United Arab Emirates / Sharjah / Al Taawun / Victoria International School

Victoria International School Review

Victoria International School Sharjah (VISS) is a not-for-profit all-through school which offers some of the best resources and facilities in the UAE. VISS follows the Australian curriculum and offers either the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or the fully accredited VISS Global Citizen Diploma.
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4.2 out of 5 based on 22 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 53,500
Annual fees
AED 28,350 - 74,900
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2007
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Dean Pyrah
Community
Main teacher nationality
Australia

Nearby nurseries

0.7km • EYFS curriculum
1.3km • Montessori curriculum
2km • EYFS curriculum
2.8km
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Victoria International School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2020/21
No data
Availability 2021/22
No data
Annual fee average
AED 53,500
Annual fees
AED 28,350 - 74,900
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2007
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Dean Pyrah
Community
Main teacher nationality
Australia
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Victoria International School Sharjah (VISS) is a not-for-profit all-through school which offers some of the best resources and facilities in the UAE. VISS follows the Australian curriculum and offers either the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or the fully accredited VISS Global Citizen Diploma.

The story so far . . .

Located in the Al Tuwaan district on the border with Dubai, Victoria International School Sharjah (VISS) sits on a stunning sea-front plot amid acres of spacious, landscaped grounds. Opened for classes in September 2007, VISS provides a high-quality Victorian education to a diverse international community and has a vision to produce students who are “critical thinkers, confident, reflective and responsible global citizens, who are capable of facing the future with resilience and optimism”.

The VISS mission focuses on four key areas:

  1. Providing a welcoming and challenging environment.
  2. Fostering respectful and responsible global citizens who are capable of thriving in the future.
  3. Developing students who are knowledgeable, critical thinkers, confident, and reflective.
  4. Being a centre of excellence committed to sharing the best practices in Sharjah, the UAE, Australia, and around the world.

As a school, VISS puts the core values of Excellence, Diversity, Learning, Integrity, and Community at the heart of everything it does, built upon a partnership between the ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi and the Victorian government in Australia. VISS was conceived in 2005, with the aim to be “a lighthouse school that would act to support improvement and development in education in Sharjah”. Even though the school is based in Sharjah, the Australian ethos was woven into every part of the school’s development: a Victorian firm, Taylor Oppenheim Architects, designed the campus; a Victorian, Rob Blachford, was appointed as the founding principal; and the entire initial teaching team arrived straight from Victoria.

Nowadays, the school is led by Executive Principal Dean Pyrah, a Victorian-born educator who previously worked at GEMS Wellington International School in Dubai. He has been with VISS since 2010, originally as Deputy Principal and Head of Secondary, before assuming the Executive Principal post in 2014. Talking about what makes VISS unique, Mr. Pyrah explains:

As parents we seek to give our children the best that we can provide. One way we do this is to provide our children with more opportunities than we had ourselves. That one word - opportunity - summarises all that is great about Victoria International School of Sharjah”.

At the heart of this effort is VISS’ stellar teaching staff, who are predominantly sourced from schools in Australia, with the majority coming from Victoria. VISS teachers are all carefully selected to ensure their commitment to providing quality, innovative education, and all staff who teach the IB Diploma have additional IB-approved qualifications. VISS notes that the teaching staff “take an active interest in constant personal growth and are encouraged to enhance their skills and qualifications through active involvement in professional development programs”. In addition, teachers are also involved in the school’s co-curricular programme and cultural activities, enabling them to understand and support their students in every area of their educational journey.

VISS currently has over 1,500 students and is fully co-educational throughout (with some exceptions for activities such as swimming, which is split into boys and girls from Grade 6). To ensure that students benefit from a personalised learning approach, class sizes are limited to between 20 and 25 students, with even smaller numbers in the senior years.

It was recently announced that VISS is expanding to include four new, purpose-built campuses within the emirate of Sharjah, in order to build on the first school’s great success and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qassimi. These campuses will be located in the Central Region, Tilal, Khorfakkan, and Kalba; the five schools will form the Victoria International Schools of Sharjah Group.

What about the Curriculum?

VISS teaches the Victorian model of the Australian curriculum, beginning with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and ending with either the world-renowned International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma or the fully accredited VISS Global Citizen Diploma.

The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) is used for children in Pre-KG and KG1 and adopts a comprehensive approach to children’s learning and development, all set within a UAE context. This framework centres on five key learning and development outcomes:

  1. Children have a strong sense of identity.
  2. Children are connected with and contribute to their world.
  3. Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.
  4. Children are confident and involved learners.
  5. Children are effective communicators.

The Early Learning Centre (ELC) aims to create a safe, welcoming, and stimulating learning environment for each child, where students are encouraged to engage in thoughtful play as well as engage with early literacy and numeracy development. From the very start of their schooling VISS pupils learn to problem solve, communicate, and become resilient critical thinkers with intellectual curiosity. However, beyond simply meeting curriculum requirements, the ELC also focuses strongly on the personal and social development of each child, by promoting a strong sense of belonging and self-worth, as well as a capacity to express and acknowledge feelings, all through the facilitation of warm, trusting relationships and interactions with others.

Beyond the ELC, students in Prep (KG2) begin to follow the framework for the Victorian State curriculum, which is at the heart of their schooling right up until the end of Grade 10. This curriculum is designed to be broad and balanced, developing knowledge and skills that are required for life-long learning and social development. While the elective programme at VISS does not officially start until Grade 9, the curriculum offers students multiple opportunities to develop their talents and interests in sporting and artistic endeavours. In addition, the Victorian curriculum is designed so that teachers are encouraged to appropriately target the learning level of each individual student in their classes.

Like with many international curriculums in the UAE, English and Mathematics are treated as core subjects, along with the required subjects from the Ministry of Education (MOE) – Arabic, Islamic Studies, Moral Education, and Social studies. VISS also offers Arabic classes for both Arabs and non-Arabs, while Islamic Education is compulsory for all Muslim students (and optional for non-Muslim students). Islamic Education is taught in Arabic for native Arabic speakers, and otherwise taught in English when the class includes non-Arabic speaking students.

For Secondary School students at VISS, the curriculum is organised into Learning Areas and Capabilities, to ensure that students are learning skills in a cross-curricular manner. Learning Areas include English, Mathematics, Science, The Humanities, The Arts, Technologies, Languages, and Health and Physical Education. Capabilities students are expected to develop in these Learning Areas include Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Capability, Intercultural Capability, and Personal and Social Capability.

Once students reach Grade 10, they enter their final year of the Australian curriculum, which is also treated as a preparatory year for the programmes offered in Grades 11 and 12. VISS offers two pathways to Grade 11 and 12 students in order to achieve a high school qualification: the Global Citizen Diploma or the IB Diploma.

The VISS Global Citizen Diploma is an American-style high school diploma qualification which is achieved over two years of study. VISS explains that those students “wanting to study a specific discipline of subjects or developing their practical application of English Language skills or pursuing their interest in the Arts and Technology will certainly find this pathway in the senior school attractive”. Within this programme, students take the following subjects, divided into compulsory and elective:

Compulsory:

  • English
  • Mathematics (students have the option to do IB Mathematics and earn double credits)
  • An Additional Language (Arabic or French)
  • Islamic Studies (if applicable)
  • SATs and IELTs/TOEFL (students take these tests independently outside of school, as a requirement from the MOE).

Electives (4 in total from two different steams):

  • Type 1 – a two-year course (Science and Humanities)
  • Type 2 – a one-year course (Art, Technology, and PE)

In addition to these basic requirements, students are also expected to do a critical thinking course called Approaches to Knowledge and complete an experiential learning course called the Curriculum Enrichment Programme (this is similar to the IB Diploma’s Theory of Knowledge subject and Creativity, Activity, Service programme). The Curriculum Enrichment Programme encourages students to engage in activities beyond academics, and is a completion requirement for the Global Citizen Diploma.

For those students not taking the Global Citizen Diploma, VISS offers the IB Diploma as its flagship exit programme. This comprehensive, two-year pre-university course of study aims to prepare students for the rigours of university, but also develops them into “caring, compassionate global citizens with an appreciation of lifelong learning”. VISS has a dedicated IB team among its staff that includes a Careers Counsellor, a CAS Coordinator, an Extended Essay Coordinator, and a Student Counsellor. Students taking the IB must do a range of subjects, where one is taken from each of the six groups:

Group 1 – Studies in Language and Literature

  • English Literature (HL or SL)
  • English Language & Literature (HL or SL)

Group 2 – Language Acquisition

  • French B (HL or SL)
  • Arabic B (HL or SL)
  • French Ab Initio (SL)

Group 3 – Individuals and Society

  • History (HL or SL)
  • Business and Management (HL or SL)
  • Global Politics (HL or SL)

Group 4 – Experimental Sciences

  • Biology (HL or SL)
  • Chemistry (HL or SL)
  • Physics (HL or SL)
  • Design & Technology (HL or SL)
  • Environmental Systems and Society (SL) – this can be taken in Groups 3 or 4.

Group 5 – Mathematics

  • Mathematics Analysis and Approaches (SL)
  • Mathematics Application and Interpretation (HL or SL)

Group 6 – The Arts and Electives

  • Visual Arts (HL or SL)
  • 1 Free Elective (students select another subject from Groups 3 or 4)

Students are required to take one subject each from Groups 1 to 5; Group 6 is optional, meaning that students can select their sixth subject from either Group 3 or Group 4. Out of the six chosen subjects, three must be taken at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. In addition, it is compulsory for all students to complete the Theory of Knowledge subject, the Creativity, Activity, and Service programme, and a 4,000-word Extended Essay. To meet the demands of Grades 11 and 12, students are supported with individualised career guidance and support for university choices and applications, as well as given the opportunity to take on leadership roles.

In fact, VISS offers a wide range of experiential learning opportunities to students, not just those in the senior years, to ensure a robust and varied curriculum which promotes high levels of engagement and offers ample opportunities to pursue individual interests. All students at VISS have the chance to participate in the local and wider community – some may choose to support the Student Representative Council (SRC), while others may partake in charity fundraising, working with VISS’ partner charity organisations (The Big Heart in UAE and The Fred Hollows Foundation in Australia).

The SRC, for example, is managed by a member of staff but is very much student-led. The SRC is run by two School Captains (one boy and one girl from Grade 12) and by two Vice Captains (one boy and one girl from Grade 11). These four positions are selected after a rigorous selection process which includes a written application followed by two rounds of interviews. The rest of the SRC is comprised of one student from each homegroup across Grades 4 to 12; these students nominate themselves, write an application, speak to their homegroup, and are then voted in by their peers.

For those looking for other leadership roles, the house system at VISS offers the chance for students to become House Representatives in Grades 5 to 9, and House Captains in Grades 11 and 12. Like the SRC election process, these students also go through a rigorous application and interview process, before being selected by the House Co-coordinator in close consultation with relevant Grade Level Leaders. The Captains of each house (Falcons, Gazelles, Leopards, and Scorpions) are responsible for fostering team spirit and running house events. While many of these events are sports-oriented, others include a talent show, a reading challenge, a scavenger hunt, and many more. 

For students who may not be as interested in the running of the school itself, VISS offers an extensive co-curricular programme – while current available activities are not listed on the school website, VISS can be contacted directly for further information. Previous sports offerings have included basketball, football, ballet, gymnastics, and netball, as well as the VISS Swimming Academy. Meanwhile, for creative students, activities include theatrical productions, debating events, Model United Nations, and dance classes, as well as the VISS Music Academy.

For those students who want to compete, VISS takes part in the Emirates International Schools Sports Association (EISSA), a conference which draws together some of the top international schools in the Northern Emirates. VISS hosts many EISSA leagues and tournaments, so that students have a wide range of teams to join.

And for students interested in music, either as a hobby or competitively, the VISS Music Academy is a major part of the VISS identity. The school offers lessons to students from Primary through to Senior school (at extra cost), and currently offers tuition for 16 different instruments. Students receive individual lessons from qualified, specialist tutors, and can take part in music-based activities such as the Grade 6 All-Star Band, Music Studio, and the school’s Vocal Group.

VISS also hosts a variety of annual events and holidays that are observed in many UAE schools, such as National Day, Pink Day, Flag Day, and Australia Day. More unique events include Book Character Day, Music and Dance Concerts, and the VISS International Day, which occurs bi-annually to celebrate diversity.

In addition, VISS offers plenty of exciting and enriching opportunities outside of the school campus as well. Students in Grades 4, 5, 7, 9, and 12 can take part in camps provided by fully-trained outdoor education professionals, while international trips give students the opportunity to respond to a variety of different learning situations and environments. Previous trips offered by the school include a Ski Trip to Switzerland, an AISA Annual Sports Tour, a Big Hearts Service Project trip to Malaysia, and a Robotics Competition in China.

So, there are certainly plenty of opportunities for VISS students to get involved and make the most of their school community. And, to encourage students to take on new challenges and broaden their horizons, VISS makes sure that its students are acknowledged in a variety of ways throughout the school year. Achievements linked to the VISS values are recorded for each student on an internal system called Engage, and VISS Values Awards are given out once each term. Students competing for the school in competitions, in activities ranging from sports to robotics to reading, are recognised and awarded during assemblies, while academic awards at the start of each year celebrate Academic Excellence (from the previous year). Finally, the graduating class each year has their own Graduation Ceremony to look forward to, where Honour Board Awards take place.

What about Inclusion?

VISS is an inclusive school, which focuses on three key areas to support its students: Early Identification, Provision, and Communication. Students who may need additional learning support are identified before, during, or shortly after enrolment, so that staff can make adjustments to the curriculum where required, and can develop and implement Individual Learning Plans.

VISS uses a Social Model of Inclusion, which allows staff to work collaboratively with families, whether it be for students who require extra support or for those who would benefit from enrichment and extension – this kind of support is available right through from Pre-KG to Grade 12. To accomplish this, regular Intervention Team Meetings and Student-Centred Case Meetings engage parents, families, school staff, and external services.

Each section of the school has its own Head of Wellbeing, and there is a whole school Psychologist/Counsellor available. This individual advises on relevant programmes and initiatives, works on professional development with staff, and offers both one-on-one and group counselling for students.

Perhaps most impressively is that fact that VISS does not simply have these provisions in place for the specific students who need them directly. Instead, there is a structured Wellbeing Programme which runs fortnightly in the Secondary School. Different students from each grade are responsible for running a fortnightly assembly, and students take part in wellbeing sessions, 40-minute lessons where homegroup teachers and grade level leaders work with students to discuss different wellbeing areas.

VISS’ Wellbeing model is built on the school’s Values, the principles of Positive Education (PERMA), and a particular focus on the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. The 5 Ways to Wellbeing is an internationally respected system based on the principles of Positive psychology, and although it is relatively new to education, its strong impact has been seen in schools across the world. The system centres on the five tenets of Striving for EXCELLENCE; Celebrating DIVERSITY; Showing INTEGRITY; Prioritising LEARNING; and Valuing COMMUNITY.

A list of services provided by VISS is included below:

  • Mentoring Program
  • Individualised Daily Support
  • Intensive Small Groups
  • In Class Support
  • Literacy Enrichment Programmes
  • Social Skills Development
  • MultiLit
  • EAL/D Booster Programme
  • Friendly Kids, Friendly Classrooms
  • Motor Skill Development Programmes
  • Curriculum Modification
  • English Language Support
  • Maths Booster Programme
  • Executive Functioning Training Programme

What about Academic Achievement?

Unlike many schools in the UAE, VISS makes student exam results available to the public on their website, something that WhichSchoolAdvisor.com heartily applauds. The school currently has records of the IB Diploma results from 2014 up until to 2019, and even includes how many candidates were registered to take each exam versus how many passed, something that is often omitted by other schools.

As can be seen from the results table below, VISS has maintained strong pass rates even as the size of the cohorts has grown each year. 2016 was obviously the highlight for IB students, with a 100% pass rate from 20 students entered for the Diploma. And while VISS has not seen a 100% pass rate in the years since, the average points achieved and the highest points awarded have all seen the kind of growth which promises that the school will continue to build on its achievements.

IB Diploma Results

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Number of Diploma Candidates Registered in the Session

14

27

20

28

32

33

Number of Candidates to Pass the Diploma

8

24

20

26

27

28

Diploma Pass Rate

57%

81.4%

100%

93%

84.3%

85%

Average Points Obtained by Students Who Passed

30

30

31

33

30

33

Average Points Obtained by all Students Registered for Diploma

26.6

28.4

31

32

29

32

World Averages

30

30

30

30

30

30

Highest Points Awarded

34

38

41

41

41

41

Average Subject Grade Obtained by all Who Passed the Diploma

4.65

4.72

4.9

5.17

4.78

5.26

Average Subject Grade Obtained by all Registered for Diploma

4.1

4.4

4.9

5.04

4.6

5.2

Average Core Points Obtained by Candidates

1.3

1.3

1.3

1.3

1.3

1.3

Students Scoring 30+

14.2%

33%

40%

41%

51.8%

33%

Students Scoring 35+

0%

11.1%

15%

26%

11.1%

18%

Students Scoring 40+

0%

0%

5%

4%

4%

12%

Mean ATAR Score

79%

82.4%

85.48%

88%

84.6%

87%

 

What the Inspectors Say

Previous inspections from the Sharjah Education Zone have found VISS to be a Highly Effective school. In 2014, for example, inspectors praised the clear leadership vision, obvious enthusiasm for teaching, and emphasis on both collaboration and independent learning for students. Further comments from the report can be seen below:

Teachers [make] sure that all students participate in curriculum activities that [are] suited to their abilities and interests.

In most instances, the subject topics [are] modified through questioning and curriculum activities that suite the abilities of all students with teachers ensur[ing] the curriculum delivers an excellent balance of activities that promoted students’ resilience, independence and study skills very well.

School leaders ensure that professional development activities [have] a positive impact on improving teaching, learning and leadership within the school and across the emirate of Sharjah. Teachers [are] encouraged to try new methods and techniques in their classrooms.” 

Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis; while there were a few instances of inspections being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, schools did not generally publish the outcomes. With the initiation of SPEA (Sharjah Private Education Authority), the intention is that schools will be inspected using the common framework already in place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

However, SPEA has decided to seek a collaborative approach with the schools for this process, and although we understand that initial inspections did take place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, results of these inspections have not been published.

As a result of the pandemic, Sharjah schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations (DLE), implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). In its most recent Distance Learning Review Report (2020), VISS’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Developed.

Inspectors found that the school was successfully encouraging student attendance and participation in a wide range of distance learning activities, and praised the fact that communication with parents, the well-being of students, and the well-being of staff was being given a high priority. The review noted that teachers “collaborate fully together in planning to ensure continuity and momentum in students’ learning”; they were further commended for ensuring that learning objectives were clear and shared with both parents and students, as well as providing regular and helpful feedback on work.

The leadership team at VISS were similarly praised for their handling of distance learning. An assessment of the school’s short-term planning showed that leaders and staff were employing innovative methods and making use of best practice ideas in e-learning from around the world. Meanwhile, the school’s long-term planning was found to fully consider potential future scenarios and keep things under constant review with support from the governing body.

As with all DLE reports, inspectors also offered advice on areas for development and improvement. For VISS, inspectors suggested that the school continue to develop its long-term planning with particular reference to three areas:

  1. Fully developing the current innovative ideas with enabling students’ collaboration.
  2. Looking at ways in the future to sustain the current momentum and engagement of students in learning.
  3. Fully developing the initiative to provide and run parent forums.

If you would like to read the full inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.

What about Facilities?

VISS sits on a large and impressive plot on the edge of a lagoon. The grounds are well-landscaped and extensive, and the school has three dedicated buildings for Early Learning, Primary, and Middle/Secondary students. Beyond these main teaching buildings, the campus also has a wide range of other facilities and buildings to cover sports, technology, and more:

  • A vast community and sports centre with an indoor pool.
  • Indoor and outdoor courts.
  • Pitches and athletics facilities.
  • A brand-new innovation centre (opened in 2018) which offers STEM, robotics, and digital technologies.
  • Dedicated library building.
  • 500-seat auditorium.
  • Dedicated drama department.
  • Large technology centre.
  • Canteen serving hot meals.

The Buzz 

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has received a total of 22 reviews for VISS, and responders have awarded the school an impressive average rating of 4.2 out of 5. Reviewers pick out student environment, academic achievement, and school staff as particularly strong areas.

In terms of student experience at VISS, 90% of reviewers said that their child felt either a tremendous sense of belonging at the school (62%) or quite a bit of belonging (28%). Similarly, 91% of responders felt that their child enjoyed going to school either tremendously (77%) or quite a bit (14%). 55% also said that VISS has improved their child’s confidence a great deal, while another 32% said VISS had done so ‘a lot’.

Parent satisfaction at the school seems very high, based on the responses received. 77% of reviewers reported being satisfied with their child’s academic achievement at VISS, compared to only 14% who were not. And the majority of reviewers were either quite confident (55%) or even extremely confident (36%) that VISS could meet the specific learning needs of their child. 76% said that they had never considered moving their child from the school. 

Meanwhile, school leadership and staff seemed to be performing similarly well in the eyes of parents. Only 9% of all reviewers did not feel that VISS offered good value for money given the standard of education; 73%, on the other hand, totally agreed that it did. An impressive 86% reported being satisfied with the feedback provided by the school, and 82% were satisfied with the disciplinary policy in place at the school. In terms of particular social safety issues, such as bullying, a reassuring 86% of reviewers reported having minimal concerns (with 50% of this total having no concerns at all).

As can be seen from the above, the majority of parents who have offered responses report high levels of satisfaction with VISS in many areas. Perhaps the easiest measure of this from the survey is the question about whether, as a parent of a VISS child, you would recommend the school to another parent – in this case, a heartening 86% of reviewers offered a resounding ‘Yes’.

If you are a parent, teacher, or senior student at VISS, please share your experience with other potential members of your school community by taking part in our survey.

What about Fees?

Fees at VISS reflect the high standard of teaching and the impressive quality of the facilities. Tuition fees start at AED 28,350 for Pre-KG and reach AED 74,900 for Grade 12. (there is no mention on the school website of whether or not these fees are all-inclusive).

Bus fees are to be paid separately, and vary depending on whether students require one-way or two-way trips, and on the area they live. Those closest to the school can expect to pay (per annum) either AED 3,360 for one-way or AED 4,800 for two-way. Meanwhile, those further afield, in Dubai for example, can expect to pay (per annum) AED 6,510 for one-way or AED 9,300 for two-way.

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Victoria 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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