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The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1 – The Review

The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1 – The Review

by July 10, 2019
Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

Good with Very Good and Outstanding features

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Good with Very Good and Outstanding features

2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

Good with Very Good and Outstanding features

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

Good with Very Good and Outstanding features

Rating FS


Rating Primary / Elementary


Rating Secondary / Middle

Very Good-Outstanding

Rating Post 16 / High

Very Good

Type of school

Private, for profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

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
(3) BTEC

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered

22 + BTEC Business and BTEC Travel and Tourism

A Levels offered

Art & Design
Business Studies
Drama & Theatre Studies
English Language & Literature
English Literature
Media Studies
Physical Education
BTEC Business
BTEC Travel and Tourism

A Level A* to A

22% (2018)
22% (2017)

A Level A* to C

83% (2017)
85% (2018)


91% (2017)
93% (2018)


35% (2017)
36% (2018)

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

English Language (Core)
English Literature (Core for most students)
Mathematics (Core)
Science (Core)
Physical Education (Core – Non Examination)
Arabic (Suitable for second language Arabic students) (Option)
Art and Design (Option)
Business Studies (Option)
Computer Science (Option)
Drama (Option)
Economics (Option)
French (Option)
Further Pure Mathematics (Option)
Geography (Option)
History (Option)
Leisure and Tourism
Media Studies (Option)
Music (Option)
Physical Education (Option)
Physics (Separate Science) (Option)
Spanish (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.

Waiting list

Yes in some years

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

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: 748 Secondary (2019) 111 Primary
From September 2019:
Primary School: FS1 - Year 5
Middle School: Years 6 - 9
Senior School: Years 10 - 13

Teacher to Student Ratio

2019: 1:10
2018: 1:10
2016: 1:10
2015: 1:9
Years 7 - 11 class size: 22 or less
Years 12 - 13 class size: 1:15 or less

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

33% (2019)
37% (2018)

Year opened



The English College Dubai, Al Safa 1, Dubai

Student composition

British (largest nationality): 27%
Emirati: 13
Nationalities: 64 (most from English speaking countries)
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 77
Note: The English College does not teach English as an Additional Language [EAL]


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



His Highness Sheikh Butti Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 394 3465

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



• 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
• 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
• 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.

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Arts & Drama
SEND Provision
Scl Community
Scl Facilities

The English College, in its commitment to remaining a small intimate family school, culture of child attention and kindness, community ethic and deep seated commitment offers a hugely attractive and powerful proposition for parents. There is not a school with which it easily compares in the UAE. The move to an all-through school and development of new campus will finally give The English College the facilities and integrated schooling worthy of its reputation and long called-for by its adoring parents. This is a school alive with the care for and celebration of its children. Very highly recommended.

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Updated July 2019 – The English College – new all-through school development plans, KHDA verdict and bottom line verdict 2019

“We want The English College to be the first-choice school for families in Dubai.”

Mark Ford, New Principal from August 2019, 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


Photograph showing the colourful buildings of The English College in Dubai

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 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.

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.

Map highlighting the location in Dubai of The English College

The Future

Photograph and architectural render of the new school in build for the English College in Dubai shown at night

“The English College is simply the best value, gold standard school 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 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:

Completion of Ground Floor Slab30th June 2019
Completion of Structure30th November 2019
Completion of Façade31st January 2020
Completion of the Academic Block and the Sports Block30th 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 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.

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.

In 2018, the students achieved 22% A-A grades, 51% A-B grades and 85% A-C grades. 99% of children achieved A-D grades.

GCSE Level results in 2017 saw English College students achieve 35% A-A grades, 76% A-B grades and 91% A-C grades.

In 2018, the results improved to 36% A-A grades, 78% A-B grades, 93% A-C and 99% A-E.

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.


“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

Sport 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.

Photograph of one of the swimming pools at The English College in Dubai

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.

Photograph of the new English College Dubai campus highlighting the focus on sport

Photographic render of the new English College campus in Dubai highlighting the new swimming pool

Another photograph of the planned nw campus of the English College in Dubai showcasing its extensive new investment in sport and grounds


“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 Dubai 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 Leadership

Photograph of students working on an Egyptian art work in a Primary Art class at The English College in Dubai

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. “

KHDA 2016-17

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.

In terms of leadership, the school’s highly respected Head, Ian Jones, left the school during the 2017 academic year following illness.  Saiqa Liaqat took over leadership of the school for 3 years, driving through significant changes, including the investment in provision identified above. In 2018 Sir Greg Martin was appointed as Principal. Knighted for his service to education in the UK, Sir Martin’s career historically was shrouded in controversy around the roll-out of UK academies and the commercialisation of public sector education in the UK – but there is no disagreement that his impact on schools, including The English College, has been transformational and profound.

In August 2019, Mark Ford will take on the role of School Principal following three years at the helm of the highly respected English National Curriculum founded Garden International School in Malaysia. Prior to this, Mr Ford served as Principal of Taaleem’s Dubai British School for eight years. In total Mr Ford brings with him more than three decade’s experience across schools in France, Kenya, the Middle East and Hong Kong. At Dubai British School he secured the school’s first KHDA Very Good rating and is widely credited as setting up many of the foundations of its Outstanding rating today.

Breadth of subject choice

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.

Outstanding features

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 GroupsFull Year
(*Discounted Fees)
KHDA Approved Fees
FS1 – FS2*AED 33,500AED 47,150
Year 1 to Year 4*AED 43,500AED 49,450
Year 5 to Year 6*AED 51,000AED 51,750
Year 7 to Year 9AED 51,556AED 51,556
Year 10 and Year 11AED 55,931AED 55,931
Year 12 and Year 13AED 61,765AED 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 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 that The English College Dubai 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.

An image of artwork at The English College in Dubai that captures the central importance to the school of family and community

The English College has never been 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 to grow the school to attract more children, but simply 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 these 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 the walls are 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.

Extraordinary creativity through the study of Asrt at the English College in Dubai. This photograph shows one of many walls adorned with the art produced by children that utterley captivates your attention on visiting the school.

Another photograph of art adorned walls at the English College in Dubai

A photograph of mixed media art works at The English College in Dubai

A photograph of the English College cafeteria with artwork and the celebration of children's work clearly on show

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. 

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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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