At a glance
According to Dubai Scholars Private School follows the English National Curriculum with both IGCSE and A'Level programs available for (a small number of) senior students. It currently holds an inspection rating of Good from the KHDA, Dubai's education regulator, which notes its strong performance in external examinations. The school has now held the Good rating from the KHDA for six consecutive years. The school has recently adopted the EYFS for its primary school.
Read our most recent visit review HERE!
Key strengths of the school include "excellent encouragement of personal and social development of students; Primary and secondary students’ outstanding attainment and progress in English and mathematics; Good attainment and progress in Islamic Education; the excellent behaviour, self-assurance and good manners of students; and the the positive and supportive relationships both between students and students and staff.
The school offers a range of A'Levels: Accounts, Business Studies, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. Clearly the school does not cater for students with a stronger predilection for the humanities. A little unusually, students can take 2 A' Level subjects per year, rather than the traditional approach of 3 or 4 A'Levels over two years.
Areas the school has been recommended to focus on for further improvement by the KHDA are: Improve students’ speaking and writing skills in Arabic as an additional language, particularly in the primary phase; Improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment in the Kindergarten by establishing a shared awareness and implementation of quality practice in the Early Years; Develop the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and relevant skills both in the classroom and specialist facility; and to develop the teaching and learning strategies to provide further challenge for the more able, and
improve the consistency of support for students with special educational needs (SEN).
Fees are very accessible for a UK curriculum based school, ranging from between 13,739 AED per year for FS1 students to 26,060 AED for A-level students. Unsurprisingly, the school is very popular, especially in the Asian community for parents who want a British education for their children. There have been past newspaper reports of queues forming overnight to get children into the school.
Home to a vibrant, welcoming and happy community Dubai Scholars is ambitious for high academic achievement and has an outstanding performing arts programme. Its charismatic and passionate founder is supported by a highly professional and dedicated team. A student-led approach to education is evident throughout. DSPS is simply a great school!
History of the School
Dubai Scholars was founded in 1976 and was then based in a single villa in Deira. Through inspiring leadership it’s gone from strength to strength and in 1990, the school moved to a new campus in the Al Qusais area of Dubai.
The buildings are large, white two storey blocks each with a central outdoor space for work and play. The surrounding vegetation is quite extensive, mature and varied and it includes a school organic vegetable garden.
The school is one of the earliest in Dubai to offer the British curriculum, catering to students from KG1 to Year 13. We were greeted by security and soon met the head of student support services, Ms Sapna Changrani. Our visit had been expertly planned to enable us to meet pupils, parents, the founder, school leaders and many other influential staff in the school.
We were first treated to a full guided tour by Samina and Suzanne who are in leadership positions in the primary section. Both ladies were welcoming, extremely enthusiastic and informative. They showed us well-organised and colourful classrooms surrounded by a central outdoor covered learning and play area for the children.
Colourful fences surround the floor spaces which have been cleverly designed for specific playful learning. A floor space for large writing practice, scientific experimental area, puppet theatre and dinosaur learning zone were set up. Other shaded outdoor spaces include a scooter and biking area as well as sand/water play tables and a soft obstacle course.
Further climbing equipment is available with slides, swings and climbing apparatus. We were shown a tidy little library for the younger pupils with a cute curtained majlis style seating area. In the secondary block we were impressed by some well-presented student produced wall displays which had been graded by one of the pupils. The spacious IT suite was well-equipped with many computers and whiteboard for presentations. The sports department have the use of a covered swimming pool, a sports field lit for evening practice and outdoor basketball courts.
A large auditorium is an important addition to the school with a large stage as musical and performing arts are an integral, vital part of the establishment. All the facilities we saw were attractive, cleverly planned and appropriate.
Meeting the Students
There is a Happiness café area run by students who presented us with badges of smiling sunflowers. There is an atmosphere of warmth, vigour, order and passion which you feel as you explore the campus. It was a pleasure to meet next two of the articulate and dynamic school leaders. Haarii is the head boy and Mir is one of the house captains. Both students are soon to complete their thirteenth year at the school. Haarii hopes to work in robotics and already teaches younger children all about his passion by running a STEAM club within the school. Mir plans to study to become a software engineer in the future.
We asked the boys what was special to them about DSPS and they both described their personal connection to this ‘one unified body…which feels like a family.’ They value the fact that the teachers are open, friendly, committed and experienced.
We asked about how the school could improve and the only area they could think of was perhaps expanding the sports facilities available. They described the student culture as collaborative but with plenty of friendly competition. We asked about bullying and we were told there was an effective campaign which they felt was clearly working.
The school runs a student helpline so pupils can have their say and seek help when required. A student council with 50 members allows students a voice and there are many projects within the school which are pupil run. They feel there is easy access to the leadership team and that their opinions are taken seriously. The students describe the quality of teaching as very good and believe the staff are innovative and keep up to date with their specialisms.
The pupils agreed that the workload was about right and that they feel challenged to fulfill their potential. IT is an important area within their education with projectors in every classroom. Students may bring their own laptops when given permission but mobile phones are not allowed.
A school canteen provides a good variety of food which generally the children like. They were fairly positive about their school uniform which they described as fine and comfortable.
School trips are regularly organized by the school’s own council so they get to choose these excursions. There have been trips to the USA (NASA space camp), Singapore and more locally a visit to Jebel Hafeet. We asked for a few examples how DSPS has encouraged them personally. Haarii feels that every child is given an opportunity to succeed and he for example has been awarded ‘best speaker’ and has been given the chance to teach others about his fascination with robotics.
Mir values the fact that from a shy young boy he has been given confidence and now feels very comfortable speaking in public and takes part in inter-school debating events. The ECAs at DSPS are often pupil led as individuals are encouraged to start clubs. Basketball and hockey are particularly popular here and the school has had some great results.
DSPS works hard to connect with the local community by student volunteers giving up their Friday afternoons to teach English to labourers, organizing cricket matches and entertainment in the form of a fiesta. As sixth form students both boys are pleased about the broad choice of A level courses, both at AS and A2 level.
At least 70% of the students now opt to stay on to take A2 level. We were shown a list of student council plans which capture the overall vision of the community here at DSPS. This is all student led with staff support and encapsulates the involvement and passion in so many areas of life in and outside school.
Talking with the Staff
The staff who are mainly responsible for ECAs are Ms Jean who’s been at the school for 25 years and Ms Sapnac who’s been at the school for three years. We had the opportunity next to spealing with Mrs Miranda, the headmistress of 38 years and Mrs Geanette the administrative director who’s been at the school for 19 years. Mrs Miranda was described as being ‘like a mother…to everyone’ and along with the school founder Aparna Verma has inspired this supportive community.
We asked what makes DSPS unique and the reply was ‘the very talented students’ . She described the students as wonderful, happy, full of enthusiasm with a really positive attitude and that their behavious was excellent. These school leaders were appreciative of the strong parental support and the dedication of the teachers who enable the community to operate as ‘one big family’.
The fact that there is such a cross curricular ethos across the school is seen as important. The performing arts were described as ‘the real deal here’ particularly in dance, music and theatre. Rock concerts have shaken the stage along with Queen tribute bands and shows such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Darion Gray.
We had the privilege to actually see a DSPS stage rehearsal of two dance performances and an original song performed by lower school students and written by their teacher. For the dance the costumes were simple but they wore colourful jackets which effectively changed colour with the lights and the mood of the music. The boundless energy and slick choreography was outstanding. Some of these wonderful dance performances have won international dance competitions overseas and they have travelled to Australia and Japan.
To follow was a beautiful rendition by a group of choristers which again demonstrated the talent here at DSPS.
Accomplishments at the School
Returning to our discussion with Mrs Miranda we asked where the school was headed and what were their goals. She spoke of being happy with the effective hands-on teaching and learning and felt the kids and parents were enjoying it. She spoke of the changes that were coming through technology and how the school was incorporating this across all areas.
Besides the performing arts, DSPS has many other successful accomplishments. For example they came first in the Patriotic Song competition. A senior student won the Harvard Speaking Competition. Their hockey team recently won a tournament and they have had great success in skipping contests!
The biggest challenges the school faces are the constant and fast changes in technology. Mrs Miranda felt that the high staff retention helps provide the continuity necessary. It is perceived that there are no bullying problems within the school and that a helpline directly to the school counselor all is dealt with quickly.
Where do students go next?
The academic results here are excellent so school leavers are able to aim for universities in the UK, USA, Canada or the UAE with Sharjah being a popular destination. There is an entrance exam to gain a place at DSPS but this is purely to place children in the correct group/set. A waiting list exists and there is never a space available after year 1. There are plans to offer scholarships at a future date. Staff are recruited directly from India and are settled in via a Fresher’s Week while others are recruited from the educational community in Dubai.
All staff fulfill the strict KHDA qualification standards and the B.Ed is the minimum level of entry. Communication and language skills are seen as really important. We were intrigued to learn that female teachers outnumber male 10:1 and that within the arts they were all men.
Every Sunday afternoon staff receive Inset training and occasionally experts are flown in from around the world. The school leaders see more exposure to other schools in Dubai to be very important. Ms Miranda feel the English and Science departments are overall the most successful but she’s particularly proud ot the cross-curricular cinematic project which Mr Andrew Nathan has inspired.
The alumni DSPS graduates regularly return to the school and they told a story of one returnee. They were able to give him a painting he had done 25 years ago. Finally we looked up for a summing up of DSBS for prospective parents. They felt it would be best to describe the school as very nurturing, warm and welcoming. Coffee mornings for parents are fabulous, parent conferences last a whole day and there is close interaction with all of the teachers. There are lots of parent volunteers and even some grandparents come in to help with history projects.
The description of folk tale performances we found really interesting. Children from DSPS re-tell Arabic folk tales as plays and then share with schools in India who do the same with Indian folk tales.
Speaking with Parents
It was great that we had the opportunity to speak to three parents during our visit. Chaimine is a teacher in year 4, Fauzia, a teacher in foundation 2 and Rizwana the mother of a girl in year 6 and a boy in year 2. We asked why they had chosen DSPS and it was through recommendation and visiting which persuaded them. What most impressed them was a feeling of confidence, the opportunities available and the chance for their children to take place in a lot of competitions.
The biggest challenges for the school they felt was communication which at present is via the Communicator app. Homework level was considered ok, independent enough but that their children required occasional guidance. DSPS they considered ‘fairly good value for money’.
The school provides its own uniform which they thought was a good price and decent quality. Parking at dropoff and pickup is considered to be well organized once the buses leave. They think the bus service is good.
Trips are usually local to the zoo aquarium, desert park, and always relate to educational topics. Overseas trips have been a new introduction. There is an active PTA and parents are able to get feedback on the children’s progress every term. We asked if education at DSPS is as good as that offered in their home country. All our parents agreed that it was better because there were more opportunities and they value the mix of cultures in Dubai.
They would describe the school to prospective parents as ‘warm with a family feel of togetherness that flows’. We met with two members of the Islamic department next, Ms Farhana who has been with the school for 21 years and Ms Eman who’s been there four years. Both felt the success of the school and their department was because diversity was respected and shared.
The Academic Team
Both Arabic and Islamic studies are GCSE subjects and it is rare for schools to provide both. Islamic studies was considered an outstanding department by the KHDA and they will soon be offering A level Islamic studies too. We were introduced to the academic team next. Ms Sapna K, Ms Joretta, Ms Smriti, Ms Malika and Ms Samial all teaching from between three to nine years.
The ICT leader spoke of how they’re always looking for improvement. There is always fun, online homework set and ICT is integrated into every department. The English leader explained about the news channel that students run and how their were internships offered within the school.
The humanities leader talked about UAE cultural identity as a big part of their programme. The lower primary school team discussed the changes that had been made such as colourful outdoor spaces and that there was collaboration in all subject areas. We found out there is no separate art department at the school.
Finally we met with the founder and CEO of DSPS Ms Aparna Verma who is an inspiring, dedicated individual. She is justly proud of DSPS and its success. She has inspired the expansion and innovation here.
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