Al Nibras International School, The Green Community, Dubai Investments Park
• Historic AP Subject provision (although levels of subject choice, student uptake and results are not published)
• Positive parental feedback at KG phases
• Limited facility provision, including swimming, is of a good standard (but is let down by substantial academic and broader educational delivery)
• Lack of accreditation
• Transparency and insufficient information to benchmark school provision
• Poor independent feedback to WSA and SC from parents and teachers
• Consistently very high levels of staff turnover
• Inability to move beyond an “Acceptable” level of provision for eight years
Founded in 2005, Al Nibras International School was the first to open in Dubai Investments Park (DIP). The school claims a capacity for 1,400 students and has published plans to increase this to a capacity of 2,400 students through the opening of new buildings. The school currently, however, has a role of 977 students and it is worth noting that issues of overcrowding were reported in 2014-15 by the KHDA’s inspection team.
Facilities at the school include communal and outside play areas; a garden centre; KG learning zone, playing field; heated outdoor KG swimming pool; Indoor pool (Nibras claims “the most comprehensive swimming development program in the United Arab Emirates”); gymnasium; tennis court, science labs by specialism; and technology labs (supported by a BYOD programme).
Published ECAs include swimming, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, dance, mini basketball, aqua ballet, mini football, street jazz dance; and Zumba fitness.
These are the basic facts about the school – and more detail can be found below in our tables. However, in this case, our review must be concerned much more with matters of substance with regards to how the school functions on the ground.
Al Nibras International School has been operating at an Acceptable level of provision for all of its eight years of operation. The school, however, has significant areas of provision that are identified by the KHDA as “Weak” and prospective parents should be aware that this level of provision means that the school is not meeting even the minimum level of educational provision to ensure that its children are being educated securely.
By way of background, prospective parents should understand that the Dubai Inspectorate of schools now grades schools on a six-point scale running from “Very Weak” (which defines schools operating in special measures and at significant risk of closure) through “Weak” (schools operating at unacceptable levels of provision), “Acceptable” (defining schools that are merely functional), “Good”, “Very Good” and “Outstanding.” The minimum expected standard for schools is to be operating at a “Good” level of provision.
To understand what is happening at the school, parents should be advised of the following core failings:
The school is not accredited and whilst it claims to deliver a US education meeting the standards of the US State of Colorado, the reality is that it does not provide alignment with the state curriculum, has insufficient resources to meet its demands, does not provide the required subject options for children, and its High School Diploma is internally rather than independently awarded.
There are serious questions to be raised when schools award Diplomas without the backing of accreditation because they lack the basic meaningfulness necessary for both employers and universities to be credible – and provide students with a qualification essentially lacking both value and meaning. Our explanation of the High School Diploma can be found here.
Ongoing independent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com from both parents and teachers is poor. This has almost entirely reflected very high levels of consistently high staff turnover and significant teacher dissatisfaction and lack of morale. Students depend on consistency of teachers.
Prospective parents should note that a school’s buildings are actually of very limited value in gauging owner investment. It is the salaries of teachers and a school’s investment in its faculty, that make up the most significant chunk of a school’s annual costs.
Whilst the school is laudably inclusive (and has been since launch), the school is not providing even the basic level of Special Educational Needs and Disability [SEND] provision necessary to be able to actually include SEN students. It has no specialist provision in basic numeracy and literacy and a lack of supporting SEND resources across all phases of the school. Currently over 8% of children at the school are internally identified with SEN.
Historically there are a number of recurring problems at the school which can be summarised as follows.
In 2014 teacher turnover reached 34% with KHDA identification of unqualified teaching staff; the appointment of an acting/interim school Principal; overcrowding in classrooms; declining standards of leadership, management, staffing, resources and governance; teacher absences without cover; limited responsiveness to KHDA concerns; Governors owners not properly resourcing the school; and staff cutbacks in critical investment in staff able to improve the school
In 2013 the Dubai schools inspectorate identified “very high” teacher turnover; teachers being excluded from governance; and a school owner recognising weaknesses in provision and committed outstanding school status, a key finding given the consistent failure of the school to move beyond Acceptable school status historically and to date.
In 2010 staff turnover approached 50% resulting in children not knowing with any certainty who was going to be teaching them at any given point; unsatisfactory governance and lacking/incomplete or unopened facilities
In 2009 after its first inspection the KHDA identified failings in the defined role of owners, management and leaders and significant weaknesses in both the curriculum and assessment.
Together these support finding fundamental consistent failings that have not been addressed and raise serious concerns about the school’s ability or resolve to improve.
We also have other concerns that have not been reflected elsewhere in school transparency. Currently the school provides an unacceptable low level of communication with prospective and current parents. There is no publication of a curriculum, subject options for children, results, staffing or meaningful planning. There is no obvious accountability to parents and no viable meaningful way to benchmark school provision. Information that is provided is essentially incomplete or leads to information that has no meaning.
Where we have received information of positives at the school, including the provision of Advanced Placement courses to balance the lack of accreditation, it is not clear what courses are still offered, in what subjects, the percentage of students sitting for AP courses or their results. We should, for completeness, state that we have had some positive feedback too from parents about the quality of KG provision under the leadership of Hannah Sung – and these are supported in some limited fashion by the KHDA.
There remain however, serious issues in school resourcing across all phases. We would not expect any school in the Emirates to have identified by the KHDA serious issues with the health, safety, care and support for students.
These include a lack of efficient evacuation procedures and safety measures in the science labs that are not established. Other substantial infrastructure failings include weaknesses in basic Learning resources, including in the availability of basics like books; undeveloped Information Technology provision and weaknesses in basic medical facility provision. These infrastructure weaknesses are compounded by inflated internal assessment, limited adaptation of the curriculum for children identified with SEND, ongoing weak governance and a lack of investment in the school to build the required capacity for school improvement.
As it stands, Al Nibras is a very long way from being a school able to meet the legitimate expectations of parents in Dubai and the minimum standards expected by the KHDA for any school operating effectively for its children in the Emirate.
It is only a very limited number of schools in the Emirates that have proven themselves unable, or unwilling, to respond to very in-depth and helpful KHDA feedback and Al Nibras falls squarely over an eight-year period within this category of schools.
By way of balance, we should report the appointment of a new Principal for the school, Dr. Katherine Bradley, in 2016. Ms Bradley brings with her a Bachelor degree in Health and Physical Education from Weslyan College and a Ph.D. focused on the benefits of a single-sex education for both boys and girls. She is described as a “a lifelong champion of women’s athletics at the high school and college level.” She brings with her more than two decade’s teaching experience, latterly as the Vice Principal of Paulding County High School.
Ms Bradley’s promises “many positive changes this year that will help to transform Nibras,” “to take it to greater heights,” “exciting growth of Nibras” and to engage with parents in “the direction [Nibras] is headed.”
The biggest challenge in her first role outside the US is likely to be addressing the school’s historical failure to retain staff and to build the capacity of the school to deliver a good standard of education for its children – both requiring substantial financial investment from the owners.
It is also worth addressing the issue of fees. Whilst Al Nibras operates at the lower level of our mid-tier fee structure, there are many schools operating at or below this level very significantly exceeding its quality of provision.
In many ways, Al Nibras presents a confused picture because it has surface features, including a modern contemporary build and, for example, good swimming facilities, that mask what is substantially important to parents and children – namely basic expected standards of academic and broader educational provision. Bells, whistles and shiny facilities do not make a school.
Time will tell whether Ms Bradley is given the resources she will need to make the difference the school, its parents, teachers – and most importantly its children, require urgently. We wish her every success…
Note: Other school options for parents set on an education within the Green Community or Dubai Investments Park include Greenfield Community School (reviewed here), The International School of Choueifat (reviewed here), The Children’s Garden (reviewed here) and Dovecote Green Primary School (reviewed here).
COMING SOON Go
YEAR 1: 24,377
YEAR 2: 24,377
YEAR 3: 24,377
YEAR 4: 30,388
YEAR 5: 30,388
YEAR 6: 30,388
YEAR 7: 36,733
YEAR 8: 36,733
YEAR 9: 36,733
YEAR 10: 43,412
YEAR 11: 43,412
YEAR 12: 43,412
YEAR 13: NA
United States / High School Diploma
(1) Colorado State Board of Education
(2) Not accredited (NEASC candidacy status only)
(3) Curriculum does not meet requirements of the State of Colorado
(4) Insufficient subject options at High School phase
(5) Insufficient school resources
(1) High School Diploma internally awarded ONLY
(2) Inflated internal assessment
(1) Significant on-going weaknesses in the teaching of SEND despite its inclusive school status
(2) No provision for specialist numeracy and literacy
(1) Inflated internal assessment data
The Green Community, Dubai Investments Parks, Dubai
Arab (largest nationality)
+971 (0)4 885 3330