Now Reading
Deira International School, Dubai Festival City – THE REVIEW 2020
An image showing happy children at the resolutelyu not for profit Deira International School in Dubai
8245 0
Good for Sport

Deira International School, Dubai Festival City – THE REVIEW 2020

by October 14, 2020

Updated 14 October 2020 – Deira International School new Director Simon O’Connor, new Head of Primary Gaynor Dale and Head of Senior School, Doug Pettitt.


Imge of a child at Deira International School in Dubai Festival City highlighting the extraordinary commitment inclusion and cultural exchange of ideas and inspiration

Deira International School is an extremely impressive school and one that only just misses KHDA “Outstanding” school status. In the majority of areas DIS is already hitting, and in some cases at the very highest level, this standard and, in its combination of outstanding curriculum provision, leadership, academics and whole child development, it’s a school worthy of prospective parents’ attention.

As of 2019, Deira International School is also resolutely not-for-profit with all income re-invested back into the school for the sole benefit of its children and families. In so doing Deira International School joins the very small number of “Ivy League” not-for-profits that count in their number some of the most outstanding schools in the UAE. The impact of this decision should not be under-estimated: the sort of commitment shown by the All Futtaim family to education in the UAE in making this decision is rare and extremely creditable. 

Transparency of information, celebration of children and parental feedback

Deira International deserves particular praise for its outstanding parental communication. The school offers the most detailed, comprehensive and transparent on-line presence of any school we have reviewed in the UAE.

Online information evidences the management thinking and strategic vision behind the school’s choice of academic curriculum and broader whole child provision. Deira International provides complete, richly detailed breakdowns of strategic school plans, internal management reviews of attainment and complete examination performance at both (I)GCSE and the International Baccalaureate. In its richness, breadth, honesty and clarity we believe DIS sets a benchmark for existing and prospective parental communication that other schools should, but rarely provide.


It’s always a telling indication of a school that genuinely celebrates the success of its children. 


Capital investment and school development 

Deira International School is currently completing a four-year re-structuring across every aspect of its schooling. This has seen the capacity of the school grow from its existing 1600 student capacity to a potential for up to 2000 students. Phase 1 has seen completion of new facilities including a landmark theatre and auditorium. Phase 2 sees a new secondary building, Media Centre and further Play Centres are planned for Phase 2.

The aim is that the school facilities will be “amongst the best available in the Middle East.”


Fees and ROI

Prospective parents should note that Deira International fees fall squarely in the premium fee structure, ranging between 39,938 AED at FS1 to 80,465 AED at Grade 13. This offers good value and ROI when compared with similar levels of provision in core areas to a number of newer schools operating in the more expensive premium plus fee school equivalent where fees stretch beyond the 100,000 AED mark.


Blended, hybrid British IB inclusive curriculum dynamics – outstanding results

Deira International School defines itself as a British international school delivering an adapted English National Curriculum in combination with the International Baccalaureate Programme in Years 12 and 13. Teaching staff are overwhelmingly drawn from the UK whilst students are drawn from across more than 80 countries. For parents looking for a first class British education but one in which the local and broader international context is both intrinsic to school life and represented in a strongly international student body, DIS delivers.

The decision to adopt the International Baccalaureate at Post-16 has significant repercussions for the English National curriculum preceding phases to IGCSE. The IB is hugely academically demanding in the investigative critical and philosophical demands it makes on students. As a result, all teaching from FS level at DIS has to adopt a much more conceptual, multi-disciplinary approach to learning to ensure that children are ready for the IB.

It is important that prospective parents note two further impressive features of the school in this context.

Firstly Deira International welcomes students with low to moderate Special Educational Needs across its scale from the less able to the most Gifted and Talented [G&T), subject to meeting manageable thresholds and moderate levels. Currently the school states that 10% of its student body is defined on the Special Educational Needs spectrum.

Second, Deira International School also welcomes children at FS level for whom English is an Additional Language [EAL]. Currently close to 75% of children entering the school have a defined need for EAL provision.

Taken together, the scale of its curriculum ambition becomes even more striking. However, when this is further contextualised with both (I)GCSE and International Baccalaureate results the school shines:


 (I)GCSE results



No. of students in GCSE level cohort



% of cohort entered for (I)GCSE exams



No. of exam entries



% of exam entries graded A*/9-8



% of exam entries graded A*-A /9-7



% of exam entries graded A*-B /9-6



% of exam entries graded A*-C /9-4



% of students achieving 5 A*-C/ 9-4 including English and Maths



Overall student pass rate A*-C



Number of students excluded from the statistics



Highest number of grades by individual students

9 A*

10 A*


 IB results at DIS



No. of diploma and retake candidates registered



No. of candidates who passed the diploma



% of candidates who achieved 40+ points



% of candidates who achieved 35+ points



% of candidates who achieved 30+ points



Highest Diploma points awarded to a candidate



Average IB points score



Average grade obtained at the school by candidates who passed the diploma



Total number of candidates excluded from the statistics




The breadth of the curriculum is also evidenced by DIS provision of the new International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme(IB CP), an alternative to the Diploma focused on building extremely high levels of specific career related knowledge, in this case underpinned by a choice of Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Business or Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Travel and Tourism – and fully backed with all the academic rigour of full Diploma core subjects. DIS is a pioneer school in its introduction and one of few IB schools in the Emirates to have been an early adopter.

Details of the breadth of course provision can be found below:

Deira International School IB CP and DP

Excellent further information can also be found here.

For students who do not wish to study for either, the school offers the International Baccalaureate Certificate.

Across the whole of post-16 IB provision at DIS, 100% of students graduate.


Facilities and ECAs

 Facilities include an 80,000 square metre fully digital campus; new primary Early Years building; secondary classroom and IB centre building; a media and resource centre; primary pool; Primary gymnasium; extensive outdoor play spaces; Sport Pavilion; staff prayer building, school owned staff accommodation, fenced artificial Primary and Secondary turf areas; central staff room; new Secondary building; multiple free-flow seating areas with canopies; further hard-surfaces sports courts; multi-purpose gym which doubles as the auditorium with retractable seating; new classrooms; multiple art rooms; computer laboratories by phase; science laboratories by phase; vocal and instrumental music rooms, design technology workshops, business studies centre, a Senior swimming pool; extensive sports fields and library equipped with ICT and meeting areas (the school manages a visiting speaker programme and engages in the Emirates Literature Festival), Design Technology, Music Rooms and Dance Studio.

Prospective parents can get a real measure of how seriously a school genuinely invests in the whole child in the breadth and quality of a school’s Extra Curricular Activity [ECA] provision. In the worst performing schools this can number just a handful of options with low levels of student participation. ECA provision at DIS is some of the most extensive of any school in the Emirates.

The ECA programme includes school Learn easy Chinese; Chinese for native speakers; Kidz Art; Primary Soccer; Hip Hop; Gymnastics; Learn to Swim; Russian Club; Karate; Tennis, Ceramic and Pottery Club; Pobble writing club; Ballet; Zumba; Arabic support club; Papier Mache Club; Cooking Club; Junior Life Fitness; Chess Club; Disney Club; French Club; Mad Science; Yogalates; Junior Life Fitness; VLE Student Parent Support Club; Primary Table Tennis Club; Primary Dance School; Young Writers’ Club; Primary Swim Squad; Netball; Jewellery Making Club; Advanced Cricket Coaching; Dis Chess Club; IB2 Islamic Club; Islamic Homework Club; IB Clinic; Duke of Edinburgh; Under 14 Boys Football; Under 19 Boys Football; Under 15 Boys Cricket; Creative Writing; DIS Show Band; Book Worms; HTML5 Games Development Club; Under 14 Girls Football; Under 13 Boys Cricket; Secondary Swim Squad; Badminton Squad; Aspiring Authors; Deira Divas; Sewing Club; Secondary Table Tennis; YEC Entrepreneur Club; Junior MUN conference club; Adventure Club; Touch Rugby; Zentangle Art Club; Golf; IGCSE Arabic First Language Club; Secondary Dance; Youth Theatre Club; MinecraftEDu; Boys Football; Under 16s Boys Football; Under 12 Girls Football; Under 16 Girls Football; Secondary Dance Crew and Model United Nations.

Core competitive curriculum sports include football, netball, rounders, basketball, cricket, rugby 10s; Rugby Union; swimming and Tag Rugby.

Deira International further runs an extensive programme of out-of-school visits and camps both within the UAE and overseas. Trips include visits to Austria, France, Belgium; New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Lebanon, Germany, Nepal, Mauritius, Vietnam and Malawi. The school provides camps expeditions for all Year 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9 students, these integrated as a compulsory whole-child focused component of the curriculum.

All of the above is supported by extensive community engagement programmes beyond the scope of this review except to remark generally to remark on their thoughtfulness and the clear passion of the school underlying their creation and implementation.

“We truly believe in every child’s potential. We are convinced that every child’s curiosity must be nurtured and inspired at an early age – and, by doing this, ambition, excellence and success will grow naturally and powerfully. Curiosity is the absolute foundation of the special way that we ensure that  the academic and whole child development of all our children at Deira International School absolutely shines. ”  Ruth Burke, Director, Deira International School

Diera International reports in detail on the take-up of ECAs. In 2015-16, for example, a total of 1202 out of 1600 pupils took up 1 or more of 96 total ECA programmes.


Deira International School leadership

Photograph of Simon O'Connor, new Director of Deira International School in Dubai taken in August 2020 in exclusive conversation with

In something of a coup for Deira International School, August 2020 will see Simon O’Connor joining the school as Director. Mr O’Connor brings with him more than seven years experience leading GEMS flagship premium British school, Jumeirah College. Under his leadership he secured seven Outstanding KHDA ratings in succession and earned a reputation for ensuring all children, across every ability, excelled against their flight paths. We rated value add under his leadership outstanding and this helped him secure recognition in the Top School Awards as one of the top tier Principals in the UAE. A joint honours graduate in history and philosophy by training (Cardiff), Mr O’Connor went on to secure post graduate history and teaching qualifications from Cambridge where he secured a place as Choral Scholar at Trinity. A Masters in School Leadership followed from Canterbury and Mr O’Connor earned his NPQH from the South East Leadership Trust. In total Mr O’Connor brings more than two decade’s experience from schools in the UK (including a mix of state, Grammar and private schools) and UAE to Deira International School.

“I have now been teaching for twenty-five years, starting out as a History teacher and moving on to teach Government and Politics as well. My early career was spent teaching in Kent in the South East of the UK, and I taught in a variety of very different schools. In 2013, my family and I moved to Dubai in order that I could become Principal of Jumeirah College.

I am very passionate about schools and take very seriously the trust parents place in us. I believe that the core purpose of a school is to enable students discover what they are best at, as well as what they are not, and to equip them with skills that will ensure they thrive for the remainder of their lives. I am great advocate of the work of Professor Deborah Eyre and her High Performance Learning framework. I also believe it is important to offer a wide curriculum. There is no safer place than a school to discover new things and interests. For this reason, I work closely with ArtsEd International which is linked to the world-famous theatre school in London.

I am extremely excited about joining Deira International School as Director and very much look forward to getting to know the community over the coming weeks.

I believe that outstanding schools are about deeply personalised learning in which every child matters and that means following the curve of each student’s individual achievements. I don’t believe in building destinations in, it’s all about the next steps. Let’s get you to the next step and then see where we can go. I’m very clear that results are consequences. Rather than focus unremittingly on where we are, let’s focus on what the results are going to be at the end of the course. It’s a culture of continued improvement and not building ceilings. There are too many ceilings in education, and I’m determined that we won’t have them in schools in which I lead.

From this approach, academic results follow. Deira International School shares my DNA outlook on non-selective education and its not-for-profit status means that attention is directed to where it is needed most – children. I expect our academic results to place us in the top tiers, comparatively, of selective schools in the UK system. But more than this, schools under my leadership deliver an exceptionally rich, deeply humane – and happy, 360 degree whole child education that sets up students for life. Watch this space.” 


Deira International School bottom line? The verdict 2020

Image of children in KG phases at Deira International School in Dubai Festival City

The area in which Deira International has, for KHDA Inspectors, to focus improvement strategy is, broadly, in its consistency and structure of teaching. It just misses being Outstanding. But we believe a view on this must be balanced with the context of an ambitious whole-child, hugely inclusive and academic curriculum – and the outstanding value-add results that Deira International School achieves.

Deira International School certainly has the capacity to achieve the further demands being asked of it – and its plans are transparently provided for parents, and prospective parents so that they can measure progress on its journey.

This is a fabulous, hugely inspirational, now resolutely not-for-profit school with an important place in the history and evolution of the International Baccalaureate in the Emirates. Its long-standing commitment to the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme is, for us, the stand-out, telling feature of a school that has always offered the broadest inclusive welcome to families and children driven by the conviction that every child should have the opportunity to meet his or her individual ambitions, interests, abilities and potential.  

Deira International School achieved shortlisting by for the Best Blended International Baccalaureate School in the UAE 2019 in its annual education Awards, held in association with Dubai Parks and Resorts. 

The choice to recruit Simon O’Connor to lead the school, as Director, from August 2020 is an inspired one. 

Parents should expect great things ahead from an already terrific, in our view outstanding school, with its heart in absolutely the right place..  

Very highly recommended.

Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.

Request School Information


Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Very Good with Outstanding features

Rating FS


Rating Primary / Elementary

Very Good

Rating Secondary / Middle

Very Good

Rating Post 16 / High

Very Good - Outstanding

Type of school

Private, not-for profit

WSA Good School

Under consideration 2019-20

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 39,938
FS2: 39,938
YEAR 1: 51,950
YEAR 2: 51,950
YEAR 3: 51,950
YEAR 4: 51,950
YEAR 5: 51,950
YEAR 6: 56,446
YEAR 7: 56,446
YEAR 8: 60,956
YEAR 9: 60,956
YEAR 10: 63,962
YEAR 11: 72,957
YEAR 12: 80,465
YEAR 13: 80,465


"Adapted British Curriculum and International Baccalaureate Programme"
National Curriculum for England:
BTEC Travel and Tourism (Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma)
BTEC Business (Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma)
International Baccalaureate:
International Baccalaureate Diploma [IB DP]
International Baccalaureate Certificate [IBC]
International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme [IBCP]

External Exam Boards

Cambridge International Examinations [CIE]
International Baccalaureate Organsiation [ IBO]

IB DipM Pass Rate

92% (2018)

IB DipM Average Grade

33 points (2018)




40% (2018)

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

Art & Design
Business Studies
Co-ordinated Science I
Co-ordinated Science II
Combined Science
Design & Technology
English as a second language
First language Arabic
Foreign language French
Foreign language Spanish
Foreign language Arabic
Information & Communication Technology [ICT]
Computer science
English literature
Mathematics I
Mathematics II
Hospitality (BTEC)
Physical Education




(1) FS1 and FS2 admissions: students have an interactive play session
(2) Year 1 – Year 3 students: complete a short written assessment. This information is used to determine class placement and any support required.
(3) Year 4 – Year 10 students complete a CAT4 test. This test is used to understand how the student accesses the curriculum and whether support is required.
(4) The school does accept students identified with Special Education Needs (SEN).
(5) Between 5 and 10% of students are identified with Special Education Needs.

Waiting list

Yes - in some year groups (2019). For current availability please contact the school.

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Student capacity: 2000
Current role: 1579

Teacher to Student Ratio

(1) FS phase class size: capped at 18 children (classes may be smaller)
(2) Year 1 and Year 2: capped at 22 children (classes may be smaller)
(3) Year 3 – Year 11: capped at 25 children (classes may be smaller)

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

8% (Extremely low)

Year opened



Dubai Festival City, Al Garhoud, Dubai

Student composition

Arab (largest nationality)
Nationalities: 85+
Emirati: 226
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 91 (6%)*


Mixed, co-educational
(1) Separate lessons for physical education are provided for boys and girls from years 5 to 13.

School canteen



Al Futtaim Education Foundation (AFEF)
AFEF Chairman: Omar Al Futtaim, Vice Chairman & CEO, AL Futtaim Group

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 2325 552

Web Address
Attainment Nur SEM


Attainment Pri SEM


Attainment Sec SEM


Attainment Post-16 SEM


Progress Nur SEM


Progress Pri SEM


Progress Sec SEM


Progress Post-16 SEM


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



• Now a not-for-profit school driven solely by the care for its children and giving back to children and education in the UAE. Hugely commendable.
• Very, very transparent school for parents, excellent communications and meaningful, rich detail in its vision, planning and delivery.
• Academic performance
• High performing English National Curriculum-IB schooling
• IB Career-related programme
• Breadth and quality of ECA provision and reporting
• Leadership supported by Governors and Owners deeply committed to the success of the school for its students
• Tier 1 facility provision
• Whole-child provision
• Systemic culture of innovation
• Happiness and inclusion are built into the DNA of the school
• Significant investment in outstanding school leadership


• Ongoing fine-tuning of teaching structure, data metrics and delivery

Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Arts & Drama
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

• A very, very good school offering an outstanding not-for-profit education for its students. Very highly recommended.

Our Rating
User Rating
You have rated this
Is this school on your shortlist?
Top of shortlist
In my Top 5
A possibility
No way
About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

Leave a Reply