Ranches Primary School, Arabian Ranches 2 – THE REVIEW
Updated August 2019 – Ranches Primary School KHDA 2019
We wish it happened more often that a new school launching in the UAE opens to see everything coming together so well, and so quickly, for its children.
Getting FS, Primary education right, choosing the right school for our young children, is such an important responsibility for parents. Too often the temptation is to think it is all about what happens later with SATS and IGCSE, then A Level or IB – but everything is set up at this younger age when hearts and minds are so open to learning.
Meeting inquisitiveness head-on, and individually, gives each child the chance to develop all the parts of their intellect, as well as the softer, but as important parts of being human, from a strong moral compass, compassion for others, ability to empathise, the tools to negotiate conflict – all of these and so many others.
Moreover, setting up the basics of English and Mathematics is critical at EYFS and the early Key Stages – they provide the bedrock for everything that happens later on. Without those foundations, the risk is that children get left behind, not because of any inherent weaknesses, but simply because they do not have the primary building blocks in place on which everything later is built.
It is also true that individual student flight paths, whilst formally set later at the time of SATS, are informally established at a younger age – expectations create a matrix between each child and their teachers, and parents, of what they can (or cannot) hope to achieve. The very, very best schools focus individual attention on every child to ensure that each and every child individually has the capacity, tools – and self-belief, that nothing is beyond them; that they too can make a difference, be someone, succeed, excel.
This is why a genuinely inclusive school like the Ranches Primary School, with its commitment to always ensure that whatever Special Educational Need (SEN) is identified in any child is met with whatever resources are required to meet that need, is so impressive. Parents, able to make the decision to entrust their children’s education to schools like the Ranches, and there are others, can be certain that their child(ren) will be looked after and given every chance to excel on their own journey whatever the twists and turns that may lie ahead.
The school role currently stands at around 500 children. Slipstream options are extensive including JESS Arabian Ranches, the Jebel Ali School, Nord Anglia, Safa Community School and GEMS Metropole – all outstanding options offering parents a choice of fit to secure the best for their children.
It is worth noting that on a recent visit to Ranches Primary School, and without any planning on the school’s part, we witnessed an exceptionally sensitive, sympathetic and kind induction of a new child to Ranches. The welcome and care of the [upset] child was described to us by our team as:
“… really touching; the approach was so sympathetic and encouraging … and personal. It really brought home to me the school’s genuine commitment to the welfare of each child. The child was eased in wonderfully, very sympathetically and the process was clearly going to take as long as the little girl needed.”
If all this sounds somewhat emotive, it is because on inspections we really came away impressed. This is saying something – the competition in this sector of dedicated British primaries is intense. Dubai has some extraordinarily good schools – good news for parents.
There is a catch, however, before we talk more in detail about the Ranches. Cost.
This is a premium school with fees running between 45,000 AED in FS stages to 55,000 AED between Years 1 and 6. There are going to be affordability issues for many parents, notwithstanding that the fee structure is aligned with what you would expect to pay for this level of provision at any of the competing outstanding schools. As it currently stands, the Ranches does not have either bursary or scholarship provision, but this is early days for the school and we hope that this will later be addressed.
Ranches Primary School launched in September 2015 and today it has grown from around 45 children at launch to a school role that fills the school life. The demand for dedicated FS to Year 6 Primaries is very high – and the offer of a British education founded on the English National Curriculum is a powerful draw here.
Facilities are as you would expect for a Tier 1. They include a fully digital campus; central library with phased learning clusters of resources; a plethora of specialist rooms for music, art and language learning; dedicated hugely innovative STEM room (for activities related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics); further science and computer labs; 2 climate-controlled multi-purpose halls for a wide range of sports and theatre; a pretty, temperature controlled outdoor swimming pool; outdoor play and free-flow learning spaces including a central “Quadrangle” hub for all children to come together; basketball and netball courts; cafeteria and a prayer room.
On our visit we noted the building and layout is light, open and airy – and the use of spare space for STEM was a thoughtful and very valuable initiative. Already there seems to be an awareness amongst the teachers of which STEM discipline the children preferred and gravitated to, and the ease with which they encouraged their friends to come and share the thing that had excited them.
Quality and breadth of facilities are though, at this level of fees, a given. They are what parents expect. It is however the staff and the leadership of the former Head/Principal, Samantha Steed, that brought the raw materials to life.
It’s clear speaking with Ms Steed that launching the school to be an Outstanding one was a vocation. She brimmed with passion for her task and her self-belief and conviction we found inspiring. An insight into her views in one area, home learning, can be found here. On our visit we noted one example of Ms Steed’s focus on a “real education.” It is often the little things in a school that are telling. In this case we noted children each growing a plant for the garden areas, all contributing to its development, rather than having a garden simply presented to them fait accompli. Ms Steed explained: ” Where’s the learning for children in a school just looking the part, what an opportunity missed!”
Ms Steed has now been replaced by Mr Julian Pederick, formerly Vice Principal of Ranches following a career at both Repton and Foremarke. We will update our review when we meet with Mr Pederick later in 2019.
The owners have clearly invested heavily in getting the faculty right – and this tiers across the staff body. We like the fact that all members of staff are given a profile online – this is a school intent on hiring great teachers – and as importantly, keeping them so that children develop with consistent teaching staff who know them individually on their journey. It is staff that are the single most expensive cost of any school moving forward and prospective parents should always take care to weight this investment over “bells and whistles.”
On that note, if we have to find fault it is that the design of Ranches Primary School itself is not nearly as inspiring as the best architectural masterpieces rising out of the sand in the UAE. Ranches addresses this through all the usual mechanism of profiling children’s work throughout the school – bringing colour and life to the new walls and nondescript design. As nature and landscaping evolve the hard edges will also soften.
Prospective parents considering the Ranches are advised to take the time to look at the many films the school has produced to try and bring it to life for them, in a way that a single visit or discussion with teachers cannot do alone. We really like the investment made by the school in producing these materials for prospective parents. These can be found on the Ranches dedicated YouTube channel and Facebook pages.
On our visit we noted teaching staff seemed to be thriving as much as the children. The two we spoke with (both Irish) were relaxed, and confident, – there wasn’t a hint of tension that can sometimes pervade a classroom of young children, especially when they are finger painting!
Ranches Primary School bottom ,line – The SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2019
Ranches Primary School achieved a “Good School with Very Good and Outstanding features” rating from the Dubai Inspectorate of schools – and it’s one richly deserved. it’s a very good rating for a school so early in its life and indicative of the high quality of teaching, ambition and leadership – and potential on offer here.
Whilst in the general life cycle of schools it remains early days, what we can say, comfortably and without hesitation, is that everything, absolutely everything, is in place at the Ranches for all children to have a terrific, inspirational, happy and meaningful whole child, enriched early years’ education that should set them up for their own individual journeys ahead. This is a school that works, seamlessly, for children – and worth shortlisting.
It’s certainly positive that the warmth and intimacy of a school like Ranches still exists amongst the major corporate schools we’ve become more familiar with – and we really must recognise the outstanding school leadership of Ms Samantha Steed and her team for their achievement.
Well done to all at Ranches for achieving so much, so quickly.
Very Good with Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good - Very Good
YEAR 1: 45,000
YEAR 2: 45,000
YEAR 3: 55,000
YEAR 4: 55,000
YEAR 5: 55,000
YEAR 6: 55,000
YEAR 7: NA
YEAR 8: NA
YEAR 9: NA
YEAR 10: NA
YEAR 11: NA
YEAR 12: NA
YEAR 13: NA
National Curriculum for England
(1) Comprehensive English as a Foreign Language [EAL] provision is provided
(2) Comprehensive Special Educational Needs and Disability provision [SEND]: " responsive to the growing population of the school and their needs [... every] student should be able to access and derive benefit from the curriculum and educational programmes to realise his or her potential."
(3) Identified SEND provision including Gifted and Talented [G&T]; dyslexia, dyspraxia, Aspergers Syndrome and other needs as they are identified by the school/specialists.
Arabian Ranches 2, Dubai
British (largest nationality)
Genuinely international student body
SEND:10% (including G&T)
Emirati: 3 children
International Management Ventures (Chair Prakash Chandrabalan)
+971 (0) 4 442 9765
• Outstanding independent feedback
• Best in class teach turnover (0%)
• School design something of a lost opportunity – surprisingly lacking in flair
• Lack of bursary and scholarship programmes
• Information for parents and celebration of children on-line could be better - online resources do not bring the school to life or reflect its value