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Deira International School, Dubai Festival City – THE REVIEW 2023
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“We are a deeply, passionately, inclusive school that delivers, powerfully and individually, for every single child.

Every child will reach their potential and ambitions.

Each child, as each of us, works at different speeds and arrives at our destination, in different ways. All of us find some things in life challenging. But, every child at my school arrives, reaches the very top of their mountain, and achieves.

We will all get there.

We are a diverse community. Cultural diversity, intellectual diversity… we see diversity, difference, as a strength.

Social Media turns the world into binary, colourless, black and white, oppositions. But the world is not like this. Not like this at all.

The world is made up of people, each a thousand shades of beautiful, rich, complicated grey. This is a diverse community. I embrace that. We embrace that. We celebrate that. 

So we all travel up the mountain. We all go at different speeds and routes. But we all arrive.


At Deira International School we all achieve.”

Simon O’Connor. Director. Deira International School. Speaking with SchoolsCompared. April 2023.


“I have never believed in the concept that if you are successful you will, then, be happy.

I do, however, absolutely believe that if you are happy, you are more likely to be successful.

Deira International School is a happy school.

Wellbeing is important. It matters.”

Simon O’Connor. Director. Deira International School. Speaking with SchoolsCompared. April 2023.


“Deira International School is overseen by the Al Futtaim Educational Foundation and is rigorously and ethically not-for profit. 

We have a steadfast vision and mission: to deliver an outstanding education for every child.”

Simon O’Connor. Director. Deira International School. Speaking with SchoolsCompared. April 2023.


Core strengths

  • Spectacular IB Hub. Designed and developed, A to Z, by students, for students on a “Dream Big”, no limits approach, to build the best in the Emirates. The Hub works as an engine for student achievement and the ethical culture of the school that leave no child behind.
  • STEAM environments for each phase of learning.
  • Coaching culture empowering, supporting and enabling every teacher to make the difference, and be the difference, for students. Absolute rejection of top-down decision and micro management which proliferates bureaucracy and crushes innovation in far too many schools. 
  • Outstanding school status – meaningful and deserved.
  • Not-for-profit – all income reinvested in students. Resources are considerable because parental income is invested solely in the children. 
  • Outstanding school leadership and faculty – on a shared, values-driven mission to deliver the best education for each and every child.
  • Centre for Excellence in Arabic language and culture sees both brought to life in extraordinary ways  that make the Arabic language a joy to learn and Arab culture a joy to celebrate. This is a rare and creditable achievement.
  • Outstanding industry internships for all students, leveraging Al Futtaim’s networks, and offering complex, meaningful immersion in the spectrum of commercial roles from legal and financial to HR and Operations.
  • Flagship IB Career-related Programme, an outstanding technical stream, vocational qualification pathway, accredited by the MOE.
  • Unambiguously, genuinely academically and determination inclusive – with very significant investment in the individual child. The school welcomes all students and seeks in every case to map the delivery of the school to the needs of each child. The school does not load parents of students of determination with endless fees. The school values above all else, in its Admissions policy, that students applying to the school want to learn and engage. 
  • Richly populated, whole-child driven ECA programme with extensive opportunities locally and internationally to explore the world beyond books.
  • Outstanding academic and vocational achievement of students across IB qualification pathways, with outstanding child progression at every phase of learning.
  • Outstanding, talent-led scholarships programme for both academically and vocationally gifted children – and for whole child achievement in Music, Sport, Fine Art and the Performing Arts. Scholarships offer fifty percent fee remission and upwards depending on the needs of the family. 
  • Informal, progressive bursary programme to meet the needs of families according to individual circumstances, driven by need and compassion. The Al-Futtaim Educational Foundation fully funds a Syrian Refugee Programme awarding 100% fee remission to an extraordinary child. 
  • Strong investment in EAL to ensure that language is never a barrier to learning or achievement. 
  • High performing FS/Early Years, placed centre stage in building the strongest foundations of a successful, happy and rich all-through, whole child, academic and vocational education for every child. 


Back Story

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

Extraordinary, life-affirming, KHDA (April 2023) and BSO (2021-2024) ranked Outstanding school (April 2023) led by one of the best Principals in the UAE, Deira International School goes from strength to strength delivering an astonishingly good British /International Baccalaureate education hitting each part of the equation that matters – whole child, academic, innovation, creativity and “heart.” This is a school that sparkles with best intentions – and delivers on them in spades – and more some. In its combination of outstanding curriculum provision, leadership, academics and whole child development, it’s a school worthy of prospective parents’ attention. And it’s a happy school, one intently focused on making each child’s curiosity burst into life and build a bridge to their future – both “above and beyond” aspect of an Outstanding-plus education that really do matter and are the absolute treasures of so few schools.

In 2019, Deira International School became 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 joined 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. 


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, in August 2020 Simon O’Connor was recruited to the school joining 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, politics 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 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.” 

Mr O’Connor is currently completing his Ph.D. in school organization, focused on what schools can learn from corporations in terms of organizational structure, management approaches and organisational structure (April 2023). 

BSO – Across the Board Outstanding



KHDA – Outstanding plus schooling 

Deira International School


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, BTEC, the International Baccalaureate Diploma and International Baccalaureate Career-related Programmes. 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 – it shows that they believe in them.


Capital investment and school development 

Deira International School is 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 to 2000 students. Phase 1 has seen completion of new facilities including a landmark theatre and auditorium. Phase 2 has seen a new secondary building, dedicated Media Centre and Play Centres for younger students. 

The aim of the school is to ensure that its facility provision and investment in students at least matches “the best available in the Middle East” over time – and the schools not-for-profit ethics and investment plans are regularly reviewed, benchmarked and designed around meeting this ambition.


Fees and ROI

Prospective parents should note that Deira International fees fall squarely in the premium fee structure, ranging between 40,657 AED at FS1 to 81,913 AED at IB Sixth Form in Grades 12 and 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 three 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.

Third, the school is pathway-rich in offering both the IB  technical stream qualification (the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme) and academic stream qualification (International Baccalaureate Diploma), these powerfully supported by a rich breadth of BTEC and GCSE subjects offered at British Key Stage 4. 

Taken together, the scale of its curriculum ambition becomes even more striking – and many argue that this blending of British and IB education represents nets the near perfect education available to students today. 

“We offer the best of all possible worlds, blending a traditional British curriculum with a forward looking, deeply questioning IB Curriculum at Sixth Form.

The UK curriculum is rigorous, traditional, has a diversity of subjects – and provides students with the foundations by the age of 16 of a solid core of knowledge, understanding the world and values. It is traditional, but that is its strength.

With this in place it is the perfect time, for Sixth Form, to move onto the IB. You get the advantages of the Global Perspectives, the critical analysis, CAS and Theory of Knowledge. The IB is about transferable skills, and a global perspective.

They are complimentary curricular. At Deira International School we provide students with all the benefits of a rigorous British curriculum and a forward looking, questioning IB curriculum. If you do both, students leave with the whole package.”

“I do not think offering a choice of A Levels or the IB in schools, or a blend of both, is a good idea. This is because, first, it is prohibitively expensive to do well. Secondly, it risks schools being a jack of all trades and master of none. Finally, the progression from a blended British curriculum to age 16, to the IB, whether the Diploma, Career-related Programme or Courses, in their final two years, works best for students. I believe that this is the perfect combination.”

Worth noting too that this is absolutely not an exams hothouse. Children are put first, and there is a richly argued and learned understanding that outstanding success in examinations comes, as so too the development of students as ethically and culturally developed human beings, with recognising that learning happens in a myriad of ways. A no homework policy is rigorously adopted up to year 9 and all students have full one-hour lunch breaks everyday, with a no screens policy so that they can engage with each other and develop the emotional intelligence, social skills and values that make up a truly whole child education beyond the production of pieces of paper. 



However, when this is further contextualised with both (I)GCSE and International Baccalaureate results the school shines:

In 2021, 51% of grades at GCSE ranked A*, 77% A*A, 89% A*B with 97% of students securing 5 or more Grade A*C grades. 

In the same year, students achieved a 100% pass rate in the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme, with 100% of Business Major students securing a distinction and 50% of Travel and Tourism Major students securing a distinction. In the International Baccalaureate Diploma, students also achieved a 100% pass rate, with an average points score of 38. 38% of students secured 40+ points – and four students secured the maximum (and pretty much unheard of) 45 points. 

You can read more on outstanding academic achievement at Deira International School here.

Results show an upward progression of achievement as not-for-profit status and culture beds in, improving historical results shown for information below.

 (I)GCSE results benchmark



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 Benchmark





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





The breadth of the curriculum is also evidenced by DIS provision of the in our view outstanding 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.

Note: for students who do not wish to study for either the Diploma or Career-related Programme at Sixth Form, the school offers the International Baccalaureate Certificate.

The basic, but most powerful, metric here is that across the whole of post-16 IB provision at DIS, 100% of students graduate with a qualification enabling them to progress to their chosen course of study or direct employment in industry, each armed with investment by dedicated career and university coaches focused on their individual potential, ambitions, aspirations and achievements. 

You can read about an example graduation student journey from Deira International School Dubai here.


Technical stream education: the flagship IB Career-related Programme qualification

Details of the breadth of IB Career-related course provision can be found below:


Excellent further information can also be found here.


Academic stream education: the IB global standard Diploma Programme  

Further detail on studying the International Baccalaureate Diploma ate Deira International School can be found below:



GCSE and BTEC subjects – igniting the flames of curiosity in children

Further information on the breadth of subjects offered at BTEC and GCSE can be found below:



Facilities and ECAs

Facilities include:

  • 80,000 square metre fully digital campus
  • New primary Early Years building (“Foundation Stage Learning and Development Zone)
  • Primary Enrichment Centre
  • Media and Resource Centre
  • 25M Primary pool
  • Primary gymnasium
  • Primary Library
  • Primary Cafeteria
  • Extensive outdoor play spaces
  • Sport Pavilion
  • Staff prayer building
  • School owned staff accommodation
  • Fenced artificial Primary and Secondary turf areas
  • FIFA approved (astroturf) Football pitch
  • Natural grass Rugby and Football  pitches
  • Central staff room
  • New Secondary building
  • Multiple free-flow seating areas with canopies
  • Further hard-surfaces sports courts
  • Multi-purpose gym which doubles as an auditorium with retractable seating
  • Three multi-purpose Sports Halls
  • New classrooms
  • Multiple Art rooms with gallery spaces
  • Computer laboratories by phase
  • Science laboratories by phase
  • Vocal and instrumental music rooms and studios
  • Design Technology workshops
  • Business Studies Centre
  • Dedicated Sixth Form “IB Centre” building
  • 25M Senior swimming pool
  • Tennis, Basketball and Netball Courts
  • Secondary Cafeteria
  • Secondary Enrichment Centre
  • Specialist Language Labs 
  • Secondary Library equipped with ICT and meeting areas (the school manages a visiting speaker programme and engages in the Emirates Literature Festival)
  • Dance Studio
  • Music and Practice Rooms
  • Dedicated whole-school Well-Being Centre

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 at Deira International School includes 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 on their thoughtfulness and the clear passion of the school underlying their creation and implementation.

Linking the academic and whole-child is this fundamental focus on unleashing the extraordinary power of curiosity wherever, whenever and however that comes to each child and student individually:

“We truly believe in every child’s potential.

And this is exactly why 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.” 

Simon O’Connor, Director, Deira International School

Deira International reports in detail on the take-up of ECAs. At latest count, a total of 1202 out of 1600 pupils took up 1 or more of 96 ECA programmes on offer by the school.

2023 Visit – Key findings

Simon O’Connor, Director, Deira International School (Pictured left), with Tabitha Barda, Senior Editor, SchoolsCompared (pictured right) on our 2023 visit to the school.

“Deira International School is a big, modern building. The hallways and classrooms are not just spacious: they are huge. FS classrooms are vast, with so much space for different stations and activity set-ups. Classrooms are very well equipped, with cutting edge interactive screens in every classroom (an investment instigated by Omar Al Futtaim himself following a visit).

Students’ art and work are celebrated everywhere.

The whole school is exceptionally clean, freshly painted and well maintained.

Staff seem genuinely friendly and relaxed and happy to see visitors and colleagues.

Students appear confident but respectful – they greet Mr O’Connor and he knew each child by name during our visit. 

Every teacher has a “The book I am reading at the moment” notice on the door of their office or main classroom. This is a nice touch and gives both an insight into their personalities, as well as inspiration and role modelling reading habits for the children.

Mr O’Connor has introduced a “No homework” policy and aims for it to go all the way up to Year 9. The one hour lunch break for all children, with a “No Screens” policy during this time works very well. Many of the ECAs happen at lunch time now. The idea is that children should be children, kick a football, run and play. Childhood should be childhood.

A major aspect of the school is its blended IB curriculum. It goes from British curriculum up to GCSE, and then switches to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, or, alternatively, the vocation International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme. All the teachers we spoke with were on the exact same page that the IB learner attributes are instilled in children all the way from FS up to Sixth Form. The consensus is that they have taken all the best parts of the IB and applied them to the UK curriculum framework to get the ‘best of both worlds’

The school values and IB learner attributes are painted on walls and hung up everywhere. You genuinely cannot escape them. It’s the first thing that both the Head of Primary and the Head of Secondary say to me, and also the first thing the Principal says: “this is an authentically connected all-through school.”

Student achievement in Art is celebrated across the school.

Child achievement, innovation and creativity in Fine Art was evidenced powerfully on our visit.

In practice there is a minor physical separation between the two schools, but the Primary and Secondary buildings are mirror-image buildings situated on either side of a central admin building. There is total continuity between them in terms of ethos and delivery. This is seen in the wall and hallway decoration with the learner attributes written everywhere, as well as in the delivery of lessons and the ethos behind the lessons. For example, the Head of Mathematics in Secondary plans lessons with the Head of Mathematics in Primary. FS-level children are being taught along the lines of the IB learner values, and this is reinforced all the way through the school.

The focus all the way through is on Learner attributes:

  • “I am a risk taker”
  • “I am a communicator”
  • “I am principled”
  • “I am balanced”
  • “I am open minded”
  • “I am reflective”
  • “I am knowledgeable”
  • “I am an enquirer”

The school values mirror those of Al Futtaim:

  • Respect
  • Collaboration
  • Integrity
  • Excellence

Facilities really are outstanding. It’s clear that no penny has been spared in the investment in children.

The school grounds are stunning – vast swathes of rolling, velvety grass that make it feel as if you could be in the lush English countryside. Huge sports halls, huge swimming pools; world-class facilities perfect appropriate for hosting the 20 international schools attending the BSME games the day after our visit.

The focus on inspiring curiosity is carried through to the branding of “the light bulb moment” in the landmark IB Hub designed for students, by students.

The student-designed new IB Hub is truly fantastic – being used so cleverly and ingeniously laid out. You have to experience this to do it justice, but there are so many collaborative spaces – some with bean bags, glass walls for writing on, smaller spaces for 121 group work, board rooms for group chats. You can really tell it’s been designed by the end users, and it’s completely different from any learning space an adult would conceive of. I would describe it as “spectacular.”

The school is fiercely proud of its internationalism. More than 81 nationalities are represented. Emirati language culture is celebrated and respected. The Centre of Excellence for Arabic is made up of a group of teachers and advisors across both Deira International School and UAS who shape the Arabic curriculum, ensure recruitment of outstanding Arabic teachers and run professional development. The teaching of Arabic is fun: in the FS area we noted, for example, a lovely dedicated break-out area outside of the classrooms with a seating area and resources/ props related to the curriculum, a bit like a reading nook just for Arabic. We have not seen this done before. Many other schools separate Arabic teaching, which only serves to make it more complicated for children to get to grips with.

The overarching ethos of Al Futtaim is to raise the standard of education in the UAE as a whole. The school is not proprietary in its approach. Collaboration and sharing of best practice with other Heads and schools across the UAE is ongoing, sincere and meaningful. 

During my visit I spoke extensively with Gaynor Dale, Head Teacher – Primary. She is passionate about the capacity of the blended IB at Deira International School to transform the lives of students and deliver an outstanding education: “We are really, authentically…. a proud through-school. Our teaching, the learning approaches, the philosophy and the culture of the school just feeds right the way through. The UK curriculum is very rigorous. It does have flexibility to bring in other aspects that are about character development and learning approaches. The standards are tracked very closely and there is a high focus on progress from one year to the next. By all accounts, as the children get to the IB level it does become very rigorous and very challenging. It’s perceived as a really challenging programme compared to A-levels. So I think that the way we approach our IB-centric philosophy, alongside the UK curriculum, really prepares the kids for the demands of that. The programme is designed exactly to ensure children are well equipped. A level can be narrow, less holistic. Everything I believe in as a primary leader aligns perfectly with where the children end up with in IB.”

I followed up with discussions with Douglas Pettitt, Head Teacher – Secondary and we focused on the very high quality and breadth of facilities, from the extensive grass playing fields, two swimming pools, two (vast) sports halls and multipurpose hall to the schools “bug stage,” provision for the Performing Arts, technology facilities and those for the broader Arts and Music.  There is large, impressive school clinic and evidently very strong investment in child welfare.

We rate facilities outstanding. The school is maintained to an exceptional standard throughout.

My overall impression was of an outstanding, inspirational and very high performing school, delivering powerfully for its children and families, led by an extremely talented and committed team of vocational educationalists.

DIS is a hugely impressive school.”

Tabitha Barda. Senior Editor. SchoolsCompared Visit. March-April 2023.


Deira International School bottom line? The verdict 2023

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

This is a fabulous, hugely inspirational, now resolutely not-for-profit school with an important place in the history and evolution of both British education and the International Baccalaureate in the Emirates.

Its long-standing commitment to the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme is, for us, one of so many stand-out, telling features 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. 

That it does this, uniquely, through unleashing the extraordinary force of curiosity in every single child and student  – the absolutely fundamental building block of an education that fires up the engines and passions for learning, throughout their time at school – and lights up their world as soon as that wonder and awe of discovery and passion strikes, is so telling of a school that knows its future and the future of its students is at one. 

Deira International School has achieved shortlisting for the Top Schools Award for Best Blended International Baccalaureate School in the UAE every year since it launched, inspiring judges with an education that “meets the needs and ambitions of every child, without exception, with an ambition, ethics and steadfastness of vision that inspires wonder and admiration in equal measure.”

The choice to recruit Simon O’Connor to lead the school, as Director, from August 2020 has been no less than an inspired one. 

Around 60% of parents (April 2023) report to independent education sector data metrics experts EDSTATICATM that their children feel a “tremendous” sense of belonging at the school (the highest possible ranking) and more than 75% of parents would never even look at another school such is the exceptional quality of the education their children receive. One parent we spoke with as part of our recent inspection of the school (2023) told us:

“Outstanding does not even come close to how amazing this school is for children.”

Very (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 SchoolsCompared in association with EDSTATICATM


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Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

2023: Outstanding
2019-2- 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


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: 40,657
FS2: 40,657
YEAR 1: 52,885
YEAR 2: 52,885
YEAR 3: 52,885
YEAR 4: 52,885
YEAR 5: 52,885
YEAR 6: 57,462
YEAR 7: 57,462
YEAR 8: 62,053
YEAR 9: 62,053
YEAR 10: 65,113
YEAR 11: 74,270
YEAR 12: 81,913
YEAR 13: 81,913


"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

100% (2023)
92% (2018)

IB DipM Average Grade

35.4 (2022)
33 points (2018)


97% (2022)
89% (2018)


77% (2022)
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 (2023). For current availability please contact the school.

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

Student capacity: 2000
Current role: 1800 plus (2023)

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


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
• Outstanding school leadership
• Consistent shortlisting as one of the Best Schools in the UAE in the region's definitive Top Schools Awards


• NA

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• KHDA and BSO ranked Outstanding school offering an inspirational, values-rich British IB education founded on unleashing the power of curiosity to drive child and student potential, ambition and achievement. NFP underpinnings and steadfast commitment to children result in consistently high investment in facilities, teachers and pathways. Child happiness stand-out. Outstanding plus choice of qualification pathways and breadth of subject offer. One of the finest schools in the Emirates - and an inspiration. Very highly recommended.

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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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Arts & Drama
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