Dwight School Dubai, Al Barsha South to Dubai Sports City – The Review 2022
Updated April 2022 – Dwight School Dubai to re-locate to a new campus in Sports City. School to be full Dwight satellite school operated from New York. MIT Fab Lab. IB Career-programme update status.
“Dwight New York is delighted to extend Dwight’s 150-year commitment to ‘ignite the spark of genius in every child’ to Dubai, where students will be part of one global Dwight family.
Our new school in Dubai will join those in New York, London, Seoul, and Shanghai that share this mission.”
Stephen Spahn. Chancellor. The Dwight Schools
Background and location
Dwight School Dubai [DSD] is a non-selective Pre-K to Grade 12 IB Curriculum school which opened in Al Barsha South in September 2018 offering an all-through international International Baccalaureate education for children between 3 and 18 years.
The school is relocating to a new campus in Sports City in September 2022 and the old Dwight school site will be taken over by Bloom delivering a very different school (more on this here).
Dwight initially opened to Grade 9 – this in itself a testament to the faith of the Dubai school’s regulator in the ability of Dwight to hit the ground running; most schools are limited by the KHDA to fewer Year Groups on opening to ensure careful phased opening and bedding-in.
The founding school was established in New York in 1872 by Julius Sachs, a member of the Goldman-Sachs family of bankers. Alumni of Dwight schools internationally include Truman Capote, Paris Hilton, Vin Diesel, John Williams, Michael Mansfield QC, Ray Davies CBE, Sir Walter Leonard Allinson and a “who’s who” of notable figures from politics, the Performing Arts, business, sports and the Sciences worldwide.
In our December 2017 interview with Janecke Aarnaes, the then Head of School, Dwight School Dubai founding parents were advised that Dwight Dubai was not, first and foremost to be an American school – the profile was to be resolutely International Baccalaureate and International:
“Dwight School Dubai is first and foremost an international IB school.
Yes, it is a true branch of the American IB flagship school, the Dwight School New York, which was the first school in the Americas to adopt the IB programs from PreK – Grade 12.
But an IB education is not an American education.
It is, rather, a genuine and authentic international education that does not lend itself to one single national curricula.
What is unique about Dwight is the school’s solid family history, founded as far back as in 1872, and over the past eighty years being owned and governed by the New York family, the Spahns.
Dwight is the epicenter of modern, progressive international education beautifully cherished and nurtured in a wholesome family cradle, giving the school, as much in New York, as in London, Seoul, Shanghai or in Dubai a unique sense of family belonging and atmosphere.“
Janecke Aarnaes, former Head of School, Dwight School Dubai.
Although the Dubai school is Dwight School New York’s first venture in the Middle East, parents should take confidence from the success of other Dwight sister schools already established in London, Seoul and Shanghai. Dwight School Dubai has, as of 2022, now a very proven track record of establishing sister schools that deliver, do so quickly – and to a very high standard for their children worldwide – including now in Dubai.
The Dubai school was the fifth in the Dwight network after New York, London, Seoul, and Shanghai.
Importantly too, whilst Dwight is an IB through school, parents should not see Dwight as an academic hothouse, or a school established ground-up to be selective for academic children, as is the case for example with North London Collegiate School Dubai reviewed here.
The average IB Diploma score of Dwight school in London, probably the better reference, has built steadily over time – and is creditable for an inclusive school- and today significantly scores above the worldwide average.
|Year||Dwight Average||Dwight Highest||World Average||Dwight Pass Rate||Bilingual Diplomas|
Dwight School Dubai’s first Diploma students will graduate in September 2022 and it will be interesting to see how the dynamics of Dubai and the impacts of Covid-19 reflect on its first year’s scoring.
Notwithstanding this, the scoring of Dwight’s international schools suggest, given the bigger picture below, that the school offers genuinely inclusive IB schooling – and that requires significant investment and a very high calibre of teachers.
All change… The move to Sports City
This year (September 2022) Dwight Dubai will move to a new site in Sports City. Currently Dwight is part of a 4,000 student “super-campus” (above) that includes Brighton College Dubai and was to include a landmark Centre of Excellence for Arabic Language, Culture and the Arts that was never, finally, completed. With the move to the new site, Dwight is parting ways with Bloom (Best known for their Brighton College schools and Bloom School opening this year), which has worked with the New York Dwight team on launching the school over the last four years.
Will Dwight lose anything from the move. Probably not. In reality the only shared campus facilities, in practice, were
- a 600-seat auditorium; and,
- an IAAF-standard running track
These were shared with Brighton and Dwight.
The marketing of a super-campus in 2017 arguably created more confusion than clarity with parents.
The real focus, then as now, is whether Dwight School, standing alone, represents a good choice for prospective parents: what defines its offer; what gives it uniqueness and makes it stand out – and what type of children will it best suit.
Our view is that, over the last for years, Dwight has proven itself – more below. The move to its new site represents then an opportunity…
The Dwight School Dubai offer
So, what makes Dwight School special?
This is where the story gets much more interesting. There was actually substance to the opening of Dwight.
There are four key elements, we think, that set it apart:
First, its inclusive role. This is resolutely, and genuinely, not a selective school, either academically or SEND. On the latter, the school has brought its hugely successful Dwight QUEST programme to Dubai together with its expertise in EAL, something showcased and intrinsic to in all its sister schools outside New York. On the former, David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, confirmed to SchoolsCompared.com:
“Admission requirements are not based on a set academic benchmark – we consider each child’s suitability carefully based on several aspects, including previous reports, personal strengths as well as academic results to date. This case by case approach ensures that every applicant is fairly considered and is given equal opportunity to be at Dwight.
Admission to Dwight Dubai is open to students of all nationalities – but they must be able to demonstrate the (potential) ability to access and benefit from the challenging international programs offered by the school.
Should students who demonstrate needs that may not be met by mainstream approaches, apply to attend Dwight School Dubai, we carefully consider their needs and our ability to meet these – not just at the stage the child is applying for but for their whole schooling life as they progress, feel success and develop skills.
Dwight School expects to offer inclusive entry to students and is able to support most students to access mainstream education.
Adaptations to classrooms and provision (such as the employment of Special Needs Assistants) may be needed for those with sensory or physical needs and careful assessment of these will be required.
The school will not be an appropriate setting (only) for students with complex, profound and multiple needs.”
David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai
On the QUEST programme, David Hutson continues:
“Personalized Learning is one of the three pillars constituting the Dwight educational ethos and is at the core of the development of our Quest program.
QUEST is designed as additional support beyond the provision that the school will routinely offer in terms of differentiation, learning intervention and specialist support.
It is a bespoke program planned in collaboration with the parents and faculty to best meet the learning needs of each individual student.
Our faculty will seek to ignite the spark of genius in every child and customize the IB educational journey for each student based on his or her passions and talents.
Dwight is focused on educating the whole child; to that end, Quest provides students with enrichment, skill development, EAL (English as an Alternate Language) instruction, and a wide-ranging, in-school network designed to support exceptionally talented students.
Quest replaces the need for parents to engage outside tutors to boost academic performance and uses the connections between the Quest mentors and the student’s teachers to enhance learning.
Dwight believes that the task of guiding a child should not end when he or she leaves the classroom, and our Quest programs are key elements in this mentorship.
Quest provides children with strength-based one-on-one/small group academic and organizational training in school.
The program is tailored to identify the needs and abilities of the individual student and to create a personalized learning journey for each and every one.
Our Quest program allows students of determination and students with exceptional talents alike to participate in the mainstream curriculum at Dwight.
When students are helped to overcome their self-doubts and given specific techniques to use in mastering subject matter, their innate talent is able to flourish.
Quest is furthermore an accelerator for students of particular (exceptional) abilities.”
David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai
Second, Dwight was the first school to offer the complete IB curriculum in the US (although Dwight in Dubai does not offer the IBCP – see below). Dwight has a special place in the historic evolution of the International Baccalaureate curriculum worldwide as a result.
Third, Dwight, as above, operates a number of sister schools worldwide. This is a school that has a proven history of successful delivery.
Fourthly, Dwight Schools in New York and London were two of only 6 original schools (selected from the then 3,700 IB World Schools) to be IB “Open World” accredited to pilot on-line IB course provision worldwide.
What is important about this initiative is that it has enabled Dwight to broaden its curriculum of core IB taught provision by offering internal students supplementary online IB course options. These include:
- IB Mandarin ab initio (Introductory Mandarin)
- IB Spanish ab initio (Introductory Spanish)
- IB Spanish B (Standard Level)
- IB Business Management (Standard Level)
- IB Business Management (Higher Level)
- IB Economics (Standard Level)
- IB Economics (Higher Level)
- IB Philosophy (Standard Level)
- IB Psychology (Standard Level)
- IB Psychology (Higher Level)
- IB Information Technology in a Global Society (Standard Level)
- IB Information Technology in a Global Society (Higher Level)
- IB Mathematics (Standard Level)
- IB Mathematics (Higher Level)
- IB Film (Standard Level)
On-line IB courses are run in association with Pamoja Education – Pamoja have a proven history in Dubai from their historic (and current) partnership with GEMS Education.
David Huston, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai, confirmed:
“No two students are alike — and no two student journeys at Dwight are the same.
Dwight customizes an educational path for every student based on interests and talents.
Dwight School Dubai is an IB (International Baccalaureate) school.
However, Dwight is in the privileged position of being a true branch of a global network of schools and through our campus in the cloud we can offer to tailor a diploma to the needs and requirements of the individual student. This again due to the fundamental belief in personalized learning. Through Dwight Global Online we offer a range of alternative paths for our students, (including Advanced Placement), customized to meet their learning and/or professional career needs.
So, whilst from the offset, Dwight School Dubai has set out to offer PYP, MYP and DP, this does not however exclude the fact that Dwight will consider including the International Baccalaureate Careers Related Program in the future.
Until this happens, and even with such a possible addition in place, Dwight has the opportunity of offering a wide variety of courses through Dwight Global Online, which provides a more flexible and scalable education path for students who might benefit more from an alternative to the IB Diploma.”
David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai
For an example of why the International Baccalaureate can be so innovative and important, read our story on GEMS International School Al Khail.
Finally, Dwight School Dubai has a ground-up focus on preparing students for life beyond school, with many initiatives, delivered through its Spark Tank programme, you would normally expect to be provided only at later university-level education:
“Culture, arts, creation, innovation and engineering as integral parts of the programs available to all students (PreK – G12), enhanced by the unprecedented opportunity to develop a unique product from idea to marketplace, adopting skills in industry renowned design-thinking processes with expert mentorship and guidance in our Spark Tank.
While tomorrow’s career paths remain uncarved, we prepare students to embrace whatever opportunities await by teaching them skills that go beyond the traditional academics, mastering the latest technology to provide opportunities for brainstorming, designing, collaborating, problem-solving, and innovating.
Supporting Dwight’s mission of igniting the spark of genius in each and every child, the Spark Tank is an innovative and interactive area designed to support a school-wide program which includes a think tank approach to nurture innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in Dwight’s community.
The think tank encourages students to take ideas they have through development stages such as planning, design and production, before presenting them to a panel of expert judges, put together by Dwight alumni, now successful business owners and corporate experts in their fields, who evaluate the students’’ projects and guide them in translating their ideas into reality.
We empower students to start their own business.
We do not believe that students should have to wait to join the over-18 sector to pursue their dreams.
One Dwight student created a 3D prosthetic hand – and this sort of creativity and development will be equally central to our approach at Dwight School Dubai:
Some of the many elements of entrepreneurship integrated into the curriculum from PreK – Grade 12 include Inquiry, design-thinking, project-based learning, Scratch, coding, programming and microcontrollers, design, invention and innovation, robotics, game design, logo design, web design, app development, digital citizenship, infographics, media criticism, filmmaking, architecture, fashion design, leadership, business development and social entrepreneurship.”
David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai
It is in this final area that Dwight School Dubai establishes a clear justification for its reputation in the Tier 1 premium schools sector.
Facilities at the new Dwight School Dubai
Current facilities across the 40,000 square metre site include a 6-8 lane 25M pool, training pool, basketball courts, tennis and squash courts, a full soccer pitch, a 400-meter running track auditorium and a mix of 78 core academic, language, music, performing arts classrooms, specialist labs and centres of learning. We have visited the school in Sports City and are now able to provide parents with an overall view on the relative strengths of the new school campus over its old campus in Al Barsha.
The key innovation at the new school is the introduction of the region’s first MIT developed Fab Lab. This is explained by MIT as follows:
In simple terms it is a Centre of Excellence for STEM – with the limits of digital prototyping and fabrication of materials and “inventions” really only limited by the gifts and imagination of students. Students can design and make “things” – that technically at least could provide solutions to problems, of individual or global importance, and then manufacture protypes for sale and IP. There are three other smaller FAB Labs in Dubai – but the Dwight MIT backed Lab will set the benchmark.
Equally as important, the sporting opportunities for students opened up by the move to Sports City are pretty much unparalleled – and the cricket pitch in our view particularly stand-out. Other facilities opened up by the move include (three) full size outdoor football pitches, tennis courts, competition-standard running track, extensive athletics facilities, a full sized indoor football pitch, and padel courts (designed for four players/doubles, they are around 25% smaller than a tennis court – but many say the game is significantly more fun and fast moving).
The school itself has its own large Multipurpose sports hall with wooden sprung flooring, a 25m competition and separate shallow training pool, a practice football field, two multipurpose outdoor courts, a large Early Years playground and separate Primary playground.
Sporting facilities we rank outstanding plus. It is telling that fellow Tier 1 schools like Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai have chosen Sports City as a core partner for their students’ development in Sport.
The broader performing and visual arts are equally well served at Dwight School Dubai’s new home.
For us, however, beyond what are clearly Tier1 facilities, the real story here is just a lovely school environment that feels significantly more intimate and warm than the older school. We expect really happy school dynamics. School capacity, at just 1200 students, makes for a very small school by Dubai standards with concomitant opportunities for students to be known and not disappear in a mass of faces – and for individualised learning.
The International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme issue but parallel strength in subject options
In our first review of potential provision at Dwight, we highlighted our concern that the school does not currently advertise provision of the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP).
We believed then this to be an unusual weakness given the inclusive of nature of the school.
The IBCP was set up by the International Baccalaureate precisely to expand student choice – and particularly to those less traditionally academic children seeking fast-track entry into business, industry, public service and the broader Arts without necessarily attending university (although many students still do).
Dwight has now confirmed, see above, that it has not discounted providing the Career-related programme at a later stage – and it forcefully argues that in the interim its provision of QUEST personalised learning and access to a spectrum of course options that can be taken in conjunction with, or outside the Diploma, ensures it will meet the academic and whole-child needs of all students.
We asked David Huston, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai how many IB courses he would expect young men and women to sit if they did not fit the IB Diploma profile. Her answer, for an inclusive school, was ambitious:
“Our aim is to do our utmost to support all our students in completing their IB Diploma with all its requirements; 24 points minimum, CAS requirements being met, TOK and Extended Essay completed and passed, 12 points or more on HL subjects, 9 points or more on SL subjects.”
David Hutson, Head of School, Dwight School Dubai
This said, we continue to hope that Dwight does positively engage with the Career-related Programme; arguably it is today the de facto and de jure differentiator of an outstanding IB school. The qualification too provides a credible and secure pathway to top tier universities – and in our view offers significant benefits over its older Diploma alternative. One leading school ahead of the curve on this is Greenfield Community School and our review can be found here. In this area we are of the view that Dwight could, and should, do better.
Fees, bursaries and scholarships
On launch, Dwight promised the spectrum of bursary and scholarship provision. “Giving back”, we were told, is very much part of the DNA of the founding school and intrinsic to the school culture it creates worldwide in all its schools:
“At Dwight School Dubai we will be offering a mix of scholarships and bursaries. These will be based on academic merit and needs.
Scholarships and Bursaries (are not simply one-off but) tend to run the length of a student’s stay at the school, subject to regular review for maintenance of academic performance and any changes in the circumstances of the family.
The rationale for scholarships and bursaries is simply to be able to recruit sufficient numbers of able children who would flourish and be well-suited to the school’s educational offerings (but who, for whatever reason, might otherwise not be able to join us.”
Dwight School Dubai
We are awaiting information on current scholarship and bursary provision.
With regards to fees, first some background.
Fees on launch, prior to founding discounts, were in the ultra-premium segment running between 114,000 AED at Pre-K to 130,000 AED in Year 12. This was a very rare approach to fees – and, by any standards, the cost of entry to early years learning was expensive. The balance, positively, was that the rise in fees thereafter was very gradual to Year 12. Usually there is significant disparity in the fees for Early Years learning and Post-16 provision in particular which can place significant financial pressures on parents later.
Founding discounts, in the context of KHDA approved fees, were exceptionally generous. Founding children in Pre-K for example saw a reduction of fees of some 48,000 DHS, representing a circa 42% reduction and the highest level of founding discount we had seen in Dubai to date. In remaining phases to Year 9, the smallest discount was some 29,000 DHS, still an impressive discount around the 23% mark.
Historic fees on launch:
|Level||Founders Fees (AED)||KHDA Fees (AED)|
Current fees have affectively integrated founding discounts and better benchmark the school against its Tier 1 Premium competition. Fees now run between AED 58,500 in Pre-K to AED 99,500 in Year 12. Cost of entry is now significantly more realistic and it is telling that fees are now lower than even foundation justified discounted fees on launch.
|Grade||Tuition Fees for Academic Year 2022/23 (AED)|
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared Verdict 2022
It is interesting that, some four years post launch, with the move to its new campus looming, in some ways we are looking at a school still preparing for its final destination. But in the areas that count, notwithstanding the move, Dwight School Dubai has proved itself a strong player in the Tier 1 Premium IB market. It is also a school that carries the currency of a globally recognised and celebrated brand.
Dwight stands out for its expertise in delivering an inclusive all-through IB programme; QUEST personalized learning and mentoring programme (we particularly like its clear focus on delivering for all children) and stellar SPARKS programme focusing on a plethora of skills, including entrepreneurship, on a scale and breadth we have not seen in Dubai schools to date. 2022 will see the school graduating its first Diploma graduates.
Impressive too is the commitment to bursaries and scholarships to ensure that gifted and talented young men and women are not excluded from a Dwight education simply because of parental income or other issues outside the control of the child. The commitment to this is evident in the promise that financial awards will not be one-off, but will travel with the child throughout his or her educational journey at Dwight.
We are also fans of the Dwight School Dubai partnership with Pamoja which enables it to broaden subject provision to include on-line options where it does not meet directly subject options internally (which should include AP provision where children do not quite fit the profile for the full IB Diploma). This promises to raise the bar in meeting the interests and abilities of the broadest range of International Baccalaureate students.
As above, the new site in Sports City opens up extraordinary opportunities for students in Sports Science.
Finally, and probably the biggest issue for us, however, amongst so many pluses, is that Dwight School Dubai may in future years deliver the Career-related Programme which we think is a perfect, even necessary fit for inclusive schools. Again, Dwight School, in its discussions with us, has shown itself open to modelling its offer around children – wherever that may take the school. However, some four years down the track, with the school’s all-through offer proven and a move to a new campus now in sight – we think it is time to commit to the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme. The gap it leaves for children currently, in not providing this option, we believe to be not unimportant. Outstanding schools should deliver outstanding breadth of subject options and qualifications – including technical stream alternatives. Dwight could deliver this in Dubai, and does elsewhere – we think it now should now do so. The new MIT Fab Lab, after all, offers a clear springboard…
For a highly personalised, internationally focused IB education for children, driven by an individually focused mentoring approach that focuses on each child’s individual talents, potential and ambition, the promise is here to deliver an extraordinary education.
Yes, the competition is intense at this premium end of the schools sector, but the scale of ambition – and proven history of delivering here, as at its sister schools, are strong foundations for delivering a truly world class education for many children across every phase of education. There is so much here to recommend – and for natural Diploma students the offer is in many ways exceptional. If it could just deliver the Career-related Programme too, it would be more than the icing on the cake – it would make the promise to deliver an inclusive education for all children, something so important to its New York Founding School, real. Now there’s a challenge…
First inspection expected 2022
YEAR 1: 76,000
YEAR 2: 76,000
YEAR 3: 76,000
YEAR 4: 79,000
YEAR 5: 79,000
YEAR 6: 88,500
YEAR 7: 88,500
YEAR 8: 88,500
YEAR 9: 92,500
YEAR 10: 92,500
YEAR 11: 99,500
YEAR 12: 99,500
International Baccalaureate KG - Year 12
International Baccalaureate Diploma
International Baccalaureate Courses
Member of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS)
Council of International Schools (CIS)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Accredited IB World School
2021: 100% (Covid Year)
2020: 96% (Covid Year)
2016: Pass Rate 78%
2015: Pass rate 75%
2014: Pass Rate 79%
2013: Pass Rate 78%
2012: Pass Rate 92%
2021: 37.8 (Covid Year)
2020: 35.3 (Covid Year)
2016: Average 30
2015: Average 30
2014: Average 31
2013: Average 32
2012: Average 34
(1) Early Childhood - Grade 12: maximum of 20 students to each class.
(2) Pre-school - Grade 2 all classes include Teaching Assistant
September 2018 (Al Barsha)
New campus September 2022 (Sports City)
Al Barsha South, Dubai (Launch)
Sports City (September 2022)
Dwight School New York
(1) Bloom Holding lease ended 2022
• Genuinely inclusive IB all-through international schooling
• Proven history of international school delivery
• Close relationship with the International Baccalaureate and key player in pilots
• On-line IB and alternative curricular subject options considerably broaden the choice for students
• Outstanding US brand
• Scholarship and bursary programme including means based options for gifted and talented children who would otherwise not be able to attend the school
• Business and entrepreneurship programmes and investment on a scale more usually associated with university level education
• Strong ROI from fee structure relative to much higher launch fees
• No IBCP provision at odds with its inclusive school ambitions - but the school has not discounted it launching later
• Some parents expecting American style schooling will be disappointed - this is resolutely an internationally focused, IB school