The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1 – The Review
Updated September 2019 – The English College – new all-through school development plans, KHDA verdict, examination results, new school Principal, updated quotations and SchoolsCompared.com bottom line verdict 2019
“We want The English College to be the first-choice school for families in Dubai.”
Mark Ford, Principal, The English College
“As a parent it makes me feel very proud when I see both of my boys growing in different areas.
I have learned a lot about them since they have been at The English College.
They have so many talents I didn’t know that they had, which obviously, as a parent, makes me feel very proud.”
Sharon Adams, Parent, The English College
“The teachers come over and tell me that I can do it just as long as I try and never give up. We are just like a big family.”
Joel, Year 5, The English College
The English College is one of the most loved schools in Dubai with close to three decade’s history at the heart of Dubai schooling behind it. It’s worth saying that at the outset. This is one of Dubai’s few heritage schools.
The English College has a very good reputation amongst families and teaching faculty which have proven themselves hugely affectionate about their school and very protective of its reputation.
The English College too was one of only 5 schools to be rated by SchoolsCompared.com in our 2019 Awards for the Best Schools in Dubai for the quality of its child progress and value-add. The English College achieves at an extraordinary level for its children against expected benchmarks.
The English College is also a school, however, that has had a unique, sometimes difficult history – particularly with its Primary provision. As of 2019, and with plans now published for a new school campus (more on this below), The English College today has put that past behind them as a now all-through British school offering a seamless English National Curriculum from EYFS through to GCSE, A’ Level and BTEC for children from FS1 through to Year 13.
The merger of Manor Primary School and The English College into a single all-through school aims to offer a much smoother pathway from the Primary Phase to the Senior Phase through the creation of a new Middle School, removing the stress that is often caused for parents having to seek out new schools to educate children from Year 7. The move also ensures a future for dedicated English College primary provision – a feature of the school historically valued very highly by parents. “By linking Primary and later education, The English College now gains a new and powerful whole school spirit and ethos. Educationally and holistically this will have a very positive impact on our students. Research shows that there is up to a 6 month loss in learning from children moving from Primary to Secondary schools, something that will not be the case for The English Collage students as they now move between phases of learning seamlessly on a single campus,” Mark Ford, Principal, The English College Dubai, told us.
The English College is situated in the heart of Umm Suqeim with simple access from the Sheikh Zayed Road. The school is a particular favourite of families in both Jumeirah and Al Safa given its location.
School Leadership at The English College Dubai
Mark Ford joined The English College in August 2019. A proud Yorkshireman, Mr Ford brings with him experience drawn from more than three decades in education. Educated in Harrogate, Mr Ford graduated in Mathematics from Nottingham, before completing his PGCE at York University. His early years in education were in the UK state sector, sector, followed by his first international posting at Hillcrest School in Kenya. After a brief return to UK, Mark then joined International School of Paris, as Head of the Mathematics department for 5 years.
This was followed by nine years at the independent Yarm School in North Yorkshire. The Yarm School is a school that celebrates its uniqueness as both an independent but also a school rooted in the ideals and ethos of the Grammar School.
Mr Ford’s first post in the Middle East was in the UAE, at Abu Dhabi’s ADEK Outstanding School of The British School Al Khubairat, as their inaugural Head of Sixth Form. This was followed with postings in Hong Kong and, later, Dubai British School “for eight very happy and exciting years” between 2008 and 2016. Prior to joining The English College, Mr Ford was Head of the prestigious Garden International School between 2016 and 2019, a 2200 capacity British curriculum school in Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Ford’s experience across educational systems in the UK and internationally has strengthened his belief in inclusive education and, with his background in Mathematics, the critical importance of STEAM in schools. Schools should offer an appropriate balance of traditional and vocational pathways. Its curriculum should be dynamic and responsive, to meet the needs of its learners and ensure they have the skills, attributes and qualifications to thrive and be successful. “Given the choice between leading a selective or inclusive school, I have no hesitation in choosing a school like The English College, a school that commits to meeting the needs of a diverse range of learners.”
Mr Ford’s experience across educational systems in the UK and internationally has strengthened his belief in inclusive education and, with his background in Mathematics, the critical importance of STEM learning – both vocational and academic. “Given the choice today between leading an academically selective, or academically and culturally inclusive school, I would have no hesitation in choosing a school, like The English College, that commits to delivering for all children.”
“I believe that every single child has something to offer – academic, musical, sporting, engineering, cultural ….. every child is different and equally special and important.
The most important, and rewarding, part of school leadership is to ensure that every child is looked after, is cared for – and their passions and abilities are nurtured.
The English College has a remarkable history of inclusive education in the UAE that is second to no other school. We have an excellent, broad and balanced curriculum across the school, from Early Years through to Post-16. For example, at A’ Level we offer Law, Government and Politics, Psychology, BTEC Vocational courses, as well as the more common traditional A Levels. We also have an extensive CCA programme to enrich and supplement our children’s educational experience. The programmes are delivered by outstanding, high calibre teaching faculty and a school leadership team passionate about ensuring every child has a rich, positive and rewarding experience at the school.
Our results are remarkable, particularly given the inclusive nature of the school. Our GCSE and A level results stack up with the top international schools across the world, but it is our ‘value added’ data of which we are most proud. The progress every child makes during their time with us at The English College is outstanding.”
Mark Ford, Principal, The English College
“The English College offers simply the best value, gold standard British curriculum education in Dubai.
The quality of facilities, strength of British Curriculum, calibre of leadership – taken together – are unmatched in a school of this history, culture, fee structure and scale.
This is my personal, utterly candid opinion of The English College today.
The English College offers so much to children because of the quality and breadth of education on offer.
Relationships and people at The English College come first and are centre stage. Our shared philosophy is that every aspect of school life is focused around the needs of our students, collectively and individually.
We ask the question, first and foremost: “What can we do to help our students learn.” That is the key question.
The “big picture” is that it is always about the students.
Children First. Innovative and constantly evolving. Connecting minds. Creating the future.
There is an extraordinary new school before us but these will remain the core elements of each and every child’s education at The English College which drive every one of us moving forward.”
David Wilcock. Head of Primary. The English College
The English College is going through an extensive rebuilding and refurbishment programme. This will see the addition of new classrooms; drama studios; multiple music practice rooms; art studios; eight new Science and STEM laboratories; a dedicated Sixth Form centre; new dining facilities and a food technology area.
A new purpose-built sports complex will house a multi-purpose sports hall, dance studio, fitness suite and tiered seating. Photographic renders of the new sporting facilities can be found following.
The new campus will evolve on the following time-line:
Milestone Date Completion of Ground Floor Slab 30th June 2019 Completion of Structure 30th November 2019 Completion of Façade 31st January 2020 Completion of the Academic Block and the Sports Block 30th April 2020
The context to the new campus is of a school today that has a hugely warm feel.
“Community” is a term often bandied around by schools, but, in our view, it is a genuinely meaningful description when applied to The English College. You get a sense of history here today. The Primary School building is a case in point, telling its story through colourways and murals that seem to us, and many parents, an imperative part of the school’s warmth, feel and culture. As the new campus develops – and the investment is thoughtful, welcome and inspiring – we do hope that the magic of the school today is protected. There is something special here that comes from the energy of pupils given freedom to explore and showcase their work, and buildings that carry the continuity of a vision to celebrate that spirit, that could, if not carefully managed, lose something in the development of bells and whistles.
This said, the promise here, with the new campus in place, is actually quite extraordinary given the equation of fees, history, reputation/cache and small school dynamics. ROI by any standards will be exceptional. The English College is a school that has academic inclusion built into its DNA with the small school numbers to meet that DNA with exceptional levels of care of students and individual attention. With the new campus, facilities will provide a depth of academic and whole child provision that we cannot see being matched at this price point by any other school in Dubai.
The English College – Examination Results
‘Every child has a learning flight path.
We enable every child to grow and every child to succeed and reach their full potential; and, equally as important, ensure that they believe that they can succeed.
The school is growing; The English College is evolving and moving forward. The school is going to have new buildings and new facilities and that’s going to make us even better.
It’s a place where everyone can thrive and everyone to grow on their learning journey.
It’s about the child, it’s about the staff, it’s about belonging, it’s about being a community which is The English College.”
Joanne Hicks, Deputy Headteacher, The English College
Examination results at The English College are Tier 1.
A Level (GCE) results in 2017 saw 22% of students achieving A-A grades, 53% A-B grades and 83% A*-C grades.
GCSE Level results in 2017 saw The English College students achieve 35% A-A grades, 76% A-B grades and 91% A-C grades.
The English College has an Oxbridge slipstream with one student achieving an Oxford place in 2018 and students in previous years achieving places at both Oxford and Cambridge.
Parents should view these (impressive) results in the context of the inclusive welcome of the school to children of all abilities.
Sport at The English College Dubai
“The English College has always been a focal point in Dubai’s schooling system. I am incredibly proud about our students; on a daily basis they compete with the very best schools – and on every single level.
Ahead of us lies such a unique opportunity. Our new all-thorough school, new buildings, sports facilities and campus are all coming on stream. Teaching goes from strength-to-strength.
The English College empowers our students to grow within themselves.
I am incredibly proud about our students and they way that they think outside the box.”
James Clark, Head of Physical Education, The English College
“My favourite lesson is Physical Education.
You learn a lot about different sports like gymnastics and dancing which I have never ever done before.
It makes me feel really great because we have a lot of sports to choose from.
Our school is like one big family ….. and family supports you no matter what.’’
Tyger, Year 5, The English College
Sporting provision at The English College includes Football, Softball, Netball, Swim Squad, Basketball, Rounders, Badminton Club, Skiing/Snowboarding, Cricket, Running Club, Volleyball, Rugby and Girls Rugby. For young sports men and women everything is in place.
However, as importantly, for those who do not enjoy Sport, the range of alternative activities is extensive including a Chess Club; European Culture Appreciation; Scholar’s Cup; Film Club; Rock Choir; Drama Production; Eco Club; Debate and Model United Nations; Scuba Diving; Lego Club; Superhero Club; Orchestra; Logic Club; Aerobics; Spelling Club; Senior Vocal Group; History’s Mysteries; Arabic Culture Club; Extra Revision; Photography Club; Gardening; Games and Puzzles; Experimental Science; Disney Club; Ukulele Club; Dance Club and Dr Who Club.
ECAs are always telling of a school’s genuine commitment to the whole child and we rate provision outstanding. It is not that Sport is not an important and powerfully resourced part of school life – it is, but it is one part of a bigger picture that extends too across music, the Arts and any number of activities that, if they do not exist, are created to meet the needs of children.
The English College has never been about pushing children into boxes, rather about making, and escaping, them whether that is academically or in any number of the many ways that children are gifted and can excel and flourish.
Renders of the new school campus, currently in building and planning, capture the many ways Sport, as other areas of provision, play a key role in school life.
The English College Alumni
“The teachers at The English College insist you have the best environment and resources needed to study. There is always help if you require it so that you have an outstanding start to your future beyond Sixth Form.
The support for getting students into University makes The English College stand out. Importantly too, I learned a huge number of skills which were not graded at the time – but have proved invaluable to me now.”
Alisha Fernandez, Alumni of The English College and Entrepreneur
Alumni of The English College include Akhil Kapoor, the famous Bollywood Actor. There is an established alumni network and a Facebook page on which they connect which can be found here.
KHDA 2016-17 and School Development
For historic information, it is worth quoting a comment, made by the KHDA in 2016-17, on required investment :
“Although a variety of new resources, including staffing, have been provided to enhance learning, some teaching areas remain unfit for purpose [….] The governing board has identified the need for significant additions to the premises: a separate Sixth Form complex combined with enhanced sports facilities; the refurbishment of the science laboratories, and accessibility and safety. “
What is important to take from this is not the critique, but the way the school has responded – and, as above, significantly. The English College is, today, a school firing on all cylinders…. and investing heavily in children and the areas they need to learn.
Significant work has been undertaken including new provision for specialist facilities for Music, Drama, Media and Art; new investment in Sixth Form provision including a Common Room and study areas and ongoing demolition of buildings that were accepted to be beyond their usable life.
It is worth noting too that the school’s web site, here, now provides an inspirational window onto the school with examination results celebrated and published in full – and we really appreciate the way that every member of staff is showcased and celebrated too. Too many schools (the vast majority) only showcase their school leadership which tells you only part of the story. A school that does not think their teaching faculty worthy of being publicly celebrated says a lot about the school – as does the converse.
Breadth of subject choice and CCAs
A Level subject choice in particular is outstanding, offering a breadth of choice to students that competes, and in some cases overtakes, many Tier 1 ultra-premiums – and The English College includes BTEC provision to maximise the school’s ability to match its offer to the needs of each individual child.
GCSE provision is almost as expansive, although we question why key subjects offered at A Level are not offered at IGCSE. We know that there is a call for the introduction of BTEC Music at the school from parents and it will be interesting to see whether The English College responds to the expressed needs of its children and parents. Current subject choice at A Level and BTEC (2019) include:
Arabic and Islamic Studies, Art and Design, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, Drama and Theatre Studies, Economics, English Language and Literature, English Literature, French, Geography, History, Law, Mathematics, Media Studies, Physical Education, Physics, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish, BTEC Business, BTEC Travel and Tourism.
CCAs at The English College include Football, Softball, Netball, Swim Squad, Basketball, Rounders, Badminton Club, Skiing/Snowboarding, Cricket, Running Club, Volleyball, Rugby, Girls Rugby, Chess Club, European Culture Appreciation, Scholar’s Cup, Film Club, Rock Choir, Drama Production, Eco Club, Debate and MUN, Scuba Diving, Lego Club, Superhero Club, Orchestra, Logic Club, Aerobics, Spelling Club, Senior Vocal Group, History’s Mysteries, Arabic Culture Club, Extra Revision, Photography Club and Gardening.
All subjects and CCAs are open to boys and girls:
“Debate rages on the educational landscape today that must prepare children for jobs that do not exist and the 21st century skills our future generation must be equipped with.
Technical and vocational educational plays a fundamental part of this.
We are an inclusive school. And that is in every way – including ensuring that boys and girls have equal opportunities. We enable girls to play rugby just as we enable boys to learn to dance. The point is not gender, but to encourage children to develop whatever passions and gifts they have.
I want to see far more young women going into engineering, just as I believe that we need to encourage young men to pursue more options in the Performing Arts.”
Mark Ford, Principal, The English College
KHDA highlights include:
- Children benefit from an “excellent start” to their education in an “inspiring and vibrant Foundation Stage.” (The KHDA rarely use these superlatives which is telling of the quality of Early Years provision.)
- The relationship between staff and students is “excellent.”
- Students are happy in school, work well together and with their teachers.
- Students have “an excellent work ethic, [are] self-reliant, independent and community spirited. Student behaviour and relationships are outstanding.”
- The standard of teaching is “very good,” enabling students to “make very good progress in most subjects and attain highly in English, Mathematics and Science.”
- The curriculum at The English College is “rich and varied” which in turn “enhances the learning of students across the school, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).”
- Students in the post-16 phase have an outstanding understanding of Islamic values and UAE culture and its impact on Dubai society.
- The strong curriculum provides students with interest and challenge across the wide range of interesting and stimulating subjects.
- There are outstanding levels of student support as a result of strong pastoral care systems within the school.
- Whole child development, understood through the lens of self-development and individual responsibility remains outstanding and a real credit.
In our view, given the grading of the school by Dubai Inspectors, it is hard to fathom why The English College fell short of the Very Good rating the evidence suggest is deserved. In our view, The English College is a school that is currently operating at a Very Good, borderline outstanding level. It may well be that because The English College is undergoing a significant period of transition whilst it builds and beds into its new campus the KHDA is being (understandably) cautious.
Year Groups Full Year
KHDA Approved Fees FS1 – FS2 *AED 33,500 AED 47,150 Year 1 to Year 4 *AED 43,500 AED 49,450 Year 5 to Year 6 *AED 51,000 AED 51,750 Year 7 to Year 9 AED 51,556 AED 51,556 Year 10 and Year 11 AED 55,931 AED 55,931 Year 12 and Year 13 AED 61,765 AED 61,765
As above, given the level of investment and school improvement being undertaken, we rate the eventual ROI here is pretty much unmatched elsewhere.
The English College Dubai bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2019
“The English College is and will always be a family British school. Even on completion of our landmark new campus in April 2020, we will have a maximum role of just 1300 students.
Being an intimate family school is central to our ethos and philosophy of student care. Only in this way can we ensure the extraordinarily high standard of education and care for each of our children.
Due to the smaller numbers, each of our students is an individual.
No student is ever lost in large classes or years groups running into the hundreds of children as in so many schools in the UAE.
Each and every student at The English College is treated as an individual.
We celebrate every child’s unique personality and character traits. No child at The English College has ever, or will ever, be a number.
A beautiful aspect of The English College as a result is that teachers know and value students who they do not teach.
Everyone knows everyone.
Everyone is special.
Everyone is a fundamental, absolutely integral, valued – and cared for, part of our shared community.”
Sybil Jones. Marketing Communications Manager. The English College
After more than two decades a very loved school faces an extraordinarily exciting future.
Of course, there are inevitably logistical challenges ahead as The English College embeds new investment and establishes the vision of outstanding all-through schooling that drives the owners, parents, students and school leadership in equal measure.
But this is a community school that works together to be more than the sum of its parts. Yes, there are many changes in leadership coming on board. But the calibre of new leadership and faculty is very high. Thoughtfulness shines through the evolution of the school at every turn.
In our last review we said that The English College needed significant investment if it is to quell the nerves of parents that this will be another case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. With that now in place there is room and justification to celebrate the school’s success. One of Dubai’s most loved heritage schools is to have the buildings, infrastructure and investment it so richly deserves.
The English College, for us, has always stood out in the breadth of subject choice it provides its students across IGCSE, A Level and BTEC. Given its fees, and despite them, the value here has always been exceptionally here.
But it is the intangibles that light up the corridors that make the school. It comes from a single word – family. This school is an outspoken, shining light for the power of smaller schools to know, cherish and nurture the gifts of all their children.
“I want to secure an Outstanding rating for The English College. I expect us to be Outstanding. But this will occur naturally with our investment and values over time.
As a school so much of what we do simply is outstanding. But our teachers and students deserve the credit and affirmation that an Outstanding rating will bring.
Our five-year strategic plan is designed around this. Academically, pastorally, across History and Music, Drama and the Arts, Mathematics and the whole child – across every aspect of our school shines.
I believe that every child has the absolute right to come to school, be happy and excel.
I have two children and I would want and expect them to come to school and be cared for and achieve to their fullest potential ambition. The English College has a very, very strong pastoral support programme – our children know that they are cared for and every child has a mentor or confidante that they can speak with and confide in. Every child at The English College knows that they are invested in as individuals across their academic, cultural and whole child lives at our school.
This, ultimately, is what really, in practice, defines what an outstanding school is, and must be, for its students.”
Mark Ford, Principal, The English College
For us, The English College has never been comparable to a behemoth, giant corporate group school with all the risks those schools carry of losing children in a giant blurred crowd of numbers. It is an absolute credit to The English College that it is investing now not to grow the school to attract more children, but, rather, to make the school even more outstanding for the children it has.
Of course, we would like the school to do more, particularly in expanding subject provision at BTEC and providing bursaries. But this is a small school offering more curriculum breadth and choice for students than schools twice as big and expensive.
Our demands for even more are trifles in a bigger picture of a very special school that builds its magic by celebrating the endeavours of every child. Forget the sterile walls of new schools with their whitewashed facades dotted by a few pictures here and there to try and break up the reality of a history to come. Here, at The English College Dubai, the walls are absolutely festooned with art, textual and emotional excursions and academic insights that capture the innovation and creativity of children on fire with a delight in learning.
This is a school, rightly, loved by parents and children. It is hard to think of another school that could inspire such adoration from parents historically for its Primary School to see those parents offering to pay double the fees to save it from its planned closure.
Bells and whistles do not make a school. The quality of teaching, breadth of subject offer, care for children – and links with parents are much more important. There is no doubt though that the serious new investment in the Senior School, and merger with its lovely historic Primary school, is impressive and to be applauded. On performance over the last two years we think there is much to be optimistic about.
We have been rooting for the school for so long now because it does so much, so well. Teachers are the absolute lifeblood of a school – and they have historically proven themselves loved by parents and children in the midst of eternal change. The balance here is a genuinely wonderful education that endures as a beacon at the heart of the school and its community life. All the makings of an outstanding school are here in spades if the bigger picture can, finally, be made real and take its rightful role behind the scenes.
Samantha Rowberry, Head of Drama, said: ”The English College is a school where our students [have the confidence to] take risks, it’s a place where they can break out of their comfort zone; being able to have empathy, being able to create, being able to innovate.”
We could not capture any better the opportunities and wonder of a school committed to keeping its community, small school dynamics, and a guiding ethos that see its staff caring for, and educating, children without question or qualification. Each and every one of them.
Highly recommended.Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers from our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.
Request School Information
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Good with Very Good and Outstanding features
Private, for profit
FS1: 47,150 (Discounted 33,500)
FS2: 47,150 (Discounted 33,500)
YEAR 1: 49,450 (Discounted 43,500)
YEAR 2: 49,450 (Discounted 43,500)
YEAR 3: 51,750 (Discounted 43,500)
YEAR 4: 51,750 (Discounted 43,500)
YEAR 5: 51,750 (Discounted 51,000)
YEAR 6: 51,750 (Discounted 51,000)
YEAR 7: 51,556
YEAR 8: 51,556
YEAR 9: 51,556
YEAR 10: 55,931
YEAR 11: 55,931
YEAR 12: 61,765
YEAR 13: 61,765
Note: FS to Year 6 fees will be adjusted to reflect a discount, after any KHDA increases, until AY 2021/2022
National Curriculum for England
(2) A Level
22 + BTEC Business and BTEC Travel and Tourism
Art & Design
Drama & Theatre Studies
English Language & Literature
BTEC Travel and Tourism
English Language (Core)
English Literature (Core for most students)
Physical Education (Core – Non Examination)
Arabic (Suitable for second language Arabic students) (Option)
Art and Design (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Computer Science (Option)
Further Pure Mathematics (Option)
Leisure and Tourism
Media Studies (Option)
Physical Education (Option)
Physics (Separate Science) (Option)
(1) The English College is a school for English Speaking students. It does not teach English as a second language.
(2) Students are eligible for admission if it is believed that the school can meet their particular needs.
(3) Admission decisions are made on the basis of the previous educational record.
(4) If necessary students may need to sit a placement assessment, an interview and/or a letter of recommendation from the present school.
(5) The English College has a limited number of places for students with specific learning difficulties.
(6) Sixth form entry requires at least five passes in GCSEs at A* to C, and A* to B grading in their proposed subjects of A Level study.
Yes in some years
Original capacity: 1075 (635 in Year 7 - Year 13, 440 in FS1 - Year 6)
New capacity on completion of all-through school in April 2020: 1300
Current capacity in interim phase: 900
Current role: 728 111 Primary
From September 2019:
Primary School: FS1 - Year 5
Middle School: Years 6 - 9
Senior School: Years 10 - 13
Years 7 - 11 class size: 22 or less
Years 12 - 13 class size: 1:15 or less
The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1, Dubai
British (largest nationality): 26%
Nationalities: 67 (most from English speaking countries)
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 77
Note: The English College does not teach English as an Additional Language [EAL]
His Highness Sheikh Butti Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum
+971 (0) 4 394 3465
• One of Dubai's top tier heritage schools
• Outstanding teaching faculty
• Small school dynamics with absolutely outstanding care of children and individualised learning - rare at this level in the UAE
• SchoolsCompared.com top 5 school in the UAE for child progress and value-add
• Pioneering new Head arriving in September 2019 with a reputation for making things happen
• Very Good level of facilities with outstanding facilities and new school campus development coming on stream
• Significantly loved school by generations of students and parents
• Positive independent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
• Outstanding choice at A Level/BTEC
• Very significantly improved school communication
• Strong heritage and alumni network
• Community and parent engagement stand-out
• A school that celebrates each and every child
• A school in a heady mix of flux and transition which brings opportunity and upheaval in equal measure.