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The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1
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Review

The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1

by May 7, 2016
Strengths

• Outstanding leadership and teaching staff
• Good level of facilities (albeit with frayed edges)
• A lot of love from generations of students and parents
• Positive independent feedback to whichschooladvisor
• Re-opening of primary provision and potential for outstanding new governance
• Flashes of outstanding school provision within a mixed picture
• Widest choice of A Level subject provision available in the UAE

Weaknesses

• Poor levels of communication across the board
• History of remote, nunaccountable governance
• No published examination data since 2013
• Ongoing sense of insecurity amongst parents following closure of primary school
• Very different culture of parental communication to the best schools, top down, with parents informed that fees will increase and not engaged in the process
• Lack of investment in resources

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
B+
C
Value
B
C
ExtraCurricula
B+
C
Languages
B
C
Sports
B+
C
Arts & Drama
B+
B-
Teaching
B+
C
Communications
D+
C
Warmth
A
C
Differentiation
B
C
SEND Provision
B-
C
Scl Community
B-
C+
Scl Facilities
B-
C+
Opportunities

What could by now have been such a success story for the UAE education sector, is arguably heavily compromised. Flashes of outstanding provision are diluted by, in many cases, just getting the basics rights. There are signs that the school is picking itself up. The English College Dubai has the makings of a very good school – but it should already be an outstanding one.

B
Our Rating
C
User Rating
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Top of shortlist
42%
In my Top 5
25%
Shortlisted
8%
A possibility
0%
Pass
0%
No way
25%

Prospective parents should note that this is an updated review completed in 2016.

The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1, is one of the most loved schools in Dubai, but, if there is one single message that comes across from school inspections over the last eight years, it is that the EC governors, and owners, have not played the role that you would expect from a Tier 1 school.

Communication between the school, and particularly parents is also not currently  at an acceptable standard – and the KHDA raises ongoing questions about the degree to which the Governors and owners invest in the school.

It is worth quoting key concerns of the KHDA:

May 2010: Governors are “not sufficiently involved.”

May 2011: “Governance not sufficiently rigorous.”

May 2012: “Role of the governors was unclear among the entire school community. Parents, teachers and students felt that the relationship was remote and that school governors were not yet meaningfully involved in the school’s improvement journey.”

May 2013: “…neither parent, student nor class teachers, were represented on the board. As such the governing body continued to seem remote to many representatives of the school.”

May 2014: “…not all key stakeholders were represented on the Board and parents were unable to communicate directly with them.”

May 2015: “The governing body was still not fully representative of the school and the local community … with a lack of consideration given to parents’ and other stakeholders’ views. Governance lacked expertise and effective communication… Governors did not ensure a full range of resources were available to address the weaknesses of the school.” Governance does not “provide sufficient resources to enable teachers to enhance students’ personal and academic skills.”

May 2016:  “The governing body was not representative. It did not take enough interest in the development of the school or hold the school leaders sufficiently to account.  The board did not seek the views of parents, or of students, and had poor knowledge of what the school was actually doing in terms of teaching and across the broad field of education. The governing board had not shown great interest in the academic or pastoral performance of the school.  The board had generally abrogated its more specific educational responsibilities.”

The level of communication is to some degree reflected in the school’s web site which continues to fall very far short of the levels of the best Dubai schools, and certainly those operating in keys ways in the premium end of the market. Newsletters such as there are lack detail, life and any insight into its students, no examination data is published to enable to parents to properly benchmark the school, and the published KHDA action plan is out of date.

The school’s highly respected Head, Ian Jones, guides parents to explore the journey of the school through photographs and achievements on the web site – but it’s hard to find more than a handful of photographs, and oblique references to achievements say little about the school or give it context. It is hugely frustrating when you are trying to articulate the best of a school – one that we know is hugely loved by parents and children, that a school’s primary source of communication should appear as such an afterthought.  This lack of investment in the basics of communication – and celebration of student achievements, only confirms the ongoing critique of Dubai inspectors.

No better indication of the challenge faced by the school in communicating about itself was the closure of the hugely loved English College’s primary school in 2013 “for business reasons”, a decision leaving almost 400 children searching for a replacement school.

On that note, better news emerged in March 2016 that the school would re-open its Primary slipstream on the same site, although under the new name of the Manor Primary School. A web site has now launched for the new primary school and our review can be found here. it is worth noting, in something of a bizarre first in Dubai, that school fees are actually going to go down for parents moving from the new Primary to The English School, this highly suggestive of a school frustrated at the level of its fees and ability to invest.

There is some room for optimism too with governorship. In March 2016, the school announced its (still unnamed) owner had passed complete governorship of the English College to LVS Ascot, a prestigious, highly respected UK independent whose patron is the Queen. The promise is to improve the school’s KHDA rating from Good, to Very Good and then Outstanding.  Information remains …. limited, but we will update our information as, and if, we receive news from the school. As of June 2016 there is a single oblique reference to the new governance in a letter to parents and no sign of LVS having as yet made any impact.

All of this is a real shame. EC is a school which, with better communication all round, could be setting benchmarks in UAE education instead of being the “also mentioned” with equivalent schools. The school receives levels of positive parental and student feedback with WSA that other schools would fall over backwards for.

The latest KHDA inspection also show significant falls in performance.

The issue is clearly investment and opacity, but we cannot fathom the lack of investment in projecting itself, something that costs little except a genuine commitment to open communication and to reflecting the many achievements of its students with parents. Perhaps because it is oversubscribed The English College simply feels that it does not need to.

What the school does do well, however, is recruit. The teaching staff and leadership of The English, given their constraints, create a school environment that brings out student talent at outstanding levels. Staff turnover has also now fallen to an acceptable level indicating much better school stability. This said, staff morale has been badly hit by a sense that the school is not supported by its owners – and there is clear sense to that the closure of the Primary School exacerbated this. The re-opening of the primary, under a new name, we hope will settle nerves – certainly the heartfelt investment of the Art department in (beautiful) murals within the re-opening primary is suggest of positive things to come.

A Level subject choice in particular is outstanding, offering a breadth of choice to students that competes, and in some cases overtakes, many Tier 1 ultra-premiums – and The English includes BTEC provision to maximise the school’s ability to match its offer to the needs of each individual child. GCSE provision is almost as expansive, although we question why key subjects offered at International A Level are not offered at IGCSE.

The school itself is very well located just off the Sheikh Zayed Road in Al Safa 1. You will, however, not unsurprisingly, need to visit the school to understand its offer – the school does not publish a single photo. Facilities do need investment – but are good, and where there are gaps, the school leverages its close relationships with partners including the Police Officers Club Stadium which it uses for its Sport Day. Not surprisingly again, the school, unlike most other schools in the UAE, does not actually list or describe its facilities, but they include a swimming pool, indoor sports hall, shaded play areas, learning support, a shared sports field and an excellent art department. The WSA review notes these are “becoming a little frayed at the edges” mirroring KHDA notes that there are:

  • No teaching assistants to support the teachers
  • Adequate premises only – specialist facilities were limited and the absence of a sixth form area
  • Resources were sufficient – but there was only limited Wi-Fi in the building. This remains an on-going issue.
  • Only a “sufficient number of computers are provided, with limited opportunities for students to enhance their learning experience using a full range of learning technologies.”

There are outstanding features of the English College of course. The KHDA highlights in particular:

  • Students are happy in school, work well together and with their teachers
  • Students in the post-16 phase have an outstanding understanding of Islamic values and UAE culture and its impact on Dubai society
  • The strong curriculum provides students with interest and challenge across the wide range of interesting and stimulating subjects
  • There are outstanding levels of student support as a result of strong pastoral care systems within the school
  • Outstanding progress in literature and language
  • In secondary Science, the outstanding progress of students, with grades well above international benchmarks
  • Extra-curricular activities are extensive and wide-ranging
  • Whole child development, understood through the lens of self-development and self responsibility remains outstanding and a real credit.

Negatives outlined by the KHDA include that:

  • Parents’ voices in the school are not effective or heard – parents have limited opportunities to contribute to school life
  • There is a decline in student involvement in, and engagement with, the community
  • There is increasingly limited access to first class facilities and resources
  • There is poor student access to information and communication technology (ICT)
  • The school urgently needs new resources in areas including ICT, new facilities and more staff to address the weaknesses in the school. It is worth noting that the staff:student ratio has dropped – although at 1:11 it is still at an excellent level when benchmarked across the sector.
  • Failing governance (above)

After more than two decades a very loved school continues to be in a state of flux facing the re-opening of its primary school and wholesale replacement of its entire Governing structure. There does seem to be a genuine sense of urgency within the school to reform itself, provide security and planning for the future and to put things right. With a primary school opening just months away, however, and, notwithstanding its new (and much better) web site, in reality, the school needs significant investment if it is to quell the nerves of parents that this will be  another case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to LOVED PRIMARY RETURNS on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2017-18

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 47,150 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
FS2: 47,150 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 1: 49,450 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 2: 49,450 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 3: 51,750 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 4: 51,750 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 5: 51,750 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 6: 51,750 - Manor Primary School slipstream open from September 2016
YEAR 7: 49,764
YEAR 8: 49,764
YEAR 9: 49,764
YEAR 10: 53,987
YEAR 11: 53,987
YEAR 12: 59,619
YEAR 13: 59,619

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England

External Exam Boards

Pearson EDEXCEL
AQA
WJEC

Number of A Levels offered

26

A Levels offered

Arabic
Art & Design
Biology
Business Studies
Chemistry
Computing
Drama & Theatre Studies
Economics
English Literature
English Language & Literature
Geography
Government & Politics
History
Mathematics
Mathematics: Level 3 Mathematical Studies
MFL: French
MFL: Spanish
Music
Physical Education
Physics
Psychology
Sociology
BTEC National Level 3: Creative Media Production (Television and Film)
BTEC National Level 3: Information Technology
BTEC National Level 3: Travel & Tourism
BTEC National Level 3: Science (can be studied as 1, 2, or 3 A level(s) equivalent)

A Level A* to A

Not published

A Level A* to C

80% (2012)
Note:
(1) Not published since 2013

IGCSE A* to C

95% (2012)
Note:
(1) Not published since 2013

IGCSE A* to A

Not published

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

21

I/GCSEs offered

English Language (Core)
English Literature (Core for most students)
Mathematics (Core)
Science (Core)
Physical Education (Core – Non Examination)
Arabic (Suitable for second language Arabic students) (Option)
Art and Design (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Computer Science (Option)
Drama (Option)
Economics (Option)
French (Option)
Further Pure Mathematics (Option)
Geography (Option)
History (Option)
Leisure and Tourism
Media Studies (Option)
Music (Option)
Physical Education (Option)
Physics (Separate Science) (Option)
Spanish (Option)

Selective

Inclusive
Notes:
(1) The English College is a school for English Speaking students. It does not teach English as a second language.
(2) Students are eligible for admission if it is believed that the school can meet their particular needs.
(3) Admission decisions are made on the basis of the previous educational record.
(4) If necessary students may need to sit a placement assessment, an interview and/or a letter of recommendation from the present school.
(5) The English College has a limited number of places for students with specific learning difficulties.
(6) Sixth form entry requires at least five passes in GCSEs at A* to C, and A* to B grading in their proposed subjects of A Level study.

Waiting list

Yes

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

602

Teacher to Student Ratio

2016: 1:10
2015: 1:9
Notes:
Years 7 - 11 class size: 22 or less
Years 12 - 13 class size: 1:15 or less

Largest nationality teachers

British

Teacher turnover

11%
Note:
(1) Down from 31%

Year opened

1992

Location

The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality)
Emirati: 1
Nationalities: 40+ (most from English speaking countries)
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 135
Note: ECD does not teach English as an Additional Language [EAL]

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Not published

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 394 3465

Web Address
KHDA/ADEC Rating

2016: Good. Download
2015: Good. Download

Attainment Nur SEM

Refer to Manor Park Primary School from September 2016

Attainment Pri SEM

Refer to Manor Park Primary School from September 2016

Attainment Sec SEM

80%

Attainment Post-16 SEM

60%

Progress Nur SEM

Refer to Manor Primary School from September 2016

Progress Pri SEM

Refer to Manor Primary School from September 2016

Progress Sec SEM

73.3%

Progress Post-16 SEM

66.6%

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

Refer to Manor Primary School from September 2016

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

40%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

40%

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

Refer to Manor Primary School from September 2016

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

30%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

NA

Islamic St. Primary Results

Refer to Manor Primary School from September 2016

Islamic St. Secondary Results

50%

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

40%

Leadership

60%

Community

80%

Facilities

40%

Quality of teaching

60%

Student personal responsibility

100%

Quality of curriculum

80%

School Governance

20%

SEN Provision

60%

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Acting Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and the International Editor of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities