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Top Schools in the UAE – The Awards Official Shortlist 2019
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Top Schools in the UAE – The Awards Official Shortlist 2019

by Jon WestleyFebruary 14, 2019

How we have made our decisions and how to read our recommendations.

Our methodology and how we have made our decisions

To rate schools we have the used the following formula:

  • First, there is an element of a popular vote with this award. We have shortlisted the most visited schools on our site. This means to be on this list, it has to be in the top 25% of schools, relative to their location, most visited on This tends to be tied to school innovation and performance. If a school is doing well and innovating, people will talk about it, and want to find out more.
  • Second, we have weighted heavily the independent feedback from parents, teachers and students. This requirement has not been included for all new schools and we have weighted the feedback from our own visits to schools in pre-launch or early opening phase. Our questions: What are these new schools bringing that will be different, how ready are they, and how impressed are we by the community and culture we see being created before our eyes.
  • Third, we have fine-tuned our list to include commendations based on the reviews, visits and independent intelligence gathering of our editors and journalists at and The team has then prioritised our view of schools in six main areas: facilities, the care of children, the calibre and strategic vision of leadership, engagement with parents, whole and individual child investment (including the breadth of subject provision and ECA provision), the happiness we have found when we have visited schools and their academic – and whole child -performance and attainment. Prospective parents should note that we have adjusted our scoring to reflect fee levels so that we expect more from higher fees schools when it comes to, for example, facilities.
  • Fourth, we have opened our awards to schools themselves to identify where they believe they are contributing, above and beyond, to education in the UAE – and most importantly the children and families under their care. Where schools have submitted applications for consideration, we have weighted those that are evidence based, with data, and compelling reasoning. We have also received independent applications from other interested partners including parents, consultants and students themselves. Whilst an application from a school does not ensure its shortlisting, and many schools we have shortlisted chose not to submit evidence, we have weighted those schools who show sufficient passion, belief, courage and conviction in their achievements, and invested the significant time required, to have “put pen to paper.”  All schools, in our view, should be celebrating their children, and be showing that they have the courage of their convictions, in whatever way they can.
  • Finally, we have included only those schools which have secured a Good school or above rating from ADEK or KHDA Inspectors where this is applicable. In Sharjah, although not made formally public, we have used equivalent inspections where we have been able to secure them. Again, this requirement has not been included for new schools where we have alternatively weighted the views of our own visiting teams.

Parents and schools should note that we have weighted all schools by the length of time they have appeared on our site to ensure that, in particular, new schools are not unfairly excluded. Schools and school groups should also note we can only work with the information we have.

Some schools and school groups are far more transparent than others. We cannot reward success or innovation if we are not told about it.

As a final note while we have tried to be fair and balanced and to base our decisions on the criteria above, this is ultimately our shortlist, and as such based on our judgments, albeit ones that we believe should carry significant weight for parents shortlisting schools for their children.  

What we will not say is that all these schools will offer the perfect education for every individual child. Every school has its own very individual strengths and weaknesses – and, as a result, will fit the needs, potential and ability of different children to a greater or lesser extent.

There is, as always, no short cut, after shortlisting, to visiting schools to understand the fit for your individual child(ren).

How to read our recommendations

In the following, parents should note that:

  • All of our recommended school reviews can be translated into multiple languages – please see the flag symbol at the top of the page to read the site in your chosen language.
  • All of the schools can be compared across multiple categories to create a manageable short list. This includes the ability to compare schools on the basis of fees, and scoring across provision at different school phases.
  • More detailed information can be found within our individual reviews of each school.


A note to schools

One final note, aimed particularly to schools who will be frustrated, even upset, at not receiving a top schools shortlisting. The following should be borne in mind.

Where a school does not appear in our list of Top Schools for the 2019 academic year it does not intrinsically mean that the school is a poor one or equally, not an outstanding one. This list has been drawn up using a balance of fixed criteria drawn from three independent sources, including visitors to our sites and the feedback we have received from individual school teachers, parents and students. In some cases, schools may well not appear because of a multitude of factors that mean they simply do not meet our strict criteria.

For example, a school may have very high teacher turnover which is reflected in poor feedback for 2018 despite this being resolved moving into 2019. Equally, in some categories, our published criteria weights inclusion highly. Increasingly the KHDA and ADEK are, very creditably in our view, rating schools more highly that can measure the genuine progress they achieve for children above expectation. Historically many schools accepted only the brightest children, achieved high results, but could not show how much value they had really added to a child’s education above that which the child would have achieved naturally.

It does not follow that because a school does not feature in our Best Schools in the UAE for 2019, it means necessarily that it will not feature in next year’s top schools – or indeed that it is not a good or outstanding school in its own right.

It does, however, follow, in our view, that all the schools shortlisted this year deserve very considerable praise and recognition for their achievements for children. Schools, parents, teachers, leadership – and students, deserve to feel extremely proud of all that they have achieved for their schools, and in turn for education in the UAE, and we wish them every success when we announce our final winners in March 2019.

Watch this space.

Next: The Judges

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]