Back to basics is key to an outstanding school, says Dubai principal

DUBAI // The secret to achieving an outstanding rating in the annual school inspection is getting back to the basics of education, said Jumeirah College principal Simon O’Connor. “The first job is to make sure teaching and learning is of an outstanding quality, and a lot of things will follow as a consequence of that,” […]

DUBAI // The secret to achieving an outstanding rating in the annual school inspection is getting back to the basics of education, said Jumeirah College principal Simon O’Connor.

“The first job is to make sure teaching and learning is of an outstanding quality, and a lot of things will follow as a consequence of that,” said Mr O’Connor, who is also chief executive of Jumeirah College, an English-curriculum secondary school that has earned an outstanding grade for the past six years.

“Never let the focus slip from what is going on in the classroom. Ensure that the focus of any school is the student experience and that students are being enabled to realise their potential and stick to that.”

Of the 149 private schools in Dubai that were inspected under the new unified inspection framework – which applied an equal set of evaluation and grading criteria to all schools across the country – 16 schools were awarded the outstanding grade.

These schools provided what inspectors considered to be excellent education to 29,196 pupils. Last year, 14 schools were ranked outstanding.

But the increased number of outstanding schools did not mean the new inspection framework was easier on schools, said Mr O’Connor. In fact, the new grading system, which added new classifications of achievement, had made it more challenging for schools to improve.

“There is a greater delineation between the gradings and I think, actually, that makes it harder for schools to become outstanding, which is no criticism at all,” said Mr O’Connor. “If you are a school that has been good historically, to become outstanding you’ve got to make two jumps as opposed to one.”

For Kings’ School Dubai, this inspection marked the eighth consecutive year it had been awarded the coveted outstanding score.”The clarity of vision for children’s learning is the basis of our success,” the school’s principal Alison Turner said. “However, it has only been by finding and nurturing exceptional teachers and leaders that this vision continues to be made a reality.”

Mr O’Connor agreed that quality teachers and staff were at the core of high-performing schools.

“I would say the most important thing I do as a principal is to make sure that I’ve got the right people in the school,” he said. “My most important job is recruitment and retention of staff.”

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority rewards outstanding schools by allowing them to raise their annual fees by double the Education Cost Index, calculated annually by the Dubai Statistic Centre. This year, for example, the ECI was 3.2 per cent, so outstanding schools could raise their fees by as much as 6.4 per cent.

rpennington@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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