Established in 1978, Dubai College is one of the oldest UK curriculum schools in the city and one of the few Secondary only schools. It is also one of a limited number of not for profit schools - although this does not mean that the fees are lower than the for-profit schools. DC's reputation is built on its renown as the most academic of schools.
The story so far..
If Dubai was mature enough to have an Ivy League school, Dubai College, established just over 40 years ago, would be it. Although not awarded for Academic Achievement, if ever Dubai College's status was up for debate, the achievement of International School of the Year 2019 at the Independent Schools of the Year 2019 awards in London in October 2019, will have brought the discussion to a swift conclusion.
The Awards are run by Independent School Parent magazine and open to both independent schools from across the UK, and, internationally, to schools who are members of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). Dubai College was praised by judges for establishing the Dubai College Foundation as a registered charity in England and Wales in order to:
Having a registered charity in England and Wales has enabled the school to establish an arm in International Humanitarian City in Dubai. As a consequence the Dubai College charity committee is now able to fund-raise and build a school for a remote community in Nepal in partnership with United World Schools.
There is no doubt that DC - the name by which the school is almost unfailingly known - has not only established longevity, but also an indisputable reputation for excellence. However, applicants should be aware that with that promise of excellence comes heavy demand.
Dubai College does not have the best, or most impressive, facilities (although a range of upgrades and improvements to resources have been made in recent years), 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 academically ambitious 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 had received between 3 and 4 applications for every place offered. While an abundance of new schools has significantly lessened the demand for places for schools in general, DC continues to attract academically oriented parents and children, as well as strong sportsmen and women.
Admission is via a competitive entrance exam where, certainly in the past, there was no allowance made for siblings or other special circumstances. Those offered the coveted place were either in the top 120 or so entrants admitted each year, or not. We have no reason to believe that the process has changed.
The school has a reputation for academic and sporting excellence, and pretty much delivers on that year in, year out.
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Leadership comes in the form of Michael Lambert. Mr Lambert is clearly keen on making sure the school is known for more than academic success, and unlike his predecessor, Peter Hill, embraces old or new media to promote the school in a wider context, using both to communicate his vision for education at the college and in the UAE.
In total 951 students were registered with the school in 2018-19, compared with 870 students for 2015-16, aged from 11 to 18 years, with under half from the United Kingdom. There are just over 100 full-time teachers, including the Headmaster and the senior management team. Teacher turnover for last year was 10% compared with 8% in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and 12% in 2017-18. Not the lowest, but one of the lowest teacher attrition rates we have seen. It might be argued that such low levels of turnover also indicate a school where new blood would not be a bad thing...
The school says it has 38 students with special educational needs - less than 5% of the student population. The 2018-19 report rated the provision for students with SEND as Very Good. It is not clear how much of this provision is for students who are identified as Gifted and Talented, who also fall under the SEND category. We have heard Mr. Lambert takes the view that all of the students at Dubai College arguably fall into the G&T category.
There are also only eight Emirati students in the school's population, again a very low figure.
What about the curriculum?
DC 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.
The College offers a wide range of subjects at GCSE and A Level, a number of which are classical subjects - including Philosophy, Psychology and Latin - not found in other UAE schools. This is in part to offer "facilitating subjects" previously preferred by the UK's top Russell Group universities (including Oxford and Cambridge), though this list was done away with in May 2019. For more information read this article.
The school also offers an impressive array of extra-curricular options across a wide range of creative, sporting and academic activities - Ancient Greek is one example of a more unusual option.
What about facilities?
Dubai College is located in the heart of new Dubai, in Al Sufouh, and set on nineteen acres of land. The campus of Dubai College offers many creative arts and sports facilities in addition to the regular classroom and specialist teaching facilities. The range of sports activities on offer and the competitive success of the College in the various school leagues and competitions which take place across the UAE, has recently resulted in our sister website- www.schoolscompared.com - recognising Dubai College as one of the two Best Schools for Sports in the UAE (the other winner was Dubai English Speaking College).
The extensive provision made for physical education reflects DC's belief in the contribution it makes to a well-rounded education. This includes first class rugby, football and cricket pitches, cricket nets, four all-weather netball and tennis courts. The sports hall and swimming pool are being redeveloped during the academic year 2019-20 and will be out of action.
Specialist facilities include a science block with twenty one laboratories, three design and technology suites, ten computer suites, four art studios, a canteen and a music centre with teaching and recital areas, twelve practice rooms and a recording studio. Dubai College has been the representative for ABRSM (the Associated Board for the Royal Schools of Music) in the UAE since 1980. There are also three drama studios, a library, a dedicated Sixth Form Centre with 250 individual study bays (described as akin to a university campus by the KHDA inspection team) and a state of the art 900 seat auditorium.
A new Teaching and Learning Centre houses a 160 seat Lecture Theatre and space for collaborative learning allowing students to explore different methods of learning. A new administration block was also added in the past two years.
What about academic achievement?
Dubai College (DC) led the field with A Level results in Dubai in 2017 with 58 percent A* to A grades. That may be a significant drop from 2016 when DC recorded 66.8 percent A* to A grades, but there still remains a consistent 88 percent of DC's students achieving A* to B - implausibly the ninth consecutive year its students have done so.
GCSE results were similarly good with 84% of students achieving A*to A grades (9 to 7 in the new format exams) in 2017. This is an increase of 2% on last year’s results, and a 5% increase on 2015 with 82.1% of students achieving A* to A grades.
Results have been remarkably consistent, and always top end.
In 2013, Dubai College students achieved, at the time, its best results in its 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. From that high, a drop seemed inevitable, but in 2015 DC actually moved one step higher to 22nd. 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 which would have made it the 12th best co-educational independent school and the 3rd best co-educational state school in the UK at the time.
Results are of course partly the value added by the school, but partly also a result of intake. From Year 7, admission is an academically selective process involving a competitive entry exam, while 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 GCSE. The exception is Mathematics, where grade A*/A is required in most cases.
The school has historically published the university destinations of its school leavers, which revealed that 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), 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 decide to take the less and less traditional "gap year".
What the inspectors say
The school has now achieved the KHDA's Outstanding ranking for nine years in a row - a significant achievement and one of only a very small number of schools to have done so.
Students' achievement is, as would be expected, rated almost entirely Outstanding across the board - or at least in the core subjects taught in English. In common with many international schools in the UAE, the level of achievement, linked to both teaching and the curriculum, in Arabic subjects is less glowing. Whilst students' attainment and progress in both Islamic Studies and Arabic as a second language are rated Good - no mean feat - attainment in Arabic as a first language remains Weak, and progress is only Acceptable. This has not changed since the previous inspection round.
The only key rating that has slipped in the last inspection was for Assessment in the Secondary school which moved from Outstanding to Very Good, driven by inconsistencies in the use of assessment rubrics and feedback to students.
All other key performance measures are rated Outstanding with the exception of the provision and outcomes for Students of Determination, the school's self-assessment and planning (in relation to inconsistencies in relation to assessment) and governance (in relation to the need to ensure that the requirement to narrow the gap between Arabic and Islamic Education compared with the other subjects taught is addressed). These measures are all rated Very Good.
The 2018-2019 KHDA inspection report notes that the strengths of the school are:
Key recommendations inevitably focused on the one area of weakness. DC should:
The school is accredited by COBIS (the Council of British International Schools) and is also subject to British Schools Overseas inspections. The opening line of the most recent (2016) BSO 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. At times, DC appears to have a certain attitude of arrogance and superiority towards other educational establishments in the UAE. However, given the school's performance, perhaps we should not be too critical!
We strongly recommend that you read the full KHDA inspection report here in order to obtain the full feedback from the DSIB inspection team.
A total of 331 parents completed the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, with 99% agreeing that they are satisfied with the standard of education provided by the school. Parents were said to hold the school in high regard, to value the open communication with teachers and leaders and the detailed feedback they receive on their children's achievement and personal development.
The school's achievements are also recognised by its parents participating in the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey 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. The school's WSA Parent Rating is one of the highest in Dubai at 4.6 out of 5.
Unsurprisingly, the single most important criterion for parents in choosing this school is "school results in external examinations" - 50% of respondents chose this against a UAE average of 11%! 94% of respondents are also satisfied with the level of academic performance at DC, compared with a UAE average of 65%. 89% would unreservedly recommend DC to other parents.
If you are a parent, senior student or teacher at Dubai College, please share your opinion with prospective students and parents by completing our survey here.
What about fees?
Fees range from AED 82,482 from Year 7 to Year 11, and AED 93,399 for Years 12 and 13. 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 higher salaries for staff, training, and facilities.
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