Jebel Ali School is one of a select number of WSA's Good Schools. The school relocated from its original site, where it had been located for over 35 years, to a new purpose-built school at the Akoya development on the Emirates Road in September 2016.
Jebel Ali School is an evolution of Jebel Ali Primary School, originally established in 1977 in Jebel Ali Village to support the children of construction workers at Jebel Ali Port. As such, the school has just celebrated its 40th Birthday, making it one of the oldest schools in Dubai, together with Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches, Dubai College and Dubai English Speaking School and College – also all not for profit schools. In 1986, the school received a decree from Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum recognising its independent and not for profit status, ensuring the long term stability of the school. It is supervised by a Board of Governors.
With its relocation from Jebel Ali Village to the Damac Hills (Akoya) development, close to Arabian Ranches, Mudon and Motor City, and its transition to an All-through school in September 2016, Jebel Ali School (JAS) has now transformed from the original small village school into a very large, modern organisation on a brand new campus. However, the school continues to retain its reputation as stated in its mission “for developing caring and responsible young people who have gained the confidence, skills and knowledge to embrace the joys – as well as manage the complexities – of the modern world”.
With the relocation, the Board of Governors has made crucial recruitment decisions to ensure that the ethos of a not-for- profit school is retained, putting in place a Senior Leadership team with extraordinary experience in the not-for-profit sector. For profit skills will be required however: With the move to the Damac development the school has taken on significant rent which will need servicing.
The former Headteacher of the Primary School and Founding Principal of the relocated school, Jacquie Parr, moved on unexpectedly (for personal reasons) after the first year of expansion. Joining her in early 2016 in the management of the transition to the new site, Colette Doughty was appointed as Head of the new Secondary School. Colette joined JAS from JESS Arabian Ranches, where she was Deputy Head Teacher of the Secondary School responsible for Curriculum, and Head of Key stage 4. Jacquie Parr was also an ex-JESS Head from the Jumeirah branch.
Following Jacquie’s departure in June 2017, the Board has appointed another ex-JESS leader in Lizzie Robinson, who was Deputy Head of the JESS Arabian Ranches Primary School, to take over the management of the Primary School, alongside Colette Doughty. However, their most significant appointment has been Peter Hill, who took over as Principal at JAS in September 2017.
Peter is the former Principal of Dubai College, which he led from 2010 – 2015. Both JESS Arabian Ranches and Dubai College have consistently been rated Outstanding by the KHDA and have enviable reputations in Dubai among parents and students. It is clear that the Board of Jebel Ali School intends to ensure that JAS will be continue to be counted alongside JESS, Dubai College and a handful of other schools (notably Dubai English Speaking School and College and the American School of Dubai), as the most reputable and successful schools in the city.
After over 35 years at its original site in Jebel Ali Village in a group of very traditional single storey buildings, the move to the new school site and buildings was inevitably an opportunity, but also a cause for concern. In order to ensure that as much of the old spirit and ethos of the original school was retained, whilst ensuring that the new would offer the facilities of a 21st Century environment, both the Founding Principal of the school and the Head of Secondary were directly involved in the planning and had input throughout the construction period. The lead manager for the construction was personally invested in the development, as his children attend the school.
What about Facilities
The end result is a modern campus, set in multi-storey buildings, but with outdoor access from many of the classrooms, shaded areas and courtyards and as much greenery as possible around and between the buildings. Facilities are impressive. As well as playing fields, a 25m swimming pool and multi-courts for outdoor sports, a Sports Centre incorporating a gym and viewing area, there are also outdoor classrooms and activity areas for the youngest children.
Classrooms are spacious and flexible, and clustered around courtyards to maximise light.
Specialist provision includes state of the art Science labs, Design and Food technology rooms, CAD, Digital Technology and Virtual Learning spaces. Dance, Drama, Music and Art facilities are included in specialist studios, a lecture theatre and a 650-seater Auditorium. In addition, specialist research areas, 2 libraries, quiet study areas and group work rooms encourage both individual and group research and learning. A Canteen is also provided for hot and cold meals and as a meeting area for students during the day.
A purpose-designed Sixth Form Centre is already in place, although it will be several years until the first Year 12 students will use it. The school will offer GCSE and A Levels. The current secondary teaching team has an average of 15 years’ experience and is clearly gearing up to provide expert provision to older students as the school matures and grows.
It helps that the school is so well staffed and resourced. JAS currently educates approximately 1,100 boys and girls between the ages of three and thirteen years. This is made of some 980 students in the Primary School and approximately 120 in the Secondary (open to year 8). A team of 67 teachers and 36 teaching assistants support children in Primary, whilst a further 19 staff work with students in the Secondary school (a student:teacher ratio of 1:6 in Secondary, providing very personalised support as a result). Maximum class sizes are 24 in Primary and 22 in Secondary (though tutor groups will be considerably smaller as students move further up the school and choose the elective subjects). Teacher turnover in 2016 was low at 6%. The largest demographic of students remains from the UK, although some 51 nationalities are represented within the school.
The school teaches the English Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum in the Foundation classes and the English National Curriculum elsewhere. The school's 2011 impressive SATS results may be found here. Its equally impressive 2012 results are here. Its 2013 results may be found here.
But if that is not enough, this is a school that is almost uniformly recommended by parents whose children attend according to our survey - read it here. It records the highest satisfaction levels of its peers for academic attainment, feedback and school discipline.
There is much mention at Jebel Ali School about the Jebel Ali Community. There is a consistent and strong focus on supporting not only students, but parents, staff and the wider community. A Community Liaison Officer is responsible for building relationships throughout the community, including fundraising activities in support of the school’s not for profit status. Parental satisfaction with the school, based on our Parent Opinion survey, is overwhelmingly positive and well above average levels.
What the inspectors say
Jebel Ali School also has almost exactly the same strengths as it had when it was judged to be Outstanding by the KHDA in 2011/12. What has changed significantly since then has been the criteria used to benchmark schools within the UAE. Both the KHDA and ADEK have added increased weight to Arabic and Islamic Studies when combining ratings into a final score. As a result, the most recent inspections have rated Jebel Ali Primary School as Very Good. These are areas, as a parent, you may not consider as important as the UAE's Ministry of Education clearly does.
Although for the most part JAPS remained consistently outstanding in terms of rating, there is no doubt it found the 2 years prior to its relocation (due to issues related to its landlord and location) trying and distracting. However, even with these challenges, the most recent KHDA report ranks the school as Very Good, an increase since the school first dropped from Outstanding to Good five years ago.
As one of the schools rated Very Good or Outstanding, JAS participated in the Abundance project in 2016/17, working with schools in need of improvement, and did not, therefore, undergo the inspection process.
The first full inspection of the new Jebel Ali School, including its expanded provision to year 8 in Secondary, took place in January 2018 and again rated the school as Very Good. However, there has been some slippage across a number of key measures in the latest report. Bearing in mind that Peter Hill and Lizzie Robinson only joined the school in September 2017, and had therefore been involved for only one term prior to the inspection, the outcome will provide them with a very clear steer on the areas upon which they will need to focus.
Chief among these will be in relation to academic achievement in both Foundation and Primary, where ratings have slipped back from Outstanding attainment in English and Mathematics across both sections of the school, and in Science attainment in Foundation, to a rating of Very Good. Progress in the Foundation section across all three subjects in Foundation have been rated Good, instead of Very Good in the previous report two years ago, progress in Mathematics in Primary has also been rated one rating lower at Very Good, though attainment is generally Outstanding in English progress and in Science overall achievement at Primary level. English, Mathematics and Science are rated Very Good almost across the board in English, Mathematics and Science in Secondary, with Secondary progress rated Outstanding. Learning skills are also rated Very Good, where they had previously been Outstanding in Foundation and Primary.
Of larger concern to the school in many ways, will be the ratings in relation to the Arabic core-subjects. This is the Achilles Heel that resulted in the overall rating for Jebel Ali School being reduced from Outstanding to Good in 2012-13 and evidently still remains a challenge - something that Jebel Ali School is not alone in facing.
In Arabic as an additional language, attainment has improved from Weak to Acceptable, though attainment in Arabic as a first language remains Weak. In the Secondary school, being rated for the first time, both measures for Islamic Education and attainment for Arabic as both a first and second language are rated Weak, though progress in both Arabic language classes are rated Acceptable. Given the focus of the UAE regulators on both Arabic and Islamic Studies in international schools, this is an area that will need to be addressed.
Reflective of these changes, there have also been a number of rating adjustments, in relation particularly to the Foundation section, in regard to Teaching and Assessment and Curriculum. Care and Support of students has also been rated Very Good, previously Outstanding (in line with the Secondary section) for both Foundation and Primary. This relates specifically to the care and support of students with SEND or Gifts and Talents, for whom the identification and provision would appear not to be entirely consistent. Again, with the introduction of the KHDA's Inclusive Education policy in late 2017, this is another area of focus for the inspectors.
The area which remains consistently outstanding across the school is that of Students' Personal and Social development and their innovation skills - all rated Outstanding. Bearing in mind that the Secondary school was only 16 months old when the inspection took place, any rating that is Very Good or Outstanding is a real achievement. Most schools need at least two inspection rounds to reach this level.
The inspectors identified very clearly much that is Very Good or more at Jebel Ali School. In particular, they noted its strengths as:
The main action areas upon which the inspectors recommend focus are the need to :
There is no doubt in our minds at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, that Jebel Ali School remains an exceptional school in many ways, and that it offers an excellent education. The Secondary school has clearly got off to a very good start and with the new leadership team, we expect to see improvement in those areas identified.
With the relocation to Akoya, Jebel Ali School has remained a not-for-profit school - although it has introduced a debenture scheme to help pay for the relocation. At AED 25,000 per child for a private debenture (effectively an interest-free loan, refunded when the child leaves the school), this is comparable with the debenture at JESS Arabian Ranches and to the recently re-introduced debenture at Dubai College.
The new location, size, debenture scheme and secondary level fees (AED 79,000 for Year 7 upwards) should however give the school the economies of scale to begin to tackle those areas judged as weaknesses by the KHDA. That it has moved with such a high performing team, should give parents that have moved with it confidence that this is a school that can handle relocation, a new building and, indeed, curriculum with the addition of Secondary, and largely maintain business as usual.
Tuition fees are in the range of AED 44,960 in Primary School to AED 79,000 in Secondary.
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