North London Collegiate School Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City
• Genuinely, world class brand
• Outstanding founding UK school – absolute top tier
• The most experienced Founding Principal in Dubai any prospective parent could hope for
• Exceptionally rigorous controls by UK parent
• Proven international schools preceding launch
• Outstanding international alumni network potential
• Outstanding ECA provision, particularly in the Performing Arts
• Whole child focus – not a hothouse school
• Unique “Diamond Model” offering hybrid single-sex schooling at Middle phases within an overall co-educational school
• International Baccalaureate all-through curriculum
• Founding discounts
• Lack of some detail
• No Parallel stream A Level option
• Lack of Latin and Mandarin languages, at least on start-up
• No advertised IB CRP provision
• UK current advertised bursary provision –critical to the UK school’s diversity and culture
• Some parent’s will have concerns at the lack of educational heritage in the Dubai partner – we think this should be tempered by the controls in place
• Inevitable teething issues of any new school and time it will take to bed-in provision
• Cost – this will compete to be the most expensive school in the Emirates
“No child should be labelled or left behind and no limits should be placed upon what children can achieve. This informs everything we do, with the fundamental objective of developing happy and confident individuals.” North London Collegiate School, UK
North London Collegiate School Dubai (NLCS Dubai) will open in September 2017. Located on a 38,000 square metre plot in the Sobha Hartland development at Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum City, NLCS Dubai will be an all-through International Baccalaureate World Continuum School, offering the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the IB Diploma for children between the ages of 3 and 18 years. Prospective parents should note that, as with all new IB schools, gaining International Baccalaureate accreditation is likely to take some two years. We do not anticipate this being a problem given the calibre of the founding school and its control on recruitment and delivery.
Currently we are awaiting clarification whether the school will offer the International Baccalaureate Career Related Programme (IB CRP), something that we feel would benefit students in broadening choice, particularly given that there is no parallel A Level stream provision (as is the case in NLCS in the UK).
This said, the school is setting itself up as extremely selective and academic (all children will be tested prior to acceptance), although it will provide resources for children with defined Special Educational Needs and Disabilities [SEND] – see below. If selection is rigorously applied, the International Diploma is likely to be an excellent fit for its academic role.
NLCS Dubai will initially open for students in pre-Kindergarten through to Grade 10, with phased opening to Grade 12 by September 2019.
The School aims to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ by KHDA within three years and the top-performing IB World School in the UAE. NCLS Dubai is targeting “ambitious parents” who, “expect their children to attend Oxbridge or a similar standard of universities globally.”
Fees at North London Collegiate School Dubai will be in the ‘premium-plus’ bracket (as an indication it is being priced comparatively with Dubai’s most expensive school GEMS Nations Academy) at 87,000 AED for KG1 to 120,000 AED for Grades 9 and 10. The school is, however, offering founder’s discounts of between 15 and 20 percent for those families who join the school during the first term in 2017.
The school will be developed over two phases, with the first offering a capacity of 1,900 students and the second 2,150.
North London Collegiate School, UK
The founding UK school, established in 1850, lies in the top five of UK independents, is the oldest academic all-girl school in the country and has arguably a solid claim to being the best all-girls school in Great Britain.
NLCS was established by a Victorian pioneer of education, Frances Mary Buss, in her family home in North London. The original vision of the school was to give to girls the quality of education and the aspirations that, at the time, were only afforded to men.
North London Collegiate School in the UK consistently achieves top positions in GCSE, A-level and IB rankings, and secures genuinely outstanding university outcomes for its students. The Times ranks the school first in the UK for all schools for the IB Diploma as well as GCSEs, and the top girls’ school for overall Sixth Form results.
Its 2016 IB diploma results are outstanding – students gain an average point score of 41.7 points typically placing them in the top 4% of students worldwide. The IB Diploma score places NLCS as the number one IB school in the UK for the twelfth consecutive year, and among the very best IB schools in the world.
47% of Sixth Form entries were graded A* at A level. 40% of its graduates go to Oxford, Cambridge and top US universities, the remainder all to Russell Group and other top university destinations for their respective subject area. 100% of graduating students go on to further studies at the world’s leading universities.
The Sutton Trust describes NLCS as the most successful school in the United Kingdom in placing its students into the country’s most competitive universities. NLCS is also one of only two schools to have been twice named by the Sunday Times as ‘Independent School of the Year’, which described it as ‘possibly the best advertisement for girls-only education in the country.’
This is, however, the UK school.
The question most prospective parents will ask in the Emirates, however, of its Dubai incarnation, is whether this is a franchise. Are parents going to get the UK school or a pale imitation? What are the guarantees of quality? And how can a UK single-sex girl’s school transform into a co-educational school and retain its character – and results?
Quality control and the status of the brand
Underlying this question is a question of quality control: Hhas the right to simply use a brand been purchased? Is it the school that is itself opening a genuine branch in Dubai, or a third party? Or is it something in between.
The answer is the latter, falling somewhere between the two. This is a franchise purchase of the rights to use the brand, although our considered view at this time is that the very significant protections imposed by North London Collegiate in the UK, both up to launch and thereafter in annual inspections, should afford significant confidence to prospective parents.
North London Collegiate will not want to put its reputation at risk by opening a failing school with no obvious links with its parent. To make the point it refers to the new school as a “branch” of North London Collegiate, and a partnership, not a franchise.
Given the central importance of quality control to parents here, it is worth quoting the parent school in full:
“The NLCS brand and reputation rests on delivery of outstanding results, therefore we use a very “hands on” approach to partnership, leading and managing the school development cycle every step of the way.
In the initial phase we work closely with our partners to establish the feasibility of a new project and adapt our educational model to local market requirements.
Working with selected suppliers we develop the complete school opening plan and manage the critical path from inception to opening.
NLCS’s in-house experts produce the academic plan, the educational brief, the detailed organisational structure and other pre-opening documentation and directly manage key pre-opening activity including recruitment, licensing, procurement and training.
Post opening, we work closely with the school team to ensure an outstanding delivery of NLCS’s annual objectives and development plan through a programme of teacher selection and training and on-going school monitoring and inspection.
All teachers, once appointed, are expected to travel to London for induction and training at the UK school. Once an overseas branch is open, it is regularly monitored and inspected by the UK school.
We ensure rigorous accountability for delivery.” North London Collegiate College, UK
What does this leave for the partners on the ground? In one sense, and this is good news for prospective parents, actually relatively little:
“Our overseas partners are in charge of school construction and on-going operations. A strong fit with NLCS’s brand ethos and values is a key requirement.”
Prospective parents should take confidence that the franchise/branch model used by North London Collegiate School in the UK to expand its overseas presence has already been proven in the establishment of a sister school in Jeju in South Korea [NLCS Jeju] which opened in 2011 in direct partnership with an agency of the Korean government (not Sobha, the school’s Dubai partner.)
It is worth noting that the Jeju school offers boarding as well as day schooling, something not offered by the Dubai school. Inevitably this will impact on the character of the school.
In terms of results, the Korean school is amongst the best in North East Asia for International Baccalaureate Diploma scoring. International Baccalaureate results in 2016 saw an average points score of 38. 40% of students earned a diploma score of 40+ and 73.4% of all grades were 6/7, the two highest grades that can be awarded. Even in the first year of the Diploma, the school secured an average Diploma points score of 36 points per pupil. This should provide a benchmark for Dubai parents.
The Jeju School opened with over 400 pupils, and now, in its sixth year of operation, has a mixed role of 1200 boys and girls. The Jeju school is around half the planned size of the Dubai school at capacity ( a maximum role of 1400).
Prospective parents should note that a Singapore school is planned to open in 2019 – this should further strengthen the alumni networking pool of the school and broaden opportunities for partnerships between the schools worldwide.
It is worth noting that there are two main drivers for North Collegiate licensing its brand to allow overseas branches.
The first, as above, is to create an international network for its own children (and by default those from its branch schools) for exchanges and shared cultural programmes.
The second is that the income used, which is paid annually by each partner in perpetuity, is used to fund bursaries for disadvantaged families for whom otherwise the fees would not allow their children to attend the UK school.
The NLCS Jeju school partnership with the Korean government funds 16 complete student places for disadvantaged families at the UK school.
The Dubai branch is being established in conjunction with Sobha Group. Our review of its other newly launched school, Hartland International, can be found here. NCLS Dubai will be built adjacent to the Hartland school.
The Sobha partnership will fund, at full capacity of the Dubai school, (only) five full bursaries for less advantaged UK families at secondary level, less generous than its Korean counterpart.
NLCS in the UK believes “that the opportunity of an education at NLCS should be open to all and that by providing bursaries we seek to maintain our rich, social mix and diverse community.” The school currently offers help with fees to nearly 10% of all Senior School pupils.
Increasingly now we are beginning to see the best Dubai schools recognise this value too of investing in families and children who would not otherwise be able to afford the fees. There are many positive impacts on all children in a school from broadening the income, social and cultural diversity of children, as well as admitting highly talented students on scholarships to push standards.
We would be interested to see whether prospective parents in Dubai can eventually expect to see equivalent scholarships and bursaries on offer in the emirates. As it stands there is no advertised bursary provision. We hope very much to see a change here as approach the launch of the school.
Hybrid co-educational schooling
There is one major, fundamental and very interesting difference with the NLCS schools worldwide that is not replicated elsewhere in Dubai schools.
This takes the form of segregated teaching at the Middle School phase of education through what the schools describe as the “diamond” hybrid model of single-sex/co-educational schooling by year group and academic phase.
In practice boys and girls are taught together in the Junior School phases, but separated in the Middle Years and then brought back to a co-educational education in the Sixth Form for the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
Many UAE schools separate classes at the Middle Year phase, but do not bring them back together.
This allows NLCS to balance the benefits of both models of education whilst playing to its own strengths and expertise as an All Girls single sex school in the UK.
To some degree this will answer the question many prospective parents will ask of how an all-girls UK school can replicate itself in a co-educational environment. This model too has proven highly effective in Jeju.
NLCS Dubai will be an IB Continuum School, adapting the assessments and methods of the PYP, MYP and IBDP, offering the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) in the Junior School, Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Years 7 to 11, and Diploma Programme in the Sixth Form.
“Schemes of work will broadly reflect the curriculum of NLCS (UK).”
Parents should note, however, that the school does not intend to offer Latin and Mandarin, at least from September 2017. The status of Latin, in terms of its importance, divides parents, and many will not see this as an issue. This said, it is a subject weighted by Oxbridge. Mandarin is obviously a critical subject in today’s global economy, although there may be some argument that Arabic effectively replaces it. The school will offer Arabic, French and Spanish as core secondary languages to English.
Our general view is that the International Baccalaureate is a world class offer, and will not in any way disadvantage children. However, ideally, as is the case with the UK parent, and particularly given the level of fees and economies of scale that will come from such a large school, we would have hoped for parallel stream Al Level provision too, this enabling children, for whom it is appropriate, to specialise.
The Principal of NLCS Dubai, Mr Daniel Lewis, offers prospective parents another critical guarantee – and indicates that both Sobha and NLCS in the UK are leaving nothing to chance. He has been recruited directly from the UK school where he has taught since 2002 (initially in English and Drama). He contributed to the design and specification of the UK school’s (outstanding) Performing Arts Centre and in 2009 became director of all the school’s extra-curricular activities. Perhaps, most critically, he was, in 2010, given responsibility for delivering the NLCS Jeju project and has managed monitoring an inspections of the Jeju school since.
Music and Performing Arts
Like the UK school, one key aspect of provision that is being emphasised is that broader ECA/whole child provision to balance the academics.
“A focal-point of the NLCS Dubai campus will be our purpose-built Performing Arts Centre; combined with our sporting and games facilities, this will provide an opportunity for each student to develop their own interests.” Mr Daniel Lewis, Founding Principal, NLCS Dubai
NLCS Dubai facilities are promised to be Premium Plus and compete with the best in Dubai.
The school will have 13 Science labs, specialist IT-based learning and research hubs, dedicated art studios, music studios, design and robotics labs, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Centre (doubling as a fully professional theatre and music performance hall – in the UK offering more than 40 performances each year), landmark Senior library modelled on the UK and operating as the heart of the school with the capacity to hold over 20,00 volumes, dining hall – and extended sporting facilities including six tennis courts, cricket/rugby pitches, basketball court, 8 lane indoor swimming pool and trainer pool.
ECAs will include shooting, equestrian, water sports and falconry. The aim is to match the breadth of UK provision eventually with 40 options ranging from weekly book groups, a Debating Society, ‘Young Historians’, a ‘Human Rights Society’ and ‘Model United Nations’. In the UK School, weekly meetings and events are led by the Sixth Form – to replicate this will clearly take time as the school phases in Sixth Form provision.
SEND and Learning Support
The best schools genuinely and significantly – in our opinion – invest in SEND. It is one of the better features of Dubai schools – and we believe something to be celebrated.
This does mean, however, for parents to really measure accurately any school’s performance, that they bury down into added value, rather than baseline results. A school that is highly selective should be expected to achieve. Achievement, in itself, tells you little of the real impact of any school on its children.
This means that prospective parents must measure like for like those schools which do accept and nurture students with SEND and those who play lip service.
NCLS Dubai claims it will have a learning support team “but with details to be later clarified.” However, this further comes with the proviso that students must be able to access the curriculum at a significant level. Given that we know the school is expressly seeking highly academic students intent on Oxbridge, it will be very interesting to see the level of actual investment in SEND – and the percentage of students admitted to the school.
NLCS Dubai is now accepting applications for admission to the School from students wishing to enter Pre-Kindergarten up to Grade 10.
Grade 11 will be added in 2018 while Grade 12 will be added in 2019. Tuition fees for both Grade 11 and 12 are listed at Dh130,000 annually – prospective parents do need to reflect that the cost of an education at NLCS Dubai, for all its potential benefits, will come at a price.
The first real question many parents will have will be that of the quality guarantees underlying the partnership between NLCS in the UK and its new Dubai branch. In this regard we are confident in the controls in place by NLCS, and further, the recruitment of Mr Daniel Lewis as Principal. Both should provide very high levels of security for prospective parents considering the school.
We do expect teething issues inevitably, and results will, as in the Jeju school. take time to bed-in. Founding discounts are there precisely to balance this risk.
If this is the fear, the hope for North London Collegiate School in Dubai, has to be as, if not more significant.
This is a UK school with a very deserved reputation. NLCS Dubai’s stated ambition to be the leading IB school in the Emirates strikes us as plausible one – if it brings in high quality teachers to match that ambition, and its prestigious name.
Should the school does carry through in its stated ambition too to be highly selective, this will not be a school for all children however.
Without any qualification, for parents of children with highly academic children, we recommend shortlisting the school. Prospective parents would be advised to look online at any number of the openly available videos made by children at the UK school. In the UK at least, the happiness of children – and the importance attached to ECAs and developing the whole child, shines through. Prospective parents may wish too, to consider that a number of other Tier 1s in Dubai have opened with the ambitions to be extremely academically selective, and then moderated that position.
Sobha Group has achieved something profound for the UAE in attracting North London Collegiate – the guarantees from the UK parent in its eventual provision are more than sufficient too, to ensure that its eventual delivery should be nothing less than outstanding. We do however, hope that as many as possible of the defining UK features are carried through to Dubai, and this includes a genuine commitment to bursary provision to broaden the diversity and culture of the school role. To live up to its name, prospective parents will expect nothing less.
We watch with interest.
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Private, for profit
(1) School operates as a franchise licensee of the brand with commitment to replace a branch model of the school replicating the original as far as possible whilst integrating local requirements and context.
PRE-KG: 83,000 (September 2017)
KG1: 87,000 (September 2017)
KG2: 95,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 1: 95,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 2: 95,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 3: 95,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 4: 98,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 5: 98,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 6: 115,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 7: 115,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 8: 115,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 9: 120,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 10: 120,000 (September 2017)
YEAR 11: 130,000 (September 2018)
YEAR 12: 130,000 (September 2019)
(1) International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme [IB PYP]
(2) International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme [IB MYP]
(3) International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme [IB DP]
International Baccalaureate Organisation [IBO]
Jeju: 100% (2016)
UK: 100% (2016)
Jeju: 38. 40 (2016)
UK: 41.7% (2016)
(1) Suitable for academically ambitious children
(2) Entrance tests to determine a student’s suitability for the School, to ensure that they are capable of accessing the curriculum effectively and that they will thrive in a fast-paced academic environment.
(3) Assessment process may include (for younger pupils) testing for school readiness, behavioral development, sociability, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, and mathematical skills. For older students, testing may include verbal and non-verbal reasoning, working memory, processing speed, mathematical ability and interview.
(4) School offers provision for Special Educational Needs and Disability [SEND] but SUBJECT to each child being able to "demonstrate their academic potential and hence access the curriculum."
Not published (school in launch phase)
(1) The First Phase will open in September 2017 with a capacity of 1,900 students
1:10 to 1:12.
(1) Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 1, capped at 20 children per class (one teacher and one teaching assistant)
(2) Grades 2 to 5, capped at 24 children per class (one teacher and one teaching assistant)
(3) Grades 6 and 7, capped at 24 children per class (two teachers)
(4) Grade 8 to 12 class sizes will reduce TBA
School in build
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City, Sobha Hartland community, Dubai
Hybrid mixed, co-educational
(1) "Diamond" co-educational model: "From ages 3 to 11 boys and girls are taught together, from ages 12 to 16 some lessons are separate, and in the Sixth Form, they are together again."
(PNC Menon, Founder and Chairman)
+971 4 375 0600