Uptown School is owned and managed by the Taaleem Group which operates three Early Learning Centres, two UK curriculum and three IB curriculum schools in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. Located towards the Sharjah border in Mirdiff, Uptown was among the first IB curriculum schools to open in Dubai.
Uptown School has been rated Very Good for the third year in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
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 4 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 a further year. Uptown is rated Outstanding for its provision and outcomes for students with SEND requirements.
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 has a capacity for 2,100 students and currently has some 1,400 students with approximately 25% being from the local Emirati population; the remaining students come from a wide range of nationalities. Teachers, some 110 in total, are mainly recruited from the UK and a supported by a further 36 teaching assistants. Teachers appear more than happy with their employment; staff turnover, at 2% in the last year, is extremely low for Dubai, where the average 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 per class.
In common with all of Taaleem's schools, Uptown School has an inclusive ethos and supports a significant number of students of Determination - some 130 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.
The school's mission 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".
Its vision is "A school for the whole of our international community, that delivers a world class education and achieves excellent student outcomes, by all measures, for all our students, in line with UAE National Agenda". There may be an element of political correctness in these references to the UAE National Agenda, but with a fundamental requirement for all schools in the UAE to utilise international bench-marking tests and regular student assessments to inform the curriculum and teaching of the school, a strong reminder is perhaps no bad thing and certainly a genuine aim of the school!
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 parrticipate 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 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. Ideally, we would have liked a little more information - the number of students, in particular.
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 first class of graduates in 2017 have been 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 even 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 is 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 is justifiably proud of its mixed-ability cohort of students.
What the Inspectors Say (2017-18)
The most recent KHDA inspection of Uptown School, carried out by its DSIB Inspection team, took place in January 2018. This was the fifth inspection carried out by the DSIB team, and the second time that the school has been given the second-highest rating of Very Good.
Inspectors identified the strengths of Uptown School as
Inspectors were particularly positive in their comments about the Leadership of the school, noting that "The school leadership team has a clear vision for the school, leading to an inclusive and caring ethos that is focused on student well-being through developing positive relationships. The morale throughout the school community is very positive. The parents are particularly affirmative. Processes for driving change have been well-developed and implemented across the school".
In terms of Student Achievement, inspectors found that "achievement is improving in all phases of the school. Progress is good or better in all subjects. Student attainment in English is very good and in DP English attainment and progress are outstanding. The results for the first DP cohort were very positive, with all students being awarded the IB Diploma. Students’ learning skills are developing very well especially in the DP". Indeed, when considering Student attainment and progress, the report makes positive reading. KG attainment for English, Mathematics and Science are each rated Good, whilst progress is Very Good. In the Primary School, attainment and progress for English and Mathematics are both Very Good, whilst the same measures in Science, Islamic Education and Arabic as both a first and second language are rated Good across the board.
Students following the MYP programme in the Secondary School are attaining an Acceptable level in the Arabic-based subjects, whilst progress is Good. For Mathematics and Science, both attainment and progress are rated Good, whilst English is rated Very Good. In the Senior Secondary, IB Diploma section, English is rated Outstanding, Science progress is Very Good, with the remaining measures for Science and Mathematics rated Good. Similar to the MYP ratings, Islamic Studies and Arabic as a first language are deemed to be Acceptable for attainment and Good for progress. Learning Skills are rated Very Good across KG, PYP and MYP and Outstanding at Diploma level - a very positive assessment for the future of grade 11 and 12 Diploma students.
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.
One area where the school does need to make further progress - and of course, this links back to the achievement of students - is in relation to Teaching and Assessment. Whilst the quality of teaching for effective learning is now rated Very Good across all sections of the school, improvement is still required in respect of Assessment. Whilst this is rated Very Good in the KG and DP sections, it remains Good in Primary and Secondary. The report notes that in the PYP and MYP, there is a lack of consistency in the use of assessment information in planning to meet the needs of all students. However, inspectors also found that recent changes are enabling more reliable assessment data to be collected, leading to a better alignment between internal and external data.
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.
Whilst the effectiveness of leadership and the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning are rated Very Good, relationships between the school, parents and the community, Governance and the management, staffing, facilities and resources are all 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".
These views appear to have been reflected in the pre-inspection survey completed by 167 parents. 95% parents who responded to the survey are satisfied with the education the school provides for their children and indicated that their children are happy and safe at school. The areas of concern for a minority of the parents are reading for pleasure at home, and literacy and reading in Arabic.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com 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, 88% 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.
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. If the improvements related particularly to assessment and the raising the attainment of students as a result, we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com believe that several more Outstanding ratings will appear in subsequent inspection reports.
What about Fees?
Fees approved by the KHDA for 2017/18 start at AED 57,001 in pre-KG rising to AED 87,374 for Grades 11 and 12. However, for the current and next (2018-19) academic year, Uptown is offering 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 7,000 is required to reserve the seat until full tuition payment is made. This fee is deductible against the first term tuition.
Note: the school operates a debenture programme through which companies can purchase guaranteed place through Taaleem.
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