United Arab Emirates / Dubai / Al Safa / Jumeirah English Speaking School

Jumeirah English Speaking School Review

Jumeirah English Speaking School is a not for profit co-educational primary school located in Al Safa, Dubai. The school is very well established, having opened its doors for the first time in 1976. Currently the school caters to more than 700 students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities (although the single largest group is British).
Jumeirah English Speaking School
First Published: Monday 1 October, 2012
Updated: Saturday 23 December, 2017

Jumeirah English Speaking School is a not for profit co-educational primary school located in Al Safa, Dubai. The school is very well established, having opened its doors for the first time in 1976. Currently the school caters to more than 700 students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities (although the single largest group is British).

First Published: Monday 1 October, 2012
Updated: Saturday 23 December, 2017

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

The Story So Far

Jumeirah English Speaking School, is one of the most established schools in Dubai, and one of the few non-profit making schools in the region, delivering education to over 2050 students. 

JESS started with 17 students in 1975, near the Deira Clock Tower and has grown to the two locations within Dubai, Arabian Ranches and JESS Jumeirah.

The schools operate with a 'corporate debenture' system wherein joining families pay AED 20,000 which is used to fund the school. Upon leaving the school, the money is returned. On the school's website, it is clearly indicated where the funds go, which is a model more schools could follow. 


source: http://www.jess.sch.ae/jess/school/schoolfee 

What the Inspectors Say

As of 2015-2016 the school received the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) inspection rating of Outstanding, the sixth year it has received the Dubai Inspection Bureau's highest grade.

The school does not offer secondary education, but its sister school, in Arabian Ranches, does - Jumeirah English Speaking School, Arabian Ranches - which is also ranked Outstanding by the KHDA. If your child is at Al Safa, he or she will be able to transfer to Arabian Ranches for secondary school.

The school employs 51 full-time teachers (down three from the previous academic year), including the principal and 40 teaching assistants to look after the school's 700 pupils. All teachers are said to be well-qualified. Teacher turnover is low by Dubai standards - currently running at 14%. There is also "a skilled administrative team" ensuring the smooth running of the school on a day-to-day basis.

In total some 40 different nationalities are represented in the student body, although the single largest demographic is British. The school is also accredited by British Schools Middle East, which notes Britishness is not limited to the origin of its dominant student nationality. "Theme days, similar to UK schools are enjoyed by pupils. Red Nose Day, Sports Relief and ‘JESS J Has Talent’ are particular favourites. World Book Day and authors such as Ciaran Murtagh, Eoin Colfer and Niall Griffiths have visited the school. Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines has performed at the school twice in recent years providing a focus for the St. George’s Day Celebrations..."

Students with special educational needs (SEN) are said to be identified early on by a learning needs coordinator. The school currently has 23 students with special educational needs. Some students receive support in classes or in one-to-one sessions from the ‘Oasis’ learning support team. The overall teacher to student ratio is a very creditable 1:14.

The school does a lot well, including "exceptionally well-focused leadership provided by the head teacher and senior staff [who] continuously drive improvement forward," the KHDA notes. The school's latest inspection report notes the outstanding provision for early years which has "an excellent impact on children's learning and progress". In addition, students show exemplary behaviour and extremely positive attitudes. Teaching is said to be highly skilled, underpinned by an engaging curriculum.

The school's BSME report also notes attainment that is "well above the standard required".

Areas to improve on according to the KHDA's inspection team include Arabic - a perennial recommendation for JESS - and the majority of the UAE's private schools.

Elsewhere the school is consistently outstanding: The effectiveness of leadership, self-evaluation and improvement planning, Parents and the community,Governance, Management, staffing, facilities and resources...Tick, tick, tick and tick. It not a surprise this is on most Dubai parent's short list of schools.

Students at the school follow the UK's Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, probably the most widespread nursery and pre-school curriculum in the UAE which encourages children to learn through play and self led, but guided, discovery. Students from primary school onward follow the National Curriculum of England which aims to develop and apply a broad range of skills and knowledge in each student by means of creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving.

Core subjects include English, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, ICT, Music, Arts, Humanities, Islamic Education and Arabic.

Parents are overwhelmingly positive about the school, singling out excellent communications about their children’s progress; English, mathematics and science teaching; and the level of enjoyment and participation of students themselves. Parents talk about the 'village' type atmosphere of the school, appreciated by pupils and parents alike. The school also has a strong parents association which organizes a well established 'Night Market' in December. Events such as these add a good additional stream of revenue for the school, and means the school is very well equipped - for example in its "state of the art" gymnasium.

JESS has a long waiting list to enter. It operates a "debenture" system - basically a zero interest loan you give to the school. To have any serious chance of getting a place for your child, you'll need to buy one - unless your company has taken out a corporate debenture you can take advantage of. (Corporate debentures take priority over personal ones on the waiting list).

The current cost of a debenture at JESS weighs in at a hefty 20,000 AED (up from 10,000 AED a few years ago). Even with the debenture you are likely to spend 2-3 years on the waiting list. As ridiculous as it may sound, as soon as your child is born, get them on the list.

If you're new to Dubai, and come with kids, clearly this is not an option. In your case, your only real chance presently, is if your company has a corporate debenture you can take advantage of.

For more information on JESS admissions, go here.

The school actively encourages pupils to enter at FS1, an age when many children would still be at nursery - although the recent ruling on school starting age by the MoE - an initiative that is meant to kick in in 2014 - may have changed this policy. School uniforms are required even at this age, and parents should feel comfortable that their child is ready for this environment.

KHDA approved fees for 2016/17 range from 37,893 AED  to 46,829 AED per year, depending on the student's age level. This is looking surprisingly mid table - older schools, even those able to increase their fees at a maximum each year - are falling behind newer schools when it comes to tuition fees they can charge. Great for current parents, perhaps not so good for longer term investment or growth for the school itself.

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