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The Oxford School Dubai, Muhaisnah 4 – the Review

The Oxford School Dubai, Muhaisnah 4 – the Review

by March 1, 2016

Updated February 2018 – The Oxford School Dubai visit and updates on planned school transformation

Background – the 2008 visit

Photograph of happy children at The Oxford School Dubai

In January 2018 we were asked by The Oxford School Dubai to reconsider our original review of the school and to visit to see changes to provision under the leadership of School Principal, Aisha Ansari. Aisha Ansari was recruited to her position at The Oxford School Dubai from Pristine Private School where she spent 8 years rising from a position as a Supervisor of the Senior School to an 18-month period as Head in 2015/15. Pristine Private School, A KHDA Good School, is reviewed here.

Mrs Ansari is undoubtedly deeply committed to her school and has initiated radical changes – more on this below. She is optimistic that the school will secure a Good School rating from the KHDA as a result in 2018. We will update our review in the coming months to reflect the publication of this year’s inspections. Whether this proves to be the case or not, there is significant change being undertaken at the school being led by Mrs Ansari – and we found her to be an impressive, inspirational and convincing school leader.

In what follows we would ask parents to understand that what may seem in places an unduly critical review should not detract from the very significant progress we believe has been made at Oxford School Dubai since our last review – and the potential we think the school now has to develop and offer at least a Good standard of education to its children in the next two years if existing and planned changes are built on and are given time to bed-in.


Oxford School Dubai History and Background


The Oxford School Dubai [OSD] was established “Mom and Pop” fashion by the for-profit IQRA Group within a villa in 1986. “50 students and a tiny villa in Jumeirah” was all we had write its owners. The school followed similar establishment of the IQRA’s villa-based Apple Nursery in 1981 in Karama which started with just a handful of students. Today the group also own the

  • English National Curriculum based Apple International School {AIS]
  • CBSE based Indian Academy Dubai [IAD]
  • CBSE based Indian Academy Sharjah [IAS]
  • Emirates Tender Care Nursery Dubai – Al Qusais

Together these educate over 6,000 students.

IQRA Education is a family owned company founded by the Indian entrepreneur Abdul Lahir Hassan and his wife. Outside education, the Group works in the construction sector through its Gamma and Kool Home Builders companies.

Until 2016-17 none of the IQRA Group schools in Dubai achieve “Good” school accreditation by the KHDA and Sharjah based schools do not currently have an equivalent inspection authority on which prospective parents can benchmark the quality of school provision for their children. Prospective parents should note that an “Acceptable” rating is the current minimum rating for a school able to operate in Dubai before being placed in special measures. The minimum standard expected of all schools operating in Dubai is “Good.” This minimum Good rating has now been achieved by IQRA’s Apple International School Dubai.


Curriculum and Size of School Role

Children at The Oxford School Dubai celebrating different cultures at their International Day

The Oxford School Dubai follows a British curriculum modeled on the English National Curriculum to IGCSE and A’ Level. Sixth form provision is currently limited in terms of subject choice and reach – more on this below.

In our original review, we highlighted significant concerns at the size of the school.

In 2015-16, The Oxford School Dubai educated 2,143 boys and girls from Foundation Stage to post-16 (three to 18 years).

This represented a (relatively small) drop in student numbers from 2303 students in 2014-15 for a school originally established with a circa 1500 capacity. The school roll previously ranged in number from between 1440 and 1973 pupils between 2009 and 2013 (1973 in 2013; 1828 in 2012; 1483 in 2011; 1440 in 2010; 1560 in 2009).

In 2016-17, the role was 1873 children.

We understand that the current role, as of February 2018, has now been reduced to 1700 children.

As above, the advertised capacity of the school is around 1500 children. This reduction in students is a key part of Mrs Aisha Ansari’s strategy to improve the school for its children. Mrs Ansari advised us during our meeting that she had deliberately reduced the number of students by 600 students to the current number so that she could reduce class size from 30 to 24 children.

Mrs Ansari’s ambition is that with this reduction of numbers in place, she will be able to give a more personal, holistic approach to teaching.  The reduction in numbers has also freed up physical space at the school. Impressively, and not before time,  we were pleased to learn that Mrs Ansari is now considering introduction of BTEC as one key way of using this space and providing more differentiated post-16 pathways for children. We have long argued that inclusive English national curriculum schools like The Oxford School should as a matter of course be providing BTEC technical stream options for children in parallel with traditional A Level. Our A Level Guide can be found here. Our AS Level Guide can be found here.

The Oxford School Dubai does deserve considerable praise for these reductions in student numbers and in considering the implementation of BTEC, even if these are early days. We hope that IQRA, the school’s owners, we support her in this. Clearly they have, impressively, proved themselves thus far, and as of 2018, willing to reduce revenue in order to improve the education of the children under their care.

It is unarguable that this school was overcrowded and under-resourced. There is simply no excuse for any school to be operating at its previous levels of staffing and school role, not withstanding its value fees. Whilst not comparable in a number of key respects (including being a large school with higher revenue), The Winchester School In Jebel Ali, for example, (deservedly) secures a Very Good KHDA rating – and has numerous Outstanding features, with fees ranging between AED 13,452 and AED 30,210. Our review of The Winchester School Jebel Ali, not to be confused with GEMS Winchester School),  can be found here. Equally, Pristine Private School is rated a Good school by the KHDA, secures a large number of both Very Good and Outstanding features – and has lower fees than The Oxford School ranging between AED 9,850 at FS1 to AED 18,453 in Year 13.

We understand that The Oxford School has reduced its role by these 600 students “organically.”

The impact we understand is significant waiting lists, particularly at Sixth Form.



The core problems faced by The Oxford School Dubai [TOSD] resided in two areas, the quality, number and consistency of teachers, and the functioning of Special Educational Needs [SEN] programmes.

Without effective teachers, whether in terms of their quality, number or high turnover, children simply cannot learn. Without Special Educational Needs provision, the most vulnerable, or most gifted children, will fall through the cracks. It is fundamentally on these grounds that TOSD has only received an “Acceptable” rating from the KHDA – and worryingly this has been achieved consistently for the last 6 years following a worse “Unsatisfactory” rating in 2008-09.

This said, in both these areas, and others, the school is responding. In our last review we questioned whether, after 6 years skirting the borders of acceptable schooling, The Oxford School Dubai had the existing strategic, financial, leadership or ownership commitment and capacity to provide children with a KHDA “Good” standard of schooling.

In one area of KHDA concern, for example, an identified weakness in IT provision was simply responded to by insisting that all parents immediately buy their children an IPad, or similar existing model.

The action plan drawn up by KHDA demanded that the school begins to recruit trained and qualified personnel who are able to teach and which are safe and secure in their subject knowledge. This follows identification by the KHDA and parents of recruited teachers not qualified in their areas of teaching and a simple lack in the numbers of teachers required to teach. Teaching Assistant provision at Oxford did not help; at the last inspection the school identified itself as having only 4 teaching assistants in the whole school.

In our last review we noted that in recruitment advertising by the school in both Bangalore and Dubai (following its 2015-16 inspection) no mention was made of any qualification requirements at all. We commented that whilst there may well be a new focus on sourcing quality teachers and that qualifications may be checked behind the scenes, this sort of open ended walk-in teacher recruitment does not lend itself to creating certainty for parents that the school is responding.

The issues were compounded by high levels off staff turnover with 1 in 4 teachers leaving over the course of a year. The KHDA were particularly concerned about the impact off the school’s inability to retain staff at KS level where children are vulnerable. A lack of investment in Continuing Professional Development [CPD] had not enabled the school to improve the teaching of those teachers who have stayed the distance.

In other areas the KHDA note a lack of resources to enable teachers to educate effectively, including simple provision of books in the classroom, and a need for a new library to replace the weakness in current provision.

In our 2018 visit we discussed these concerns with the school. On a positive note, as above, the Oxford school Dubai has dramatically reduced its role to ensure that the number of children in each class is reduced and every child can have more one to one attention. Oxford School Dubai has recognised the impact of large classes by reducing class sizes from 30 to 24.. With regard to teacher qualifications the school is insistent that we cannot expect the level of teacher qualification you would find in a premium British school employing British teachers. Salary levels at the Oxford School at their highest are around AED 4,000 a month; you would have to multiply this by 5 to begin recruiting UK qualified faculty. This is a fair point. The school argues that 100 out of 140 teachers at the school are sufficiently qualified (this excludes support teaching faculty) and has committed to sending us details of what sufficiently qualified means. On another positive note, we left  with some confidence that The Oxford School Dubai is now investing in Continuing Professional Development for its teaching staff, one weakness identified by the KHDA in its historic inspections.


Subject choice and breadth of pathways

We do maintain our critique of the Oxford School’s limited choice of subject provision. Subject choice at (I)GCSE does at first glance seem reasonable with 4 core subjects in Mathematics, English Information Technology supplemented in options ranging from psychology to Business Studies. However, deficiencies in timetabling mean that choices are clustered so students have to choose from only 4 blocks with 3 subjects in each. In one example this means that a student could be faced with having to study psychology to study physics. All the core science subjects are in different blocks.

To put this right, we think that the Oxford School should be investing in sufficient numbers of staff so that every child can genuinely choose from all the options available at the school. This would at least mean that the limited options available to children were actually available to children regardless of the subjects chosen.

The obvious reason why this is important is that no child is the same. The best schools increase subject choice so that they can meet the individual needs, ambition and ability of each child.

GCE A’ Level choice, as of 2018, remains even more restricted, reduced to a choice between just 8 subjects which, extraordinarily for an English National Curriculum school does not include English. English simply cannot be studied beyond AS Level (in either literature or language).

We were very pleased to note the recruitment of a dedicated Careers Advisor during our visit in 2018 – and we directly experienced a Careers Day  at the school with representation from  20 Universities or institutions of further education.

The Oxford School asked us to emphasise that because its students generally stay in the UAE for University study, or progress to universities in Canada, there is no real need to provide a focus on A Levels as an AS Level is sufficient for entry for the universities they recommend for their children.



In our last review we commented on what we believe is an unnecessarily complicated fee structure. This criticism remains. By dividing up fees into 8 different elements parents are left with a bewildering mathematical journey to work out what exactly they have to pay for. We have tried to simplify the fee structure (as much as it is possible) with a headline figure below. The irony of students paying if they want to use IT facilities may not be lost on parents who have had to provide children with their own tablets.

The bigger issue here is of course that the KHDA restricts fee increases for schools that are under-performing – and this creates a vicious circle of ever reducing revenue for schools that arguably need it most. The Oxford School has created separate fees for areas that other schools incorporate within the baseline fees.

We are not sure that there is much the school can do about this now. the KHDA would certainly not allow them to roll all these separate add-on fees into the main fees as they surely should be. It means that parents must add up all these extra fees to really benchmark the value on offer here against schools that do not have all these complicated, and it might be argued misleading, add-ons.


Information and transparency

The “School Blog” has been updated an average of once a year. As of our audit in 2018, the school had issued no new information for parents since March 2017. The Students Blog has had two updates since 2016. These Blogs are exceptionally underdeveloped, even when published, and of limited value. Quite why school has a section assigned for teachers and students to celebrate their school, whilst leaving these, for all intents and purposes, completely empty, may be telling, but it defies explanation.

The school at the time of our last audit had an Alumni section on its web site, an obvious (and we think important) opportunity for a relatively historic school to advertise to prospective parents. However, the section then was completely devoid of any content and as we wrote then “adds to the sense the the school is simply going through the motions.” This section has now been removed altogether. we think that all schools should be investing in alumni networks.

There is, sadly, a real sense that this is a web site that has been bought off-the-peg to look impressive – but which in reality delivers very little and reflects badly on the school.

We were also promised at our meeting that examination results for children were published on-line. This is absolutely critical for parents considering the school for their children – and for existing parents to properly benchmark their school’s provision over time and hold it to account. Many schools recognise too that children’s examination performance should be celebrated.

As of our audit in 2018 we continue to find no published examination performance for children, despite the school’s commitment to us that these are published and would be available.

We were asked by the The Oxford School Dubai to emphasise that it has now implemented a variety of communication avenues for parents including  SMS, email, monthly e-newsletter and “Edmodo” – a combined D6 Communicator / Facebook app. There is a centralised CONNECT system to allow parents to send in details of any issues. These the school says are then allocated a number in a ticketed system. This system is common throughout  the IQRA Group schools.

The Oxford School Dubai’s Facebook page is tellingly absent of any engagement with children, teachers or parents with just a couple of post in 2017 the only updates since 2015. Compare this with other schools which brim with celebrating their children. This does need to a be a priority.



Facilities are basic as parents to some degree expect from a value fees’ provider. They include a library; physics lab, chemistry lab, biology lab; It labs; school projector; turfed football/ cricket field; a basketball court; a badminton court, covered play area; general play ground; FS free flow area and an FS play area with a sandpit. This said, standards are being pushed up in the Emirates and the best value fee schools double these facilities in breadth and quality.

Extra-curricular activities are designed to last 8 weeks and are provided externally in Public Speaking (GAACCS); Mad Science (MSC); Abacus Mathematics (Brain Box Institute); Chinese language (Nihao Language Institute); Cricket Club (Indian Academy); Swimming Club (Indian Academy); Football Coaching (Ahdaaf Sports Club).

Internal clubs and activities include Best-from-Waste; a girls only Graft and Craft; Islamic Club; Chess; Food; Dramatics Club; Quran; Eco, Financial Literacy Club; Singing and Choir; Computer; Painting and Art; Creative Writing club; General Knowledge; and a club for “personality development.”

In Oxford’s recruitment of external agencies to supplement internal extra-curricular activity provision [ECA] it deserves significant credit.

One areas in which KHDA Inspectors significantly praise the school lie in its Post-16 Mathematics provision where the school scores an Outstanding rating. The decision to offer such restrictive post 16 GCE A’ Level curriculum, however – one with no arts subject provision at all, goes some way to explaining, and diluting this achievement.


>SEND provision has been significantly improved since our last review and there are now 2 resource rooms for interventions and for when students need to be supported outside the classroom. There are 6 “Option Rooms” too which are general purpose and do get utilised for SEND students when necessary.  There are 2 full time Counselors for Wellbeing who teach life skills and value based sessions.


Information Technology

Again, since our last review, wi-fi at the campus has been improved. Primary School are encouraged to use the interactive white boards and smart boards have now been installed in some areas of the school. iPads and devices are encouraged and are a shared commodity if some children don’t have access to them.

We understand that parents have now been asked to donate old surplus mobile phones so that these can be used with new investment in Virtual Reality devices to good effect. Augmented reality is being integrated in some lessons.  LEGO Robotics is offered as an ECA.

Other developments

The recurrent theme of discussion during our visit centred on the way in which the students and teachers “have blossomed, with increased levels of responsibility and authority” and that teachers have now finally begun implementing student-led learning rather than learning by rote which was a defining feature of the school during our last review.

Children are now being empowered and given a voice. A good example used during our visit was that provided by The Oxford School Dubai’s Teach-In Day” on which students operate every element of the school for a day and the Headboy and Headgirl each substitute for the Principal.

The partnership with parents too has been enhanced supported by a genuine Open Door policy. Even more telling, parents are encouraged to do lesson observations, as well as to attend lessons. the aim is that today all lessons are exclusively or majoritively student led.

Parent Teacher sessions are scheduled on Saturdays so that as many families as possible can attend – this sensitive move recognises the income limitations faced by many parents who both work.

The sense of community at the school is outstanding. We particularly liked the school’s approach to parents that face financial difficulties with fees.

A recent “Market Day” saw parents taking days off work to cook and raise funds for disadvantaged families to provide top-up bursaries. This approach also extends to supporting an orphanage in India and schools in Sri Lanka and Nepal.  7 Students at the Indian orphanage have their fees paid each year from contributions from Oxford School Dubai through a programme operated by World Vision.

Security has been enhanced and CCTV cameras are common in all areas and in all classrooms. Transportation has been outsourced to GBT who have cameras and an electronic reader on student ID’s and GPS tracker on the Bus. The intention is to have an app which will allow parents to monitor the progress of the students on their journey to and from school.

We also particularly liked new entrepreneurial programmes being introduced at the school in order to develop more meaningful 21st century skills. A good example of this was an internally run cosmetic soap manufacturing, sales and marketing initiative which resulted from a chemistry project. This sort of linkage between subjects and business is the type of cross curricular joined up approach we see in Dubai’s top schools.


Bottom Line? The view 2018

A young child at the Oxford School Dubai showing pride in his work

In summary, whilst it is certainly more difficult for value fee providers to meet KHDA thresholds, and particularly so for schools like The Oxford School Dubai that are genuinely inclusive, after six years of identified, sometimes serious failings, in a market that is improving across the board, the Oxford School Dubai must up its game for its students.

On the basis of our visit we do now have some confidence it is beginning to do so.

Parents should note that for a school to reduce numbers on this scale takes courage and the genuine investment of owners. In real terms the school has cut its role by over 25% to try and put things right. The Oxford School Dubai and IQRA, its owners, deserve significant credit for this.

There are numerous other signs too, under new school leadership and supportive governance, that the school is seeking to up its game, some of which we have discussed.

However, notwithstanding the above, we do think The Oxford School Dubai needs to act urgently to improve school transparency, the information available to parents and its front facing communications. Examination results should be published – and placed in a value-added context given that the school is academically inclusive.

It does need to re-think subject choice and timetabling so that every child has a proper choice of subjects and is not pushed into choosing subjects because they will fit in with the timetable. The timetable should be designed around children, not vice versa.

However, in this area too, there is the promise of good things to come. If the school can start to deliver BTEC pathways it will significantly improve its choice for children. This would see a very significant and highly commendable improvement of the pathways available at Post-16 and should have filtering down impacts on choices at IGCSE.  IQRA has in-house expertise it can draw on from its Global Learning Centre subsidiary to do this – it just needs to start joining up the dots.

Finally, we found in our meeting with the new Senior leadership of the school and School Principal,strong suggestions of a school that now has both a vision – and the plan to deliver it. We did not meet the owners, but changes on this scale could not be taking place without their support.

The Oxford School Dubai wanted us to write positively about its changes. That it cares enough to invite us to the school to experience what is taking place deserves credit and is telling of a school that does feel it has a positive story to tell. Whilst we cannot in any way suggest that the school is yet where it wants to be, or that it is yet where it needs to be, The Oxford School Dubai has clearly, on the basis of our 2018 visit, shown itself to be one with potential. That cannot be said of all schools operating at this level.

On this basis we do now think that The Oxford School Dubai is worth visiting. Parents, however, will have to decide whether they are able to invest in a school with an admirable improvement plan, but one that, with all the good intentions in the world,  has yet to be fully implemented. If the school owners, leaders, parents – and children, can hold their nerve whilst the school transforms itself, then there is much to look forward to at The Oxford School Dubai. Watch this space.

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Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 12,319+ (11,216 basic fees before compulsory options)
FS2: 12,319+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 1: 14,265+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 2: 14,265+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 3: 14,265+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 4: 14,265+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 5: 14,265+ (12,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 6: 14,751+ (12,739 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 7: 14,751+ (12,739 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 8: 14,751+ (12,739 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 9: 14,401+ (Arts) 15,451+ (Science)* (13,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 10:14,401+ (Arts) 15,451+ (Science)* (13,223 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 11: 14,870+ (Arts) 16,020+ (Science)* (17,782 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 12: 18,836+ (Arts) 20,186+ (Science)* (17,782 basic fees before compulsory options)
YEAR 13: 18,836+ (Arts) 20,186+ (Science)* (17,782 basic fees before compulsory options)
*Fees will reduce between 750 AED – 950 AED per annum from Year 9 for students not taking Computer Science


National Curriculum for England

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered


A Levels offered

A Levels:
Applied ICT
Business Studies
Note: No English language or literature option offered at A Level
AS Level:
English language (AS only)
Arabic (AS only)
Islamic Studies (AS only)

A Level A* to A

Not published

A Level A* to C

Not published


Not published


Not published

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

Mathematics (Core)
English (Core)
Information Technology (Core)
UAE Arabic Ministry Syllabus (Core non-(I)GCSE)
U.A.E Islamic Studies Ministry Syllabus (Core for Muslim Students non-(I)GCSE)
Environmental Management (Option)
French (Option)
Urdu (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Physics (Option)
Psychology (Option)
Accountancy (Option)
Chemistry (Option)
Art & Design (Option)
Economics (Option)
Biology (Option)
Travel & Tourism (Option)


Fully inclusive

Waiting list


Value Added

Not published (WSA projected LOW)

Number of Students


Teacher to Student Ratio

FS 1:25
Year 1 - Year 13: 1:30

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover


Year opened



Muhaisnah 4, Dubai

Student composition

Pakistani (largest nationality)


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



IQRA Education

Admissions Telephone

+971 04 2543666

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM


Attainment Post-16 SEM

[87.5% for Science and Mathematics only)

Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM


Progress Post-16 SEM

[87.5% for Science and Mathematics only)

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)


Arabic Secondary Results (Native)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)


Arabic Primary Results (Add.)


Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)


Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)


Islamic St. Primary Results


Islamic St. Secondary Results


Islamic St. Post-16 Results








Quality of teaching


Student personal responsibility


Quality of curriculum


School Governance


SEN Provision



• Outstanding Mathematics post-16 provision
• Outstanding personal, community and personal responsibility of students post-16
• The inherently outstanding quality of the English National Curriculum (rendered only "Good" at Oxford)
• Good post-16 levels of teaching
• Recent improvements in parental communication with newsletters aligned to time with 2015-16 KHDA inspection
• Impressive reduction in child numbers to ensure children do not face overcrowding and that teaching is improved
• Outstanding examples of parental partnership in evidence at our 2018 visit
• Mooted launch of BTEC to improve Post-16 pathways
• Much improved SEND provision
• Visionary leadership with the ambition to improve, supported by owners and parents


• Consistently “Acceptable” standard of schooling only over a 6-year period
• Group wide “Acceptable” schooling with no obvious benchmark for improvement
• Severe limitation of (I)GCSE choices and A Level choices
• Lack of transparency with no published examination data for prospective parents to benchmark the school
• Confused fee structure
• Complete lack of A Level Arts provision for existing students at the school
• High staff turnover - 1 in 4 or more staff will leave during the course of one year

Our Rating
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Arts & Drama
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

• The Oxford School Dubai is at the beginning of a measured and serious process of whole-school transformation with the aim of swiftly securing Good School status and improving the education and whole child development it will provide for the children under its care. The owners, school leadership and teaching faculty are clearly coming together to deliver for children. It is early days, but there is much to celebrate here in recent months - and the promise, if all stakeholders keep their nerve, of a bright future. Watch this space.

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

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