Background and Headline Findings: Sharjah English School 2021
“This is an outstanding school.”
Darren Coulson, Principal, Sharjah English School
Established as a primary school in 1974, today Sharjah English School [SES] provides the full spectrum of educational provision to children between 3 and 19. A traditional British school, SES follows the English National Curriculum to GCE A’ Level and BTEC, eschewing recent trends to diversity post-16 provision with the International Baccalaureate. The school is situated in (beautiful and inspirational) grounds and buildings near University City and has both a breadth and quality of facilities to compete well with Tier 1 schools. What, however, makes the school stand out is its rare combination of small school dynamics, Ivy League not-for-profit dynamic, relatively affordable fee structure (for a Tier 1 Premium school) and easy commutability from Dubai. Its a potent combination and this results in the school being consistently oversubscribed.
Fees, which run from AED 26,400 in FS1 through to AED 67,600 in Year 12 Sixth Form offer significant ROI when compared with its UAE not-for-profit peers. Commutability from Dubai, depending on location, runs to less than 20 minutes. For many parents the school commute to Sharjah English School is faster than any competitor. Not-for-profit underpinnings ensure that every dirham of fees is invested in children, not profit. Small school dynamics gifts a school with a role that meets the overwhelming call for parents for smaller schools. Capacity is just 950 students. This follows through to small class sizes – at A Level, many classes offer a stellar, and almost unheard of, teacher to student ratio of 1:6. All Year 1 and 2 classes have a Teaching Assistant, ensuring that every child is given the individual attention they require. Investment in British teachers is significant – and the school does not recruit NQTs. Despite this extraordinary level of investment in teachers, Sharjah English is (by far) the smallest not-for-profit Tier 1 school in the UAE.
Facilities include a sports hall, swimming pool, (truly impressive and extensive) grassed playing areas for rugby, cricket and football; 500-seat performing arts auditorium and suites, library, ICT Suite, learning support rooms, dedicated music rooms, gym, running track; extensive design and technology suites; sport grandstand; swimming pool; and prayer rooms, the latter a key lever to improve and enhance Islamic educational provision. These do not (quite) match the breadth of the most facilities-rich Tier 1 school in the UAE – but what shines through here is both quality and investment. There may not be a planetarium – but for many parents such facilities are only icing on a cake rather than integral necessities of a Tier 1 education. A gift of HRH Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, the school occupies landmark, beautifully landscaped grounds amounting to some 25 acres – extraordinary by any standard and the largest grounds of any school in the emirate.
A house system, typical of English public schools, divides students into four houses, these named after Charles Doughty, Richard Burton, TE Lawrence and Baroness Wentworth. The result is not simply word play but a real foundation stone of the school’s warmth and fellowship, one upon which much of the school’s atmosphere hangs and takes its force.
With less than 900 students, and notwithstanding its announced plans to grow, the school has all the qualities of the best small schools including genuine warmth, intimacy and a genuine and palpable sense of community. Its winning combination of facilities, leadership, intimacy, (significant) academic success and small school feel make it a compelling option for prospective parents. The school sits comfortably top of many parental shortlists, and particularly those of British children, for good reason.
Current school leadership we rate outstanding. Mr. Darren Coulson, Principal, Sharjah English School, has been in post since August 2021, taking over the helms from the respected John Nolan following his retirement after 15 years leading the school.
Mr Coulson joined the school from Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches- where he led the school for 9 years. In total Mr Coulter invested some 22 overall years at JESS, one of the UAE’s flagship Tier 1 premium schools. It says much about the quality of Sharjah English School that it was able to attract Mr Coulson. As Mr Coulson explained to SchoolsCompared, it took a very special school to inspire his move from one of the most loved and respected schools in the UAE. It is telling that both JESS and Sharjah English School are ethically and commercially not-for-profit.
GCSE Options 2021-22Sharjah English School GCSE Options Prospectus2020-21
Sixth Form – (Traditional) British A’ Levels and BTEC
The Sharjah English School Sixth Form opened late in the school’s history in 2008 (Sharjah English School is one of the UAE’s oldest schools, with a history stretching back to its founding in 1974). As above, class sizes are small, a real positive, but compared with Dubai’s new Tier 1 schools, and to some degree by the schools (I)GCSE standards, subjects are surprisingly limited. In our last review, we critiqued a relatively limited range of A’ Level options – but today these have been addressed with inclusion of both Economics and Psychology – both subjects that we thought should be offered. In fact, more than 16 subject options at A’ Level are available to students, with further BTEC Level 3 options in both Business and Sport. Worth noting that A Level structure is linear, conforming to the exact shape of A Level provision at home in the UK, rather than the split approach of the international A Level format of study.
Full A Level and BTEC options information follows:Sharjah English School A Level and BTEC Options 2021
Examination results rank in the top 3 school in the UAE.
In 2021, 26% of results were secured at A* (26%), with 51% of entries awarded A-A. 96% of entries were ranked A-C. In 2020, 90% of grades ranked A* to B and 54% of grades awarded ranked A*A.
Ultimately as parents we choose the best school we can based on what we can afford. This means that discussion of affordability is relative and unhelpful. As above, we focus on ROPI metrics. In these terms, comparatively, the value of fee offer here we rate exception.
|FEES||TERM 1||TERM 2||Term 3||ANNUAL|
|FS1 / Pre-KG||10,560||7,920||7,920||26,400|
|FS2 / KG 1||15,080||11,310||11,310||37,700|
|Year 1/ KG 2||15,400||11,550||11,550||38,500|
|Year 2/ Gr 1||15,400||11,550||11,550||38,500|
|Year 3 / Gr 2||16,640||12,480||12,480||41,600|
|Year 4 / Gr 3||16,640||12,480||12,480||41,600|
|Year 5 / Gr 4||16,640||12,480||12,480||41,600|
|Year 6 / Gr 5||16,640||12,480||12,480||41,600|
|Year 7 / Gr 6||21,200||15,900||15,900||53,000|
|Year 8 / Gr 7||21,200||15,900||15,900||53,000|
|Year 9 / Gr 8||21,200||15,900||15,900||53,000|
|Year 10 / Gr 9||22,680||17,010||17,010||56,700|
|Year 11/ Gr 10||24,960||18,720||18,720||62,400|
|Year 12 / Gr 11||27,040||20,280||20,280||67,600|
|Year 13 / Gr 12||27,040||20,280||20,280||67,600|
Admission is competitive and there are waiting lists in some year groups. The school openly advertises that priority may be given in the application procedures to UK passport holders (as well as families of its sponsoring companies and children with siblings already in the school). Admissions open each January for the following school year. The school weights highly the attitude (commitment and passion) of children, whether internal or external applicants, in weighing up whether to accept them for Sixth Form. Wanting passionately to come to the school is given at least equal weight to academic metrics at younger age – which is as it should be in our view.
History and scale
Historically the school has been open about its challenges, particularly the financial constraints that result from its size although another identified challenge, that of providing an effective Arabic curriculum within a British school, is repeated across the sector. The first has begun to be addressed in growing the school. Normally this would result in potential concerns that any state of flux risks impacts on both the dynamic and feel of the school, but also student attainment. Sharjah English School, under excellent leadership, has consistently ensured, however, that growth is managed, incremental and “safe.” The trade-off has proved worthwhile. A school of less than 600 students, at these fee levels, and even a not-for-profit, inevitably had to compromise. This is a school that does not want to compromise on giving the best education to its children – and growth in numbers was the only level available to deliver the required economies of scale and income. This said, the school remains steadfastly almost tiny by competitive school standards.
Since our last review, in which we critiqued the lack of transparency, things have significantly changed. From a position in which examination results were never published, today the school celebrates the (exceptional) achievements of its students. This openness carries through across the range of school activities celebrating children.
BSO 2019-20Sharjah EnglisBSO Report Sharjah English School 2019 20
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2021
There is much to recommend Sharjah English School. For its combination of scale, academics, NFP dynamics, commutability and cultural Britishness it operates, in our view, as an absolute one off in the UAE – it is unmatched.
For many parents, that uniqueness makes it no less than the “dream school.”
Add to this, reputation – something that comes only with age; stellar, proven leadership; beautiful facilities, top-3 UAE examination results and, for us, most importantly a culture of care and commitment to child happiness and care (one in which no child is left behind) and it’s very hard to find fault. This is a hidden gem in the UAE – one that many parents ignore because of its location in Sharjah, not realising its close proximity than many Dubai schools.
Sharjah English School is a gem of a school and, our view, a shortlisting must.
If there is a critique it is availability of places. It is not, however, if places are available, that refuses children based on on academics. The defining approach here, instead, and hugely creditably, is that all children are gifted – and it is a school’s role to nurture those gifts, and ensure that no child is refused the chance to realise their ambitions and potential.
That counts for something. Perhaps, everything.
© SchoolsCompared.com. 2021. All rights reserved.
YEAR 1: According to application
YEAR 2: According to application
YEAR 3: According to application
YEAR 4: According to application
YEAR 5: According to application
YEAR 6: According to application
YEAR 7: According to application
YEAR 8: According to application
YEAR 9: According to application
YEAR 10: According to application
YEAR 11: According to application
YEAR 12: 70,000+
YEAR 13: 70,000+
National Curriculum of England
Assessment and Qualifications Alliance [AQA]
Art, Craft & Design
Design & Technology (Product Design 3D)
BTEC Level 3 Sport
BTEC Level 3 Business Studies
26% of results were secured at A* (2021)
51% of entries awarded A*-A (2021)
90% of grades ranked A* to B (2020)
54% of grades awarded ranked A*A (2020)
96% of entries were ranked A*-C (2021)
Note: GCSE only.
Core Subjects (5):
Double Award Science
Options (4 Chosen):
Art, Craft & Design
Design & Technology (Graphics Products)
Design & Technology (Product Design)
Current role 800+ (2021)
1:6 to 1:22
Not published (low)
1975 (Primary) 2005 (Secondary)
University City, Sharjah
British (largest nationality)
+971 (6) 558 9304
• Exceptional ROI on fees
• Rare, small school operating existentially above its weight
• Excellent academics competing with the very best schools across the UAE
• Fabulous British feel and dynamics driven by a properly integrated public school house system
• Effective, nurturing and conservative leadership
• Evolutionary, measured expansion in scale and student numbers
• Outstanding and proven school leadership
• Ivy League not-for-profit