6 Learnings from ICE School Dubai’s Journey to a GOOD Rating

Reflective leadership, shared vision, prioritization of resources were the key factors. However, there is no substitute to hard work

International Concept for Education (ICE) School has emerged as one of the new, creative and innovative schools in Dubai. The school began its operation in 2013 offering a blended concept of education using a blend of French and International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculums. In the recent KHDA inspection conducted by Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) the school moved up to a ‘Good’ rating from ‘Acceptable’ previously. The school was able to achieve this despite being new to UAE culture and school philosophy. So, what did they do differently? What worked for them? What was their journey like?

Educationzen.com spoke to Dr. Nadine Tarazi, the school principal, who was kind enough and happy to share her school’s success story with us. As always success didn’t happen overnight and it was a result of smart decisions, conscious effort and hard work by the teaching staff. The following were the six pillars that were imperative to the school’s success.

Reflection and Prioritization

The school’s transformational journey began when Dr. Nadine Tarazi stepped in as the new principal. Among many steps taken, a more thorough self-evaluation was the first step that helped the school stay focused and work towards improvement. This also meant reflecting on all the recommendations and feedback from their first KHDA inspection. The team took a more proactive approach and responded to the feedback instead of just reacting to it. Their immediate step was to come up with a detailed action plan for improvement and importantly prioritizing the areas that needed immediate focus.

There are detailed processes for self-evaluation. These are developing into robust mechanisms for more consistent and systematic improvement across the school.” quoted from KHDA inspection report

Building Leadership Capacity

The school set out defining a vision, visualizing what it means in an authentic way and Dr. Nadine set out to build a high level of commitment towards this from the senior and middle leadership teams.

Senior leaders have effectively clarified the vision for the school. They continue to develop this direction and have an improved understanding of the challenges the vision presents. An inclusive ethos is in place.” quoted from KHDA inspection report

Building Leadership imageThis vision was then clearly and consciously conveyed to the teachers and staff of the school. Teachers, being the primary communicators with students, played an important role in creating awareness among students about the school’s vision.

The school was successful in identifying its strength in leadership. It strongly believed in following distributed leadership and delegating a lot of responsibility with trust at each level. Trusting the middle leaders, empowering them and encouraging them to be proactive in leading change and taking risk was something that helped the school a lot. This helped them build teacher teams and getting the middle leaders to listen to them and act on all suggestions given. Also, celebrating every small achievement facilitated in bringing the leadership team, teachers and students closer.

Prioritizing Recruitment and Professional Development

The first challenge was recruiting a set of high potential and well qualified teachers, which started almost immediately after the last inspection. Having identified a set of quality teachers, the school identified Professional development as the next crucial element for success. This led to a well-planned professional development program aligned to the KHDA standards to become the school’s priority. The focus on professional development was not just limited to teachers but was extended to the leadership team as well.

Staffing levels and their quality are mostly appropriate. The emergence of a personalised professional development process for teachers is matching better the ongoing needs of the school.” quoted from KHDA inspection report

Blending the French and IB Curriculum to Increase Student Challenge

Having a blend of French and IB curriculum the school regularly reviewed its curriculum design. It designed the curriculum maintaining the balance required between the two curriculums and making it challenging yet inclusive keeping in mind the diverse learners at the school.

Most departments and sections of the school are very clear in their rationale and the balance required between the French curriculum standards and IB approaches. The complexity underpinning this development is supported through commendable ongoing alignment work.” quoted from KHDA inspection report

Leveraging Technology

Technology has become an inherent part of educational landscape. And the school cautiously identified potential technologies to engage young minds in ways that could promote learning and develop expertise. Encouraging teachers to use technology and adopt effective teaching strategies helped transform classrooms into one that is more student-centred than teacher centric.

Continuous Improvement

Keeping up the momentum and responding to the recommendations from DSIB inspection the school aims to improve its student attainment and progress in Arabic by hiring qualified teachers. And providing lots of mentoring in the class by identifying good teachers and turning them into mentors. The school hopes to receive support from parents in its attempt to improve attainment and progress in Arabic. The school aims to continue its focus on – Teaching & Curriculum, Improving Assessments, Quality Professional Development and Strengthening the Subject Leaders.

Summary

Having understood the school’s strengths and strategies that worked for them we were inquisitive to know if Dr. Nadine wanted to do anything differently in this journey and this is what she had to say –

Reflecting upon the past academic year I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I am very happy with the way the school progressed. We need to keep in mind that the road to excellence is a journey and it is important to have a strategic plan as well as an action plan that consists of focused goals and steps. It’s also important to ensure that the team does not resist change by asking a lot from them.  I like to compare change management and improvement to golf learning. A beginner in golf might lose interest if he/she is asked to improve many things at the same time in their game. Hence, the importance of identifying and breaking down tasks into steps and not changing everything at once else you would end up losing interest and getting demotivated. This is what the school did, we focused on priorities and we built a long term as well as a short term plan.

Does your school too have a success story? Share it with us and let others know about your journey.

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