United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Nad Al Hamar / The City School International

The City School International Review

Nad Al Hamar located City School International, provides education for students from FS1 to Year 12 (3 to 17 years of age). This is a relatively small school, although, during the past three years, numbers have increased from 425 to 675. This increase is, in part, due to the addition of  a pre-primary school section and to the extension of learning from Year 11 to Year 12 in the current year.
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 21,000
Annual fees
AED 16,970 - 31,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2006
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
25%
Principal
Dr Frank R. Fernandes
Owner
City Schools International
Community
Main teacher nationality
Pakistan
Main student nationality
Pakistan

Nearby nurseries

2.5km • EYFS curriculum
3km
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The City School International
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Good
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 21,000
Annual fees
AED 16,970 - 31,000
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2006
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
25%
Principal
Dr Frank R. Fernandes
Owner
City Schools International
Community
Main teacher nationality
Pakistan
Main student nationality
Pakistan
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Nad Al Hamar located City School International, provides education for students from FS1 to Year 12 (3 to 17 years of age). This is a relatively small school, although, during the past three years, numbers have increased from 425 to 675. This increase is, in part, due to the addition of  a pre-primary school section and to the extension of learning from Year 11 to Year 12 in the current year.

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 on its current site in 2006 although the Group dates back originally to 1978.  It had been rated Acceptable - the  minimum requirement by the Dubai School Regulator, the KHDA, every year since inspections began in 2007-8, until three years ago (in 2017-18), 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 (TCSI), 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 675 students are supported by some 57 teachers and 18 teaching assistants, giving a staff to student ratio of 1:12 - a good ratio in terms of providing individual attention to students, although the number of teachers  and the teacher:student ratio hav actually declined in the past three years. 

However, staff turnover of 23% three years ago and 25% in 2019-20 suggests that all may not have been entirely well from a staff perspective during the past three academic years.  Although this figure is only slightly above the UAE average of 20-22%, it is unusually high for an Asian led school and we wonder whether this may have been driven by two fairly radical changes of Principal in September 2017 and again in January 2019, and the evident effort to improve teaching standards under both Principals' tenures. 

What about support for Students of Determination and those with Gifts and Talents?

There are a relatively small number of students of Determination (under 40) and this appears in part to be as a result of a mis-match between the school's Admissions policy and its provision. 

Those students with additional learning needs receive a Good standard of support with the latest KHDA report noting that "students are well cared for and receive support, although there is no dedicated school counsellor. Teachers use baseline tests to help identify students of determination, although assessment criteria are insufficiently refined. A recently-developed policy for students with gifts and talents is at an early stage of implementation".

This is an area which is clearly a work in progress and in need of further development.

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 Year 11. The school has recently introduced AS levels and is also planning to open an A Level programme with Year 13 to be added in 2021-22. The A Level course will be very specifically a 'Business Programme'.

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 focus on Business/Commerce is set to continue with the expansion from IGCSE to AS and A Levels which will be directly aimed at Commerce students.  No specific subject details have been provided, but we would expect a continuation of the Business-focused subjects already offered at IGCSE such as Maths, Business Studies, Accounting, Economics, Sociology and Travel and Tourism.  Students are expected to take 4 subjects at AS Level, reducing to three for A Level studies.

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?

TCSI appears to have a rigorous approach to ensuring a full understanding of individual students' abilities.  Baseline tests are carried out in FS2, measuring language, literacy and mathematics. The school assesses students using CAT4 (Cognitive testing) and ACER (the Australian Council for Educational Research) as well as GL tests as mandated by the KHDA.

The school also publishes its TIMMSS and PIRLS results and, in the past, has published its IGCSE results - although the most recent on their website date back to 2018.

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.

We hope TCSI will continue to provide its results (including the most recent and particularly its AS and A Level results) as a sign of how successful its students are academically.

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 the inspectors say

After nine years at Acceptable, the achievement of the Good rating by The City School International was something for which the school could be justly proud.  The DSIB inspection team found that what the school does best is:

  • The attainment of secondary phase students in English, mathematics and science in external benchmark tests
  • The personal and social development and the innovation skills of secondary phase students, and the quality of both primary and secondary phase students' understanding of Islamic values and awareness of Emirati culture
  • The planning and delivery of the curriculum in the secondary phase.

The City School International, certainly from a Student Achievement perspective, very definitely meets the KHDA's Good rating, with this reflected in the level of progress and attainment in all core subjects - both English and Arabic taught - through Foundation and the Primary sections.  Maths and Science in both Primary and Secondary are rated Very Good as in English in post-16 though Arabic is largely Acceptable at this level.

Students' Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills are rated more highly in the Secondary section - again garnering a Very Good rating - and are largely Good in the remainder of the school.  

Teaching and assessment, together with the curriculum, are rated Good for the most part (Secondary curriculum design and implementation is rated Very Good).  Similarly, the protection, care, guidance and support of students is rated Good across the school as is the Leadership and Management of the school with one exception. 

This latter relates to the Management, staffing, facilities and resources of TCSI. The inspection report notes improved science facilities which ensure an increase in the number of safe and focused scientific investigations and the enhancement of on-line research opportunities additional information technology resources.  There are ramps for easier classroom access, extensive canopy shade in external areas, an upgraded prayer room and canteen and enhanced external play resources for FS children.

However, library resources are limited with insufficient books and subject and section leaders do not have sufficient time during the school day to carry out their leadership responsibilities to full effect.

In terms of areas for improvement, the DSIB inspection team recommended TCIS should:

  • Improve attainment in Arabic at the secondary phase.
  • Teachers should ensure greater consistency in setting tasks and activities that fully meet the needs of all learners.
  • Ensure a more coherent programme of counselling to support students' needs.
  • Governors should ensure that school leaders have sufficient time to carry out their departmental responsibilities in order to improve outcomes for students.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.

The Buzz

The inspection report notes that the principal encourages parental participation in the school and parents respond very positively to this open-door policy. The active Parent Council has taken an increasingly positive role in helping learning. Parents receive regular and informative information on their children’s attainment and progress. They are very actively involved in the school’s social activities. Parental representation on the board has resulted in enhancements to the curriculum.

Close to 250 parents replied to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, of which 95% stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided by the City School: "Almost all parents are satisfied with the quality of their children’s education and think teachers help their children learn effectively. They feel that the school is safe and caring. Most feel that staff listen to them and act on their concerns. Almost all feel that they have access to the information and support needed to help their children’s education."

165 students responded to the KHDA's Well-being Survey and most students felt fully engaged in school life and were motivated and confident learners. They felt that teachers support them well in their learning. Overall, they felt that they have the necessary resilience to overcome difficulties and feel lower levels of stress in school than the Dubai average.

The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has had limited feedback on The City School in its survey.   Two-thirds of hose parents who have responded appear to be among the disaffected few, being strongly of the opinion that school fees do not represent value for money, although they had not, apparently, considered moving their children from the school, although they would not recommend the school to other parents.  

In order to obtain a more representative view, if you are a parent, teacher or student at the school, please share your experience of The City School International with other potential members of your community by completing our survey here.

Our View

There is no doubt that for parents seeking an affordable UK curriculum school with a VERY strong focus on academics and with ambitions for their children to succeed in Commerce, The City School International sets out to meet these very specific requirements.  This is definitely not a school for students with a more creative or even scientific bent, given that Science subjects are not currently on the AS and A Level agenda.

What about the fees?

Fees at The City School International are relatively affordable for a UK curriculum school, starting at AED 16,970 at FS1 and rising to AED 31,000 at Year 12. These are moderate fees for a UK curriculum school.

Fees may be paid in 5 bi-monthly payments.  There is a non-refundable registration fee of AED 500 and an Admission fee of AED 1,000 on offer of a place.

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