Star International School, Al Twar – The Review 2020
Star International School Al Twar – Background and Location
Founded in 2005, Star International School Al Twar offers a British, English National Curriculum-based, education to Year 11 IGCSE and BTEC, with Sixth Form provision to A’ Level coming on stream in September 2021. The school operates within the borders of value/mid-tier fees with the cost of admission ranging between an affordable AED 20,365 at FS1 to AED, 40,297 in Year 11. It is worth noting that Secondary school fees (Year 7 to Year 11) are fixed for a full five years at AED 40,297, this creditable and rare in a sector that generally tends to push fees up between years, in the process causing many parents to struggle. At Star International Al Twar parents have consistency of fees throughout their child’s secondary education with none of the headline low, but swiftly rising, fees that many other schools use to hook parents at the time of admission.
The school is registered with BSME (British Schools Middle East) and was a BSO (British Schools Overseas) Good School for four years. The school is currently renewing its BSO accreditation and we will publish its up-to-date inspection when this is completed later this year.
The school has a sister, Star International School Mirdif, rated Good with Very Good features, more here.
Slipstream schools for A Level study have historically included the KHDA Outstanding Dubai English Speaking College, reviewed here, and the KHDA Very Good with Outstanding Features, GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis, reviewed here. As the school completes its phased all-through opening to A’ Level in September 2020, students will be able to remain at Star International School Al Twar for British Sixth Form – a key benefit for parents and students. The first cohort of GCSE students graduated in September 2019 and achieved a 100% pass rate across Science, English and Mathematics. Star International School Al Twar achieved an Emirati topper in GCSE English within its first cohort of GCSE students, the latter a considerably rare and notable achievement:
“It is important for us to create awareness that just as we are a warm and loving school for younger children, we are also an academically high performing school at Secondary Phase,” Ms. Dolly Goriawala, Principal, Star International School Al Twar told SchoolsCompared.
Equally rare in the UAE, Star International School Al Twar is a small community school with a roll of just 585 boys and girls aged from three to 15 years. Increasingly the UAE is dominated by 2000 to 3000 student capacity schools in which many children (and families) feel lost. The student role is international, drawing on 50 nationalities.
Located on a large 3.3 acre site in the heart of Al Twar, Star International School Al Twar attracts families from the surrounding areas of Muhaisnah, Al Qusais, Al Mizhar and Al Rashidiya. Detailed maps follow:
Finally, a major strength of the school is its absolute insistence on, and commitment to, only recruiting British teachers for every subject except Arabic and Islamic studies. All teaching faculty at the school are British and carry a minimum:
- Relevant British Bachelor’s degree and a recognised teaching qualification;
- Two years plus recent teaching experience in a British Primary or Secondary school – or both; and,
- UK or British Curriculum school direct experience.
The school regularly recruits from the UK through the Times Educational Supplement and every British teacher is recruited in the UK, with interviews carried out in London annually, rather than recruiting locally. Parents should note that the single highest cost of any school is that of its teachers. At this fee point, recruitment of British teachers on this scale is almost unheard of and offers parents, in our view, exceptional ROI.
“We recruit every single teacher at our school directly from London. We do not recruit teachers from Dubai or Asia. Every single teacher in English National Curriculum subjects is British. No ifs, no buts. Every single teacher. This is our commitment to parents and for our children. It is the absolute foundation of our commitment to deliver a world class outstanding education for students.”
Star International School Al Twar. May 2020.
Video Overview of the School
Facilities and ECAs
School facilities at Star International School Al Twar include
- Dedicated Foundation Stage segmentation with all classrooms extending to outside play and learning area for EYFS learning.
- Dedicated Foundation Stage outdoor play and recreation area.
- Dedicated FS indoor play, recreation and extended learning spaces.
- Fully equipped computing and ICT suite.
- Art Studio.
- Main library.
- Prayer room.
- Two full size specialist Science Labs.
- EAL Centre.
- Dedicated Inclusion Department.
- Fully equipped STEM and Robotics Lab.
- IT equipped networked classrooms.
Sports facilities include:
- Large outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool.
- Multipurpose sports hall including gymnastics provision.
- Exterior AstroTurf sports field.
Main school sports include football, tennis, badminton, basketball, netball, gymnastics and and volleyball. Star International School Al Twar plans to join DASSA for inter-school competition from September 2020-21 and launch stand-alone GCSE Physical Education – more on this in our conclusion.
ECAs include a mix of internal and externally run extended learning and whole child directed clubs and activities. These include:
- Model United Nations
- World Scholars Cup
- Writers Club
- Creative Subjects (Variety of Clubs on rotation)
- Leadership Development Club
- Drama Club
- LEGO Robotics
- STEM Club
- Football Club
- Tag Rugby
- French Language Club
- Music and Band
- Arts & Crafts
- Arabic Club
Extended Curriculum, School values and Whole Child Development
The events programme at Star International School Al Twar is resolutely international and includes Eid; Christmas; Diwali; Easter; International Day; UAE National Day; Flag Day; Earth Day; World Book Day; Sports Day; annual Concert Programme; and an ecology and sustainability focused Trashion Show (photograph below).
World Book Day, for example, sees Foundation Stage and Primary children dressed as their favourite Book characters. For Primary students, the week-long events sees class each class decorating their classroom door to replicate the cover of their chosen book. Visitors then enter “a magical world of large door-sized books.” Secondary students work on projects to understand the impact of changing story endings.
Empathy is a core foundation of the curriculum and school life. It guides whole child development at the school from FS1. Examples of its being given substance include children being inspired to collect funds for the less fortunate during Ramadan and also for Research during Blue Day (Diabetes) and Pink Day (Breast Cancer). Children also observe a stand-alone Empathy Day. In 2020, this saw all children wearing a blind-fold for one lesson to experience what it might feel like if they had no sight. Related fund-raising achieved a donation from the students for the Jalila Children’s fund. In 2019, students and teachers went bare-foot for an hour. Donated funds that were raised were sent to a school in Zanzibar to buy shoes for underprivileged children.
Star International School Al Twar is also currently the only school in Dubai that collaborates with Dubai Down Syndrome Centre (DDSC). Every year students of Year 8 spend a day at the Centre engaging with other children and guiding them in various activities.
Planned day trips include a 3-day residential visit to Hatta and the school runs one annual week-long trip to Switzerland.
British, English National Curriculum Education
Star International School Al Twar follows the English national Curriculum EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) curriculum for Children In FS and Primary phases. The school told SchoolsCompared.com:
“We aim to create a Foundation Stage which provides a holistic learning environment that supports the development of cognitive, social and language skills. We provide all Star International School children with a classroom of resources inspired and driven by their own interests. This allows for a meaningful context for children to develop skills at their own pace in an enjoyable and challenging learning environment. This, in turn sets up strong foundations for later Secondary education and develops lifelong, creative and innovative independent learners able to draw developed skills in cross curricular learning.”
The Primary curriculum at Star International School Al Twar is taught through subjects with cross curricular links throughout.
The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and ICT are taught separately. Geography, History, Music, Art and PSHE are taught thematically within creatively planned topic lessons. This themed approach provides a meaningful context for learning which helps to engage the children and make learning interesting and inspirational.
Throughout all areas of the curriculum, students are challenged to apply their knowledge and understanding in a wide range of contexts. Children are encouraged to think critically, talk openly and express their own viewpoints. The school told us:
“At Star International School Al Twar we see self reflection as a vital skill in the learning process. We embed it within the British curriculum through extensive use of self and peer assessment. This encourages students to actively seek improvements in their own work.
The building of self-confidence is integral to our approach, enabling all pupils to take ownership of their work, solve problems and undertake new tasks and challenges.”
Key Curriculum Subjects at Primary Phase/Key Stage 2 include:
- Islamic studies (Muslim students)
- Social Studies
- Moral Education
- French (KS2)
- Physical Education
As students progress to Secondary phases, core subjects are English, Mathematics and Science (each compulsory across Key Stages 1 – 4). Additional subjects in GCSE, BTEC and core curriculum include:
- Art and Design (KS 3/4)
- Geography (KS3/4)
- History (KS3/4)
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) (KS3/4)
- Physical Education (PE) (KS 3/4)
- Business Studies (KS 3/4)
- Global Citizenship (KS 3/4)
- Media Studies (KS 4)
- Psychology (KS 4)
- Further Mathematics (KS 4)
- Separate Science (KS4)
- Science (KS 3/4)
- STEAM/ Robotics (KS3)
- Travel and Tourism (KS4)
- Hospitality (KS 4)
- Design Technology (KS4)
- Fitness (KS3/4)
- Yoga (KS3/4)
MOE Core Subjects include:
- Arabic language (First language Arabic speakers – Arabic A and Arabic as an additional language – Arabic B)
- Islamic Education (for Muslims)
- Social Studies
- Moral Education Programme
|Year||Annual Fees||Term 1||Term 2||Term 3|
(Phased launch from September 2021)
(Phased launch from September 2022)
Sibling discounts are offered when two or more children from the same family attend the school. A 10% discount is given for the second child and a 20% discount for the third child onward.
Creditably, Star International School Al Twar offers a merit based Scholarship Programme based on academic achievement and a student’s ability to contribute to the life of the school.
Principal, Ms. Dolly Goriawala, brings almost five decade’s experience to Star International School Al Twar. Prior to her taking up the position at Star 12 years ago, Ms. Goriawala developed her leadership skills working as Principal for 16 years across mixed curricular schools in Dubai. Ms. Goriawala gained her Masters in Education from Sheffield and is currently studying for a doctorate.
At the core of her approach to delivering an outstanding education for students, Ms. Goriawala identifies the critical importance of values at Star International School Al Twar:
“We recognise every child as a ‘Starlight’. We use this acronym to inspire an understanding in children of our core values – those things that lie at the core of our whole child and academic development of every child. Each child develops a sense of community by being part of the Starlight community. Each letters stands for the following values: S, for successful, T for tolerant, A for ambitious and R for resilient. The Light element breaks down into L for loyal, I for inclusive, G for grateful, H for honest and T for thoughtful . These are understood by children and brought to life throughout their education at our school. They are reinforced with a weekly awards and core annual days including stand-alone Empathy days.”
Dolly Goriawala. Principal. Star International School Al Twar.
Feedback from Teachers and Students
“The children are exceptionally hard working and incredibly polite. The relationship they have with all members of staff makes sure that the school has a warm, welcoming and happy feel. The school is made special by the children, their attitude and willingness to be the best they can be. They are inspired by Ma’am Dolly and they always wear a smile.
I joined Star International School Al Twar because it has a small, inclusive feel compared to other schools in Dubai. It has proven itself to be one that I have been able to develop within.“
Mike Mcmorrin. Primary Teacher & KS2 Coordinator. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“Joining Star was like joining a family. My colleagues are extremely supportive and create such a positive learning environment.
Seeing the smiles of my students every day makes me so happy – and all of the children at Star are so helpful, kind and caring.
There is a huge family feel when you enter the school and I am happy to be a valued member of this family.
I feel fortunate to teach at this very special British school.”
Jade Barry. Primary Teacher. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“I joined Star International School because, from the moment I walked in, it felt like a safe and positive environment. Everyone who passed by smiled and seemed so happy to be working there.
Now working here, what makes Star so special is that we are all much more than colleagues; we are friends, we are a family. We support each other, no matter what.
The children who come to Star are special because they become part of that extended family – and every child is welcomed with open arms.
The children bring positivity, courage and joyfulness to our school. Each one of them is special and we encourage their individuality and uniqueness.”
Vicky Chadwick. Primary Teacher & Environment Team Leader. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“I feel a sense of joy and warmth ever since I started going to Star School. I am valued by my teachers. I love to sing on Talent Tuesdays. I also enjoy being a part of our Healthy Star Café on Wednesdays. Ma’am Dolly says “Wear your smile”, but she doesn’t need to tell me – I am always smiling. Star Al Twar is my home away from home.”
Anya Darshan. Year 7 Student. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“First of all, Star Al Twar has an amazing Principal and approachable staff with outstanding teachers. They give students outstanding opportunities. Ma’am Dolly is always supportive and keen to listen to my new ideas. Star has its own community and has amazing structures like huge playgrounds and facilities. Ma’am Dolly has put me in charge of coming up with a plan to enhance the playground. Star is an eco-friendly school and there are no bullies.”
Petar Petrovic. Year 6 Student. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
Feedback from Parents
“My children have been at Star International School Al Twar since Foundation Stage. I love how small the school is – kids are not just a number.
I feel at ease when I drop them off at school because I know they’re safe.
Teachers too go out of their way to ensure my children are up to par with their lessons.
I love how empathy is instilled at school as well; kindness, helping those in need of help …. these core values will carry them through life.
And then there’s the fun and silliness….. Children at Star are encouraged to have fun, to be silly ….. to be kids!
The Principal, Mrs Goriawala, has an open door and open heart.
Thank you to each and every member of Star Al Twar.”
Shamillah Jakoet. Parent. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“Star international school was the best decision we made 7 years ago. We wanted a school where our kids were safe, and the focus was on academics as well as activities to make our children confident.
We got that – and more.”
Rebecca Darshan. Parent. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
“I like our school because it’s a small community – everybody knows each other, teachers, students and parents. Star is a very friendly school. Lots of activities, performances, school trips and camps are provided for my children.
Important to me is that Star is an anti-bullying school – there is zero tolerance to bullying.
Teachers have always shown themselves to be approachable and highly professional – they are open to new ideas and suggestions.
Finally, if I need anything, I just go straight to the Principal. You don’t have to take an appointment.”
Marija Petrovic. Parent. Star International School Al Twar. 2020.
Bottom Line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict on Star International School Al Twar 2020
Star International School Al Twar is a complex school to review.
First, finding a British curriculum school with under 600 children and this scale of community dynamics is almost impossible in Dubai. Economies of scale have seen the majority of all-through schools, at almost every fee point, grow to 1500 plus child roles – and that today counts as a small school. The result, here, is a school of exceptional warmth in which every child is genuinely known and relationships between the school and parents strong and grounded.
Second, the school is working through phased launch to British Sixth Form which will see its curriculum extended to A Level and Extended BTEC. We know that the impact of this will see cascading improvements in learning and innovation across the school. These are due to come on stream in 2021 (Year 12 British Sixth opens in September 2020).
Third, School leadership is experienced and long-standing.
Forth, fees offer very strong ROI – the overall offer here exceeds what can be legitimately expected from its borderline value/mid tier fees for a small school UK education. Subject breadth, a key test of a school’s ability to meet the needs and abilities of its children, gains strength from GCSE provision of Psychology (a recognised bridging subject between the Arts and Sciences) and BTEC. Lesser schools provide little breadth of subject choice beyond the basic English Baccalaureate subjects.
Fifth the value proposition is exception in the absolute and unwavering commitment to parents to only recruit British teachers in every English national Curriculum department and subject – and only recruit directly from the UK. Recruitment is carried out in London each year. Recruitment of qualified and inspired British teachers – and the deep-seated commitment to their ongoing professional development, complete what is a creditable mix of rare strengths and understandably the powerful draw for many families. No school at this fee level betters this commitment in the UAE – and it exceeds those of many British schools operating at significantly higher fee points.
There are however weaknesses, many drawn out by the increasing quality demands of the Dubai Inspectorate of schools. Star International School Al Twar needs to better use data to map the flight paths of children and feed these back into individualised learning plans that map learning to the needs, ability and potential of each child as they develop in the school. Without doing this effectively, schools often over (and sometimes under) state their achievements and inevitably fall short in maximising child progress and attainment. Star International School Al Twar is not alone in this – many schools in the UAE are playing catch up in the data metrics that are now expected in a school system that is increasingly bench-marked against the best in the world. To be fair to the school, it is now catching up (and quickly after its shock fall in rating in 2018 which hit the school hard) and it is expected that the school will regain its Good School with Very Good and Outstanding Features rating at its next inspection. There is certainly, in our view, both the capacity – and commitment, here to achieve it.
Other areas of weakness include Arabic subjects provision (again an area that the vast majority of UK curriculum schools struggle with), the need to embed technology use and application much better within the curriculum (having iPads is not the same thing as properly integrating their use in the curriculum) and the lack of extended links with industry (these can help develop entrepreneurship and innovation programmes in schools – we expect these to develop as STAR International begins to bed-in Sixth Form provision, particularly in BTEC.) Finally, the school really needs to invest more in its web site and the way that it publishes information for parents. You can be the best school in the world – but if no one knows you exist, or what you do, no one will ever know this. There is much to celebrate here – and the school’s outward communications would be a good place to start.
So how do we balance these strengths and weakness in coming to an overall view and recommendation?
Ultimately the question here, as with other schools, is one of capacity: does Star International School Al Twar have the capacity and talent pool to improve and compete at the level of other high performing British schools in Dubai?
In our view, on balance, and on the strength of both ongoing improvements in school provision (the school is now firing on all cylinders to respond to KHDA improvement planning) – and the significant engagement and investment of its owners, that capacity is clearly evident. There is no reason, in our view, for Star International School Al Twar not to swiftly regain good school status – and potentially go further still. It just has to keep its nerve.
On the plus side, fabulously caring and warm school dynamics; a history of proven leadership; extended subject breadth; ambitious plans for Sixth Form opening; outstanding levels of investment in British teaching faculty and, strong relationships with parents and the wider community, deliver a school that punches well above the weight suggested by its fees.
The comment of one child captures here, too, the quality of teaching at the school at its best:
“I basically love everything about my school.
Teachers know us, like Mr Mike. He knows I don’t ask for help …. it is difficult for me – so he has learned the faces I make when I need help. He makes it so that I do not have to ask….
It’s not all about schoolwork – my school is about kindness towards others, about always helping those less fortunate ...”
Yumna Al Sayegh, Year 4
The commitment to inclusion too runs deep with SEND delivery a real strength of school life, a richly international school role – and an almost unheard of, at this fee point, academic scholarships programme that offers significant fee remission for academically gifted children that might otherwise simply not be able to afford the fees.
Capital investment too, actual and planned, is significant, including:
- Planning to equip the new Secondary buildings with large adjacent playing areas;
- Inclusion of Physical Education as a stand-alone GCSE and A Level option;
- Further investment in the Primary STEAM Lab;
- Further co-curricular investment in “Engineers to Be” (ETB);
- Planned introduction of 3-D printers;
- Enhanced STEM engagement with other schools including Formula 1.
On balance then we have in Star International School Al Twar a school that deserves shortlisting, not least in its clear capacity for improvement and, with ongoing investment and commitment, its potential, and courage to have the ambition, to be one of the leading small British schools in Dubai.
Far too few schools in the UAE, at this price point, have either.
In our view, this is a good school – and in many respects a very good school. Its commitment to recruitment of British teachers is stand-out and hugely creditable.
© SchoolsCompared.com. All rights reserved. 2020
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2019/2020 rating in review: predicted Good with Very Good and Outstanding features.
Acceptable with Good and Very Good features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
YEAR 1: 23,959
YEAR 2: 27,552
YEAR 3: 27,552
YEAR 4: 31,146
YEAR 5: 31,146
YEAR 6: 31,146
YEAR 7: 40,297
YEAR 8: 40,297
YEAR 9: 40,297
YEAR 10: 40,297
YEAR 11: 40,297
National Curriculum of England:
(1) British Schools Overseas (BSO) accreditation
IGCSE Grade 4 to Grade 9: 100% in Science, English and Mathematics
Art and Design
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Physical Education (PE) [in planning]
Separate Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
Travel and Tourism BTEC
Design Technology BTEC
No, unambiguously academically and SEND inclusive
Al Twar 2, Dubai
Arab (largest nationality)
Bright Capital Investments
+971 (0)4 263 8999
+971 055 667 1102
+971 050 328 1545
• Huge potential here for a very high quality of education as Sixth Form provision eventually comes on stream in September 2020 with cascading academic and whole child benefits and impacts promised on preceding years.
• Exceptional ROI from 100% recruitment of British teachers across every English National Curriculum subject and department - with al teachers recruited in the UK and not locally. This is extraordinary at this fee level.
• Experienced, long-standing school leadership
• On-going investment by owners
• Stand-out student responsibility and engagement in school life
• Extended subject breadth to Year 11 including IGCSE and BTEC
• Scholarship Programme - extremely rare at this fee level for academically outstanding children who have a demonstrable commitment to contributing to cultural and academic life at the school.
• Small international British curriculum community school dynamics - again rare in the UAE.
• Powerful ROI
• STARLIGHT value system and whole child ethical framework.
• Web site and school transparency is weak. No information of substance is provided at all for prospective parents on-line. This is a shame as the school does not reflect its strengths or the achievements of children to parents. There is no school prospectus, no information on the curriculum, no newsletters – essentially the school web site is a blank with random photography. How are prospective parents supposed to evaluate the school?
• Improvements needed in internal bench-marking and reporting of child flight paths to measure child attainment and progress
• BSO Inspection due - although the school has advised us that this is being organised currently.