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Horizon International School

Horizon International School (formerly Star International School) is located in the heart of Al Thanya/Umm Suqeim 3 (close to the older Emirates International School). Although a relatively established school, having opened some seven years ago, Horizon International has grown significantly in student numbers in the last three years. It presently has 950 children on its register (up from 580 four years ago). The dominant nationality remains the UK (35% of students), but 51 nationalities are represented in total.

Read the WSA Q and A with Horizon International here.

It has had a Good rating from the KHDA for its last six inspections.

The schools follows the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum at Foundation Stage. Horizon International’s secondary department started in September 2011 and offers GCSE and ultimately A Level subjects.

The school is set on a large corner site, with the Foundation section separated from the rest of the school in a single storey building with its own access, a Secondary specialist teaching section upstairs to the rear of this and the main L shaped building spread over three floors across the back and along the third side of the plot.

At the centre is a very large Astroturf pitch and, hidden away at the rear of the Secondary teaching block, is a 25m outdoor covered pool which was a hard-fought for addition to the school (due to planning restrictions initially). Finally, to the right of the building at the edge of the plot is the Sports Hall and Auditorium.

This is very much a community based school and the leadership is intent on ensuring active local and parental participation, both during school hours and afterwards. As a result many of the school’s facilities are open to community members after school, including the swimming pool facilities and outside Astroturf pitches. A very large new indoor sports hall and auditorium (which has been remodelled since the change in ownership, to allow more flexible additional indoor space with retractable seating) have recently been opened. Horizon International plans to differentiate itself from other schools by creating the Horizon Performance Institute to encourage students with particular talents in the performing arts and sports, as well as offering them a strong academic programme.

It is always a good sign when the leadership of a school takes time to meet with prospective parents; something that happens quite rarely in most Dubai schools. At Horizon International, not only does the Principal ensure that he is available to introduce the school, but the visit is led by the Head of Primary or Secondary as appropriate.

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The leadership team is also clearly very proud of, and committed to, their school. The staff are also very positive about the changes and investments made at the school since the new owners took over (the new owners have added staff and upgraded facilities). Although the school has been under the current ownership of the Al Najah Group for only two years, the Principal and Head of Primary have both been teachers at the school since it opened. They boast enviably low rates of staff turnover with only 5 out of a team of 75 leaving the school at the end of the last academic year. Some 17 new staff joined the Secondary school in September 2015. All staff are UK trained, with the exception of those teaching the 3 languages available – French, Spanish and Arabic.

Those numbers supersede those published by the KHDA in its latest report. It records 78 teachers and 31 support staff, and a teacher turnover of 6-7%. This is very low by UAE standards. All of the teachers in the school are said to have appropriate teaching qualifications.

The Teacher to Student ratio is 1:12, and the average class size is 24 (which is also the maximum classroom size).

The Foundation Section of the school is well laid out and fun! At its centre is an open play area, with a sandy oasis in the middle and room for children to play and ride tricycles inside during the warm weather. Classroom are all light and bright and open to the outside. We particularly liked the cheerful update notices for parents to explain what children had been doing in school and upcoming activities. There is an after-school club to which working parents can send their children, which is open until 5pm.

The school offers a broad range of extracurricular activities – some run internally (Tag Rugby, Swimming, Pool, Maths Club, Netball Squad, IAW Games, Quran, Homework Club, River Dance, Knitting, Sailing and Sensory Science), and some external (Karate, IFA Sports, Woodwind, Music, Diving, etc). This is seen as one of the strengths of the school in inspections.

To the rear of the Foundation section, on the upper floor, there are a range of specialist Secondary teaching rooms including Art, Design Technology, Food Technology, Science labs, and ICT labs. There is a Bring your Own Device policy in the secondary school. It was a pleasure to watch a science lesson during our visit, where students were marching around the central desk area whilst looking at, and explaining, the way electricity works. They were clearly not only enthused, but knowledgeable about the subject!

Key stage 1 classrooms (from year 1 to 3) are located on the ground floor of the main building. Though traditional in design, staff are making the best use of the available space (including wide corridors) to arrange break-out areas outside the classrooms for small group work or additional support. Horizon International prides itself on being an inclusive school and applications are reviewed on a case by case basis, to see whether the school has the resources available to support children with additional learning needs.

In the latest KHDA report students with special educational needs are said to make acceptable progress in their learning and good or better progress in developing self-confidence and positive attitudes. The curriculum is appropriately modified in almost all lessons. Innovative extra-curricular and enrichment activities meanwhile help develop the self-confidence and life skills of SEN students.

The ground floor of the school also includes specialist teaching rooms for Primary including ICT and Music rooms, in addition to specialist language classrooms. There is a central hall area which is used for PE for younger children. This was originally designed as a canteen, but is insufficient in space for this purpose. Children therefore bring packed lunches to school and there is also a juice bar where they can buy fresh drinks.

On the first floor, there are again a wide range of classrooms, mainly for Key Stage 2 students. A large library is located in the apex of the building and this is designed to be adaptable for school assemblies and performance for Primary children. The third floor houses the Secondary students’ form, teaching rooms and library with plans in place to turn the apex room on this floor into a Sixth Form Centre in time for September 2016.

There is a strong focus on recycling and ecological matters in the school with student counsellors and their deputies in each class responsible for ensuring that recycling bins are used and other ideas discussed and implemented. The school also ensures that children are not solely focussed on academic subjects and offers are broad range of Extra Curricular activities (over 70) including a wide range of sports. The school actively participates in various sporting leagues and the BSME Games.

An important element of developing the resourcefulness and independence of the students is encouraged through a wide range of residential trips, starting small with an overnight camp at school for year 3, then a 1 night overnight desert stay moving towards longer trips overseas for Secondary students (including a ski trip). Year 9’s organise their own overseas trip (which have included visits to India, Borneo and Vietnam) and are responsible for raising funds to pay towards the trip themselves, as well as ensuring there is a charity focus within it.

The school’s latest KHDA report does introduce a note of caution in regards to academic attainment. It notes a fall in foundation, primary and secondary in attainment for English, at primary and secondary for maths and science. All subjects are currently rated either Good or Acceptable.

Horizon International’s first GCSE results were achieved in Summer 2015 and were all early entry submissions for languages. All students achieved A*. Although this is inevitably a small start – and it is not reasonable to expect such results on a broader scale across a wider subject range in a school that is not academically selective – they clearly represent a great start for Horizon International’s first GCSE cohort, who will sit the remainder of their exams in May 2016.

Sixth Form, which will offer A Levels, will open in September 2016.

Strengths of the school according to the 2013/14 and 2014/15 KHDA reports include the strong community ethos, outstanding attitudes and behaviour of all of the students, an outstanding curriculum in the Foundation Stage; effective leadership which had sustained school improvement during a time of considerable change; and outstanding arrangements for health and safety in the school.

Some parents have complained about the need for better SEN support within the school, however, this has been improved on over the last 12-24 months. The KHDA notes the effectiveness of the Achievement Centre in supporting children with special educational needs with the appointment of experienced staff and their close partnership with class teachers, teaching assistants and parents.

The school made it into the top 20 most recommended schools in the UAE in 2015, taking 18th spot overall.

The school recently introduced a 500 AED penalty for late payment of fees, which has upset some parents. User comments at the end of the review. Students are reportedly happy however, and look forward to going to school.

Fees are mid to top end, starting at 32000 AED for FS 1 and moving up to 73895 AED for Year 10. Full details are listed by year group below.

 

Fees

FS-1 31787
FS-2 31787
YEAR-1 36487
YEAR-2 36487
YEAR-3 41636
YEAR-4 41636
YEAR-5 47848
YEAR-6 47848
YEAR-7 55010
YEAR-8 55010
YEAR-9 65934
YEAR-10 73895

 

KHDA Rating

2014-2015 Good click here
2013-2014 Good click here
2012-2013 Good click here
2011-2012 Good click here
2010-2011 Good click here
2009-2010 Good click here
2008-2009 Acceptable click here

 

Location

 

 

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any factual inaccuracies, or would like to update any information, please do not hesitate to contact us at editor@edu2021.com.

 

Update on January 11, 2016 | Reviewed by WhichSchoolAdvisor.com on January 2, 2013

9 Comments

Leave A Reply
  1. Minu Agrawal says
    May 30, 2016, 9:21 pm

    Thinking of putting my kids in year 8 and year 3 ….please help with honest review about school .

    Reply
  2. Anxiousdad says
    February 26, 2016, 8:34 pm

    Hi all, my child got selected to foundation stage for 2016-17; would love to hear feedback about school from parents who have their kids already going to Horizon International… Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rachel says
      March 2, 2016, 11:39 am

      Hi There
      Both my children moved from a popular British primary school in Dubai to Horizon Intl. We moved when the children were Y4 and Y6 and haven’t looked back. Some of the reviews on here are quite old and the school has come along in leaps and bounds, The school class sizes haven’t changed in a few years and they are adamant not too. My children are very happy there and love the teachers. There is also an extremely varied after school activity programme. We honestly haven’t looked back. The only negative thing is the exam results are yet to be established as this is the first year of GCSE’s, although some students took their Spanish exams a year early and all achieved A*. The school is also inclusive rather than selective which I think is a huge positive, but this isn’t an opinion shared by everyone. I have friends with children in FS who are also very happy with the school. It’s great that you can have the continuity of FS up to A level all under one roof. Good luck whatever you decide!

      Reply
  3. Mrs realistic says
    October 2, 2015, 9:02 pm

    Mrs Supernova – if I didn’t know any better, I would say you work at the school.

    Great that you have had a good experience with the school but the majority of parents I know have not.

    As for; ‘I don’t see many other senior leadership staff standing on the school gates every morning in Dubai’ – Errr, no actually, you do and it usually doesn’t involve holding a costa coffee in their hand looking gormless.

    ‘Class sizes of 22/24…good in Dubai’ – yes, of course but parents pay for it – it’s not a state school!

    Not trying to ‘bash’ the school. I am giving my honest opinion that I have not been happy with it. ESPECIALLY, over the last couple of years. As a parent, who has paid thousands in school fees over the last 6 years, I have a right to give my view, whether you like it or not.

    Reply
  4. M harris says
    February 10, 2014, 5:51 pm

    Class rooms getting bigger along with the yearly non refundable deposits. Academically disappointing.

    Reply
  5. No shining star says
    November 20, 2013, 11:15 pm

    No Special Educational Needs provision. NO anti-bullying policy. Definite deficiency in academics (our youngest child was in ‘top set’ for maths at Star yet failed math assessment at another school admission test. Very worrying. Head teacher/principal seems to be puppet for the head of secondary. Lacking leadership.

    Reply
  6. mrs segar says
    April 29, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Offers hardly any after sport school activities, classes are expanding, non refundable deposits to secure the next academic year have increased and this year (without informing the parents) they decided to charge a penalty fee of 500 AED per child if payment of the deposit was late.

    Reply
    • Mr Phillip says
      April 30, 2013, 5:26 pm

      My wife and I were also astounded with the 500 dirham penalty charge for late payment of the deposit, especially as we have three children! Star had ample time to warn parents of this charge but chose not to. More worryingly is that the Headmaster believes this is an acceptable way to run a school.

      Reply
    • Mr Supernova says
      June 18, 2014, 5:22 pm

      To say this school does not offer ‘hardly any after school activities’ is quite frankly ridiculous! At last count, the school offered over 40 activities per term from Foundation through to KS3. The choice, as mentioned in the above review, is phenomenal. The school has successfully grown year on year and has overcome many of the usual challenges Dubai throws schools way. The staff (always properly qualified) are dedicated to the children and will always listen to the parents. I don’t see many other senior leadership staff standing on the school gates every morning in Dubai? 500dhs late fee…sorry, but pay your fees on time and there would not be a problem. Class sizes of 22/24…good in Dubai? Consistently graded as ‘Good’. Think there are just some people trying to bash this great school through their reviews. Make your own mind up, go for a tour, I did and have never looked back.

      Reply

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