Lesson planning takes data into account to meet different needs. This is less strong in Arabic and Islamic education. The analysis of assessment data is used to identify the needs of individuals and groups of students.The use of assessment data to inform students of the next steps in learning, needs further development". The fact that assessments are being undertaken and the data used is an area of particular focus for the KHDA and this will have been reflected positively in the ratings given. In fact, The City School provides details of the international benchmarking test results for the school on their website.. They do rather well in comparison with Dubai schools generally.
In relation to the Curriculum design, inspectors advised that "the curriculum is successful in supporting the learning skills and personal development of students. There is a range of curricular choices which provide older students with options that develop their talents and interests. The curriculum has been successfully modified to link with improvements in assessment and tracking of individual students’ progress".
The protection, care, guidance and support of students was also rated Good across the school in the inspection. The inspection team found that "teachers and support staff ensure that students feel secure and are protected from bullying in school or through the social media. School facilities are safe, hygienic and secure. The relationship between staff and students in the school is very positive and respectful across all phases. Good systems are in place to identify children with SEND and those who are gifted and talented". The rating for the Outcome and support for students with SEND also improved to Good during this inspection.
The final key performance area of Leadership and Management is now largely rated Good. Importantly, they found that "the newly appointed principal with the support of all leaders is setting a direction for the school that is clearly understood and supported by the whole school community". School improvement planning, the relationship with parents and the community and governance were also rated Good. The management, staffing, facilities and resources remained Acceptable. Inspectors noted that "the school is appropriately staffed and most are suitably qualified. Their professional development is well matched to the school priorities. The premises are small and many classrooms are cramped despite the best use of space". Clearly, it will be difficult for the school to improve facilities or increase student numbers whilst space is so limited.
Just over 200 parents replied to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, of which 92% stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the City School: "almost all parents are overall satisfied with the quality of education and they believe that their child learns well because of effective teaching. They feel that their children are kept safe at school and on school transport. A few parents of children with SEND don't feel that they are involved in their education or that their children are regularly well supported".
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Fees at The City School International are relatively affordable for a UK curriculum school, starting at AED 13,666 at FS2 and rising to AED 24,227 at Year 11. These are moderate fees for a UK curriculum school.
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