United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Shakhbout City / Virginia International Private School

Virginia International Private School Review

Virginia International Private School currently accepts students from KG to Grade 9 which will grow organically to Grade 12. It is a US curriculum school in Khalifa City B (Shakbout City), in Abu Dhabi. The school, which opened in September 2015, achieved an Acceptable rating during its first inspection in 2015-16 with the same rating awarded in 2017-18.
At a glance
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
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Availability 2020/21
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Annual fee average
AED 30,500
Annual fees
AED 26,750 - 36,650
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2015
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Karla Moore
Owner
Dr. Ali Al Mazrouie
Main student nationality
Emirati
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Virginia International Private School
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Acceptable
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 30,500
Annual fees
AED 26,750 - 36,650
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2015
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Ms. Karla Moore
Owner
Dr. Ali Al Mazrouie
Main student nationality
Emirati
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First Published:
Monday 12 October, 2015

Updated:
Thursday 10 January, 2019

Virginia International Private School currently accepts students from KG to Grade 9 which will grow organically to Grade 12. It is a US curriculum school in Khalifa City B (Shakbout City), in Abu Dhabi. The school, which opened in September 2015, achieved an Acceptable rating during its first inspection in 2015-16 with the same rating awarded in 2017-18.

The story so far..

Set up by prominent Emirati businessman Dr. Ali Al Mazrouie, Virginia International School (VIPS) was established to provide a quality US education to students living within the largely Emirati community in this quiet residential area.

The school states its aims on its website, including that "we are committed to provide our students with the qualities and skills that will be essential for a citizen of the 21st century.  Our school is a learning organization for each and every child and we carefully monitor and respond to their varied needs. Our teachers work collaboratively in a supportive environment to bring discovery and fun to the classroom.  At VIPS, we aim to produce life-long learners who are innovative and creative, highly competitive in the modern economy and who are champions of UAE culture and heritage".

VIPS has expanded significantly since its opening in September 2015, growing from 190 students to well over 1,000.  Close to 85% of students are Emirati, with other nationalities including Egyptian (3%), Yemeni and Omani (each 2%) and a further dozen variations. 

Average class size in terms of student numbers is 22, with the maximum classroom size currently 24. This is mid to low by UAE standards. A staff:student ratio of 1:13 should enable good individual support for students.  

VIPS' 80+ teachers are predominantly native English speakers recruited from the USA, UK, Ireland and Canada, with a mix of junior to senior level staff in terms of experience. The minimum requirement to teach at the school is a Bachelor degree and a Bachelor of Education.  However, based on the staff turnover at VIPS, teachers have not found it to be a happy experience.  The 2017-18 ADEK report noted turnover of 40%, which is a very high figure compared with the national average of 20-22%. 

Indeed, VIPS has clearly gone through unsettled times since its opening.  Its first Principal, Mr. Paul Abraham, had previously worked with ADEK as a consultant.  He left the school within a relatively short time of its set-up.  ADEK's inspection report for 2017-18 notes "There has been a considerable time of instability since the previous inspection. There has been an influx in student population and high staff turnover. There was no substantive principal until the current principal was appointed in September 2017". 

Current Principal, Karla Moore, introducing herself on the school's website, comments that "I am excited to join the Virginia team this year and I am looking forward to continuing to help grow and expand the school’s quality of education for all our students. I have over 15 years of experience in education, five of which have been here in the UAE. My background includes experience in curriculum and coaching teachers to improve academic outcomes for students". Ms. Moore also notes that the school has "highly qualified staff, who I know are focused on raising students who enjoy learning, are curious, think critically, and persevere through difficult problems to achieve great results".  It is to be hoped that staffing stability does become the norm at VIPS, since this is a fundamental requirement for success.

What about the curriculum?

The school follows an American-based curriculum following the Common Core Standards and emphasises Science, Maths, Engineering, Arts and Technology (STEAM). The school believes that "these are key ingredients for the future and our educators look for ways to continually integrate STEAM concepts into the lessons and lives of our students".

The curriculum for High School students is based on learning outcomes through academic programs guided by overarching themes: creativity and innovation; communication; collaboration; critical thinking; character; cultural awareness; and core knowledge.  The school also focuses on five core values outlined by the Institute of Global Ethics. These are: compassion; honesty; fairness; responsibility and respect.  The aim of VIPS, in focusing on these key areas, is to ensure that each student has the prerequisites needed to allow them to have a full choice of pathways for the High School program. The school states that "every student will have a high school diploma recognized both in UAE and abroad and any of our graduates will be able to enter universities in the UAE, Europe, the UK, America and elsewhere without problem".  However, the accreditation for the Diploma has not yet been revealed.

VIPS also says that it believes in supporting and developing the whole child, which includes emotional and social support, in addition to the academic support. "We will continue to encourage and expand the opportunities our students have to participate in various extracurricular activities and events and take on leadership roles that fit their skills and interests". A wide range of Extra-curricular activities designed for overall development of the child over the course of their learning experience at VIPS are offered, as well as individual and group projects with scope for whole school and community events throughout the school year.

In general, the extra curricular program mirrors the formal academic program, in that it is designed to strengthen VIPS' commitment to the STEAM programming.Teachers, and technology do seem to be the core of the value offering of the school. "We are offering a premium learning environment supported by the latest in assistive technologies and world class teachers", it told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.

Upon opening, the school did not have a Learning Support team, instead relying on its teachers to diagnose ability ranges for students. Given that 10% of students at the school have been identified with SEND requirements, this was never going to be an appropriate strategy.  Subsequently, a team has been appointed to work with children identified with additional learning needs (SEND) or with Gifts and Talents.  The Learning Support Team (LST) is comprised of an SEN Coordinator, an EAL Coordinator, the Social Worker, School Nurse and teachers. The latest ADEK report notes that "Students with special educational needs (SEN) and those who are gifted and talented (G&T) are identified and appropriately supported".

What about facilities?

The school is located in a modern building set on a large plot of land. The building provides well resourced classrooms with smart board technology and access to a wide range of online learning materials.  In addition to on-line materials, the school also provides the latest in textbook resources from the US.  

Find out more about the facilities and day to day operations of VIPS by reading our Experience visit report here.

In addition to classrooms with Promethean boards available in each, a well stocked library, music rooms, art rooms and gymnasium are included in the teaching facilities.  The school also has a large canteen which caters to staff and students.  There is also significant outdoor space offering both sporting and play facilities.

What the inspectors say

Following its second inspection in May 2018, Virginia International Private School was again awarded an Acceptable rating - the lowest level of rating expected by Abu Dhabi's Department of Knowledge (ADEK).

The main strengths of the school, identified by the ADEK inspection team were:

  • The effective day to day management of the school.
  • Students’ improving progress in English, [in] the KG and primary phases.
  • Students’ understanding of Islamic values, culture and heritage of the UAE.
  • The safe and supportive learning environment of the school.
  • Positive relationships across the school, including with parents that enrich students’ experience.

Whilst these are clearly positive signs, there remains still much to be done.  Key among the changes has been that "Leaders have stabilised the school and are focused on students ’ achievement".  Student achievement is improving, and the report notes that "Leaders now monitor the quality of teaching, including teachers’short and long-term planning. A wider range of teaching strategies are helping to support most students’ learning needs. The work of the new social worker is now more effective in supporting improvements in students’ attendance and behaviour. Students’ overall innovation skills are improving and are now acceptable. They engage in robotics and use ICT with increasing effectiveness".

In terms of areas for improvement, there is still clearly some way to go.  Inspectors recommended:

  • Raising standards in all subjects particularly in the middle phase and in science by: accurately identifying the gaps in students’ learning, particularly in science; ensuring that teaching addresses individual students’ next steps in learning; replacing teacher-led lessons with student-centred and independent learning strategies; [and] ensuring that the specialist science vocabulary and skills are taught effectively.
  • Improving the analysis and use of data by teachers to assess students’ progress and plan more effective assessment for learning by: ensuring that data is collated and analysed accurately to identify students’ achievement and progress; effectively sharing the data with teachers to enable them to plan more effectively; [and] including students more effectively in their learning and assessment.
  • Further the development of curriculum modification to meet the needs of all students by: extending the use of assessment data to identify students with different abilities, particularly higher achieving students; ensuring that SEN students are supported effectively in all learning; developing a range of activities to ensure that G&T and higher achieving students are challenged effectively in lessons; [and] providing additional activities for G&T students to extend their gifts and talents beyond lessons.
  • Creating opportunities for students to engage in more open-ended problem solving by: providing activities where students engage in finding their own solutions to given problems; [and] developing student-centred approaches more consistently across all subjects to develop students’ critical thinking, innovation, collaboration and independence.
  • Improving the monitoring of lessons to focus on improving the quality of students’ academic progress by: ensuring all students are making the expected progress in lessons; ensuring the planning is sufficiently differentiated to challenge higher achieving students and to support lower achieving students more effectively in lessons.

Although there is certainly much to be done if Victoria International School is to progress in terms of the quality of education it is delivering (and to improve its ADEK rating), the new management of the school have already taken key steps in terms of stabilising the school's situation and improving students' achievement.  VIPS now has a further 18 months to continue to address the recommendations made by the ADEK inspection team before their next visit.  This is also a crucial time as the first cohort of Grade 9 students start to work towards their High School DiplomaWhichSchoolAdvisor.com is interested to see how far the school has progressed at that point.

Fees at the school are mid-range, starting at AED 24,000, exclusive of books and uniforms, and rising to  AED 36,000 by Grade 9.

 

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