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Dubai English Speaking College Review

Dubai English Speaking College is a sister institution to Dubai English Speaking School (DESS). DESC is a ‘not for profit’ organisation.
Dubai English Speaking College
First Published: Saturday 7 July, 2012
Updated: Wednesday 20 December, 2017

Dubai English Speaking College is a sister institution to Dubai English Speaking School (DESS). DESC is a ‘not for profit’ organisation.

First Published: Saturday 7 July, 2012
Updated: Wednesday 20 December, 2017

NOTE: As Dubai English Speaking College received an Outstanding rating in 2015/2016, there is no new KHDA report for the 2016/2017 inspection cycle.

Dubai English Speaking College is situated in Academic City, Al Ruwwayah and opened in 2005. The school is still growing, but that growth had been slowing. The school is home to 1253 student students, up from 1146 in 2014/15, 842 in 2012/13 and even more significantly from the 737 students in 2011/12. Students are aged 11 to 18 years, and housed in Years 7 to 13.

Jump to read our recent school visit to DESC

We say "had been" because DESC is just about to have an adolescent growth spurt. The college's big news for 2017 was its annexation of the Delhi Private School Academy land and buildings adjacent to it. The school has had full access to the DPSA site from April 2017; the DPSA staff and students finished there at the end of March.

The focus of the expansion is its 6th Form, although the school's 11 to 16 year olds will also benefit from more space and access to buildings vacated by senior students. DESC is, in its own words, being spread out, "creating lots more room".

The move will mean smaller class sizes in core subjects, and an expansion of student numbers. According to a letter to parents, "approximately 100 more students will join us in September [2017], across Years 7-9 and Year 12 and 13." The school says it will be careful it will never adopt a “factory mentality” where DESS and DESC are concerned. "Over the ensuing years we will manage, monitor and control growth in a prudent, careful way."

The school also claimed that it will keep fees reasonable and not use the expansion as an excuse to raise fees.

"There are some of the eye-watering amounts schools are charging from FS1 (80 plus thousand dirhams) upwards are ample proof of this. Even within the not-for-profit sector (or the "Ivy League" schools as WhichSchoolAdvisor.com refer to it) we are not as expensive as our counterparts."

Expansion at DESC will also mean more recreational, social, sporting and learning spaces., as well as a dedicated social, learning, study and recreational spaces for our Sixth Form.

Click for the full report on the opening of DESC's sixth form building.

The school will continue to be an English National Curriculum school, bucking the recent trend to mash it up with the International Baccalaureate (IB), most commonly for Post-16 education. Students are entered for GCSE at the end of the secondary phase, for AS level at the end of Year 12, and for GCE Advanced level at the end of the post-16 phase. 

There are 114 teachers, up quite significantly on the 96 full-time teachers employed in the previous academic year, including the Headteacher and the senior management team, and an additional 10 assistants. A significant percentage of the teaching body comes from the United Kingdom. The teacher:student ratio is a highly credible 1:11.


DESC Dubai's rather modern looking canteen.

As noted the school has received its fourth Outstanding rating from the KHDA. Its report notes good student behaviour, self-discipline, consideration for others; outstanding teaching, learning and assessment in most subjects; a supportive caring and learning environment; its partnership with parents (2011 though to 2015) and dynamic leadership (2012 - 2016).

More specifically its latest report notes:
- Students’ outstanding performance in English, mathematics and science and their good achievement in Islamic education.
- Students’ extremely positive attitudes
- The high quality teaching, underpinned by excellent assessment strategies and an engaging and challenging curriculum.
- The excellent leadership of the headteacher and key staff, and their total commitment to inclusion.

The school still needs to improve in certain areas, specifically achievement in Arabic; as well as to better monitor the work planned for students with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) to offer an appropriate challenge and to establish relationships with other schools, "so that they may benefit from the considerable range of skills and expertise of leaders and teachers in this outstanding school".

Academically, however this is a school that delivers.

For 2017 GCSE results, the cohort scored 46% A* to A, an improvement of 2% on last year's results, while 72% achieved A* to B and 95% A* to C. In 2016 GCSE results at the school were good- 95% of the cohort achieving A* to C (well above the UK average of 66.9%), while DESC's A* to A results at 43.7% were more than double the UK average of 20.5%.

In 2015 in GCSE English over 75% of pupils attained grades A*-B, well above UK outcomes at 37%.  Pupils’ attainment and progress in mathematics significantly exceeds pupils’ performance in UK schools in every measure at GCSE, AS and A2 level. In 2015 66% of pupils achieved A*-B grades at GCSE compared to a UK average of 34%. At A level, in 2015, 67% achieved A*-B grades. In Science in 2015, 81% of all science results were graded A*-B. This is again much higher than averages found in schools and colleges in the UK.

The progress of pupils who have special educational needs is good; over 47% attained grades A*-B.

For Science, Maths and English at both secondary and post-16 phase attainment and progress are deemed Outstanding by the KHDA. However successes at DESC are not confined to the core subjects however. Attainment is at least above average and progress is often outstanding in almost all subjects of the curriculum.  Particular strengths in GCSE results for 2015 include art, drama, French, Spanish and humanities. Physical education is particularly strong.

In its 2011 recommendations the KHDA noted DESC still needed compliance with Ministry of Education requirements for Islamic Education and Arabic, an area that now seems to have received a tick. In its 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 reports the recommendation was to improve performance in this area - a requirement that continues into its 2015/16 report.

DESC is however pretty much an outstanding school across the board - from personal responsibility of students to its community, from the quality of leadership to curriculum quality, this is very much a school at the top of its game.


DESC Dubai - It's not just about the academic, sporting facilities at DESC are also good

The school offers an array of extracurricular activities - an annual skiing trip, sports days, debating, activity days, and the International Award (Duke of Edinburgh) scheme - examples among many. Additional information can be found in the school's excellent Parents Handbook here. Physical education is particularly strong - the college has an enviable record in sports competitions. This has recently been acknowledged by our sister website, www.schoolscompared.com, which has recognised DESC as one of the Best Schools for Sport in the UAE - coming in equal top place with Dubai College.

The school, like its sister DESS, is a non-profit making organisation. This does not mean that its school fees will be any cheaper than a for-profit school  - they are not. In theory it does mean that revenue is more likely to go towards teacher salaries (aiding retention), facilities, training, etc.

Fees start at 74,219 a year in Year 7, and rise to just shy of 80,000 AED tuition fee in Year 12. The school has very recently introduced a sibling discount, to be available in the 2017/18 academic year. Click for full DESC fee information by year group.

Total annual fees do not include charges for GCSE and GCE examinations or any external examination eg: music, instrumental, dance, etc.

There is an additional 500 AED application fee, a 500 AED enrollment fee and a 5,000 AED deposit at the end of each school for the next academic year (offset against Term 1 school fees each year).

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