Uptown School is owned and managed by the Taaleem Group which operates two Early Learning Centres, two UK curriculum and three IB curriculum schools in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi (with a second opening in 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 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 5 years ago, and teaches students from pre-KG to Grade 12.
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.
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.
In common with all of Taaleem's schools, Uptown 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 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.
Uptown 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.
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.
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.
What about 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 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 School as
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.
This year, Uptown has 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 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.
The limited 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, who for the most part, look forward to going to school. In addition, 92% of respondents believe that their children are receiving a quality of education which is better or as good as the standard they would receive in their home country.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Uptown School and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
It seems that parents, students and staff are generally very happy with Uptown School, and the DSIB inspection team appears to concur. The school is clearly making excellent progress on its Inspection path.
The improvements in Teaching and Assessment, and the Curriculum in 2018-19 should begin 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.
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. However, for the 2017-18, 2018-19 and now 2019-20 academic years, Uptown offers significant discounts across all fee levels. Fees for pre-KG are AED 45,000, KG1 and KG2, AED 52,190, Grades 1-5 AED 57,500, Grades 6-10, AED 67,500 and Grades 11-12 AED 72,500. 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.
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