If Dubai was mature enough to have an Ivy League school, Dubai College, established in 1978, would be it. Having just celebrated its 40th birthday, there is no doubt that DC - the name by which the school is almost unfailingly called - has not only established longevity but also an indisputable reputation for excellence. However, applicants should be aware, that not only are standards high, but so too the demands on students - hence the very selective admission process.
Dubai College has been rated Outstanding for the ninth year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. A full update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
The story so far..
Dubai College does not have the best facilities (although these are currently in the process of improvement with a very large new administrative wing added in 2017), 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 of new schools will have lessened the demand for places for schools in general, DC continues to attract ambitious parents and children. The school has a reputation for excellence, and pretty much delivers on that year in, year out.
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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. The school's WSA Parent Rating is one of the highest in Dubai.
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 the UAE. He makes good reading.
In total 940 students were registered with the school in 2017-18, compared with 870 students for 2015-16, aged from 11 to 18 years with under half from the United Kingdom. There are 100 full-time teachers, including the Headmaster and the senior management team.
What the inspectors say
The 2017-2018 KHDA inspection report notes that the strengths of the school are "the strong leadership with a high capacity for innovation and continuous improvement; the outstanding standards of attainment in English, Mathematics and Science; high quality standards of teaching across the school; the rich and innovative curriculum and extra-curricular programme with opportunities for students to excel in a wide range of academic subjects, sports and performing arts; and students' very positive attitudes to learning, their initiative and efforts to achieve excellent standards in all that they do.."
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). The 2017-18 report now rates the provision for students with SEND as Very Good, noting that "The governors and school leaders demonstrate a commitment to inclusive education. Policies encourage applications from students with SEND, and although the other admissions criteria must be met, the school prioritises adaptations to the curriculum to meet all students’ needs".
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. In addition, the school is recommended to "Examine how the emotional well-being of any vulnerable students with SEND can be further assured so that they can feel confident in their personal contribution to lessons and to the school".
There are also only eight Emirati students in the school's population, again a very low figure.
Dubai College is rated Outstanding across all key indicators by the KHDA with the exception of Islamic Education, rated Good in both attainment and progress (and an improvement to Good for post-16 attainment in this report) and for Arabic as a first language (rated Acceptable for progress and Weak for attainment). Arabic as a second language is rated Good for both criteria - something of an achievement - and this probably explains the forgiving attitude of the inspectors since first language speakers are very small numerically.
Inspectors made two key recommendations for improvement: "Improve students’ progress in Arabic [and] monitor the effect the pastoral programmes and procedures are having on students’ health and well-being". Inspectors noted that "Staff monitor students’ personal development closely. Senior leaders have made changes to improve the health and well-being of students" and the school has been asked to "monitor the impact of the recently introduced approaches to improving the care and welfare of students".
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.
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 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 seven 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.
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. 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).
There are also three Design and Technology workshops, a Music Centre with a recording studio, and a specialised Art department. Dubai College has been the representative for ABRSM (the Associated Board for the Royal Schools of Music) in the UAE since 1980. 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 12% compared with 8% in 2014-15 and 2016-17. Not the lowest, but one of the lowest teacher attrition rates we have seen. Click for full details of Dubai College fees.
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