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Dubai English Speaking School, DESS, Umm Hurair, Oud Metha – THE REVIEW
WSA Good School

Dubai English Speaking School, DESS, Umm Hurair, Oud Metha – THE REVIEW

by May 9, 2018
Details to consider
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

Good with Very Good and Outstanding Features

Rating FS


Rating Primary / Elementary

Very Good - Outstanding

Rating Secondary / Middle

See Dubai English Speaking College (Outstanding)

Rating Post 16 / High

See Dubai English Speaking College (Outstanding)

Type of school

Private, not-for-profit

WSA Good School


Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 36,210
FS2: 44,813
YEAR 1: 44,813
YEAR 2: 44,813
YEAR 3: 44,813
YEAR 4: 44,813
YEAR 5: 44,813
YEAR 6: 44,813
YEAR 7: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 8: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 9: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 10: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 11: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 12: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)
YEAR 13: NA (Slipstream to Dubai English Speaking College)


National Curriculum for England



Waiting list


Value Added

Not published

Number of Students


Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

2% (Extremely low)

Year opened



Umm Hurair, Oud Metha, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality)
46 nationalities
53 Special Educational Needs [SEN]
Emirati: 7


Mixed co-educational


Private, not-for-profit

Admissions Telephone

00971 (0) 4 337 1457

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



• Outstanding early years/primary curriculum
• Inspirational world class teaching
• Exemplary core subject attainment in Mathematics, English and Science
• Extraordinarily inspiring extracurricular programme
• Significant whole child development based on altruism and global understanding
• Visionary, driven and innovative leadership embarking on new Development Programme further strengthening the school’s provision across all subjects including Arabic
• Fabulous school atmosphere – happy, creative, welcoming and inspiration-filled at every corner
• Slipstream to top UAE Dubai English Speaking College
• Outstanding in its own right, DESS stands proud in competing at the highest level of schools in the UAE for its care, quality of whole child and academic provision, and inspirational curriculum.


• Relative weakness in Arabic subjects compared with the high levels of progress and attainment achieved by children in every other area of the curriculum

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

• Whichschooladvisor “Good School” status new for 2016-17, 2017-18
• British Schools Overseas “Outstanding” School 2016 -2018
• Extraordinary leadership driving through change already reaping rewards
• The total package – an extraordinary, inclusive, inspirational and exciting school firing on all cylinders for all its children
• Recommended without qualification

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Updated February 2019 – KHDA updates, school insight, verdict

Note to existing and prospective parents: please read this review in association with the review of DESS’s sister, Dubai English Speaking College.

One of Dubai’s most loved Early Years and Primary schools, Dubai English Speaking School [DESS] is also the Emirate’s oldest British school, established in 1963. Dubai English Speaking School celebrates its 55th anniversary this year (2018).

A consistently KHDA rated “Good “school over the last seven years, in 2016 DESS secured a rating of Outstanding in its British Schools Overseas Inspection and “Very Good with Outstanding Features” under the Dubai Inspectorate’s new 6 gradings of inspection.

In 2018 Dubai English Speaking School secured its third “Very Good School with Outstanding Features” accreditation in succession.

At we rate Dubai English Speaking School as this side of Outstanding and a KHDA Outstanding rating will, in this case, in our view arrive far too late in the day.

The way that DESS creates a story for children as they progress through each year of Primary school education is uniquely inspirational and powerful – and probably the stand-out feature of any primary school we have visited anywhere in the UAE. In short, this school presents an absolute tour de force exemplar of the best in primary school education in the UAE.

Read the 2016-2018 British Schools Overseas Report for Dubai English Speaking School here.

Dubai English Speaking School educates 1022 pupils aged between 3 and 11 years of age from FS1 to Year 6 across the English National Curriculum. Core subjects focus on Arabic, Performing Arts, French, Geography, History, Islamic Studies, Numeracy, Literacy, Physical Education [PE], Science and Personal Health and Social Education [PHSE].

An automatic slipstream offers all Dubai English Speaking School children places within the prestigious Dubai English Speaking College [DESC], its sister college, this offering a British secondary education to KG13.

Whilst for many parents a major draw of Dubai English Speaking School is its automatic slipstream to the outstanding Dubai English Speaking College, we think this misses a trick – Dubai English Speaking School stands as an outstanding school in its own right – and offers parents a very different culture and ethos matched perfectly to the age of its children. Many parents, and academics, argue that there are clear benefits of defined, independent primary provision – including the protection of childhood, and DESS deliver this in spades – and inspirationally.

2018 KHDA

Major positives identified by the KHDA in its 2018 Very Good School with Outstanding Features accreditation of Dubai English Speaking School include:

  • Outstanding attainment and progress of DESS children at FS phase across Science, English and Mathematics
  • The outstanding personal – and social – whole-child development of children with stand-out evidence of resourcefulness and innovation. Rarely, the KHDA describe DESS achievement in this area for children as “exceptional.”
  • Competing with the lowest teacher turnover rate (2%) of any school in the UAE – and some 25% less than the average
  • A “Very Good” quality of teaching – that thrives and excels because it is built on very close relationships between children and teachers backed by outstanding levels of care across every aspect of school life
  • Outstanding DESS leadership, partnership with parents, staffing, facilities and resources across the school.
  • A genuine welcome and care for Emirati students at the school with clear, thoughtful modifications to the curriculum to ensure that all children at the school meet their potential. We think it is worth emphasising that all students benefit from language lessons in Arabic. Non Arabs, in particular, thrive in learning Arabic (rare in non Arab schools) – and this is a vital skill for giving children competitive advantage in later life.
  • Outstanding school attendance – DESS is a school that children want to attend
  • Distinctive, inspirational curriculum that is “irresistible” for all children – and this includes those with SEND
  • Extensive and effective engagement with parents who are treated as an integral part of the school’s life – and success

Weaknesses are limited and fall mainly in the area of Arabic subjects provision which are a challenge for all non-Arab schools in the UAE.


In 2015 Dubai English Speaking School embarked formally on major structural changes under the newly-created Joint Principal for both DESS and DESC, Andrew Gibbs, and Catherine Dando, DESSs new Headteacher. This saw the creation of a completely new, highly strategic Development Plan for the school, now integrating Arabic centrally into school life within a dedicated Centre of Learning as well as a spectrum of other changes focused on building on the strengths of the DESS curriculum, community engagement and making all learning “irresistible” for children – see above.

Dubai English Speaking School itself has a uniquely engaging feel; colour abounds and children’s attainment speaks through displayed work around almost every corner. The school very much retains the warmth of its roots; DESS is resolutely not a post-modern adventure in glass architecture, despite the quality and breadth of facilities being Tier 1.

Facilities include a “lovely” swimming pool (whichschooladvisor), playing fields and an abundance of play equipment designed to inspire the pupils from hula hoops to skipping ropes.

Teachers are predominantly British, but there is a good mix of other nationalities and the sense of common purpose, and happiness, is palpable across the teaching and student body. whichschooladvisor found in their annual walk-in inspection a traditional British school with an inspiring, and unusual balance of calm and enthusiasm.


Results are outstanding across core areas of English, Mathematics and Science. Tellingly, DESS has a high number of level 3 writers at the end of Key Stage 1 and level 5 readers at the end of Key Stage 2. In 2015-16, 100% of DESS children “achieved level 4 and 83% level 5 with some children making significant progress to achieve level 6 for the first time.” Attainment in Mathematics is exceptional: 97% of the children achieve level 4, 62% level 5 and some reach level 6. Pupils excel across the range of arts, sports, music, drama, computing and languages, including French – the only weakness in Arabic language where progress meets an acceptable KHDA standard, a common weakness of British Schools DESS is tirelessly trying to address. The school’s Headteacher is keen to emphasise that it is early days in its new Development Plan and whichschooladvisor is optimistic that the school’s (and pupils’) perseverance and drive will eventually be rewarded. Part of the new “real world” rather than labored text book approach to teaching Arabic is described by the BSO:

“Children effortlessly learn Arabic through song, interactive wall displays and by hearing Arabic used interchangeably by adults in the classroom and in the non-statutory, Arabic lessons taught by specialist subject teachers.”

If commitment alone won an Outstanding award, DESS would have two.

Culture and the whole child

Like other traditional British schools, DESS has embraced the traditional English public school house system. At DESS all children are assigned one of four houses from Leopards, Lynxs, Panthers and Jaguars, and the camaraderie and competition, team spirit, sense of community and belonging each inspires is integral to each child’s life as he or she moves through the school.

Cultural whole child development based on altruism and care for others includes a colourful International Shine Day in which over 40 nationalities across the school develop stalls, music and dance, food tasting and clothing based activities to celebrate diversity; its own DESS charity in which children raise funds for good causes and an annual “Pink Day” for breast cancer awareness:

Extra-curricular activities at DESS are truly extensive offering breadth across sport, music, performing arts and play including swimming; ballet; netball; gymnastics; Pilates; yoga; cooking; gardening; (boys and girls) football; French; debating; creative writing/poetry; guitar; origami; blogging;  sewing; choir; karate; boys rugby; basketball; “scrapbooking;” Formula One; drawing; Arabic drama; recorder; wind instruments; Hamma Beads; calligraphy; Arabic singing; cricket; philosophy; Lego; choir; Quran; storytelling; boxing; musical theatre (DESPA Academy); and Futsal (5 aside football).

Both the KDHA and BSO describe school life as “exciting”; a rarely used word by both bodies. The curriculum is designed ground up from the moment children enter the school to fire the imagination.

Bottom line? The verdict 2018

For our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor, Dubai English Speaking School, like its sister College, has a richly deserved reputation for delivering a world class, truly outstanding education for its children. DESS is a much loved, and worthy WhichSchoolAdvisor Top 11 “Ivy League” school in the UAE and, in 2016-17 and 2017-18, DESS was, rightly in our view, awarded Good School status, its highest awarded accolade.

We have no hesitation in recommending Dubai English Speaking School to parents. We do not do so simply because of its slipstream to its outstanding College, but as a truly world class school in its own right. In our view no school in the UAE matches the beautiful and thoughtful way Dubai English Speaking School creates a journey for children through each phase of early years learning, one profoundly well matched and mapped to the needs of younger children as they develop. This shows itself in the drama of the physical surroundings provided by the school at each phase of learning,  the considered and inspired investment in technology and infrastructure to bring this alive for children – and the astounding quality of teaching faculty and school leadership.

Dubai English Speaking School leadership, parents, teachers, families – and children, deserve to be extraordinarily proud of what they have achieved together.

Highly recommended. Very.

© 2018

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]
  • Mrs.K
    August 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Wholesome school with a very active parent community. Very sporty school in addition to great academic results. Good all round education.

  • Hassan Ssemakula
    July 15, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Hello thanks for the good performance.I am an Economics and Islamic teacher by qualification and currently working in a bank.
    I would love to join you as a teacher.and in case of any opportunities,kindly free free to contact me please on
    thank you so much.

    • July 17, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Dear Hassan,

      You will need to make direct contact with the schools that interest you in order to see if there are any teaching opportunities. You can find contact information on the review page.

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