Dubai British School, Springs 3, Emirates Hills – The Review
Updated August 2019 – Dubai British School KHDA 2019 and SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2019
“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 “Outstanding” 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 also secures our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com “Good School” status – its highest accolade. 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 48,032 AED at FS phases and rise to to 72,049 AED for A Level study. Whilst these do fall into the premium fee category, they are at the absolute lowest end of the scale compared to equivalent British schools operating at this level. Dubai British School offers the best ROI of any of the UAEs Outstanding schools.
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 (due this year, 2019), as a new school, it is as yet unclassified by the Dubai Inspectorate and parents should too expect some teething issues, despite its modeling 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 Post-16 offer. Dubai British School offers the best parallel stream A Level and BTEC provision at A Level we could hope for – 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. Leadership at Dubai British School is absolutely stand-out.
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. BTEC is a vehicle to university – and Dubai British School is arguably its greatest champion and Ambassador. Hugely creditable.
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 a rare number of Dubai’s top 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. There are many supposedly Outstanding schools without a technical stream at all. However academic children are, this will mean children in these schools being denied subject choice – and necessarily not meeting their fullest potential, ambitions, gifts and needs.
On our visit we learned that the school has considered 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 begin to come on stream in the UK from 2019 onwards, DBS would be very well placed to lead on the new and prestigious British technical counterpart to A Level education in the Emirates. Dubai British School is still considering these options (2019)
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.
Independent parental feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com and SchoolsCompared.com is today uniformly positive.
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.
What strikes us above is was the quite extraordinary ways in which the school engages with its children. A really good example of this is in 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.”
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.
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 it does not need to.
In its outstanding, substantive delivery (and even in the Arabic curricular subjects where all British schools suffer, it outperforms the best of British schools), Dubai British School is a very, very genuinely impressive one.
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Very Good with Outstanding features
Very Good with Outstanding features
YEAR 1: 48,032
YEAR 2: 48,032
YEAR 3: 54,898
YEAR 4: 54,898
YEAR 5: 54,898
YEAR 6: 54,898
YEAR 7: 65,195
YEAR 8: 65,195
YEAR 9: 65,195
YEAR 10: 65,195
YEAR 11: 65,195
YEAR 12: 72,049
YEAR 13: 72,049
National Curriculum for England
Physical Education (PE)
Design and Technology
BTEC Applied Business
BTEC Applied Travel & Tourism
A*/A: 40% (up from 37%) (2018)
(1) A*-B: 69% (up from 67%) (2018)
(2) A* - B grades from 52% to 67% (2017)
(3) A*/A grades 26% to 37% (2017)
(4) BTEC 35% A*/A equivalent, 62% at A*-B equivalent, an increase from 53% A*-B
A*- C: 89% (up from 88%)
(1) 84% A*B (2018)
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
(1) FS1 - Year 6: 650
(2) Year 7 - Year 13: 450
(3) Dedicated Sixth Form: 151
(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.
(4) BTEC: 12 students
Springs 3, Emirates Hills, Dubai
British (largest nationality) (approximately 60% as of March 2017)
Other nationalities: approximately 40% (March 2017)
Special Educational Needs (SEN): 75
(Madaares PJSC & Madaares Management Ltd)
+971 (0) 4 361 9361
80% (Note Outstanding+ for Progress)
• AMAZING school - best ROI of any of the UAEs Outstanding schools
• Outstanding school leadership
• Genuinely beautifully inclusive school with a very big heart
• Results outstanding+
• BTEC provision stand-out
• 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
• KHDA “Outstanding” 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