Clarion School, Al Quoz Park 1 – THE REVIEW
Updated January 2019 – confirmation of International Baccalaureate Diploma road map and provision
With a plethora of tier-one schools opening in the Emirates, it takes something very special to stand out from the crowd.
A notable feature of nearly all new UAE schools targeting the top end of the market are very significant investments in capital build and facilities. These however, no matter how grand and extensive, are the shell of a school and prospective parents should not be blinded by empty glass and steel promises. The heart of a school, and what matters, is its teaching staff.
There is every indication that Clarion gets this. The school promises an unqualified commitment to invest in the very best teachers, each qualified to a minimum Masters’ level education as a condition of joining, combined with more than three years teaching experience. There will be a maximum of only 15 students to each teacher to ensure highly individualised, progressive learning.
The school offers the first Bank Street, New York backed and-co-structured progressive curriculum in the Emirates. Bank Street is in the top-5 educational training colleges in the US and has a 100-year history of working across US government and blue chip corporations in defining standards of US educational provision. The curriculum will offer the American Progressive Curriculum from Pre K. At Grade 11 and 12 students will be offered a choice between International Baccalaureate Diploma/Certificate and New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited high school diploma based streams, offering highly individualised learning according to each child’s abilities and aspirations.
There are other reasons why we think Clarion could become something special. Firstly it promises bursary assistance in special cases where parents face unexpected hardships during the course of their children’s education at the school, a key element of Bank Street’s provision in the US. Parents, and more importantly their children, will not be shown the door if the worst happens.
Secondly, the school makes it a condition of entry that parents are engaged with their children’s education; an open channel of school-parental communication is built into the DNA off the school from launch.
Thirdly, the school launches with a dedicated Gifted and Talented [G&T} child programme integrated within the school from launch, led by the school’s Principal (Superintendent), Dr. Kandace Williams. The importance of nurturing children with Special Educational Needs [SEN] and the Gifted and Talented child [G&T] is fundamental to KHDA standards but in many schools treated with significantly less attention than it requires. That this is being addressed at the very top of the school so early in the development cycle is impressive – although there is a caveat with the SEN provision – see below.
There is another major positive for prospective parents. Clarion’s Advisory Panel, driven by the ideals of US progressives, do not come any more qualified.
The Panel includes Dr. Paul Lieblich, best recognized for his work as the co-founder and co-author of the IB PYP (Primary Years Programme); Shael Polakow-Suransky, President of the Bank Street College of Education and former Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the US’s largest school system with an annual budget of $400 million; and Alan Cohen, Co-Chair of Harvard Principals’ Center Advisory Board at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Assistant Head of Speyer School, the NYC school for Gifted and Accelerated learners.
However, in spite of all of these positives, there are a number of considerations for prospective parents in shortlisting the school.
First, like any new school Clarion is untested. Prospective parents should understand that any new school carries an element of compromise and risk. To some degree Clarion does offset this in its affiliation with Bank Street, the very high calibre of its leadership team and its starting ambitions.
Second, Clarion has confirmed to our sister site that it will not offer specialist provision for children with dyslexia, dyspraxia or Aspergers syndrome and will have no educational psychologist within its planned Special Educational Needs [SEN] provision. For parents with children with more than moderate Special Educational Needs [SEN], Clarion School will not provide sufficient capacity to meet their children’s needs.
Third, Clarion will also need to pay attention to staff retention. UAE schools have long had an issue with keeping good quality staff, and the school will need to make sure its remuneration starts, and remains competitive. Its current salary for starter teachers, $42,000 excluding benefits, may be insufficient for truly top-tier talent. Dubai is no longer an inexpensive city, and good quality teachers with Masters degrees will be at a premium.
Fourth, US progressive educational approaches are at the very heart of complex political and educational debates in the US. The issues and educational impacts are complex, but for prospective parents seeking a more European, child-centred, and egalitarian educational environment for their children’s education, rooted in the US Common Core metrics, Clarion should score very highly.
Finally, whilst we can confirm, as of 2019, that Clarion has now decided to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma in addition to an American High School diploma, we are many years away from understanding the shape that this will take. Our view is that this would need further provision of the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme, or at the least, Advanced Placement, to begin to stack up given that this is an academically inclusive school committed to opening doors for students to top tier universities worldwide after graduation.
So where does this leave us? Clarion School has the makings of one of Dubai’s top-tier flagship American curriculum schools. To be the Emirate’s finest US school remains an aspiration.
It remains, as with the majority of new schools in phased launch, far too early for us to make an absolute recommendation.
It is not helped by the reality that progressive approaches worldwide, regardless of curriculum, are cutting edge and divisive.
What we can say is that for the right child, the sort of approach here can be life changing and open doors to learning and attainment that traditional approaches cannot match. This is the type of school that in many ways highlights the maturity of the education sector in the UAE as a whole and the breadth of choice available to parents. Make no mistake, this is a courageous school, driven by absolutely best intentions – and one we wish every chance of success.
Notes to parents.
(1) Clarion School opened in September 2016 and enrollment from Pre-K to Grade 2. Today the school is open to Year 5. Clarion is the third school in the Scholars International Group (SIG) which also includes its founding school, Dubai Scholars, opened in 1976 and Scholars International Academy, both English National Curriculum schools. The group is privately owned and run by Aparna Verna, CEO, a UK and US educated, highly respected pioneer in UAE education who took over the running of Scholars at just 17 after the death of her parents. Clarion School is the Group’s first premium US based school.
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School in phased launch
School in phased launch
School in phased launch
School in phased launch
Forthcoming September 2016
YEAR 1: 76,500
YEAR 2: 76,500
YEAR 3: 76,500
YEAR 4: 76,500
YEAR 5: 76,500
YEAR 6: In planning
YEAR 7: In planning
YEAR 8: In planning
YEAR 9: In planning
YEAR 10: In planning
YEAR 11: In planning
YEAR 12: In planning
YEAR 13: In planning
Common Core + 15
High School Diploma
Bank Street College of Education, New York
International Baccalaureate Certificate and Diploma
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
Maximum launch intake 240 (Pre-K to Year 2 ONLY) 2016-17
New School 2016-17
Al Quoz Park 1, Al Quoz, Dubai
International 60+ nationalities
Scholars International Group (SIG)
+971 4 457 4321
• Exceptionally well-qualified Advisory Board, rooted in US progressive educational provision
• Curriculum backed by Bank Street College of Education, New York, a major US player in progressive US education and teacher development
• Highly talented and experienced founding leadership team
• Guaranteed minimum teacher qualifications for entry places the school in Tier 1
• Phased, structure opening of phases designed to provide students a very high standard of education from opening without the potential teething issues of a new school
• Pioneering commitment to bursary provision for existing parents in exceptional circumstances to protect their children’s education
• Backing of long-established educational group with a history of schools provision in Sharjah
• Very serious commitment to G&T from the outset, personally guided by the school Principal
• Impressive dual-stream choice of US High School Diploma/International Baccalaureate Certificate/Diploma programmes in KG12/13 according to the individualised learning and aspiration profile of each student (confirmed)
• Inherent risks of a new school, albeit moderated by significant investment in experienced school leadership and US partnership with Bank Street
• Facilities and school in build phase and design renders inevitably give a limited understanding off the final quality off provision
• Devil is in the detail