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Dubai’s Best Schools – A Parents Guide to KHDA “Outstanding” Rankings
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Dubai’s Best Schools – A Parents Guide to KHDA “Outstanding” Rankings

by Jon WestleyJanuary 19, 2020

We are often asked by parents, which are the absolute and very best schools in Dubai.

As with so much in life, there is, we believe, not a simple, all-encompassing, final answer to this question, and certainly not one that is fixed in time. We also have some concern about the merits of league tables when they are used exclusively as a tool to decide where to educate children. Many schools offer something unique and valuable to their children that are inevitably lost in tables and may well, in fact often do, fall outside a top ranking.

However, factually, it is possible to identify, in the following table, Dubai’s top schools, as rated “Outstanding” by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools (DSIB), the organisation working within the UAE government’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), to drive up standards parents can, and should, expect from every school operating in Dubai.

These “Outstanding” schools educate, 29,176, or 11% of all children in Dubai – and reviews of all these schools can be found using the search option within Our site also enables you to easily compare these schools to better understand what makes each unique. Within our reviews of these Tier 1 schools, you will also find links to separate reviews conducted by teams at our sister site,, which often cover a variety of different perspectives, drawing on the independent views of parents, teachers and students at each school:

Lycée Français International Georges Pompidou Nursery School
Jumeirah English Speaking School Jumeirah
Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches
Dubai College
Kings School Dubai
GEMS Wellington international School
Jumeirah College
GEMS Dubai American Academy
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School
GEMS Modern Academy
The Indian High School
Dubai English Speaking College
Repton School Dubai
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou
Dubai International Academy
GEMS Royal Dubai School

We have very considerable respect for the inspections currently being undertake in Dubai and Abu Dhabi which are, genuinely, of a very high, globally comparative standard to any inspection regimes operated anywhere in the world.

We know that inspection reports are carried out by the MoE outside Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but these are not released widely, and the transparency of the rating is at least 50% of the reason why these reports have so much power.

Within this list of 16 KHDA Outstanding schools, prospective parents do have a choice between alternative British, IB, Indian, US and French curricula. For parents seeking an education outside these curricular, for example in MOE, German or Russian schools, Dubai currently has no Outstanding schools for prospective parents to choose from. Prospective parents should note that these tables do not include a number of new schools that have recently launched, or which are in planning, that we expect to also rank as outstanding at the times of their first, or follow-on inspections.


All these schools, however, will offer the following to the children they educate, with key guarantees:

  • An extensive range of the highest quality resources, well matched to the curriculum requirements, teachers’ and students’ needs, promotes excellent teaching and learning.
  • Across all performance indicators, judgements are at least good and a large majority (between 61% – 74%) are outstanding.
  • The school CANNOT be ‘Outstanding’ if: • there are any ‘Weak’ judgements’ OR • the school is not compliant with statutory requirements.


Our view

It is worth noting that this table identifies only those schools rated as Outstanding.

Do not worry unduly if your school is not included. There are other schools that perform very highly, some of them at the very highest levels, but which lose an “Outstanding” rating for a weakness in one or more areas.

There are also many new schools that have either not received a rating, or who are early in their evolution. A good example is the new Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai (which opened in September 2021). Our view is that this is a school firing on all cylinders at an outstanding standard of provision, but a secure outstanding rating takes time – and probably, at an absolute minimum, a good three years of proven provision.  Many argue even that, Ideally, no school should receive an outstanding rating until it has delivered at at least three years of outstanding post-16 provision.

On this basis parents should not assume because a school does not feature here, it is necessarily a school that does not provide a very good level of education for children.

There are many excellent schools in Dubai not featured in this list. 61% of students in Dubai are now educated in schools that offer, according to the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools, a “Good” or “Very Good” quality of education, as compared to 30% in 2008-2009. This includes many schools not listed here which can be found in our individual reviews.

Parents are always advised to search for our individual reviews of schools to understand how any school, including those listed here, will, or will not, fit the specific needs of their child(ren).

Not all “Outstanding” schools, for example, specialise in areas that some children will need – for children gifted in Sport, or the Performing Arts, there may be better schools. The same holds true for children identified with SEND – not all Outstanding schools offer the same level of SEND, or have the same specialisation in individual areas.

Each of the following schools, however, albeit often in different ways, represent genuinely flagship schools, not just in Dubai, but across the Emirates as a whole. All of them compete with the best schools worldwide in one or more respects.

Key points prospective parents should bear in mind with regards to Outstanding schools:

  • Parents views in some cases differ on what exactly constitutes an outstanding school within individual areas of provision. That is also true of our views as we, and our sister site,, inspect individual schools. More information can be found within individual reviews. The bottom line is that it is very rare for any school to be a “one-stop-shop” for all children.
  • Also look at our monthly round up for the best schools, as voted for by you, in different areas of provision. These will always ever only be snapshot of your view at a given moment in time – but they do give an insight in how schools are performing – and how they are performing between Inspections too. A good example can be found here in the schools you voted best for sport, and here for those schools you considered offered the warmest, happiest environment for your child(ren).
  • No review or table can take the place of visiting schools and making decisions on the right school for your child being based on what you, as parents who understand your children best, calculate as the best fit for them individually.
  • The views of a cross-section of other parents should also be taken into account. These often give enormous insight into the dynamics of a school. You will find these represented independently in many of our reviews, and those of our sister site, whichschooladvisor.
  • Notwithstanding the above, nothing should be taken away from the extraordinary achievement of all these schools, which all play a role beyond their own walls in driving up the standards of education across the Emirates. These are beacon schools in one or more areas that shine a light of how good an education can be for the right child within their care.


Summary of the features of KHDA “Outstanding” schools.

All schools included here will offer many, although not necessarily all, of the following qualities:

  • Students are enthusiastic and take responsibility for their own learning in sustained ways. They focus well and reflect on their learning to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses accurately. They take targeted actions to improve;
  • Students interact and collaborate very effectively in a wide range of learning situations to achieve agreed goals. They communicate their learning very clearly;
  • Students consistently make meaningful connections between areas of learning and use these to deepen their understanding of the world;
  • Students are innovative and enterprising. They are independent learners and can find things out for themselves using a variety of different sources. They use learning technologies independently and very effectively. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are intrinsic features of learning;
  • Students have very positive and responsible attitudes. They demonstrate strong self-reliance and thrive on critical feedback;
  • Students are consistently self-disciplined and respond very well to others. They resolve difficulties in mature ways. Bullying is extremely rare. Their exemplary behaviour is influential across the school;
  • Students are sensitive and show empathy to the needs and differences of others. They always help each other. As a result, relationships amongst students and with staff are very respectful and considerate;
  • Students demonstrate excellent understanding of safe and healthy living. They consistently make wise choices about their own health and safety. They frequently initiate and participate in activities that promote safe and healthy lifestyles;
  • Attendance is at least 98%. Students are punctual to school and lessons;
  • Students have an excellent appreciation and understanding of how Islamic values influence contemporary UAE society;
  • Students fully respect and appreciate the heritage and culture that underpin and influence contemporary life in the UAE. They initiate and involve themselves in a range of cultural activities;
  • Students demonstrate an excellent understanding, awareness and appreciation of their own and other world cultures;
  • Students are proactive and responsible members of the school and wider communities. As volunteers, students purposefully and frequently initiate and lead activities. Their social contributions have positive effects on the wider community;
  • Students show an excellent work ethic. They are highly resourceful, innovative and creative. They readily take initiatives, manage their own projects and make reasoned decisions. Some students undertake entrepreneurial actions that have significant social benefits;
  • Students care for their school and are successful in improving its environment. Some initiate and many others take part in schemes that contribute effectively to sustainability and conservation in the local and wider world environment;
  • Most teachers expertly apply their knowledge of their subjects and how students learn them;
  • Teachers plan imaginative lessons, provide inspiring learning environments and use time and resources creatively to enable all groups of students to learn very successfully;
  • Teachers’ interactions with students ensure that they are always active and focused learners. Questioning challenges students’ thinking and promotes insightful responses. Dialogue engages students in insightful discussions and reflection;
  • Teachers use strategies that very successfully meet the individual needs of students. Teachers have high expectations of all groups of students. They provide very challenging work and excellent support;
  • Teachers skilfully develop students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation and independent learning skills;
  • Internal assessment processes are fully coherent and consistent. They are directly linked to the school’s curriculum standards to provide valid, reliable and comprehensive measures of students’ academic, personal and social development;
  • The school rigorously benchmarks students’ academic outcomes against a range of external, national and international expectations;
  • Assessment data are rigorously analysed. Information about students’ progress, as individuals and as groups is accurate and comprehensive. It is monitored effectively.
  • Assessment information is used skilfully and effectively to influence teaching and the curriculum in order to meet the learning needs of all groups of students and to optimise their progress.
  • Teachers have in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. Teachers provide excellent personalised challenge and support. Feedback to students is comprehensive and constructive. Students are routinely involved in assessing their own learning;
  • The curriculum has a very clear rationale aligned to the school, Emirate and national visions. It is relevant, comprehensive, and promotes innovation and challenge. It is highly effective in developing a balance of knowledge, skills and understanding. It fulfils all the requirements of the school’s authorised / licensed curriculum and the national statutory requirements;
  • The curriculum is very well planned to ensure structured progression in all subjects. It meets the needs of all students. Continuity of learning is seamless and students are fully prepared for the next phase of education, within school and beyond;
  • The excellent range of curricular options* provides older students with extensive choices and opportunities to benefit from learning experiences that nurture their talents, interests and aspirations;
  • Cross-curricular links are meaningful and planned purposefully and innovatively. They are managed well and significantly enhance students’ transfer of learning between different subjects;
  • The school conducts regular and rigorous reviews of its curriculum in relation to students’ achievements, aspirations, and Emirate and national priorities. The curriculum is continuously developed to ensure excellent provision in all subjects and to meet, in full, the academic and personal development needs of all students;
  • The school is highly successful in ensuring that teachers modify the curriculum to meet the needs of all groups of students;
  • The curriculum is rich, offering an excellent range of opportunities designed to motivate and inspire all students. Opportunities for enterprise, innovation, creativity and social contribution are embedded through all curricular areas. A very wide and stimulating programme of extracurricular activities within and outside the school significantly enhances students’ academic and personal development;
  • Innovative and coherent learning experiences are embedded through all aspects of the curriculum to enable all students to develop excellent understanding of the UAE’s culture and society;
  • The school has rigorous procedures for the safeguarding of students including child protection. All staff, students and parents are fully aware of these. The school is highly effective in protecting students from abuse, including bullying and via the internet and social media;
  • The school consistently provides a fully safe, hygienic and secure environment for students and staff. Safety checks are frequent and rigorous. Supervision of students is exceptionally effective at all times;
  • Buildings and equipment are maintained in excellent condition. The school maintains very detailed and secure records, including records of incidents and subsequent actions.
  • The school’s premises and facilities provide an excellent physical environment, which meets the learning needs of all;
  • The school’s promotion of safe and healthy living is successful. It is given a high profile and clearly influences all aspects of school life.
  • Staff-student relationships are exemplary. Systems and procedures for managing students’ behaviour are highly effective;
  • The school‘s approach is highly successful in promoting outstanding attendance and punctuality;
  • The school has comprehensive and rigorous systems to identify students with special educational needs and those who are gifted and/or talented accurately and promptly;
  • The school provides highly effective support for all students with special educational needs and those who are gifted and/ or talented. Accurate identification swiftly leads to highly appropriate intervention. The quality of support enables almost all students to make their best personal and academic progress;
  • The well-being and personal development of all students are closely monitored. The information is used to provide highly effective personal and academic guidance and support and, for senior students, careers’ guidance;
  • Leaders at all levels, inspired by the Principal, set an exceptionally clear strategic direction and promote an ambitious vision that is shared by the whole school community. Senior leaders are highly committed to the UAE national and Emirate priorities. These are very firmly embedded within the school’s vision and strategic plans. Leaders ensure a fully inclusive school;
  • Leaders at all levels, including the Principal, demonstrate comprehensive and thorough knowledge of the curriculum and best practices in teaching, learning and assessment. They are focused on optimising students’ achievement. Collectively, they are highly effective in establishing an inclusive school with a purposeful learning culture and in achieving very high standards of students’ learning and personal development;
  • Relationships and communication with all stakeholders are consistently professional and highly effective. The school’s distributed leadership builds capacity, empowers individuals and teams, and creates an ethos of collective responsibility. Morale throughout the school is highly positive;
  • Leaders at all levels demonstrate very clear and accurate understanding of what needs to be done to innovate and improve the school. They are highly effective in anticipating and addressing potential barriers to sustained improvement;
  • Leaders have been innovative and highly successful in developing the school. An ethos of collective accountability ensures consistently excellent school performance. Leaders ensure that the school is compliant with statutory and regulatory requirements;
  • Systematic and rigorous self-evaluation, using both internal and external data, is embedded in the school’s improvement planning and in its practices at all levels. The school knows its strengths and areas for improvement exceptionally well. All priorities are accurately identified and analysed;
  • Systematic and rigorous monitoring ensures that there is accurate evaluation of teaching and learning and their effect on students’ achievement;
  • School improvement plans are coherent, ambitious and based on accurate self-evaluation. They contain extensive strategic and operational actions, which promote innovative and creative solutions to address the school’s and the UAE’s national priorities. They result in sustained, positive effects on students’ achievement;
  • All the recommendations from the previous inspection report have been implemented in full. The school has shown sustained improvements over time in all areas;
  • The school is highly successful in extensively engaging parents as partners in their children’s learning and in school life. The views of parents are frequently sought and fully considered when shaping school improvement priorities. Parental involvement makes a highly positive and effective contribution to raising standards;
  • As a result of highly effective communication, parents are consistently well informed about their children’s learning and development. They are empowered as partners, particularly when their children have special educational needs;
  • Reporting on students’ academic progress and personal and social development is ongoing, comprehensive and detailed. Reporting strategies accurately and clearly convey all aspects of students’ achievements, areas for improvement and the next steps in their learning;
  • The school makes significant and sustained social contributions to the local, national and international communities. Extensive and effective local, national and international partnerships, including with other schools, significantly enrich students’ learning, development and achievements;
  • Governance includes wide representation from all stakeholders. The Governing Board, which includes the school’s owner(s)*, consistently seeks and thoughtfully considers stakeholders’ views and, consequently, gains comprehensive and accurate knowledge about the school;
  • The Governing Board systematically and very effectively monitors the school’s actions and holds senior leaders fully accountable for the quality of the school’s performance, the achievements and personal development of all students. It acts as a highly effective and constructive critic for the school;
  • The Governing Board makes a significant contribution to the school’s leadership and direction, based on ethical principles. The board ensures that the school is well staffed and very well resourced and that all statutory requirements are met. The Governing Board makes a significant and effective contribution to the overall performance of the school;
  • All aspects of the day-to-day management of the life of the school are highly efficient and impact very positively on students’ achievements. The school’s innovative procedures and routines are highly effective;
  • The school is appropriately staffed to fulfil the vision and mission of the school. All staff members are suitably qualified and benefit from extensive personalised professional development that is well matched to the school’s priorities. They are very well deployed to optimise students’ achievements;
  • The premises are of the highest quality, with extensive specialist facilities that are designed well to allow access for all. All learning areas, including technology facilities, are of excellent quality, and are used constantly to promote students’ achievements. The environment is highly conducive to teaching and learning; and,
  • An extensive range of the highest quality resources, well matched to the curriculum requirements, teachers’ and students’ needs, promotes excellent teaching and learning.

Updated January 2021



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

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