The English College Dubai is a private FS to Year 13 school located in Umm Suqeim, Dubai. The school was established in 1992 and has been consistently rated Good since inspections began.
In January 2019, the English College merged with the neighbouring and co-owned primary school, Manor Primary School. The newly merged schools will be known as the English College - offering a UK curriculum education under the same leadership, from FS1 to Year 13. For details of Manor Primary School to be read in conjunction with the review, please go here.. A full update of the review for the merged schools will be provided here in due course.
The story so far...
In WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's previous review of the English College, in 2017, we informed readers about some big changes that took place in 2016, with LVS Ascot taking over management of the school, plus the relaunch of the primary school, this time named Manor Primary, due to the requirement for a separate licence for the new school. The English College will celebrate its 25th Anniversary at the end of this academic year, with plans under discussion to mark this milestone.
Read the latest Update (as of November 2018) on the college's plans below.
And now, further significant changes are afoot. The involvement of LVS in the management of English College was found to be a significant factor in the improvement in the school's KHDA report for 2017, where inspectors improved the rating for Governance from Weak to Acceptable and noted that "Governance has been formalised and now includes representation from a broad range of stakeholders. An experienced chairperson is complemented by governors who bring specialist educational knowledge and business acumen. They meet regularly to discuss feedback from staff,students and parents. Their five-year strategic plan aims to improve the school’s academic standards and its unique ethos."
LVS Ascot already manages three successful non selective coeducational independent schools in the UK. By bringing English College on board the charitable trust has taken its first step into the global education market. Whichschooladvisor.com was very encouraged by the news of the involvement of this experienced Education provider. The English College is a school that is Outstanding in so many aspects, but lack of investment has meant that it has not yet achieved the Very Good rating from the KHDA that it, in our opinion, deserves.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has now learned that LVS "has concluded its work" with English College - something of a surprise to us, since we understood that this was to be a long-term arrangement of between five and seven years, based on our direct communication with LVS. Indeed, the most recent KHDA report mentions a 5 year Strategic Plan. However, according to a statement from the school, "the original plan was to terminate LVS relation [sic] at the end of 2017 beginning of 2018 after successfully handing over the management of the school back to the board". It is to be hoped that the owner will continue to implement the actions within the plan, since Governance has been an on-going of concern for the Regulator, resulting in a rating of Weak until the 2016-17 inspection when the rating was raised to Acceptable. In the most recent KHDA inspection report, Governance has been upgraded to Good.
Back in 2014, the school appointed an experienced new principal, Ian Jones, who was previously head teacher at the Dhahran British Grammar School, and the head of primary at The Sultan's School in Oman. Unfortunately, Ian was taken ill in early 2016 and as a result, the College has been through a period of Acting Leadership until the appointment of its Acting Head as the new Headteacher for the 2017-18 academic year.
From September 2018, Sir Greg Martin, an experienced educational leader who received a Knighthood for services to education in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, took over the role of Principal. He brings demonstrable commitment to rigour in teaching and learning; passionate about the life changing opportunities that high quality education can bring to children".
Sir Greg commented “Having been a Headteacher for over two decades in London schools, I’m very much looking forward to joining The English College and working with the dedicated and committed staff, parents and students. The school is a very good school, producing excellent results. It’s a great privilege for me to be chosen to work with you all and to help the school grow, especially given the commitment of the Board to improve and develop the school even more in the next few years. These are exciting times.”
In November 2018, we had the opportunity to meet with Sir Greg at the college and to learn more about his appointment and plans for the school. On arrival, it is evident that some unexpected changes have been made - an updating of the main entrance and lobby and the introduction of a Parent and Visitor Cafe that is now available in the lobby for instance. However, where new buildings should be under construction, only hoardings remain whilst limited construction has started. As a result, the entire construction programme (for details see below) is being re-evaluated with an estimated completion date of term 2, 2020 - a six month delay at least.
Perhaps as significantly, the school has announced the cancellation of the separate licence for Manor Primary School, and the integration of the Primary section into the English College - meaning a through school will integrated structure, management, progression and fees. This merger is due to take place at the end of January 2019, whereby both sections of the school will fall under the management of Sir Greg. Effectively, the school will finally offer an integrated 3-18 years UK curriculum. Further details will be provided as they become available.
The English College, Dubai is going through an extensive rebuilding and refurbishment programme - classrooms are being added, drama studios, multiple music practice rooms, art studios, eight science laboratories, a Sixth form centre, dining facilities, and food technology area. A purpose-built sports complex will house a multi-purpose sports hall, dance studio, fitness suite and tiered seating.
By far and away the most significant development, however, is the demolition and replacement of the structure that was located behind the main reception area.
This is being replaced by a modern four-storey building which will include a wide range of specialist facilities including a Performing Arts Centre including Recording Studios and Practice Rooms, a Food Technology Centre and a range of Science Laboratories to replace those deemed previously unfit for purpose by the KHDA. These facilities will enable the College to place additional focus on Creativity (Drama, Music and Arts - though not Design Technology).
The College, with its additional classrooms, hopes to be able to expand student numbers from around the current just below 700 to approximately 800 students - not a major expansion and one that is designed to keep the friendly, smaller school feel that is much appreciated by students and parents. There is also likely to be an expansion of curriculum options including a possible BTEC in Music, in addition to the BTECs already offered in Creative Media, Information Technology, Travel & Tourism, Applied Sciences and Business Studies. The school is also planning additional A Level subjects in Psychology and Sociology and considering Criminology.
The new teaching, performance and lab facilities are expected to be complete in the latter half of 2019 and ready for student and staff occupation by September 2019. During the construction period, students and staff have taken over occupation of the first floor of the neighbouring Manor Primary School and added a small number of temporary classroom/common-rooms just outside the Primary building. Science laboratories have been installed within the Primary facilities and these will subsequently form part of the provision for Primary School students.
What about the curriculum?
The English College Dubai follows the National Curriculum of England. Of note all staff members are UK qualified, excluding the Arabic and Islamic Education teachers, at the time of the KHDA's last inspection. However, a real concern must be the turnover of staff which has risen from a moderate 15% in 2016 to 26% in 2017 and an even higher 37% in 2018. Average turnover of staff in international schools in Dubai is between 20-22% - 37% suggests a real concern and one of which the College must be aware and will need to take steps rapidly to address if the quality (rated Very Good - the second highest KHDA rating) and continuity of teaching at the school is to be maintained.
The English College is a very liked school by parents and students. It is known for being slightly quirky, and a little bit artistic. The school is bucking the IB trend, and offers GCSE (note, not IGCSE) and A' Level based examinations.
What about academic achievement?
The school helpfully publishes its examination results on its Web site, something WSA believes all schools should do. It is a key piece of information that prospective parents look for when choosing a school.
You can see the results for the last 4 years on the College website.
EC does remarkably well academically, in fact, in the A Level results for 2017, the school's cohort achieved 83% A* to C, 53% A* to B and 22% A*-A.
At GCSE Level, the school is similarly impressive with 35% A* to A, 76% A*-B and 91% of students getting an A to C grade for each examination.
What the inspectors say
Students, in general, make "Very Good " progress in Maths and Science throughout the school, whilst students make Very Good progress and attainment in English in Sixth Form and Outstanding progress and attainment in the secondary School, Islamic Education has improved to Good across both phases of the school, although Arabic is rated Acceptable as a first language and attainment is Weak for students studying it as an additional language in the Secondary school. Students display "outstanding" Personal and Social Development, particularly in terms of their positive and responsible attitudes. The breadth and richness of the curriculum is enhanced by high quality teaching (rated Very Good) and assessment systems which have also improved to Very Good in the latest inspection round. The school also has an outstanding programme of extra-curricular activities and excursions and care and support of students is rated Outstanding.
KHDA inspectors identified The English College's strengths in the most recent (2017-18) inspection report as:
Main recommendations for improvement, which the College will need to address, are to:
Concerns were also raised about the logistics involved in students moving between classes, which results in delayed starts to lessons - something that will hopefully be addressed through the new building and developments.
The school is said to provide "Very Good" special needs provision to the just over 10% of children on roll that require it. The school offers a "limited number of places for students with specific learning difficulties" and "these places fill very quickly". A student will only be admitted "if it is ascertained that the College can provide the supportive environment in which he or she can succeed." The school does not, however, provide design technology which is a requirement under the British curriculum.
The College has good, if somewhat frayed, facilities (swimming pool, indoor sports hall, shaded play areas, learning support, shared sports field) with a strong art department. The investment in the infrastructure and facilities will have been welcomed warmly by parents and pupils alike. Indeed the Regulator in 2016-17's report specifically commented on the need to improve facilities, noting that some teaching areas are "not fit for purpose". The lack of WiFi throughout the school had also been criticised, but has now been addressed. Indeed, the management, staffing, facilities and resources of the College were deemed to be Good (up from Acceptable), in the most recent inspection report.
Having seen the unsettled environment of The English College, following the unexpected closure of the English College Primary School, and concerns among parents and staff about the investment in the College itself, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's team had been hoping for signs of longer term investment and commitment in the school. The opening of Manor Primary School in 2016 on the site of the original EC Primary, the involvement of LVS (however short-lived), the clear improvements that have taken place in the management and governance of the school, and now the substantial investment being made in the College's infrastructure, give us cause to believe that The English College is at last receiving the support and commitment that it merits. We hope that the investments being made in the substance of the school will also stretch to its staff and that there will be greater stability in this key resource.
School fees (as of 2017/18) range between AED 51,556 to AED 61,765 per year depending upon year group which places the school mid table in terms of fees. In terms of its peers, a high achieving, UK curriculum school, it represents very good value.
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