It’s a blockbuster year for new school launches in Dubai, with a mix of big names coming to the region for the first time, and key new schools filling existing gaps in provision.
Of the big names, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai heads the list (read our First Looks Review here), the opening in September 2021 highlighting the capacity of the UAE to attract some of the world’s biggest educational brands. RGSG has announced a number of opening founding offers for families, this indicative that admissions competition amongst schools for families with the budget to invest in the Tier 1 space remains significant.
In terms of home grown openings, Kings’ Education shock (and controversial) launch of a brand new schools brand, Windsor School, is probably the biggest story. It will be interesting to see how the new brand distinguishes itself from the existing Kings’ schools – and learn more on why such a bold, and unexpected, decision has been taken. GEMS education has led this area of segmentation historically, with a long proven history of expertly mapping school openings to the specific unmet needs of families. GEMS FirstPoint provides a perfect example of this, launching with the promise of outstanding British schooling at a price point making the school available to families historically priced out of this market. To GEMS’ credit Its a school that havs delivered across the board – and we rate the school as exactly that – outstanding. Our review of GEMS FirstPoint School Dubai can be found here. GEMS FirstPoint continues to also pioneer a very rapid response to the needs of children, as evidenced with its launch of BTECs in the digital industry sector – something that Tier 1 schools on the whole have not kept up with at all. More on FirstPoint’s hugely creditable plans for education across the digital industries can be found here. Tellingly too, GEMS FirstPint scores exceptionally for the happiness of its children – demonstrating that outstanding education and child happiness are not (thank goodness) the preserve of only parents with deep pockets. More on child happiness at GEMS FirstPoint can be found here – on that saw the school achieve accreditation from SchoolsCompared as a Happiest Schools in the UAE 2021 for children.
It is unclear at present what the USP of the new Windsor School will be – fees, for example, are lower than its Kings’ equivalent, but marginally, coming in with broad parity to existing Kings’ schools. This is clearly not a launch then based around price point. Arguably too, the choice to use a brand associated with the British royal family, suggests a move upmarket and high prestige. The first Windsor school is a primary – but the ambition is for a Windsor secondary to follow – and it is here that the answers to these questions should become clearer. Our guess is that the real answer, as it so often does, will be found when we can get some information on the breadth of curriculum subject options and pathways. We should not expect the new secondary in 2021-22 – not least because land close to the primary in Satwa is arguably going to be nigh on impossible to find (this at least one potential reason why GEMS Education moved on from its Wellington Primary brand that occupied in this location previously). For historical interest, you can read our review of GEMS Wellington Primary School here. Students historically at the school have now in the majority taken up places at the (in our view fabulous) GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail – our review can be read here.
If these are the big names, there are some other interesting schools launching too – and to their markets very important ones. The new school launches are dotted over the emirate in Tilal Al Ghaf, Al Warqa, Al Barsha, Al Karama, City Walk, Mirdif, Nad Al Sheba, Al Khawaneej and Rashidiya. Stand-out for us is the launch of the Australian International School in Al Barsha South, a school we have been following closely for some two years. Our review is in-development (our early review of the development can be found here), but an interim review can be found on our sister site WhichSchoolAdvisor.com here. As the first Australian curriculum school in Dubai, the school is an important one, in no small pat in securing the position of Dubai as an emirate able to meet the needs of all children and their families. The school has a founding school in Sharjah.
A number of schools are opening to reflect the government’s drive to strengthen the number of outstanding Emirati focused schools operating in the private sector. Stand-out here is the IB curriculum Emirates National School in Al Khawaneej and the (very) stylishly branded US curriculum Twenty71 Elementary School in Nad Al Sheba. Serious charter schools will strengthen this significantly, with new government owned, but private sector run, schools coming on stream from Taaleem, Aldar and Bloom. An architect’s render of 2071 school follows below:
Budget schools coming on-stream include British curriculum Cedar School which focuses on its keen average fee price point of some AED26,000 and Apple Community School with average fees coming in lower still after discounts.
25 new private schools have opened in the last three years, this aligned with a 2.6% growth in enrolment.
“The continued demand for new schools reflects the resilience of Dubai’s private education sector and reflects the success of our strategy to attract high-quality schools.”
Mohammed Darwish, CEO, Permits and Compliance, KHDA.
The mathematics of this suggest, together with our own experience on the ground, that over-supply of places remains an issue, something that is very good news for parents. This said, still expect a battle for places at the emirate’s most outstanding schools – and particularly in the Early Years.
If there is a single message we should take from the many new School Launches in Dubai it is that Dubai, and the UAE, is delivering a genuinely world class, outstanding education sector for the region’s children – and one able to attract significant new investment. Both depend on each other – but it the formidable strength of our home grown schools, including those from Kings, GEMS Education, BSAK, Dubai College, DESC, Safa – and countless others, together with the school regulators, including ADEK and the KHDA, that fuel the rockets. That should make us all very proud – and it is all our children that benefit.
For our considered in-depth view of these schools, and more schools in the pipeline, watch this space. In the interim, more that shines a light on the UAE’s very best schools can be found here in the SchoolsCompared Top Schools Awards, the UAEs definitive education Awards.
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