At a glance
Dubai College does not necessarily have the best facilities, nor offers the "best education" (you would have to define what you meant by that), but it has been a top ranking school for so long that it is pretty much on every parents list when choosing a school. Which is often too bad - the waiting list to get in is very long indeed.
According to details published in the past, the College receives between 3 and 4 applications for every place offered. While an abundance in new schools will have lessened the demand for places for schools in general, we would not be surprised if applications to DC have continued to grow. The school has a reputation for excellence, and pretty much delivers on that year in, year out.
Read our JWI report, below - from April 2016. Go.
The school's achievements are recognized by its parents who would overwhelmingly recommend it. In both 2013 and in 2015 it came in the Top 20 most recommended schools in the UAE, its recommendation rating rising from 83% to 86% over the 24 months.
School leadership has recently seen Michael Lambert take the helms as principal. Mr Lambert is clearly keen on making sure the school is well known for more than academic success, and unlike his predecessor, the venerable Peter Hill, Lambert clearly wants to embrace old or new media to promote the school in a wider context, using both to communicate his vision for education at the college and the UAE. He makes very good reading.
In total 870 students enrolled for 2015-16, slightly up on the previous year, aged from 11 to 18 years with just under half from the United Kingdom. There are 99 full-time teachers, including the Headmaster and a senior management team.
The school says it has 34 students with special educational needs - less than 5% of the student population. Improving provisions for SEN is one of the few areas recommended for improvement made by the KHDA (2014/15). There are also only 10 Emirati students in the school's population, again a very low figure.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the limited space given over by the KHDA to required improvements in its 2015/16 report emphasise greater inclusion, or more accurately to "define more clearly the inclusive nature of the school's admissions policy to the wider community..."
In addition the school is asked to "build upon the effective foundations set for the development of Islamic education and Arabic as a first language to improve students' progress."
Dubai College is located in the heart of new Dubai, in Al Sufouh, and set on nineteen acres of land. It uses 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. Once students reach Sixth Form (provided they have achieved at least five B grades at GCSE), they will choose four subjects to study. Once they move up to Year Thirteen, students may drop one of their subjects.
In the 2016 exam results DC once again performed exceedingly well. In A Level exams the school achieved 66.1% A* to A grades and 94% A to C grades, placing the school way above the UK average.
GCSE results were similarly good, with 82.1% of students achieving A* to A grades and a staggering 99.9% scoring an A* to C grade in 2016.
In 2013, Dubai College students achieved its best GCSE and ‘A’ level results in the College’s 36 year history. At ‘A’ level, its A*/A rate of 74.2% placed the College in 23rd place in The Daily Telegraph table of high performing UK Independent Schools. Perhaps from that high, a drop in 2014 was inevitable, but in 2015 DC actually moved one step higher to 22nd. Results are remarkably consistent - and always top end. For 2015 67.2% of A Level results were A*-A, 97.1% A* to C, and 100% A* to E. At GCSE, 79.3% were A* to A, 99.7% A* to C, and 100% A* to E.
Those 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.
As the principal of the school himself notes, "this is an outstanding achievement for UAE education considering we are home grown institution in Dubai and we operate in a not for profit structure...
"Yes we are academically selective but so are those schools we are comparing ourselves against. However, there are only 250,000 students enrolled in school in Dubai compared with 8.2 million in the UK which makes our achievement all the more remarkable for Dubai and the UAE as a whole."
Dubai College has always been academically focused and results - as noted - consistently good.
Entry to Year 12 is based on an interview with the Head of the Sixth Form, a minimum of five B grades at G.C.S.E., including Mathematics and English. Subjects selected to be studied at 'A' Level require a grade B pass at G.C.S.E. The exception is Mathematics, where grade A*/A is required in most cases.
The school helpfully publishes the university destination of its school leavers, which reveals the majority head for UK universities, with the majority of those getting into high ranking 'Red Brick' institutions - Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Warwick, etc. Each year a number head to Oxbridge (five in 2014, 20 in 2015 - see below), as well as to the likes of London School of Economics, Durham and Kings', a smattering to continental European universities (Prague for medicine - nice!), and a handful to US universities (including the likes of Columbia, Wharton...). Very few decided to take the less and less traditional "gap year".
The school has now achieved the KHDA's Outstanding ranking for six years in a row - a significant achievement and one of only a very small number of schools to have done so.
The school is also subject to British Schools Overseas inspections. The opening line of its last evaluation is as follows: "Dubai College is an outstanding school. It represents the very best of British education whilst, at the same time, respecting and celebrating the local culture in Dubai." Not too shabby. More here.
The school's KHDA report notes the very high standards of attainment in English, mathematics and science; the development of students into mature, responsible young adults; the school’s ethos; an outstanding curriculum, "delivered with flair and confidence by almost all teachers" (2011 report); and the high quality of leadership, continually striving for further improvement.
Recommendations across reports focus on strengthening the pursuit of high attainment in Islamic Education and Arabic, a standard concern for private schools in the emirate. However in 2013/14 improvements in both subjects have been noted. The recommendation remains in its latest report (2015/16).
The campus of Dubai College offers many facilities such as a large sports field with rugby pitches, football pitches, a cricket pitch and cricket nets as well as astroturf tennis courts and netball courts. There are also three Design and Technology workshops, a Music Centre with a recording studio, and a specialised Art department. The school has five computer suites, with internet access. A new 950-seat auditorium began construction in 2007, and was opened in 2009. A Wi-Fi network was implemented into the Sixth Form centre in 2010.
The school also offers an impressive array of extra-curricular options.
Dubai College is run as a not for profit school, which does not mean that fees are any cheaper (they are very much top-tier), but does mean that profit is more likely to be reinvested in better salaries for staff, training, and facilities. Teacher turnover for last year was 8%. Not the lowest, but one of the lowest teacher attrition rates we have seen. It is also consistent - it has been running at 8% for two years in a row. Full details of fees by year group below.
Academically Dubai College is on a par with the leading independent schools in the UK. Under a dynamic newly appointed principal DC is incorporating some elements pioneered in the progressive sector. There is a clear and strong sense of pride among all elements of the school community.
The school, a secondary only, was founded in 1978. At the time the school was in a remote spot well out of town. Now it operates in prime, central and valuable real estate at the heart of new Dubai. The school is housed in a spread-out site of maroon red block buildings surrounded by mature greenery with trees and sizeable grass, turfed playing fields including the recent addition of a sports pavilion. The colour of the buildings is highly distinctive, and distracts somewhat from the fact that the school buildings are not the newest or latest within Dubai.
There are two main gates and security is present to assist and check identity. The school reception area is a long, small skylit room with shelves of cups and trophies. We were warmly greeted by the receptionist and awaited the parent relations representative who gave as full a guided tour as she could considering a busy school day was in operation.
The staff-student ratio is 1:9 and the regular classrooms are fairly traditional but all have up-to-date whiteboards with all the appropriate equipment for specific subjects. The art department houses a mini-zoo which is cared for by a team of pupils and staff. The small creatures provide a great resource for art and science projects. There are tortoises, iguanas and parrots in this little jungle like system of spacious cages.
The science department also has an indoor garden where experiments can be carried out by the students. There is a large 900 seater theatre for concerts and dramatic productions which can also house the whole school for special occasions assemblies etc
Separate music and DT departments are in large blocks and as we looked around we picked up that the creative and performing arts as well as sport are considered as integral and important parts of the whole school experience. Art, DT, Drama and Music are strong departments with many students going on to pursue further studies in these subjects at third level.
The school has the feeling of a campus and students move happily and peacefully around as lessons change. There are plenty of shaded seating areas for students to socialize and eat their lunch around the grounds. A canteen also provides cooked food and snacks. The well-resourced library was being used by several students who also have access to a series of e-books for study.
We were able to have an open discussion about the ethos and further plans for the school with Mike Lambert who is still new to the role of headmaster, having previously been head of sixth form for four years. Lambert had previously taught at RGS Guildford, an academic and sporting focused school for boys followed by Bedales, a mixed, progressive experimental establishment. We asked Mike about the contrasts and he mentioned that DC enabled him to bring together both of these experiences in a positive way.
“The educational philosophy of DC is to provide the best opportunity for students to thrive in all subjects on offer and all ECAs, trips, competitions, societies and committees that they run”
A key focus for Mr Lambert is on helping children to succeed at sixth form level. For the first time they have had a student offered a place at Harvard University and as many as 20 accepted for Oxbridge. The most academic DC students clearly do very well but Lambert was keen to say that all students are encouraged to aim for their best or "dream university", whether that’s for art, music, sport or any other interests specific students may have.
The school runs a ‘top-up’ system which prepares students for university studies and a ‘home alone’ scheme for post school life preparing students to cope on their own.
The school also prepares students for more modern challenges. For example DC brought in Simon Noakes, a specialist in cyber-bullying, to train senior pupils, staff and parents about potential problems, and how to handle them. The school then used older students to filter the information through the school.
DC has an entrance exam and has recently changed the style of testing to one that cannot be so easily tutored for. He feels the quality of the entrants since this change is much the same and they are of an equally high calibre. He described the school’s biggest accomplishment as providing ‘top quality education with longevity and a sustained record’ . His, and DC's, biggest challenge is ‘staying on top of the game’.
There is ongoing teacher training and updating of subject development. This, he emphasized is crucial to maintaining standards.
WSA spoke to four newly appointed Year 12 school leaders who were excellent ambassadors for the school. They spoke of the ‘fabulous opportunities’ in all areas of the curriculum from singing with Gary Barlow to science competitions. They spoke of how students are ‘very driven’ and ‘competitive for themselves’. They felt they had been given great role models in the staff and used the term ‘organic motivation’ to describe academic process. The students spoke of mixing well with children from other schools. There was an evident pride in being a student at Dubai College.
DofE experiences seem to be a highlight with challenges and trips to various places.
The sixth form centre is spacious and each student has their own desk and cupboards with a shared kitchen and several open areas to carry on with group learning. Year 12 and 13 mix in this space and within their tutor groups so they integrate well.
Two parents were available for us to talk to and both were extremely happy with their choice of school for their children. In fact one parent simply said ‘we love it’ particularly for the nurturing of her three very different children.
She spoke of how they had blossomed as ‘all-rounders’ succeeding in areas where they had previously not thrived.
All three parents described the environment and community as very caring. They spoke of the excellent relationships between parents, staff and pupils.
There is a school counselor available and form tutors communicate important information to parents.
Parents have access and can speak freely to teachers and senior staff whenever they need to, and can get involved in the Friends of Dubai College group to help out and for example provide refreshments at sporting events.
One parent had fairly recently arrived from London and her eldest had been at North London Collegiate School. She was really pleased with the transition and told WSA, the school is switched on and is very much aware of what is happening and working in the education sector in the UK.
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