Dubai College, Al Sufouh – The Review
• Genuinely world class teaching results in outstanding student attainment in all core academic disciplines except Arabic
• The College competes successfully on the international stage in pupil attainment, teaching and prestige
• Talented children in all areas, including the performing arts are valued and teaching provision adjusted to ensure they meet their full potential
• Not for profit status ensures that all funds are re-invested in the highest caliber and number of teaching staff, facilities and the school’s ability respond to the needs of each child
• A very strong Dubai alumni network
• Very strong leadership
• New scholarships programmes coming on-stream in 2017
• Failings in the teaching of Arabic as a first language
• Waiting lists result in many children who would benefit from a place at the College not being accepted
• Building design, old by Dubai standards, reflects its time and does not compete with the “bells and whistles” of many of Dubai’s most recent elite schools
• Some weakness in Special Educational Needs [SEN] provision within lesson planning and delivery
Updated July 2017 – Dubai College examination results
“One day in May 1978, after a short two month wait in a certain Creek side office, I was handed a plan of Plot B141 signed by His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Said Al Maktoum. The instructions were quite simple, “Build us a school, here.” Tim Charlton, Founder, Dubai College.
The founding of Dubai College, still one of the Emirates most prestigious schools, has become intricately woven into the history of Dubai. The story is replete with pioneering spirit, adventure, resilience and ambition, and is very much an “if you build it, they will come” kind of tale. But then that too is pretty much the story of Dubai itself.
Today, in a sector replete with increasingly mature schools, a number of which compete with the UK’s best private schools, Dubai College continues to excel and for the moment still gets the better of newcomers. In Jan 2016 according to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, 20 of its students received conditional offers from Oxbridge. That is seriously top tier.
Extremely impressive academics fuel the Oxbridge and significant Ivy League and Russell Group placements. However, arguably as telling is its securing a placement for a gifted child in performing arts at the prestigious Elmhurst, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, for one student in 2015-16. GCSE results put it in line with the 12th best co-educational independent school and the 3rd best co-educational state school in the UK. Impressive, but prospective parents should be aware that, perhaps inevitably in a school of achievers, some children, despite best intentions and investment, can feel “lost” according to whichschooladvisor parental feedback. The school does address this and no child is left behind.
The school is resolutely not-for-profit. The level of fees is around 13% lower than Dubai’s most expensive school, although this is balanced by the College requiring a debenture of DHS25,000 on each child’s entrance to the school, a sum returned on graduation.
Dubai College teaches the English National Curriculum, offering places to students from Year Seven (‘lower school’) up to Year Thirteen (‘Sixth Form’). Middle School students (Years Ten and Eleven) study ten GCSEs alongside a short course in ICT. Up to four subjects are studied at GCE A’ Level.
The College currently educates 852 students, the largest number of which are British. 34 students are identified with Special Educational Needs – less than 5% of the student population. We would like to see a much broader SEND base.
Waiting lists are long, but places do come on stream and prospective parents, particularly of genuinely gifted children, should be resilient despite the school technically receiving between 3 and 4 applications for every place offered. In 2015-16 Dubai College again came in the Top 20 most recommended schools in the UAE, its recommendation rating rising from 83% to 86% over 24 months. This is no small achievement given both the perceived difficulty of securing a place and its highly selective intake.
A KHDA Outstanding school, recommendations for improvement focus on strengthening attainment in Islamic Education and Arabic, a standard concern for English curriculum schools in the emirate. However, the progress made by children from teaching in Arabic as a first language has been upgraded from Unsatisfactory to Acceptable in 2016. In only one year the school has radically transformed the teaching of Arabic as a first language following last year’s rarely expressed concerns. It is worth quoting KHDA Inspectors in full:
“In Arabic as a first language, teaching has improved significantly. Teachers’ subject knowledge is secure. Their lesson planning addresses the specific needs of students who are working below the levels expected for their age groups. Lessons include a range of activities which target the development of key language skills. Teachers frequently make appropriate use of oral questioning and IT to support learning.”
It is also worth noting the outstanding intervention of school Governors who are often forgotten in reviews of schooling provision, but who, in the best schools, are empowered and empowering.
“The board of governors provide the school with strong support. There is a wide range of relevant expertise at the disposal of the various sub-committees. Governors received parents’ views to inform their decisions, through both the school’s parental survey and the current parent members of the board. … A board member liaised with the Islamic education and Arabic departments and reported regularly to the education sub-committee on progress. Governors were thereby enabled to monitor the effectiveness of the school’s improvement planning in these departments. The board had ensured that the school was well supported in its response to the recommendations of the previous report. New appointments in the Arabic, Islamic education and SEND departments together with more effective oversight of students’ performance had promoted significant development.”
On the subject of SEND – across the spectrum of abilities included Gifted and Talented children (G&T), Dubai College is setting benchmarks for delivery across the sector this year. Parents of children with SEND should not be diverted from placing Dubai College near, if not top, of their list of prospective schools. This is a genuinely inclusive school – something that makes its performance even more remarkable. It is also something that we and the KHDA believe that Dubai College should shout about more – its achievements for, and openness to all children deserves both praise and the widest possible audience. Numbers are too few for a school of this calibre. This is not a school that discriminates and cherry picks to inflate results. The quality of its teaching and culture of whole child development means it does not need to. Parents do need to apply and not be dissuaded by its academically outstanding reputation. Have a backup however – entry is selective and far from axiomatic, this equally, and fairly, for all children. This said, it is arguable that the school could be much more inclusive than it is – and equally, SEND provision, within the context of a much more inclusive school, could be improved, and invested in, much more.
The staff:student ratio of around 9.3 students per teacher is one of the lowest in the Emirates – and particularly potent for a highly academic selective (though inclusive) school in which the temptation is generally to reduce teacher numbers because of the natural gifts of the role. Class sizes are between 20 – 22 students. Dubai College secured an outstanding 13 Oxbridge places for its leavers in 2016, this probably the best single indicator of the school’s ranking in the top 17 of UK co-educational independent schools measured on like-for-like examination performance against its Tier 1 UK home peers.
A Level options are not as broad as we would like – however, the trade-off is smaller class sizes. Dubai College does offer, rarely, the option to study Government and Politics, but there is an obvious omission with Psychology – a critical bridging subject between the Arts and Sciences that is particularly attractive to Top Tier University admissions – and popular with students too. Note too there is no BTEC. Again, we think this is missing a trick. Technical stream options are increasingly becoming called on by employers and the T Level will transform British Education. The argument is that an academically school does not need BTEC. However, we are not convinced.A Level Options Dubai College
Examination results are impressive.Dubai College Examination Results
Current facilities on the 15 acre site (note redevelopment in planning below) include a 900-seat auditorium, 4 flood-lit tennis courts, 21 independent specialist labs across Sciences, D&T and the Arts; 4 Art studios; 10 ICT Suites; Dance Studio; and, tellingly, a dedicated (and outstanding) Sixth Form.
ECAs are extensive and include Athletics; Badminton; Basketball; Boxing; Cross Country; Cricket; Fencing; Football; Golf; Gymnastics; Kick Boxing; Netball; Softball; Rugby; Table Tennis; Trampolining; Tennis; Rounders; Sailing Club; Street Dance; Swimming; Water Polo; Yoga; Art and Crafts; a Charity Committee; Debating Society; Duke of Edinburgh Award (a key hub of the schools focus on philanthropic activity); and Environmental Society; F1 in Schools Club; Horse Riding; Latin; Mandarin; Model United Nations; Shakespeare Society; LEGO Robotics; Theatre and Drama Club; World Challenge; Writing Society; Beginner’s Band; Jazz Band; Chamber Choir; Man Choir; and, Orchestra.
New developments since our original review include:
- A hugely impressive new scholarship system in celebration of the College’s 40th anniversary (which falls in May 2018.) The “Foundation 40” will provide at least one fully funded place in each of Years 7 to 13 from September 2017 onwards, each funded in perpetuity by 40 benefactors. The aim is to create a truly meritocratic school in which gifted children are never excluded from the school because of their parent’s inability to afford the fees. Once established this will set a benchmark for scholarship provision throughout the Emirates and very much aligns with the vision of both the KHDA and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for education in Dubai to meet or exceed the very best in global provision, and provide an outstanding level of education for all children regardless of the wealth of their parents. Scholarship (and broader bursary) provision of this form is something we and our sister site, whichschooladvisor, have long campaigned for and we feel that Dubai College should be applauded unambiguously for the ambition of this initiative. It should also be noted that this initiative will meet head-on one of the very limited critiques of the College by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools that it needs to publicise better and broaden its inclusivity, both for children with identified SEND and more widely.
- Related to the above, the development and strengthening of the Dubai College alumni network. Dubai College has a 4 decade’s long history to draw from and its current 3000-strong alumni network has the capacity to both strengthen the school (including through scholarships above) and forge career opportunities and open doors for each member. Alumni are so important for schools in a world in which networks are increasingly definitive for developing careers. Dubai College is introducing a bespoke Alumni App which will locate former students geographically, as well as by specific industries.
- Development of the “High Performance Learning” framework created by Professor Debroah Eyre to re-focus top performing schools on producing Advanced Performers, Global Leaders and Enterprising Learners. This is part of a swathe of initiatives within the College that recognises that in today’s hugely competitive global economy, students require skills beyond those that can be found in core academics.
- Launch of a major school new development plan to support a vision to establish the school as the best British overseas school in the world (March 2017). New facilities in development include a landmark new Administration Building and Welcome Centre, Teaching and Learning hub with cinema and auditorium facilities; and a new Sports Hall and Performing Arts Centre.
Current Staff Quarters will be redeveloped as classrooms and the existing Administration Block will evolve to provide Flexible Learning Spaces. The school will accept an additional 28 students per year (increasing the intake to 160 from the current intake of 132 per year). Numbers will increase gradually from this year 7 intake (2017) – and subsequent year 7 intake (numbers are not increasing further up the school).
Dubai College achieved whichschooladvisor.com ‘Good School’ status for a fifth consecutive year in 2016-17.
A genuinely, unambiguously Outstanding school. Very highly recommended.
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National Curriculum of England
CEM, OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC, GL, CEM
Design & Technology
Government & Politics
Design & Technology
Al Sufouh, Dubai
British (largest nationality)
+971 4 3999111