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The City School International, Nad Al Hamar
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Review

The City School International, Nad Al Hamar

by October 31, 2016
Strengths

• Proven on-going capacity for improvement
• Investment of parent company in professional development of faculty
• Potential for further capacity building and investment by parent company
• Outstanding school features, particularly in Secondary phase student attainment in Mathematics
• School-wide appreciation of Arabic culture and the positive impacts of the school’s Emirati home
• Stable, effective main school leadership with proven ability deliver improvements across the school
• On-going structural linking between pre-school slipstream and main school provision
• Outstanding infant and young child care at pre-school Little City under Principal Shaheen Raza
• Value fees offering good ROI for a British curriculum
• Expanding subject offer at secondary phase to help meet and respond to the broader range of individual child academic need

Weaknesses

• Lack of post-16 provision
• Arbitrary division of FS1 and FS2 provision between pre- and main- schools
• Ongoing need for further investment
• Lack of bursary or scholarship provision
• Lack of transparency in publishing year-on-year examination data preventing parental ability to properly benchmark school provision
• Significantly less subject choice and facility provision than the best City Schools worldwide
• KHDA “Acceptable” school status does not meet the minimum “Good” standard of education expected from all Emirate’s schools
• Further capital investment required at pre-school slipstream

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

A KHDA “Acceptable” school, but one, rarely, also with some “Outstanding” features punching above its weight in the sector. This, combined with a proven capacity to improve over time makes this a school to watch. After eight years securing only the basic minimum “Acceptable” scoring from the KHDA, can City School now translate its investment into “Good” School status? Time will tell.

C+
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“We aim to develop each one of our students into true learners, individuals who always seek to broaden their perspective and to face life’s challenges with courage and conviction.

Education is a pursuit that goes far beyond a qualification. While we aim to help our students excel in the course they are studying, we also hope to instil in them a thirst for learning throughout their lives.  At The City School, our teachers, students, and parents work together to realise this goal.”

Dr. Farzana Firoz, Chief Executive Officer, City Schools (Pvt.) Ltd.

Updated November 2016

City School International presents an extraordinarily mixed picture for review. Arguably, the headline KHDA “Acceptable” Grade does the school a disservice because what it does not reveal is the degree the school has improved over the last 8 years since Dubai school inspections began in 2009. Similarly it does not reflect the number of outstanding features of the school, which simply have not been sufficient or consistent enough across all areas to secure the school a higher rating.  Notwithstanding these improvements, City School faces a competitive environment in the which the Dubai schools sector is also improving year on year. The result is that City School continues to tread water – securing year on year only an “Acceptable” rating – one that it has never managed to improve on. And whilst there are elements of the school which we discuss below that deserve praise, there remain significant issues that do impact on children – some structural, and some in basic core provision.

First structural issues.

This is a school that only offers its children an education to IGCSE. It is out of step with other schools in a very large group that has been very successful in delivering A’ Levels. The result of this gap is that children have to find an alternative education at 16 – hardly ideal.

Second, we think that, at least arguably, the school would have been better to clearly divide its infant and FS delivery by locating FS1 and FS2 education at the newly relocated Little City Nursery pre-school which provides its slipstream, rather than arbitrarily bringing children into the school at FS2. There are real benefits in separating provision for younger children, and this clearer division would seem to be in reach of the school. Potentially too it could open space for delivery of a Post-16 curriculum.

Second, infrastructure.

Whilst we are pleased, given City School International is struggling with space, to see the school reducing numbers from 716 students in 2015 to 665 this year, there remains a weakness in the general breadth and quality of facilities for children. This is not helped by its Pakistan based owners arguing that, despite their being the second largest school provider in Pakistan, they cannot help the school further in terms of investment because there are no economies of scale. This school needs investment.

To be fair, the parent group is investing in professional development. This deserves praise – but it needs to do both. If it does not, given the qualitative improvements across schools in Dubai, there are real risks of the school not even meeting its current “Acceptable” grading. Investment is needed across the board in technology, library services, music, outside play, sports provision, robotics infrastructure (which has seen a good level of initial investment), and, particularly, fully qualified teaching faculty. Teacher turnover at 23% remains too high; children and school management need security and continuity – it is not an optional add-on.

These negatives are half the story. There are also many positives. First, the newly relocated “The Little City Nursery” nursery, situated nearby, and managed very effectively by its Principal Shaheen Raza, is now delivering an education to FS1 for children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years. Housed in a large warehouse there is still significant work to bring the school up to the standards of the best British pre-schools, but work has been ongoing since its opening in the Summer. We would like to see a stronger identity and welcome stamped on the school from its nondescript exterior – pre-schools perhaps more than any other type of school need to be inspirational for the young minds entrust under their care.

Internally, the design is focused around half height classrooms arranged around a central area and, whilst unusual, there is no doubting the potential intimacy and warmth this layout should bring as the school evolves, sees investment and beds in. Ms Raza is highly experienced, bringing more than a decade’s experience in early care within a Dubai context to her role –  but it is her clear love and care for the children under her care that makes the Little City Nursery so inspirational. Her educational philosophy is built on the view that happy, inspired children learn – and therefore the role of creating warmth and a nurturing environment is the absolute fundamental of nursery provision. She is exceptionally hands on, taking a far more personally engaged role than many Principals in the sector and it is delightful to see the way the children respond to her and the rest of her team. If the facilities are brought up to the standards of its faculty the pre-school will have much to recommend it. We left our visit extremely impressed with the quality of care for children.

In terms of the bigger picture, we think the development of the new pre-school demonstrates an impressive and welcome strategic realignment of the two schools to create a slipstream in which children can develop from a very early age within the context of a single unified school culture, with seamless transition between the pre-school and later FS-Primary provision at City School.

Second, City School is an improving one. It clearly retains the capacity to build on is successes. Stand-out are its achievements at IGCSE, particularly in Mathematics, but also in Science. These are rated by KHDA Inspectors as “Outstanding” and “Very Strong” respectively. It is a shame therefor that the school continues to not publish, in full, the complete on-line examination results of its children. Publishing “toppers” in each subject simply does not provide enough information for parents to properly benchmark the school’s performance, and it also prevents the school celebrating its improvements year-on-year.

Facility provision has improved each year and the school is not recognisable compared with that inspected by the KHDA in 2009. Improvements across the board need praise – they just need to be ratcheted up in quality and scale. It should be remembered that originally this was a school that had no usable outdoor space for children.

Key praise from the KHDA includes:

  • Attainment and progress in Primary and Secondary phases reaches good or better standard in English, Mathematics and Science.
  • Children’s attainment and progress is “Outstanding” in the Secondary phase.
  • Ongoing expansion of subject choice in the Secondary phase, including new provision for Travel and Tourism, is enabling the school to better meets the individual educational needs of children.
  • Strong school relationships with parents are matched with the ongoing engagement of the governing body and owners.
  • The school leadership has shown it has the capacity to respond to required improvements and considerable improvements have been achieved across teaching, assessment, curriculum design, student welfare and the development of student learning skills in the Secondary phase.
  • Good to Outstanding provision for Arabic cultural subject areas with significant appreciation of both Islamic and Emirati values.
  • Reduction is student numbers in the FS2 phase had resolved the risk of overcrowding. This, in combination with new free-flow areas, and outdoor learning areas were creating a genuinely successful younger years learning environment, which should, as the new Cambridge syllabus beds in, provide significant improvements in each child’s progress and attainment.

It is worth also noting that our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, has received significant and positive feedback from parents since its last review, although feedback from students remains limited.

Much of this success lies squarely at the door of City School’s Principal, Kaneez-e-Ali Abbas who has provided much needed stability to the school over the last four years. She has more than fifteen direct years experience within the City Schools Group and it is clear she has leveraged good will across the organisation to drive the school forward. She is widely praised by both students and teachers.    

Bottom line. It is really frustrating that City School International has not been able to develop all-through provision. Its parent has significant experience of delivering all-through provision elsewhere, where excellent links with universities globally provide links for its graduates as well as a highly developed alumni network. None of this is available to Dubai students. We really hope that the ongoing and improved alignment of Pre-school and main school provision will open opportunities here.

This notwithstanding, what really stands out is the capacity of the school to improve, and its consistent responsiveness to KHDA critique each year. This is a school that will not stand-still. It is just such a shame that it does not currently have the resources to make the leap to Good School status. Value fees may well be attractive, but to have real value they need to be matched by a minimum “Good” level of educational and overall facility provision.

Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com AFFORDABLE BRITISH SCHOOLS on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 23,030 (Slipstream from The Little City Nursery) inc. medical + annual fees
FS2: 16,850
YEAR 1: 18,560
YEAR 2: 18,560
YEAR 3: 18,625
YEAR 4: 18,625
YEAR 5: 20,135
YEAR 6: 20,585
YEAR 7: 20,135
YEAR 8: 20,135
YEAR 9: 20,835
YEAR 10: 24,415
YEAR 11: 28,260
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England
EYFS
IGCSE

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
London University

Number of A Levels offered

NA
Notes:
(1) No Sixth Form

A Levels offered

NA
Notes:
(1) No Sixth Form

A Level A* to A

NA
Notes:
(1) No Sixth Form

A Level A* to C

NA
Notes:
(1) No Sixth Form

IGCSE A* to C

Not published
Notes
(1) The school is not transparent in publishing annual IGCSE results
(2) The KHDA identify "Outstanding" performance in Mathematics, "Very Strong" performance in Science and "Above Average" performance in English
(3) The school publishes only inadequate information detailing the IGCSE results of its top students

IGCSE A* to A

Not published
Notes
(1) The school is not transparent in publishing annual IGCSE results
(2) The KHDA identify "Outstanding" performance in Mathematics, "Very Strong" performance in Science and "Above Average" performance in English
(3) The school publishes only inadequate information detailing the IGCSE results of its top students

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

13
Notes
(1) 7 compulsory subjects must be sat at IGCSE
(2) Travel and Tourism is being introduced
(3) Children have to choose between Science or Business streams and subjects from both cannot be studied

I/GCSEs offered

English (Core)
Mathematics (Core)
Environmental Management (Core)
ICT (Core)
Arabic (First language) (Core)
Arabic (Second language) (Core)
Physical Education [PE] (Core)
Islamic Studies (Core)
Chemistry (Optional alternative to Accounting)
Accounting (Optional alternative to Chemistry)
Physics (Optional alternative to Economics)
Economics (Optional alternative to Physics)
Biology (Optional alternative to Business Studies)
Business Studies (Optional alternative to Biology)
Travel and Tourism (new subject option)

Selective

Inclusive:
Notes:
(1) FS2: Interview (no entrance test)
(2) Years 1 - 6: Entrance test in English (Comprehension and Composition), Science and Mathematics
(3) Years 7 - 10: Interview plus Entrance test in English (Comprehension and Composition), Science and Mathematics
(4) SEND students take a full part in school life.
(2) Dedicated SEND team

Waiting list

Yes

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

665

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:11

Largest nationality teachers

Pakistani

Teacher turnover

23%

Year opened

2006

Location

Nad Al Hamar

Student composition

Pakistani (largest nationality)
Emirati: 12
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities [SEND]: 12

Gender

Mixed, co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

City Schools (Pvt) Ltd
Farzana Firoz Chairman and Founder

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 289 9722

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

53.3%

Attainment Pri SEM

60%

Attainment Sec SEM

80%

Attainment Post-16 SEM

NA

Progress Nur SEM

60%

Progress Pri SEM

66.6%

Progress Sec SEM

80%

Progress Post-16 SEM

NA

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

40%

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

40%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

NA

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

40%

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

30%

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

NA

Islamic St. Primary Results

40%

Islamic St. Secondary Results

50%

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

NA

Leadership

60%

Community

60%

Facilities

40%

Quality of teaching

53.3%

Student personal responsibility

80%

Quality of curriculum

73.3%

School Governance

60%

SEN Provision

46.6%

About The Author
Jon Westley

Jon Westley is the Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com UK. 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