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Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), Dubai Academic City – THE REVIEW
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Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), Dubai Academic City – THE REVIEW

by September 11, 2020

“My role is to be an advocate for every parent’s interests from the age of 3 to 18.

This means that no child at DESS and DESC will ever, ever, be left behind.

Every single young man and woman will leave Dubai English Speaking College with whatever they need to meet their own potential and ambitions for their lives ahead.

We are an inclusive school and we deliver for all children.

No ifs. No buts.

That is our unfailing, absolute commitment at Dubai English Speaking College.

If we do not have what a child needs to meet their potential and ambition ,we will create it, build it, find it, discover it – we will do whatever it takes to make it happen for every one of our children.

We invest in every single DESS and DESC child on their own personal unique journeys. 


Every child has unique gifts – and our commitment is to discover these and see them flourish.

We will always and in every case deliver for every child, young man and woman.

At DESS and DESC we deliver an extraordinary – and happy – education for every child….. and one that we believe is absolutely unequalled. “

Andy Gibbs. Principal, Dubai English Speaking School and College


The culture at Dubai English Speaking School DESS is to celebrate the many different gifts of individual children. This photograph shows a young girl developing her musical talents playing the violin.

There is probably no better quote than that above in understanding both DESC and its slipstream Primary, Dubai English Speaking School, reviewed here.

Ask a parent what they want from a school and the answers, although varied, will ultimately be that their children are given the best education possible – instilled with the foundations to be successful in the world as they develop their careers.

The nuances of delivering this, however, are complex.

Many schools pay lip service to this.

But to really deliver an education that concentrates on individual children, to ensure that every child meets their own unique ambitions and potential, requires an absolutely extraordinary school. It requires one that ”fires on every cylinder’ in every part of the school with flows of communication, a shared conviction to treating all children equally and the investment in place to step in at any point to ensure that genuinely no child is ever left behind.

To do this in an inclusive school – one that welcomes children of all abilities and gifts, is so much more challenging than those schools which restrict intake to the most academically bright or gifted. There are no ‘stacked decks’ at the Dubai English Speaking College – and that is why we left from our visit this year with a view of the school that places it unambiguously as one of the most impressive, inspirational and highest performing schools for children in the UAE.


Dubai English Speaking School DESC traces its route back to the oldest school in Dubai. Pictured here The Duchess of Cornwall and Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Princess of Jordan, Sheikha of Dubai (pictured above being greeted by DESSC students, with Peter Daly and David May at the school's opening in 2007

Established in 2005 with just 35 Year 7 students, the Dubai English Speaking College [DESC] takes its name from the much loved (and, in our view, equally as impressive) Dubai English Speaking School [DESS], of which it is a part; the oldest British school in the Emirate established in 1963.  It is worth noting for parents that Dubai English Speaking College sees itself as integral to DESS – whilst physically separated (and deliberately so that younger children can be educated in an environment that fits their needs best), they are, for both schools, to all intents and purposes the same school – one that takes children on their whole journey from FS to graduation.

The College was built separately to its feeder school in Academic City, and takes DESS children who leave the school at age 11, as well as those joining the school for a secondary education for the first time.

Today DESC is a rapidly growing school, educating more than 1600 children between 11 and 18, parents inspired by the increasing value of its fee structure against a background of expensive new “elite” schools in the Emirate and DESC’s consistent achievement, since 2012-13, of an “Outstanding School” rating by the Dubai Schools Inspectorate, its latest in 2018. The school has more than doubled in size since 2011.

In 2017-18 Dubai English Speaking College annexed and renovated the entire Delhi Private School Academy land and buildings adjacent to it doubling the size of its campus and establishing a new (and in our view outstanding) stand-alone 500 student capacity Sixth Form Centre.

Dubai English Speaking School DESC Sixth Form areas allow a mix of spaces for private study, relaxation and team building.

On our visit we found that the result is pretty much what you would expect in a top tier UK university with stand-out areas for both social and personal learning and a hugely inspiring atmosphere. The Sixth Form Centre has its own dining facilities; kitchen; zen garden, (outstanding) gym;  and a yoga studio – as well as having access to the plethora of main school facilities including the spectrum of theatre, academic, sporting facilities and (fabulous) new library.



The curriculum at Dubai English Speaking School DESC is that of a pure British all-through traversing GCSE, A Level and BTEC

Dubai English Speaking College continues to offer a pure English National Curriculum curriculum working through GCSE to A’ Level and BTEC. This will meet the requirements of parents who remain less convinced about the trend for meshing the English National Curriculum to (I)GCSE with a tacked-on IB instead of A’ Levels post-16.

If the focus is resolutely traditional English National Curriculum, however, it is the breadth of offer that places Dubai English Speaking College at the very top of the tree for inclusive schools in the UAE. This stands not only for academic subject choice (please see our tables) – but across the whole child curriculum from Sport (see below) and the Performing Arts (more here) to the commitment to explore with each individual child what makes them excel. In practice this may mean a student leaving Dubai English Speaking College with a ready-made “business in a box” so that they can start their own business on graduating with the skills, finance and contacts in place to make their mark, a child heading off to a top UK university to study any number of subjects from medicine to psychology – or children leaving for any number of professions. There is no one-size, catch-all – instead the focus is on individualised learning and development to ensure children meet their potential and ambitions – and discover their own gifts. This is only possible, as here, in a school that invests in exceptional breadth of academic and non-academic subject offer, skills and whole child provision. The recognition is very much that in the new economy soft skills are every bit as valuable as traditional qualifications and that in the competitive marketplace for jobs each young man and women must stand-out… be able to offer something different.

As two of the small number of Ivy League UAE not-for-profits, both Dubai English Speaking College and its primary slipstream Dubai English Speaking School have been able to deliver on their commitment to parents, and their students, that they will re-invest back into the schools, into them, rather than into the vagaries of shareholder value or expansion in ventures with no relevance to their own children.



Sporting facilities at DESC Dubai English Speaking College are outstanding as highlighted by this aerial short of the school

Outdoor sports facilities doubled with the work completed in 2017, adding to what many already perceived as some of the best sporting facilities of any in UAE schools. Today these now include a full-sized, all grass rugby field and a cricket pitch added to the existing array of courts, cricket nets, pools, gyms and pitches. Sports on offer range from rugby, football, netball, basketball, tennis and watersports to general fitness and gym work.  As well as competitive sport, there is a clear emphasis on promoting the benefits of keeping fit, with fitness for all, aerobics and yoga. This may well be a stellar school for sport – but, as with the rest of provision, it remains an inclusive one in which taking part is celebrated.

Facilities at a glance include:

  • Full size Rugby Pitch
  • Full size Football Pitch
  • 2 x Training Pitches
  • Indoor and Outdoor Swimming Pool
  • 4g Astro Football Pitch
  • Four Netball Courts including ‘Stadium’ Netball Court
  • High Performance Gym
  • Health Suite
  • Cricket Nets
  • Sports Rehab Room
  • Dedicated Coach Education Room

For gifted children and young men and women in sport the school offers an outstanding, dedicated (and rare in UAE schools) professional sports programme, more below.

We rated Dubai English Speaking College in equal first place with Dubai College as the best British curriculum schools for Sport in the UAE, more here.

To get a feeling for just how inclusive Sport (and the schools’s fabulous facility provision) is at this outstanding school the video below is worth watching in full. It’s a very different experience to that many of us of an older generation will have experienced in or school days.

More on the outstanding sporting achievements of the school can be found here.

BSO Award

New Sixth Form buildings at Dubai English Speaking College DESC replicate the feel of British universities.

In 2016 both the Dubai English Speaking College and Dubai English Speaking School were awarded Outstanding School status by the British Schools Overseas Inspectorate [BSO]. The BSO inspects against standards that are the same as those of independent schools in the UK, a considerable achievement:

“Dubai English Speaking College is an outstanding school that meets the requirements of the British School Overseas Standards. Pupils receive an excellent education and, as a result of high quality teaching, pupils make outstanding progress from their starting points. Despite such high quality outcomes, there is no trace of complacency anywhere in the college.”

To download the BSO report, click here.


Photograph of a student reading in the new library at Dubai English Speaking School DESC

GCSE Results 2015 – 2018
14/15 15/16 16/17 17/18 UK
Number of students 137 167 168 178
A*/A (7-9) 44.8% 44.1% 45.9% 38.7% 20.5%
5+ 74.6% 75.9% 72.3% 80.2%
A*- C (4-9) 93.2% 95.0% 94.1% 95.6% 66.9%
A* – G 100.0% 100% 100% 100% 98.3%
5+ (4+) 97.8% 98.2% 95.8 % 98.3%
5+ (4+ EM) 91.2% 91.0% 91.7% 92.7%
YELLIS +0.43 +0.28 +0.38 +0.20

In 2018, from a cohort of 154 students, the overall pass rate at A’ Level was 99.8%. 85% of students achieved a grade A– C, 61% of students achieved the higher grades of A – B, of which 36% gained A* or A grades.

A2 Results 2013 – 2018
13/14 14/15 15/16   16/17




Number of students 60 95 117 150 154
A* – A 23.0% 35.1% 27.1% 41.9% 35.8%
A* – B 54.1% 61.1% 57.9% 60.8% 60.9%
A* – C 78.1% 81.9% 81.4% 83.9% 85.2%
A* – E 98.4% 99.0% 98.6% 99.3% 99.8%
Average ALIS residual +0.28 +0.15 +0.12 +0.22 +0.10
Average points  per entry 88.8 96.0 93.6 94.9 93.4
Average total points per student 269.3 290.9 283.1 287.2 294.7

Given that DESC is not academically selective, these results are quite outstanding – and teachers and students at Dubai English Speaking College have every reason to feel extremely proud.

In 2017,  GCSE results saw a 46% A* to A pass rate with 72% of students achieving A* to B and 95% A* to C. In 2016 GCSE results saw 95% of students achieving A* to C (well above the UK average of 66.9%) with DESC’s A* to A results at 43.7% – more than double the UK average of 20.5%.

Pupils who have Special Educational Needs [SEN], a rare historical weakness of the school, receive a great deal of skilled support and in most cases, they now make rates of progress similar to those of other pupils in the college. The needs of Gifted and Talented [G&T] pupils are very well supported, particularly by the school’s Enrichment Programme for the ablest students.

Whilst few pupils are learning to speak English as an Additional Language [EAL] those that do make similar, outstanding, rates of progress to the other groups of pupils in the school.


The Principal of Dubai English Speaking School and Dubai English Speaking College, Andy Gibbs, provides inspirational leadership and is relentlessly determined. Relationships and communications with parents are excellent. There is a genuine and open two-way process here. No better example is Mr Gibbs’ ongoing commitment to parents to, at the least, try to minimise fee increases. Words are easy but tellingly, within a climate of increasing school fees elsewhere in the sector at that time to the maximum permitted by the KHDA, Mr Gibbs wrote to all parents in October 2015 advising that the College had taken the decision not to increase fees for the academic year 2015-16 as he was “very mindful of how the current economic climate is impacting upon families.

This scale of responsiveness to parents is extremely rare – and it is almost inconceivable, for example, that it would ever happen at all in one of the large schools groups. Dubai English Speaking College provides a benchmark here for how, when a school says that it listens to parents, and ultimately that does mean children, that commitment must be actioned with more than rhetoric.

Dubai English Speaking College was awarded “Good School” status for the sixth consecutive year in 2018-19. Our sister site noted: “DESC is however pretty much an outstanding school across the board – from personal responsibility of students to its community, from the quality of leadership to curriculum quality, this is very much a school at the top of its game.”

Media studies at Dubai English Speaking School DESC is just one example of the breadth of curriculum

“On a daily basis I am in awe at the performance of the young people who contribute to making us the College we are.”

Chris Vizzard, Headteacher, Dubai English Speaking College.

Bottom Line? The Verdict 2023 – 2024

Our view? A genuinely terrific, historically important school – one that shines within a very small cluster of schools in the UAE that can be counted on by parents to deliver an outstanding, inspirational, personalised, caring and successful education for their children.

As above, in practice, Dubai English Speaking College is today seen as a single school with its Dubai English Speaking School feeder. Both schools are inclusive and carry their not-for-profit ethic in the heart of school provision and care for children above else.

Its pioneering and breadth of BTEC provision is just one of many telling examples of its commitment to meet the cross-spectrum potential, ability and ambition of individual children. Its Sixth Form, sporting and Performing Arts provision are all stand-out.

DESC fees should be
Y7-Y11 – 69,865
Y12-Y13 – 75,092

With fees in 2020-21 running between AED 69,865 in Years 7 to 11 to AED 75,092 at Sixth Form, we rate the value proposition for parents as exceptional. This represents a significant and (unlike many schools) permanent fee reduction by DESC to support parents following the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic from its historic 2019 fee structure of AED 79,392 in Years 7 to 11 to AED 85,332 at Sixth Form. More on the fee reduction can be found here.

We have no hesitation in recognising Dubai English Speaking College as one of the very, very best schools in the UAE. For many children the education on offer will be unequalled.

To deliver an inclusive education that promises the very best, globally bench-markable, education for every child is no small undertaking. Dubai English Speaking College delivers that – and in spades. The dedication of teachers to the care and inspiration of children runs like wildfire throughout the school.

Dubai English Speaking College was the deserving winner of the Top Schools Award for Best School in the UAE 2019-2020.

Extraordinary is a word used too often. In the case of Dubai English Speaking College, however, it is an accolade richly deserved and on point.

Very highly recommended.

© 2023 – 2024

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Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

2019-20: Outstanding

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating


Rating FS

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Rating Primary / Elementary

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Rating Secondary / Middle


Rating Post 16 / High


Type of school

Private, not-for-profit

WSA Good School


Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: - NA see Dubai English Speaking School
FS2: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 1: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 2: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 3: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 4: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 5: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 6: NA see Dubai English Speaking School
YEAR 7: 69,865
YEAR 8: 69,865
YEAR 9: 69,865
YEAR 10: 69,865
YEAR 11: 69,865
YEAR 12: 75,092
YEAR 13: 75,092


National Curriculum of England
AS Level
A Level
BTEC (Sport, Enterprise & Entrepreneurship, Applied Science, Travel & Tourism, Hospitality and ICT (Engineering under longer term consideration))
Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered


A Levels offered

Business Studies
Computer Science
Design & Technology - Food Prep and Nutrition
Design & Technology - Graphic Design
Drama and Theatre Studies
English Language
English Literature
Government and Politics
Information Technology
Further Mathematics
Mathematical Studies (Level 3)
Media Studies
Music Technology
Physical Education
Religious Studies
Fine Art
Applied Science (Level 3/Extended)
BTEC Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
BTEC Hospitality
BTEC Travel and Tourism
BTEC Foundation
BTEC Sport

A Level A* to A


A Level A* to C






Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

Core subjects: English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, Social Studies. Options: Arabic, Art & Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science (IGCSE), Dance, Design & Technology, Drama (IGCSE), Economics (IGCSE), Food Preparation and Nutrition, French and Spanish, Geography, History (IGCSE), ICT (IGCSE), Media Studies, Music, Physics, Physical Education, Psychology



Waiting list


Value Added

Not published (High)

Number of Students

1664 (2018)

Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover


Year opened



Dubai Academic City, Al Ruwwayah, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality)
(1) SEND: 129
(2) Emirati: 18


Mixed co-educational

School canteen

Yes (two)



Admissions Telephone

+971 (0)4 360 4866

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Attainment Pri SEM

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Attainment Sec SEM


Attainment Post-16 SEM


Progress Nur SEM

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Progress Pri SEM

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Progress Sec SEM


Progress Post-16 SEM


Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)


Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)


Islamic St. Primary Results

NA - see Dubai English Speaking School

Islamic St. Secondary Results


Islamic St. Post-16 Results








Quality of teaching


Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision



• Outstanding performance across the whole curriculum
• Outperforms the UK independent sector for results at (I)GCSE, AS and GCE A’ Level
• Growing alumni network with extensive and close links to its feeder school
• Strong Principal/Headteacher with determined leadership
• Responsiveness to parents
• Happy children
• Ongoing and significant school investment
• One of, if not the, best school(s) for Sport in the UAE
• Breadth of provision including BTEC
• Proven interventions to ensure that no child is left behind and all children graduate with the foundations in place to meet their individual ambitions, potential and needs
• Personalised curriculum to adapt to each child's potential, need, gifts and ambition
• Alumni network to build future global links for graduates


• Relative weakness in student attainment in Arabic area subjects compared to that achieved in other core disciplines (typical within the British schools sector)

Our Rating
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Arts & Drama
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

• Much loved school
• A Principal and Headteacher that listen and respond to parents - and children
• Top school for academic attainment - and for the "whole child"
• Happy, rounded, inspired children committed to the school: ‘In this college, pupils are valued not just for what they can do but for what they are.’ [student quoted in BSO Inspection 2016-18]
• Very highly recommended; schools do not come better in the UAE

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]
  • Srilal Lawrence
    January 15, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Hi and Good Morning.

    I would like enroll my daughter to DESC in academic city in Year 3, currently she is studying at Al Diyafah High School.

    Appreciate your swift response

    have a wonderful Day


    Srilal Lawrence

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SEND Provision
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