United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Oud Metha / Dubai English Speaking School

Dubai English Speaking School Review

Dubai English Speaking School (DESS), a Primary School, is one of the few UK curriculum schools located in the traditional heart of the city in Oud Metha, near St Mary's Church. It is one of the oldest - if not the oldest - schools in the city, having celebrated 55 years in 2018. Its sister Secondary school, Dubai English Speaking College, is located further inland on a separate campus that opened in 2005.
Parents' Rating
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4.7 out of 5 based on 19 reviews
At a glance
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
fiber_manual_record All grades
Availability 2020/21
fiber_manual_record All grades
Annual fee average
AED 45,000
Annual fees
AED 37,334 - 46,204
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1963
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
11%
Principal
Mrs. Catherine Dando
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British

Nearby nurseries

0.9km • EYFS curriculum
1km • EYFS curriculum
1.4km • EYFS curriculum
1.8km • UAE MoE curriculum
2km
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Dubai English Speaking School
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2019/20
fiber_manual_record All grades
Availability 2020/21
fiber_manual_record All grades
Annual fee average
AED 45,000
Annual fees
AED 37,334 - 46,204
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
1963
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
11%
Principal
Mrs. Catherine Dando
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British
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First Published:
Saturday 7 July, 2012

Updated:
Tuesday 17 September, 2019

Dubai English Speaking School (DESS), a Primary School, is one of the few UK curriculum schools located in the traditional heart of the city in Oud Metha, near St Mary's Church. It is one of the oldest - if not the oldest - schools in the city, having celebrated 55 years in 2018. Its sister Secondary school, Dubai English Speaking College, is located further inland on a separate campus that opened in 2005.

The story so far...

Dubai English Speaking School is one of the longest established schools in the UAE, opening its doors in 1963, and was the first school in Dubai to offer a UK-based curriculum. The school celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2018 - a considerable milestone.  Originally founded as one of the few not-for-profit schools in Dubai, on landed granted by the then Ruler, Sheikh Rashid, DESS, together with its sister Secondary School, Dubai English Speaking College, has maintained its not for profit status throughout.

Despite its age, a process of constant investment and improvement means that DESS has all of the facilities that would be expected of a well resourced school. The 2017-18 KHDA report notes that "There is an extensive range of buildings designed to promote student-centred learning and a high level of classroom resourcing, including technology. Recent developments of the Key Stage 1 classrooms, learning support area and the library provide rich learning environments that enhance student achievement." 

More details of the facilities can be found in our Experience.

The Primary School has just under 1,000 students (995 in 2018) from FS1 to Year 6. The single largest nationality is British, but as with all Dubai schools, a multitude of nationalities are represented.  The school had some 52 students of determination in 2018-19, all of whom were supported as necessary by the SEN team.  DESS also has a small number of Emirati students (7 in total).

Andrew Gibbs, as Principal, is responsible for both DESS and DESC; however, the day to day running of DESS is very much in the hands of Headteacher, Catherine Dando, and her leadership team. Mrs. Dando clearly sets the tone of the aims and expectations for the school "Academic success is important but we believe in the development of creative thinkers, problem solvers and children who know how to learn in an environment of mutual respect, enthusiasm and commitment".    

The 61 full time teachers and 43 teaching assistants are also largely from the United Kingdom. The teacher turnover of the school is excellent, running at 2% at the end of the 2017 academic year, and 11% in 2018 - still 50% below the UAE average of 20-22%.  This level of stability and continuity is one that many schools in the UAE would be happy to see.

Dubai English Speaking College with approximately 1,500 students, brings the size of the combined schools up to  approximately 2,500. DESC, an Outstanding rated school, picks up where DESS leaves off, and provides education from 11 years up to 18 years (Year 13), offering GCSE, IGCSE and A Level qualifications.  It has recently significantly expanded its Sixth Form provision, with plans to add a range of additional post-16 qualifications including further BTEC options.  It also offers a unique "catch up" year for students who did not perform as well as expected at GCSE, offering an opportunity for them to re-sit key subjects over one academic year.

What about the facilities?

Despite its age, a process of constant investment and improvement means that DESS has all of the facilities that would be expected of a well resourced school. The 2017-18 KHDA report notes that "There is an extensive range of buildings designed to promote student-centred learning and a high level of classroom resourcing, including technology. Recent developments of the Key Stage 1 classrooms, learning support area and the library provide rich learning environments that enhance student achievement." 

The school also offers a large gymnasium, swimming pool and grass outside areas which are used for a large variety of sports - promoting activities that many children go on to play competitively at DESC, which has a reputation as one of the strongest sports-focused schools in the UAE.

More details of the facilities can be found in the report of our Experience visit.

What the inspectors say

After six years of being rated Good and three of Very Good, in 2018-19, DESS finally achieved - in its tenth inspection - the much coveted Outstanding rating.  Many observers had expected this to be achieved sooner - especially given sister school DESC's first Outstanding rating having been achieved in 2012-13 and having now retained this rating for a further six years.

The latest report notes that "Highly effective leadership is central to the school's success". Further, "leaders, at all levels, encourage staff and students to be creative and innovative in the pursuit of excellence in all areas of the school".   

Historically, the main areas for concern appeared to be the opportunities for students to use extended writing in all three non-Arabic core subjects (English, Maths and Science) and a perceived variability of teaching quality.  Clearly this has now been addressed to the satisfaction of the DSIB inspection team. The outstanding vision of the leadership team is not new. It has been a regular of DESS reports since inspections began, and evidently is now part of the culture and DNA of the school.

High praise is also offered in regard to the school's curriculum, which is based on EYFS and the National Curriculum for England, and is described as "exceptionally well planned to ensure progression in learning.  The emphasis on child-initiated learning in the Foundation Stage provides the basis for self-directed learning in the later years".  


Part of the Foundation Stage play area

The 2018-19 report is notable for the improvement in measures in the Primary school for progress and attainment in English, Maths and Science which have all been upgraded to Outstanding - a clean sweep across the school. Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills, Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum, The care, protection and guidance and support of students, and the Leadership and Management of the school are all now rated Outstanding in both the Foundation and Primary stages. 

Only in the achievement of Arabic and Islamic Studies (taught in the Primary school), are ratings lower, with Islamic Education rated Good for both progress and attainment, whilst Arabic as a first and second language are both rated Good for progress, but Acceptable for attainment.  

Overall, inspectors found that the key strengths of DESS are:

  • Outstanding leadership that has developed an inclusive culture in which creativity flourishes;
  • First rate teaching and the thoughtful use of assessment information which promote outstanding attainment in English, Mathematics and Science;
  • The outstanding environment for learning in the Foundation Stage, excellent personal and academic development, and a sense of social responsibility;
  • The outstanding partnerships with parents and the excellent arrangements for keeping students safe and promoting healthy lifestyles and emotional well-being;
  • The imaginative curriculum, excellent library and stimulating teaching areas for Arabic, French, Art and Music.

Inevitably, the main recommendation is to:

  • Raise students' achievement in Islamic Education and Arabic to match that seen in other subjects and ensure that assessments of attainment are aligned with Ministry of Education (MoE) curriculum standards.

To read the entire Inspection report - which we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com strongly recommend - go here.



Not only is the KHDA impressed with DESS.  Almost all 423 parents who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey stated that they "are satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school." In fact the report notes that "parents are overwhelmingly positive about all aspects of the school". This satisfaction is evident in the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com parent survey which shows that an astounding 95% of respondents would recommend DESS to other parents - well above the average of 73%.

If you are a parent or teacher at DESS, please share your views on the school by completing our survey here.

DESS offers a wide array of extra-curricular activities designed to build well rounded school leavers: It has sports days, careers fair, athletic championships, drama festivals, and literature days. Students are strongly encouraged to develop their own interests and talents.

We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com really appreciate the highly inclusive and warm environment that DESS provides, brought together by a skilled and dedicated team in what may look to be a traditional environment, but one that is clearly at the forefront of primary education in Dubai.

DESS is an extremely popular school, with both new and existing Dubai families keen to secure places. Applications for FS1 and FS2 for 2019/20 have already closed, with all other year groups being wait-listed. Applications for 2020/21 for FS1 and FS2 open for submission from January 2020.

Fees for the school currently range from AED 37,334  to AED 46,204.

If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.

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