United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Mirdif / Uptown International School

Uptown International School Review

Uptown International School is owned and managed by the Taaleem Group which operates Early Learning Centres, two UK curriculum and three IB curriculum schools in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi (with a further associated branch having opened in September 2020). Located towards the Sharjah border in Mirdiff, Uptown was among the first IB curriculum schools to open in Dubai.
Parents' Rating
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3.9 out of 5 based on 65 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 73,000
Annual fees
AED 40,500 - 89,183
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
27%
Principal
Mr Rob Commons
Owner
Taaleem
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates

Nearby nurseries

0.8km • EYFS curriculum
1.1km • EYFS curriculum
1.3km • EYFS curriculum
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Uptown International School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 73,000
Annual fees
AED 40,500 - 89,183
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
27%
Principal
Mr Rob Commons
Owner
Taaleem
Community
Main teacher nationality
United Kingdom
Main student nationality
United Arab Emirates
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Uptown International School is owned and managed by the Taaleem Group which operates Early Learning Centres, two UK curriculum and three IB curriculum schools in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi (with a further associated branch having opened in September 2020). Located towards the Sharjah border in Mirdiff, Uptown was among the first IB curriculum schools to open in Dubai.

The Story for Far... 

Uptown International School, a member of the Taaleem family of schools, offers exclusively the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  The school was a development from the original, and very popular, Uptown Primary School, enabling families to have access to a through-school education based on the internationally recognised and admired IB Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programmes. The school relocated to a new, spacious site in Mirdiff, and teaches students from pre-KG to Grade 12.

Feedback from parents at Uptown International School to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has been positive, with 65 parents having completed our Survey and awarding the school a rating of 3.9/5 - a positivity rating of 78%. Comments that parents have made to us in 2021 have included:

"The school is very Good, the staff are Professional, so Caring, friendly. The school vibes are so good. focusing on the Personality of the kids, shaping them. I love the school so much and glad to be part of this incredible community. wish them all the best."

"Very engaging school, and really focuses on child's strengths and development. Since I put my son in Uptown, his confidence in speaking and telling stories has increased and improved a lot. He has learnt to be friendly and get along with his classmates and they regularly update on progress. My son is in pre KG, and so far no faults or weaknesses. I'm keen to see their Arabic program in KG as this year it was taught online and wasn't really effective for a 3 - 4 year old"

"The strength is the teachers. They are cooperative, responsive & hard working. Great facilities for outdoor play, parking, play grounds, pool, gym, good class sizes & computer facilities. The main subjects - art, Arabic - are going great. The school needs to pay attention towards music classes too."

Find out about further feedback from parents at Uptown International School in the Buzz.

Having initially been rated Good by the Dubai School Regulator's inspectors for three years, Uptown was rated Very Good in 2016-17, the second highest rating, which it has now retained for two further years.

In line with the KHDA decision announced in September 2019, a full inspection was not scheduled for the 2019-20 academic year for schools rated either Outstanding or Very Good. 

The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic meant that the one day review that was due to take the place of the full inspection also did not take place. However, in line with all UAE schools, UIS did participate in a Distance Learning Evaluation in term 3 of 2020 and was rated Developed - the highest of three possible ratings. You can read the report here.

As part of Taaleem’s strategy of continuous improvement and self-evaluation, the Group requires all of its schools to pursue accreditation from an independent accreditation body of institutions and academic specialists. Accreditation is the process used to ensure that schools meet and maintain international standards of quality and integrity regarding academics, administration and related services.

All Taaleem schools apply to become accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and Uptown School has held IB World School status since 2009.  Its first cohort of IB Diploma students graduated from the school in May 2017.

The school's Vision statement is: Aligned purposefully to the International Baccalaureate, we use education to make the world a better place to be, at the level of:

- The individual, through the achievement of outstanding qualifications, cultivating the learner profile and nurturing leadership, for all.

- The community, through service, a commitment to continuous development and by embracing the UAE National Agenda. 

- The Planet, through cultural empathy, international mindedness and environmental awareness.

There are a number of other statements which develop the school's vision and mission in more detail, but we particularly like:

Ambition - We believe that every student, whatever their prior attainment, has a high level of academic potential, which will be realised with the appropriate time, motivation and support.

and, as a particular focus across all Taaleem schools,

Wellbeing - We believe that the emotional wellbeing of our students is vital, if we are to make our vision a reality.

The school has a capacity for 2,100 students and currently has some 1,440 students with approximately 30% being from the local Emirati population; the remaining students come from a wide range of nationalities. Teachers, some 111 in total, are mainly recruited from the UK and a supported by a further 36 teaching assistants.  Teachers, who had appeared more than happy with their employment in 2017-18, when staff turnover was only 2%, seemed more mobile in 2018-19.  Turnover increased to a more significant 27%, but as most junior staff are employed on two year contracts and are notoriously travel hungry, we hope that this increase is a statistical blip and not a sign of deeper concerns.  Average turnover in Dubai is between 20-22%.

With a teacher:student ratio of 1:13, plentiful individual attention is available to children.  The maximum number of students per class is 25 with most Secondary classes averaging around 18 students.

After an unsettled academic year in 2020-21 when the incoming Principal moved on from the school part way through the academic year, in June 2021, UIS announced the arrival of new Principal, Rob Commons, who will take over leadership at the school in August 2021.  Mr. Commons is moving to UIS from Dubai International Academy Al Barsha, where he has held the position of Senior School Principal from its opening in 2018.  Prior to this, he was Head of Secondary at an international school in Brunei.

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

In common with all of Taaleem's schools - the group has led the way with regard to inclusion - Uptown International School has an inclusive ethos and supports a significant number of students of Determination - some 150 currently.  Indeed, the KHDA notes that "This is a fully inclusive school with values and practices that show respect for each student. The inclusion governor, the inclusion champion and leaders at all levels are committed to meeting the needs of all students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)". 

It is one of the few Dubai schools to be rated Outstanding in regard to the provision and outcomes for Students of Determination.

What about the curriculum?

Uptown International School has always been a strong supporter of the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and its programmes.  Set up originally in the 1950's to educate the children of international staff working at the United Nations, the IBO programmes' focus has always been on the core elements that would ensure a quality, transferable education for internationally-minded families.

The school currently offers the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students in KG to Grade 5, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students from Grade 6 to Grade 10 and the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) and IB Career-related Programme (IBCP) for students in Grades 11 and 12.

The IB Learner Profile is widely acknowledged for the way in which it encourages students to develop their learning skills (rather than just knowledge) and requires them to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. The IB programmes emphasise intellectual challenge, encouraging students to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and to the real world. They foster the development of skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement, qualities that the IBO believes are essential for life in the 21st century.

The depth and breadth of the Diploma Programme, which has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of young adults, is recognised by leading universities world-wide. Students study six subjects drawn from Mathematics, Language and Literature, Science, Humanities, Language Acquisition and the Arts, together with Theory of Knowledge, a course on critical thinking, where students inquire into the nature of knowing and deepen their understanding of knowledge as a human construction. Students also prepare an Extended Essay based on a topic they select related to one of their subjects, and participate in Creativity, Activity and Service.

In recent years, there has been growing interest among IB curriculum schools in the fourth programme, now being offered increasingly by IB Continuum schools. This is the Career-related Programme (IBCP), which provides a more vocational route of study, but with a formal qualification underpinning it.

Uptown has completed the application phase to offer the Career-Related Program (CP), with the first cohort of 12 students completing their studies in 2019,  The programme requires the study of at least two Diploma Programme subjects alongside the unique Career-Related core and a career-related study.

The Core components include Personal and Professional skills, Service Learning, Language Development and a Reflective Project. Uptown has already decided that the Career Related study will be the BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualification and the BTEC Sport Programme.  Sister school, Jumeira Baccalaureate offers a BTEC Information Technology programme, whilst Greenfield International School - the test school for the IBO in the UAE for the CP - offers BTEC Level 3 National Qualifications which are accepted for university entrance either as stand-alone subjects, or together with, usually, two subjects, from the IB Diploma courses for the CP qualification. 

In addition to the academic side of school, Uptown has a very strong reputation for its Performing and Creative Arts Programmes, which include Drama, Dance, Fine Art and Music through a wide variety of both core and extra curricular activities - noted by the KHDA in the current report for provision which is Outstanding. A broad range of extra-curricular and sports programmes are also offered. All students are encouraged to participate widely across academic, art, performance, language, design and sporting activities. 

The school says that "In addition to the subject-specific skills, much sought-after ‘soft skills’ of leadership, collaboration, resilience and perseverance that help prepare students for life beyond Uptown, are central to our programme."  

Sports programmes include Athletics, Aquathon,  Boys and Girls Basketball, Mixed Cross Country, Boys Cricket, Mixed Dance (the Desert Dance Group), Boys and Girls Football, Mixed Gymnastics, Mixed Go-Karting, Girls Netball, Girls Rounders, and Mixed Swimming. The school also offers in excess of 60 representative teams, groups and developmental squads and has more than 430 students participating and competing in matches, meets, tournaments and galas. 

In addition, Uptown offers a unique approach to Model United Nations because it arranges both an MY (Middle Years) MUN and MUN (High school) combined into one, so that delegates can grow from novice delegates in Grade 6 into strong leaders by the time they are in Grade 9. 

What about Academic results?

We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are delighted to see that Uptown School has published its IB Diploma results - something we encourage all schools to do, in order that parents can get a clear understanding of the academic performance of their children's school.

In 2020 and 2021, as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, students did not sit examinations, but instead were awarded their Diploma points based on Centre Assessed Grades (teachers' predictions) and assessed assignments which were graded by IB examiners. 

2021's results showed that 56 students participated in the full diploma programme, with two students completing the Diploma courses programme. UIS students achieved a 100% pass rate, with 88.9% scoring above 30 points, 57.4% above 35 points and 20.4% above 40 points. The overall average for the school was 35.6 points.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believes that the awarding process has resulted in some grade inflation - the global IB average score was raised from 31.34 in 2020 to 32.99 points in 2021, a further significant leap from the figure of 29.62 in 2019, when students last took the IB examinations. This appears to be more marked in the UAE, where the average has grown from 32.26 in 2019, and 34.41 in 2020 to 35.89 in 2021. We would anticipate that there will be a correction in 2022 when students are expected to sit exams in the usual way.

In 2020, 48 students were entered for the IB Diploma of whom 90% were awarded a pass grade achieving an average points score of 32.5 out of a 45 point maximum. 72% of students achieved 30+ points, 35% achieved 35+ points and 9% achieved 40+ points. These results were subsequently revised to a 96% pass rate, with an average score of 33.6. 76% of students achieved 30+ points, 41% achieved 35+ points and 13% were awarded 40+ points.

For 2019, Uptown advised that its 3rd graduation class achieved an average score of 33 points, well above the global average score of 29.72. 29 students took the IB Diploma examinations, with a further 12 taking the IB Career-related Programme. Of the IBDP candidates, 28 passed (a pass rate of 97%). The highest individual points score was 43, with 5 students achieving over 40 points, 4 achieving 35+ points and 10 achieving 30+ points. 

In 2018, Uptown's IB results were still stronger. Although a relatively small cohort of 22 students, they achieved a near perfect pass rate (one student did not quite reach the 24 points required, but was expected to pass on re-marking), and an average score of 33 points.  This is well above the 31.41 UAE average and the global average score of 29.78 (down slightly on 2017) for IBDP students in the first 2018 session.  With one student achieving 42 points (only 3 away from the perfect score of 45), Uptown was justifiably proud of its mixed-ability cohort of students.

Uptown International School's first class of graduates (2017) achieved a 100% Pass Rate in their first set of IB Diploma exams, with an average score of 31 of 45 (above the world average of 29.9) and with one graduate achieving 40 points, putting him or her in the top 10% of IB Diploma students globally. The school did not advise the number of students who entered the examinations, but we understand it be be less than 20.

The first class of graduates in 2017 were accepted into universities and colleges such as Queen Mary University, London;  Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland; UCL Sheffield; Coventry; University of Essex; University of Liverpool; New South Wales; Wollongong;  Queensland; Sydney; the University of Montreal, Canada; International Medical University, Malaysia; Marbella International University, Spain; and Groningen University, Netherlands.

What about the Facilities?

Located in Mirdif, Uptown School is in an excellent location to support students from around Mirdif, Deira, the Northern Emirates and families living in locations with easy access to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road. The school’s relatively new location offers considerably more space for students with the facilities separated into buildings for KG, Primary and Secondary on one campus.

Facilities are spread over 14 acres of landscaped grounds and were designed to ensure that students have the best environment to support their learning and development. There are zoned areas for the Early Years, Primary School and Secondary School and the Primary and Secondary schools have separate studios to support the full IB programme of Visual Arts and integrated Design Technology on offer.

Three fully equipped laboratories support the Primary and Middle Years Programme of Inquiry Based Science, and the school provides full wireless connectivity across the campus and ITC-integrated classrooms to support learning with digitally connected devices. IPads have been introduced to complement the Early Years Programme with additional integration in Primary and Secondary classes.  The Primary and Secondary schools’ libraries are in a central structure, providing a focus for inquiry and research within the school. Both levels of the library floors are outfitted with Wi-Fi study rooms. The Early Years programme has its own separate library within the kindergarten facility serving Pre-K, KG1 and 2.

Sports and Creative Arts are clearly an important element of Uptown School's provision. Students in the Primary and Secondary schools have access to a full size, hardwood-sprung floor gymnasium and an indoor 25-meter, eight-lane pool.  Children in the KG section have a separate gym and pool facility within their area. Students participating in the Primary and Secondary PE and Athletics programmes, have access to two regulations-size pitches for football, indoor basketball courts, outdoor tennis courts, track and field facilities for long jump and javelin, a 120-meter running track and multi-purpose sport activity spaces. The move to the enlarged campus has allowed for formation of a competitive dance team and expansion of sports teams with junior and senior swim squads, football teams and girls' netball teams which compete in the Dubai Athletic Schools Sports Association (DASSA).

Modern, flexible performance spaces and multiple practice rooms for individual lessons complement the extensive music programme. The music curriculum is timetabled for all grades. The Early Years Programme has a unique dedicated music room within the Kindergarten zoned area. Its arts program includes a violin ensemble, junior and senior choirs, percussion band and MYP rock band ensemble. The school says it is now able to offer a more diverse range of performing arts, athletics, extra-curricular and academic opportunity to enrich the development of each student.  Students also participate in the World Scholars competition and Model UN academic teams.

On-campus catering facilities provide hot and cold healthy, nutritious lunches for Uptown School students and there are various seating areas (indoors and outdoors) available for students to enjoy their meals during break times.

What the Inspectors Say (2018-19)

The most recent KHDA inspection of Uptown International School, carried out by its DSIB Inspection team, took place in March 2019.  This was the sixth inspection carried out by the DSIB team, and the third time that the school has been given the second-highest rating of Very Good.

Inspectors identified the strengths of Uptown International School as

  • The systematic approach toward innovation to sustain improvement;
  • The comprehensive curriculum and the broad extra-curricular programme;
  • The safe, engaging and well-resourced environment for learning;
  • The highly developed, inclusive culture and programme that caters for a broad range of students' needs;
  • Students' personal development and their enjoyment of learning.

In terms of Student Achievement, Uptown's students continued to improve their progress and attainment, notably in Mathematics and Science in the MYP section. Almost all ratings are now Very Good, with English in the DP section Outstanding. As is so often the case, Arabic and Islamic Studies are not at the same standard, but are rated Good in the PYP section, and Good for progress and Acceptable for attainment, in the MYP and DP sections. These will inevitably have remain a focus for improvement, given particularly the significant number of Emirati students at the school. Strengthening the Arabic team is a recommendation noted more than once in the latest KHDA report.

Students' personal and social development and innovation skills are rated Outstanding across the board. The inspection report finds that "Students’ personal and social development, their understanding of Islamic values, and their awareness of Emirati and world cultures are outstanding. They make a significant contribution to the community and to caring for the environment by taking the initiative to implement their innovative ideas".  This is high praise indeed.

Similarly, the design, implementation and adaptation to meet the needs of all students and their differing abilities is also rated Outstanding.  The inspection report notes that "The curriculum design, and the extent to which it is adapted to meet the diverse needs and interests of almost all students, are outstanding across all phases. A wide range of activities and exciting experiences is available to all students to ensure their learning is meaningful and enjoyable".  This is a key indicator where many schools struggle and Uptown School clearly is particularly expert in ensuring that the needs of all students are being met.
 
Uptown had made considerable progress - and of course, this links back to the achievement of students - in relation to Teaching and Assessment with both Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment all being rated Very Good across the school.  

Protection, care, guidance and support of students is again Outstanding across the school. Staff-student relationships are described as exemplary and contribute significantly to the harmonious and respectful ethos of the school. In addition, the well-being and personal development of students is carefully monitored. Students are confident to seek help if they have any concerns in their school lives. The school counsellors are said to provide excellent academic and personal support and are particularly effective in guiding older students about careers and university admission. 

Provision and outcomes for Students of Determination are rated Outstanding - a rare achievement among Dubai schools and a real testament to the commitment of the Uptown team, and Taaleem's SEND teams across the organisation. Taaleem staff have 'walked the talk' for inclusion unerringly and are widely recognised for this.

Whilst the effectiveness of leadership and the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning are again rated Very Good, relationships between the school, parents and the community, Governance and the management, staffing, facilities and resources are remain rated Outstanding. In particular, the inspectors found that "The parents are actively involved in the education of their children and their views are regularly sought, considered and, where appropriate, acted upon. Communication between the school and the parents is very effective. Parents receive regular reports about their children’s achievements. There is significant involvement in the local and wider community to enhance students’ learning".

If you would like to read the entire KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do in order to understanding fully the reasoning behind the ratings - you will find it here

The Buzz.

Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com through our Parent Survey on the school is notable for the use of the word "happy". The school does seem to have created an inclusive environment that appeals to parents, teachers and most importantly to its pupils, 86% of whom look forward to going to school either 'quite a lot' or a 'tremendous amount'.  Children also feel a strong sense of belonging.

80% of parents are fully satisfied with the standard of academic performance, with a further 14% partially convinced, though 25% believe that some form of external tuition is necessary. Despite this, parents seem generally confident that UIS can meet their children's academic needs. Communication and disciplinary policies and implementation are also strengths of the school.

In addition, 51% of respondents believe that their children are receiving a quality of education which is better than standard they would receive in their home country, whilst 25% believe it is on a par.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, 85% of respondents would whole-heartedly recommend UIS to other parents, although 22% had considered moving their child to a different school at some stage.

As is so often the case - and we would assume the main reason behind parents having thought about alternative schools - if there is a bone of contention, it is in relation to fees.  Some 49% of parents agreed that the fees they pay do represent value for money, but 39% partially agreed with this statement, and 12% disagreed.  These outcomes are in absolute accord with the average for schools across the UAE.  

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Uptown International School and would like to share your opinions and experiences with other potential members of your community, please complete our survey here.

The 2018-19 KHDA pre-inspection survey was completed by 365 parents (double the number of the previous year). 95% parents who responded to the survey are satisfied with the education the school provides for their children and - unusually - with the level of fees they pay. They also indicated that their children are happy and safe at school.  Most are well informed and have regular involvement with the school. Parents are positive about the inclusion of children with individual needs and agree that school leaders listen to them.  Most feel positive about the school's approach to learning. A minority of the parents have concerns about Arabic teaching.

366 Grade 6 to 9 students took part in the KHDA's Well-being Census. Most students were satisfied with their overall school experience and almost all were positive about their school work. A minority of students reported occasional concerns. Almost all students have a high academic ambition, strong engagement with their teachers and positive relationships with their peers.

Our View

It seems that parents, students and staff are generally very happy with Uptown International School, and the DSIB inspection team appears to concur.  The school is clearly making excellent progress on its Inspection path, and we hope that it will achieve the highest Outstanding rating when inspections resume.

The improvements in Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum in 2018-19 should have begun to show their impact on Student Achievement - and this will be the key to not only improved academic progress, but also an improved rating for Uptown School overall. We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believe that several more Outstanding ratings will appear in subsequent inspection reports.

Not only is this a school that delivers academically, but it clearly also provides an all-round education in which care and support play an equally important role.

What about Fees? 

Fees approved by the KHDA start at AED 57,000 in pre-KG rising to AED 87,374 for Grades 11 and 12.  In the 2019-20 academic year, Uptown offered significant discounts across all fee levels.  Fees for pre-KG were AED 40,500, rising to AED AED 72,500 in Grades 11-12 .  Fees include books, but not uniforms or transport. They are paid termly, with three terms per calendar year.  

New students pay a non-refundable AED 525 fee at the time of application. Once the seat is offered, AED 4,000 is required to reserve the seat until full tuition payment is made. This fee is deductible against the first term tuition.

Existing students - in line with KHDA policy - are required to pay a re-registration fee annually which guarantees their place in the following academic year. This fee of AED 2,000 is deducted from the first term's tuition fees.

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Uptown International School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

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