Dubai British School, Springs 3, Emirates Hills – The Review
• Outstanding facility provision
• Outstanding teaching across phases
• High value-added, with children exceeding flight path SAT scoring and predicted grades
• Warm, happy school atmosphere celebrating individual and whole school child achievement
• Breadth of ECA provision and focus on whole child development
• High value level of fees with outstanding ROI
• KHDA “Very Good” school accreditation
• Over-subscribed in early phases to Year 1
• Physical site constrains expansion and level of facility provision (particularly sporting)
• Not a bells and whistles ultra-premium
• Parents expectations of the school place significant pressure on teachers to over-deliver and feedback reflects this
Updated March 2017
“As Principal and a parent of 3 children at the school, I value DBS as a happy school above all else, made up of happy people – happy to be respected, valued, and appreciated. We give every child the opportunity to succeed – and in a way that is meaningful to them.”
Brendon Fulton, Principal, Dubai British School
“I feel proud to be part of a school where students, parents and colleagues alike enjoy – and are happy – to come to school.
At its heart Dubai British School is a community; a community where everyone is valued and each of us contributes, in our own way, towards making this the extraordinarily special place to be that it is.”
Simon Jodrell, Head of Primary, Dubai British School
There are a number of schools in Dubai that, notwithstanding inspection data, offer a very high level of education for children across all phases and which present very little difficulty in securing our recommendation. Dubai British School in Emirates Hills (DBS) falls into this category.
DBS classification by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools in its “Very Good” grade of schools confirms what parents have known for a long time; despite the many excellent schools in the UAE, this is a school that any parent interested in a UK based education should shortlist. DBS also achieves British Schools Overseas “Outstanding School” status. The latest BSO report can be found here.
Dubai British School is also currently under review by our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com for its “Good School” award. Review here.
Largely because it is rated so highly, DBS is a school that is rapidly oversubscribed in FS1 and gaining a place in the early years is extremely tough.
The school at the time of writing is over-subscribed through to Year 1. In later years, mainly as a result of parents leaving the Emirate, places do come available, and to its credit, Taaleem has now opened a sister school, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park (DBS-JP), to respond to the over-demand for places.
The new Jumeirah school has been modeled very closely on its founding school. Our provisional review can be found here. Parents should note, however, that, as a new school, the Jumeirah sister is inevitably, and significantly, more expensive than the founding school.
So why do we like DBS so much?
Well, fees first. These start at 46,096 AED at FS phases and rise to to 69,145 AED for A Level study. Whilst these do fall into the premium fee category, they are at the low end of the class compared to equivalent British schools operating at this level. Its albeit new sister school, for example, operates equivalent fee levels of between 60,000 AED (at its FS feeder) to 95,000 AED (estimate based on published phased launch fee levels).
Whilst we expect the new Jumeirah school to score very well in its eventual KHDA Inspection, as a new school, it is as yet unclassified by the Dubai Inspectorate and parents should too expect some teething issues, despite its modelling on the founding school.
Secondly, DBS focuses on a pure, traditional British education running through IGCSE to A Level. It has avoided any pressure to move to a dual UK/IB offering, a curricular approach that increasingly dominates the premium sector, but which, for many parents set on a classical and focused UK education for their children, remains less attractive.
Third, we have strongly argued that one major test of any school for parents should lie in its balance of academically inclusive entrance and parallel stream A Level and BTEC provision at A Level – with premium plus levels of subject choice extending from IGCSE to A Level. The lesson from many schools is that the type of curriculum offered by any school tells you little about the quality of a school’s provision. Parents need to drill into the detail of the breadth of subject provision and the choice of academic and vocational subject options to best match the needs of their individual child(ren). More on this below, but in this equation, DBS is a very highly performing school indeed. Curriculum breadth – and the ability of the school to meet the broadest needs and aspirations of its pupils – are, we believe, absolutely stand-out features of the Dubai British School.
Fourth, Taaleem. Taaleem Schools are very well managed. One of the defining features of all Taaleem’s British schools is the exceptional focus on recruiting a balance of very highly qualified, passionate and experienced teachers. The investment in teaching staff is the driver of fee levels across the sector.
Parents need to bury into the detail of the calibre of staff to understand the basic metrics – and value – of quoted figures for staff-student ratios. Taaleem’s targeting of very experienced and highly qualified teachers, without pushing up fees to equivalently recruiting owners, is telling. Again, this is an equation that is very easy to miss in headline statements of staff to student ratios. For prospective parents the devil always lies in the detail.
Fifthly, DBS achieves excellent results for its students, with high added value from its inclusive intake. We are particularly impressed with Taaleem’s transparency. Unlike the majority of Tier 1 schools, DBS publishes its examination results, comprehensively, and in exceptional detail, year-on- year. Taaleem recognises that parents need this information to properly benchmark the school’s performance – but also to hold it to account in future years. A full breakdown of IGCSE results at DBS can be found here, and A Level/BTEC results here.
Sixth, the breadth of subject choice (above) for pupils places DBS at the top end of Tier 1 schools; seriously impressive – and important. Psychology, offered both at IGCSE, is a rarely offered in UAE schools for example. But it is a critical subject that links the Sciences and Social Sciences, and can sit within a medicine focused career trajectory as much as within a general Arts one. It is also little known, that it is a subject that is weighted very highly with universities, including Oxbridge, in their consideration of student applications. Other subjects offered by DBS that demonstrate its breadth of offer include 2 BTEC Courses (Applied Business and Leisure and Tourism); the very rare Diploma in Digital Applications (DIDA) in single and double award configurations; 6 language options including Japanese and Russian; Politics; Drama; and, Sociology. These subjects come on top of the core set of subjects that any premium British school is expected to provide for its students.
On this note, one feature of the school that stands out is the openness of the school to delivering subject options at Sixth Form according to the needs of children. A very broad range of A’levels is offered to students in principle, but in practice the subjects are selected specifically to reflect the demand of any particular cohort in each year. German for example can be taught at A level, but there is no demand this year (2017) and so it won’t operate in practice. This is a school that does not straitjacket young men and women into a pre-configured curriculum structure, but seeks, as far as possible, to deliver subject options according to the needs, ambitions and potential of each child. The provision of BTEC (a technical stream we believe critical to 16 – 18 schooling but regretfully provided by only by an elite number of Dubai schools) is also a stand-out example of a school committed to providing the broadest range of options so that every child’s potential is met in full.
On our visit (March 2017) we learned that, whilst unconfirmed, the school is considering further expanding technical stream provision to include BTEC study in Sports Science, Information Technology and Design and Technology. This would represent the broadest technical/academic curriculum offer at Sixth Form in the Emirates. The intention would be to offer fused and parallel stream BTEC and A Level options. As T Levels come on stream in the UK in 2019-20, DBS would be very well placed to lead on the new and prestigious British technical counterpart to A Level education in the Emirates.
Extra-curricular Activities (ECAs) at Dubai British School are extensive (and outstanding in quality and breadth) including Model United Nations (in 2016 held at Yale); Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme; Forest School; Eco Club; Swim Squad; Arabic Movie Club; Basketball; Perplexing Puzzles Club; Stacking Club; Football; Cricket; Critical Thinking Club; Maths Masterclass; Just Dance; Band; Rounders; Doodle Bugs; Jig Zone; School (Pop Up) Council; Choir; Art and Crafts; Cookery; recorder; Patterning and Printing; Move n’ Grove (rhythm and dance); Mud Play; Critical Thinking; Dodgeball; ICT; Drama; LEGO Robotics; Mad Science; Podcasting; Colouring Club; F1; Enterprise Club (business start-ups); Arabic conversation; Acoustic Guitar; Origami; Ceramics; Dance; Cricket; Arabic translation; Girls Basketball; Careers Clinic; String Ensemble; Chess; and Scuba Diving.
Dubai British School facilities are outstanding and include a fully digital campus; tennis courts; large, air conditioned sports hall; basketball court; a swimming pool; football pitch; 160 – 200 seat Auditorium and Drama Suite; canteen/dining area; foundation playground; multiple laboratories by individual Science; Primary playground; Primary ICT suites; dedicated Primary and Secondary school libraries offering students access to around 45,000 books; Secondary ICT suites; Clinic; dedicated Drama studio; Sixth Form common rooms; sheltered play areas by phase; 5-lane 25M outdoor swimming pool; multi-use Sports Hall with dedicated basketball and netball courts; and a number of extended learning rooms.
Our only critique, if pushed, is that the site restricts expansion of external facilities and as a result sporting facility provision does not compete with the best of the Tier 1s. On this basis, for parents seeking a school with the most extensive sporting facilities, including Olympic grade 50M swimming facilities and the like, DBS would represent a compromise – but equally, ultra-premium grade sporting facilities are not available at this price point and parents should plan for a 20%-30%+ hike in fees to secure these. It is also, as above, not a new school – and does not have the landmark architectural flourishes or “bells and whistles” increasingly defining the (very significantly more expensive) ultra-premiums. How much these matter is arguable – although invariably the levels of investment made in the ultra-premiums do also come, generally, with exceptional educations for children – the core point of any school and one at the heart of what does matter, and is delivered at the lower price point, at DBS.
This said, Taleem have invested around AED 2.5 million in the Dubai British School in areas that count, including a fabulous new outdoor classroom area for children at FS Phase. It’s really impressive – not only in scale, but in the consideration and care which has been shown in the selection of exploratory and imaginative play areas and the plethora of playground apparatus to support each child’s journey of discovery.
One feature with regards to sport that we liked at Dubai British School is the engagement of children within Taleem’s own inter school sports competitions, these run on a ‘friendly’ basis, in addition to the competitive DASSA leagues and Tournaments prevalent within the sector. Facilities in this case are obviously shared between schools – a real benefit of choosing a school that belongs to a group, and particularly one as supportive as Taaleem.
Feedback from parents in the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey on Dubai British School is very interesting (results can be found below). It reflects very significantly positive responses from 2/3rds of parents. However, a minority is less positive, and across the range of responses. Making sense of this is difficult. We think that this is, at least in part, the almost inevitable result of a school that attracts such high expectations. Some level of disappointment is almost inevitable against this background. There are, for example, a significant minority of parents in the WSA Parent’s survey that clearly do feel let down by the school’s performance. But the results are completely at odds with the actual achievements of the school in examinations which are outstanding.
This said, the independent parental feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is less positive than the equivalent KHDA responses. Parents should take a balanced view of both together. Whilst we know that the feedback will inevitably disappoint the school, it is nevertheless very significantly more positive than the average for schools in its class. Again, we do feel that schools like DBS operating in the premium sector with a (justified) reputation for excellence, will inevitably suffer from often the demanding and very ambitious expectations of parents.
In terms of the “feel” of the school, something inevitably subjective, Dubai British School is a happy school. The attention and praise of children’s work is very obvious, particularly for younger children whose work lights up the corridors – but for all phases within classrooms where the passion of teachers for celebrating each child’s achievements is plain to see.
In our March 2017 visit to Dubai British School, what struck us above all was the quite extraordinary ways in which the school engages with its children. A really good example of this we were particularly impressed with is the involvement of children in “Lesson Observations” – , the school empowers children to view lessons, and teaching, independently and critically, feeding back their views to the school’s Senior Management Team. We have not come across this before and it is indicative of the trust and strength of relationships that underpin school life.
Parents should note that the former Principal, Mark Ford, who had seen DBS through to its “Very Good” KHDA rating in 2016, has now left. Recognising the importance of continuity, the new school Principal has been appointed internally by Taaleem, Brendon Fulton taking over from Mr Ford in June 2016. Mr Fulton takes over his new role following his prior appointment as Head of Secondary. Mr Fulton, a psychologist by training, studied in the UK at Derby where he also secured a specialist teaching Masters in Education focused on “School Leadership in an International School Context.” He brings with him more than two decade’s experience teaching in the UK, his native South Africa, Qatar and the Emirates. Our views on the importance of Psychology as a subject option is noted above – and the appointment of Mr Fulton we hope will strengthen further the case for its continuing availability as a core subject option for students.
There is one comment made by the KHDA we particularly like: “Students have extraordinarily mature attitudes towards learning and to the world around them.”
Getting a take on this is a matter of supposition, but we note that there is something of a plateau in the school’s performance in Years 9 and 10 in comparison with an extraordinary ratcheting up of performance in later examined years for both IGCSE and A Level. It may be that the school deliberately focuses on the whole child in these formative years -understanding that nurturing the “bigger picture” and facilitating student’s ability to question, must come from an education beyond text books. Making more time for this would represent a substantive reflection of the school’s emphasis on this broader child development. We do know, for example, that the breadth of the ECA offer is matched by significant uptake and demand.
Certainly DBS is not a hothouse school, despite the significant successes of students in examinations. It is also a school which demonstrates significant progress in attainment against flightpaths – arguably this added value element one that is more important and telling than a simple look at attainment scoring in isolation of each child’s starting point in SATS.
We will update this review when we have the results from our sister site, but we do believe that Dubai British School deserves WhichSchoolAdvisor.com’s Good School accreditation. Yes, there are some issues surrounding parental feedback – and this is certainly not a school that compares with the ultra-premiums in its scale of bells and whistles. The physical site constrains its development and expansion. But, in its outstanding, substantive delivery (and even in the Arabic curricular subjects where all British schools suffer, it achieves with the best of British schools), Dubai British School is a very genuinely impressive one. Highly recommended.Go to the FULL REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to OFFICIAL Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to PARENTS SURVEY on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Currently under consideration
YEAR 1: 46,096
YEAR 2: 46,096
YEAR 3: 52,685
YEAR 4: 52,685
YEAR 5: 52,685
YEAR 6: 52,685
YEAR 7: 62,567
YEAR 8: 62,567
YEAR 9: 62,567
YEAR 10: 62,567
YEAR 11: 62,567
YEAR 12: 69,145
YEAR 13: 69,145
National Curriculum for England
Physical Education (PE)
Design and Technology
BTEC Applied Business
BTEC Applied Travel & Tourism
Biology (Science/Additional Science)
Chemistry (Science/Additional Science)
Physics (Science/Additional Science)
Design and Technology
Physical Education (PE)
Business & Economics
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Diploma in Digital Applications (DIDA) – Single Award
Diploma in Digital Applications (DIDA) – Double Award
Defined provision for Special Educational Needs and English as an Additional Language (EAL) according to detailed and transparent policies - see Note 1.
(1) Exceptionally clear Admissions policy can be found at http://www.dubaibritishschool.ae/images/16_pdf/admissionsPolicy.pdf
Notes (as of March 2017):
(1) FS1 - Year 6: 650
(2) Year 7 - Year 13: 450
(3) Dedicated Sixth Form: 140
(1) A Level: maximum 17 students
(2) IGCSE: maximum 22 students
(3) FS: maximum 20 children. Teacher and Class Assistant. 4 FS1 classes and 4 FS2 classes. (March 2017)
(4) BTEC: 12 students (March 2017)
Springs 3, Emirates Hills, Dubai
British (largest nationality) (approximately 60% as of March 2017)
Other nationalities: approximately 40% (March 2017)
Special Educational Needs (SEN): 69
(Madaares PJSC & Madaares Management Ltd)
+971 (0) 4 361 9361