“Outstanding schools don’t stand still, but where to go next isn’t always obvious. HPL allows us to do what we already do but more deliberately and better. We’ve maintained momentum and no longer need to ask the question ‘what next?’, because we know what’s next. It’s a relentless focus on progress for each and every student, every day.”
Simon O’Connor, Principal, Jumeirah College, Dubai
Why choose HPL?
HPL offered the natural next step, according to Simon O’Connor, Principal of Jumeirah College in Dubai, whose school has seen a significant increase in higher exam grades since adopting HPL two years ago.
A close follower of Professor Deborah Eyre’s research for some time, Simon chose HPL’s World Class School Award to provide an even more ambitious goal for his already high performing school, which has received an ‘Outstanding’ inspection report for the 8th year running.
Simon explains: “Outstanding schools don’t stand still, but where to go next isn’t always obvious. Early on, I rewrote our vision statement to remove ceilings and make it clear we are about progress without limits. As a non-selective secondary school, this is incredibly important to us, and we’re always looking for how to move students onto the next step.”
When starting out, the school chose a ‘carpet bomb’ approach to implementing HPL. The first step was to explain it in brief to staff, then ask for volunteers for a steering group. “I expected 3 or 4 people to come forward but we ended up with 17!” reflects Simon. “That was the point I released how popular it was going to be with staff. Departments started by picking one or two ACPs and VAAs to practice and play with, however it soon became clear that all were pertinent so we had to adjust our plan.”
One of the things that appealed to Simon about HPL was that it is based on research. He said: “From a teaching perspective, HPL gives us a ‘Lingua Franca’ that everyone understands with the vocabulary running through the school. Staff are very proud that we’re an HPL school and recognise its importance in securing the best possible outcomes for every student.”
HPL has been an easy sell to parents, mainly down to what Simon calls “the best HPL advocates in the world”, his 1,100 students. He adds: “HPL runs through everything we do so whether it’s a curriculum evening or a coffee morning, it’s there.”
“The tipping point came when HPL was so systemic, I was no longer controlling it. It’s like wild fire running through the school. We are now looking much deeper and how we can align pastoral, rewards and extra-curricular to HPL.”
Impact of HPL
Take a tour of the school and it is evident how staff across all subjects are owning HPL and using it to shape their lessons to offer advanced learning opportunities to all. From Arabic to Mathematics, from PE to History, HPL has high visibility and prominence in and beyond classrooms, showing the extent to which Jumeirah College has embraced this transformational philosophy.
When talking about impact, Simon is clear that HPL has made a huge difference to his students. He said: “We’ve achieved a significant increase in higher grades over the last two years. Top grades at GCSE have increased by 50% and we’re in the top 1% of schools in the world for ALPS Value Added.”
“There’s also a very noticeable impact that’s harder to measure. Our students are more resilient and more articulate, and this is evidenced in the calibre of students leaving us at the end who are truly global citizens.”
“Prior to starting HPL, were our students empathetic? Yes, they were. Did they know they were empathetic? Probably. But could they say why being empathetic is good and how it will benefit them in their future lives? Probably not. This is where HPL has made ways of thinking and ways of behaving explicit and relevant. Articulating and discussing has elevated, and students now have a firm grasp of the HPL VAAs and ACPs and why they are important.”
So what is the secret to HPL’s success at Jumeirah College? HPL Associate Jeremy Reynolds is the school’s award coach and puts it down to Simon’s visionary leadership. He said: “Simon has been very open to embracing a framework to take him and his staff forward, so that strong leadership has been there from the start. They have tackled HPL in a way to get it flowing through the school with different departments interpreting HPL in their own unique way.”
Looking to the future
Jumeirah College has been working in a cluster with other GEMS schools in the region undertaking the HPL World Class School Award, allowing them to share ideas and sustain practice. Next academic year will see the first intake of HPL students coming through from Jumeirah College’s main feeder school, Jumeirah Primary School, a prospect which excites Simon. “It’ll be really interesting to see what we gain when the first cohort of students who have been exposed to HPL during primary school join us.”
Simon describes his role now as an ‘informed champion’. “HPL makes complete sense educationally, so it’s easy to talk about it all of the time. If you are looking to provide a good education, an inclusive education, HPL is how you achieve it. It allows us to do what we already do but more deliberately and better. We’ve maintained momentum and no longer need to ask the question ‘what next?’, because we know what’s next. It’s a relentless focus on progress for each and every student, every day.”
Jumeirah College, rated Outstanding by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau since 2010, was established in 1999 and grew out of Jumeirah Primary School. It has over 1,120 students from over 60 nationalities running from Year 7 to 13. All students follow the National Curriculum for England, which prepares them for GCSE examinations, AS and A Levels, and ultimately acceptance to some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the world. It has received international recognition having been shortlisted in both the TES and British International Schools Awards.