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Jebel Ali School, Akoya, Arabian Ranches
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Review

Jebel Ali School, Akoya, Arabian Ranches

by February 9, 2016
Strengths

• Discounted fees in launch phases
• Outstanding academics in core subjects
• Incremental improvement in Arabic subjects
• Outstanding SEND
• High calibre school leadership, and outstanding school Principal, deserving considerable acclaim for driving through the complex transition to all-through provision
• Stable, extremely low staff turnover
• Much loved school with reputation and cache for academic results, whole child development and a nurturing school environment
• Outstanding, innovative benchmark school curriculum and delivery for the sector

Weaknesses

• Any new school is likely to face teething challenges
• A primary expanding to middle years and secondary provision is a considerably more challenging transformation than a secondary expanding to provide early years
• Some concern at depth of expertise at secondary phases
• Comparative paucity of information about the new school compared with other new launches
• Premium fee structure and Middle and Secondary phases – placing Jebel Ali School in a very competitive educational space
• Existing parents may face significantly longer travel times to and from school
• Middle and Secondary fees may be outside the means of some parents - we hope that the school will have plans in place to ensure that all existing children at the school are protected and provided with continuity of education with their peers

Rating
Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Academic
A+
A
Value
A+
A+
ExtraCurricula
A+
A+
Languages
B
A-
Sports
A-
A+
Arts & Drama
A
B+
Teaching
A
A+
Communications
A+
A+
Warmth
A+
A+
Differentiation
A-
A+
SEND Provision
A
A+
Scl Community
A+
A+
Scl Facilities
A-
A+
Opportunities

• One of the best loved schools in the Emirate with significant potential and all the pieces in place to ensure a smooth transition to middle and secondary phases - and to deliver a flagship Outstanding all-through. High recommended.

A
Our Rating
A+
User Rating
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Top of shortlist
39%
In my Top 5
47%
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11%
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0%
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No way
6%

Updated January 2017: First Inspection

Every detail is considered in the day to day management of the school.” KHDA Dubai School Inspectorate Report 2016

Established in 1977 as a (resolutely) not-for-profit primary school, Jebel Ali (Primary) School [JAPS] traced its routes through an extraordinary history that marked it for generations of parents and children as one of Dubai’s best loved British schools.

Much of that recognition came from its rare combination of academic results and nurturing approach to whole-child provision – and its status as an independent and not-for-profit, this formally established by the decree of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 1986.

“Everything that happens here is for the benefit of our pupils.” Colette Doughty, Headteacher, Jebel Ali School, Jacquie Parr, Headteacher, Jebel Ali School

In 2017 the school has now embarked on a journey that is seeing the biggest transformation in its history. The school has moved to a new landmark site in Akoya, bordering Arabian Ranches and will eventually extend its historical provision of FS1 to Year 6 provision to full all-through schooling, this targeted to be completed by 2019. Currently the Secondary school phases have opened to to Year 9.

Jebel Ali School sits within an elite group of Dubai’s “Ivy League” not-for-profit schools that have, collectively historically leveraged that status to provide an overall outstanding level of education for their children, despite operating with a lower level of fees than their Tier 1 competitors.

On this note, prospective parents should note that KHDA Inspections, which since 2011-12 have downgraded the school’s scoring to a “Good” and this year “Very Good” (rather than “Outstanding”) school status are the result of changes to the Inspectorate’s weighting of Arabic area provision, the single area where the school is weak, and an area that has proved problematical for all British schools in the Emirates. As whichschooladvisor notes, the headline award does not accurately, in itself, reflect a school’s performance and “a deeper reading of each KHDA report is important” not least because “there is only currently a single Emirati student within a very significantly British nationality school.”

The million-dollar question facing existing and prospective parents is whether the ethos, success, reputation and heart of the much loved Jebel Ali Primary School can now be retained as the school embarks on its new journey as the The Jebel Ali School – and retain its identity, accomplishments and unique culture. For many parents Jebel Ali comes in its Primary-only form got as close as it gets to a perfect school. In independent WhichSchoolAdvisor.com surveys it was described in glowing terms: “this is a school that is almost uniformly recommended by parents” and one which “records the highest satisfaction levels of its peers for academic attainment, feedback and school discipline”. It currently remains one of a very limited number of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com awarded “WSA Good Schools”.

Significantly, both Jacquie Parr, Jebel Ali’s Headteacher, Primary, and Colette Doughty, the school’s new Headteacher for the Secondary School have been headhunted from JESS, another of very few genuinely outstanding not-for-profit schools. The move is telling because in ethos and shared outlook, the fundamental building blocks of the school, both schools are recognised for the importance attached to children’s education in the early years. Colette Doughty was a core member of the original Senior leadership team at JESS Ranches Secondary School and, as Assistant Head teacher, managed curriculum development across phases. For whichschooladvisor this exceptional curriculum experience “will prove vital in establishing securely the new Middle and Secondary school’s launch” and “maintaining the core Jebel Ali whole child approach across Middle and Secondary phases.”

The existing fee structure for 2015-16 of DHS 41,093 between FS1 to Year 6, will rise sharply to DHS 75,000 in 2016-17 (from Year 7), DHS 79,000 in 2017-18 and DHS 83,000 in 2018-19. New students will also be required to pay a DHS 25,000 debenture (effectively an interest free loan to the school), refundable when the child leaves the school. It is worth emphasising that even the 75,000 DHS fee level this year and 79,000 DHS fee level for 2017-18 is discounted from the KHDA approved fee level of 83,000 DHS. This is in no small part because the school is attempting to manage the culture shock of steep increases in costs for existing parents from Year 7, increases that are trade-off for moving to a landmark site and being able to provide an all-through education. Even as a not-for-profit, with all its genuine ambition to be as economically inclusive as possible, has found it impossible to make the move without this ratcheting up of costs for parents. The hope is that the discounted fees over these launching two years will at least make the adjustments existing parents in particular will need to make more manageable, and give time to plan for the later unadjusted fees.

The rise in fees is the inevitable consequence of the move to a brand new school, its related (very significantly enhanced) infrastructure and the higher costs of Middle and Senior school provision. Whilst fees to Grade 6 remain arguably the best value fees of any FS/primary in the region, and particularly one now with seamless continuity of provision to KG13, notwithstanding its being not-for-profit, the new fees structure at middle and secondary phases places Jebel Ali school firmly within the Premium segment of the market – and parents’ expectations will rise accordingly.

One way in which the not-for-profit status of the school has however remained critical, is in its ability to launch an all-through school without being forced into the usual increase in student numbers.  Jebel Ali School remains small for a full spectrum FS-Secondary with just 1200 students – the school’s not-for-profit status has clearly helped it steer away from increasing the size of the school which inevitably impacts classroom sizes, the density of school population, teacher:student ratios – and most importantly the sense of intimacy and family whose bedrock comes from a (relatively) small role. Many equivalent Tier 1s are operating with capacities of 2, 500 children and higher to make the figures stack up – and often with higher fees.

The new 32,000 m2 site incorporates separate Foundation, Primary and Secondary School buildings; classrooms designed around quads to flood teaching areas with light and provide flow and breakout areas; 2 libraries; a dedicated Music School; Dance and Performing Arts studios; auditorium/theatre space; student lounges; cafeteria; a sports hall; gymnasium; 25M competition and Learner pool; outdoor classrooms; Drama Suite; mini auditorium;  specialised areas for the early phases (including sand and water play areas); labs provision clustered around specialised facilities in product design, materials, CAD, manufacturing, food and nutrition, and virtual/blended learning; 8 Science Labs (two in current use, the remaining set to come on-stream as all-through provision comes on stream)and extensive outdoor space for the spectrum of sports from athletics and netball to cricket. A dedicated Sixth Form centre will come on stream as the school grows to all-through provision. We also like the integration within the school’s original design of areas specifically focused on the professional development of teaching staff with its implicit recognition that it is the quality of, and investment in, teaching faculty, not facilities, that makes a school.

On our visit we found a very well resourced Technology Suite and really liked the natural flow and blending that has been created between Art, ICT and Design Technology. We saw this in the clever  integration of equipment, concepts and innovation,  including laser cutters.  One Emirates first stems from the skills of the existing Art Teacher, a (passionate!) Silver Smith:  a small silver workshop has been established adjacent to the Art room to enable tuition for students. The aim is to eventually open this to parents who have also shown an interest in learning the skills – a really good example of the school’s openness to building on the skills of teachers and students – and building links with parents and the community it serves.

Another example of how lessons are being to life came with our noting that The Food Technology room is a being blended in its application with regular classes in Spanish to bring the subject to life with Spanish Cooking (one of the many ECAs currently being offered or developed).

School meals are provided in conjunction with Gary Rhodes in a light and airy canteen area which allows Secondary children the option to buy a meal, or bring a packed lunch. Prices range from 25-35 AED and can be purchased daily. Food is healthy but also attractive to children (as parents know the two can be mutually exclusive) and Gary Rhodes personally presented to the parents to explain his approach.

The main Auditorium is impressive – fees may have risen but the result , here as elsewhere, are facilities that are Tier 1. This really is a fabulous space for productions and assemblies for the whole school – not just because of the quality of facility and scale, but also its inspirational feel and warm dynamics.

Music Facilities are broadly in line with expectations and peripatetic music can be arranged. The Music technology suite has a number of decks, its expected this will increase with demand to 24 – Garage Band is the current software of choice.

The sports halls are well equipped and very spacious.  The 25M pool is outdoor, properly shaded and has 6 lanes with dive blocks. Externally there is a double Rugby pitch area. We understand that further landscaping, including new trees to provide more shade are in development.

It is worth, with regards to facilities, finally noting the empowerment and commitment of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. Already it has financed new smart TV’s in all classrooms which will replace the existing white boards. One surefire way of really understanding the commitment of a school to its parents – and the commitment of parents to a school – is looking at how engaged the PTA really is in practice. Many schools still do not engage with parents – at Jebel Ali they are integral and very supportive.

The new school, in this quality and breadth of Tier 1 facilities, as well as its all-phases educational provision, is an extraordinarily different animal to its much loved Primary school.

Can it retain the intimacy of a small school and, if it cannot, will that matter? Can the spirit of an historically pioneering, dedicated and highly specialist EYFS-Primary survive intact as it evolves to provide very different secondary provision, with the many challenges that come from Middle School dynamics and beyond? Will the new and inherited teaching staff be able to continue in the JAPS way given that they have joined such a different school without any prior grounding? We had many questions prior to our inspection – and these reflected those of existing parents.

We now do have some answers. From first inspections by both schoolscompared and our sister site, whichschooladvisor, teams, it is clear, at the least, that everything is being done to retain, and build on, the “magic” of the founding school. Whilst it is early days, there are so many examples of where that commitment is reaping rewards.

A small example is in the provision for music, something that you might have expected to play something of a back seat in a “new” school still building numbers in its launch phase to full capacity. Yet the opposite is true. Music, and the broader arts, have always been seen as integral to the school’s development of the whole child, and broader provision for children to develop culturally. Rather than being limited by the developing role, music is being invested in and there is already an impressive range of options and activities on offer.  The Orchestra, for example, is being nurtured through a collaboration of Primary and Secondary students as the role grows (which has the equally important benefit of providing a uniting focal point to bring the whole school together), whilst the Secondary phases have their own Folk Group, Girls Chamber Choir and Jebel Gents Choir.

Another telling example of the school’s commitment to building on its history we saw in the schools ongoing engagement with the existing Year 7 for the years which will follow. The children have been asked how they wish to be perceived and are being genuinely involved in charting a course for the school as it grows into all-through provision. The overall sense is of a school being built by its community, including its children, rather than one being imposed top-down – and one that is set on building on its reputation for inspiring the self-confidence and sense of responsibility of its children.  As our inspector noted: “there is a palpable intention to create inspired, thoughtful, responsible, well rounded people, not just academic excellence or the surface show of an exam factory.”

We found three other examples of this.

First, two periods per week have been protected at Secondary phases for what the school describes as ‘Mentor Time’ subjects. These include Life skills (including budgeting, basic accounting and macro understanding of how economies work), social studies (which include study in the Diversity of Religion and other societies) and time set aside for children to think and work through their own administration and planning. We really like this recognition that schooling is not simply about examinations – and that academic study comes alive only when children are given time to think outside the box and the limitations of text books and the classroom. ‘Mentor Time’ coincides with Islamic studies for Muslim students which is also being enriched with this broader context.  It is possible in future that this time will develop as the bedrock for future GCSE study of ‘ Global Perspectives’ but the school is keen initially to leave this area as one that is free from any alignment with examinations and their implicit restrictions on thinking outside the syllabus. It is also worth noting that in the Arabic subject area the school has invested very heavily in recruiting an expert Arabic teacher with more than 15 years experience teaching in the UK with specific Cambridge Examinations board experience.  The school is steadfast in its commitment from this point forward that it will ensure that the standard of teaching, and the subject content, of Arabic subjects should be at the least at the standard of all other subjects taught in the school.

Second, concentration on SATS levels are being replaced by tracking such as  Mastered / Advanced / Competent so that children can self evaluate. The school is very conscious that imposing fixed assessment of a child’s abilities can restrict the capacity of students to work beyond predicted flight-paths, in no small part because they suggest a glass ceiling to what children can, or are expected to achieve. The implicit recognition here, in including children in their own targeting of goals, is that children develop at different rates – children are individuals first and foremost. By removing restrictions and judgements at such an early age the aim is that children work for themselves in meeting their own ambitions, unencumbered by labels and expectation.

Third, we noted that Year 7 students have independently suggested they could offer children at the FS phases 20 minutes each lunchtime to support them with reading – and other areas in which young children want to develop their gifts. This is a really good example of how the new school has already been able to nurture and protect an environment built on community and shared values. Impressive.

For WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, “the move to its landmark new site, given such an established, and high performing team, should give parents that move with it confidence that this is a school that can handle relocation, a new building and indeed curriculum with secondary, and maintain business as usual.” Tellingly, it was unusual for WhichSchoolAdvisor.com to go out on such a limb prior to a school’s opening – it probably said as much as you can about the management of the school and the planning which we saw invested in the transition. What we now now, bottom line, is that this confidence was not misdirected or over optimistic.

Bottom line? Whilst it remains too early to be categorical about how the school will eventually evolve, if everything continues as it is, and from independent feedback from parents, and teachers, we have no reason to believe it will not, the school promises to better its heritage school. That would be really some achievement. Our only substantial concern remains with the fees, which at the least, for some existing parents, will prove stretching and which will inevitably alter the dynamics of a previously economically inclusive school. One way this could be addressed is through scholarships and bursaries, something we and our sister site have long campaigned for. It would be good to think that Jebel Ali school, given its heritage, could be one of the schools setting benchmarks in this area.  Notwithstanding this concern, this is a fabulous, very highly recommended school. Watch this space.

Prospective parents should note that scoring is not predictive and based on our current ratings for the Jebel Ali located school.

Go to LAUNCH READY on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the INTERIM REVIEW on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the OFFICIAL WSA Q&A on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Go to the WSA IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Details to consider
Type of school

Private, not-for-profit

WSA Good School

Yes

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 41,093
FS2: 41,093
YEAR 1: 41,093
YEAR 2: 41,093
YEAR 3: 41,093
YEAR 4: 41,093
YEAR 5: 41,093
YEAR 6: 41,093
YEAR 7: 75,000 (79,000 2017-18, 83,000 2018-19)
YEAR 8: 75,000 (79,000 2017-18, 83,000 2018-19)
YEAR 9: 75,000 (79,000 2017-18, 83,000 2018-19)
YEAR 10: On-stream 2019
YEAR 11: On-stream 2019
YEAR 12: On-stream 2019
YEAR 13: On-stream 2019

Curriculum

National Curriculum for England

External Exam Boards

Cambridge
EDEXCEL
AQA

Number of A Levels offered

On-stream from 2019

A Levels offered

On-stream from 2019

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

16

I/GCSEs offered

English (Core)
Mathematics (Core)
Science (Core) [Physics, Chemistry, Biology]
Arabic A/B (Core)
Islamic Studies A/B (Core - Arabic students)
Social Studies (Core)
French
Spanish
History
Geography
ICT
Art & Design
Design & Technology
Drama
Music
Physical Education

Selective

No (however must meet a minimum threshold of understanding)

Waiting list

Yes, for current Jebel Ali location.

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

645 (Current)
1200 capacity (Jebel Ali)

Teacher to Student Ratio

1:14

Largest nationality teachers

British
Notes:
(1) Faculty are currently balanced 50% female, 50% male (2017)

Teacher turnover

6%

Year opened

2016 (Originally established 1977)

Location

Akoya, Arabian Ranches, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality)
Notes:
(1) Emirati: 1
(2) SEND: 47

Gender

Mixed co-educational

School canteen

Yes

Owner

Not for profit

Admissions Telephone

+971 4 884 6485 (KS2 +)
+971 4 884 6366 (KS1)

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM

100%

Attainment Pri SEM

100%

Attainment Sec SEM

On-stream 2016-17

Attainment Post-16 SEM

On-stream 2019-20

Progress Nur SEM

100%

Progress Pri SEM

100%

Progress Sec SEM

On-stream 2016-17

Progress Post-16 SEM

On-stream 2019-20

Arabic Native Primary Results (Native)

30%

Arabic Secondary Results (Native)

On-stream 2016-17

Arabic Post-16 Results (Native)

On-stream 2019-20

Arabic Primary Results (Add.)

30%

Arabic Secondary Results (Add.)

On-stream 2016-17

Arabic Post-16 Results (Add.)

On-stream 2019-20

Islamic St. Primary Results

40%

Islamic St. Secondary Results

On-stream 2016-17

Islamic St. Post-16 Results

On-stream 2019-20

Leadership

80%

Community

100%

Facilities

100%

Quality of teaching

90%

Student personal responsibility

100%

Quality of curriculum

90%

School Governance

80%

SEN Provision

100%

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Acting Editor of SchoolsCompared.com and the International Editor of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at] schoolscompared.com

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Academic
Value
ExtraCurricula
Languages
Sports
Arts & Drama
Teaching
Communications
Warmth
Differentiation
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities