Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) 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 1975. Currently the school caters to just over 700 students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities (although the single largest group is British).
The Story So Far...
The original Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS Jumeirah) is one of the longest established UK curriculum schools in Dubai, and one of the few non-profit making schools in the region. JESS Dubai started with 17 students in 1975 and now, between the original campus and its newer all-through school in Arabian Ranches, both schools deliver education to over 2,050 students.
JESS Jumeirah is located on a large site close to Safa Park and between the popular residential areas of Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim. The buildings are still very reminiscent of an Australian village school; all single storey and set in groups for each age group. The large plot allows for a wide range of sports and other outdoor activities.
There is no question that whilst JESS may not be one of the newest schools in Dubai, it has most certainly embraced the most up to date curriculum options, with a particular focus on alternative educational pathways, digital technology and future readiness. These programmes are fully supported by schools facilities and resources that are second to none.
Under the slogan 'Future Ready', the school states its position clearly: "we believe that the capacity for critical and creative thinking is a uniquely human attribute. We are preparing every student with the skills for a future where they will be required to think first, use information second and always remember that information is no substitute for imagination, intuition and pure thought".
However, JESS ensures that the focus is not purely on the academic. Director of both schools, Mr. Shane O'Brien in his introduction to the school comments:
"At JESS, culture is everything and two words encapsulate this culture for me – aspiration and nurture. These words form the heartbeat of our school. Every child will find their place at JESS and every child will be the best they can be, plus more".
JESS Jumeirah employs 53 full-time teachers, including the Headteacher and leadership team members, and 37 teaching assistants to look after the school's 703 pupils. Teachers are predominantly from the UK and well-qualified. Teacher turnover had been exceptionally low by Dubai standards - running at 6% in 2017-18, a reduction from 15% two years ago, but has grown to 21% in 2018-19 (average for the UAE). Low teacher turnover is usually an indication of staff satisfaction and stability, something that clearly benefits the school and its students. The overall teacher to student ratio is a very creditable 1:13.
In February 2022, JESS announced that current Headteacher, Mr. Asa Firth, who had been with the school for over thirteen years, and in the Headteacher's role for two, would be relocating to the UK in April 2022, and will be replaced by another long-term JESS Jumeirah staff member, Mr. Luke Rees, who has been with the school for eleven years.
In total some 70 different nationalities are represented in the student body, although the single largest demographic is British. The school is also accredited by British Schools in the 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 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..."
JESS is also one of only a select number of not for profit schools - the others include the American School of Dubai, Dubai College and Jebel Ali School - to operate a 'personal and corporate debenture' system, wherein joining families pay AED 20,000 on entry per child which is used as an interest free loan towards capital funding of 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.
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, Art, Design technology, History, Geography, (Islamic Education for Muslim students) and Arabic. Children entering JESS in Foundation One begin a two year programme based on a practical, hands-on approach. Children are guided through 7 areas of learning, namely: Personal, social and emotional development, Communication and language, Literacy, Mathematics, Physical development and Expressive arts and design.
In addition, students learn Arabic from Year 1 as well as Social Studies and Moral Education from Years 1 to 6. Information Technology is an integral part of the curriculum on offer at JESS and is used across all subject areas. Computing is also taught as a discrete subject by IT specialists in a purpose built suite.
JESS supports the philosophy that education goes beyond the limitations of the classroom. There is, therefore, a wide variety of extracurricular activities for children in Year 3 and above. These include sports and creative activities which are changed on a termly basis to take into account students' interests, teachers' skills and weather conditions.
Students with special educational needs (SEN) are said to be identified early on by a learning needs coordinator. The school currently has 21 students with special educational needs. Some students receive support in classes or in one-to-one sessions from the ‘Oasis’ learning support team. The provision and outcomes for students of determination was found to be Outstanding by the KHDA's inspection team again in 2018-19. This is particularly positive, since JESS does not charge any additional fees for provision of SEN support.
The Jumeirah school does not offer secondary education, but its sister school, Jumeirah English Speaking School, Arabian Ranches,which is also rated Outstanding by the KHDA, does. If your child is at JESS Jumeirah, he or she will be able to transfer to Arabian Ranches for secondary school. The level of academic achievement at JESS is outstanding.
The school offers the English National Curriculum including GCSE until Year 11, and a combination of the IB Diploma Programme, and the more vocational IB Career-related programme which is linked to BTEC studies.
JESS students achieved the highest overall points score for the IB Diploma in the UAE in July 2019 with an average of 37.8 points - 8% above the world average of 30 points, a figure which 100% of JESS students met or exceeded! In addition, 79.5% of students achieved 35 points or more; the equivalent of two A* and two As at A-level, and 36.4% of students scored 40 points or more, equivalent to more than 4 A* at A-level.
JESS also had its first cohort of 9 students complete their studies in BTEC in Art & Design, Sports & Sports Science, and Business Studies, all of whom passed. The average overall result was D*DD, with four students achieving the highest possible D*D*D* grade. Each student achieved their first-choice university destination. In addition, two students and one staff member received awards for Student and Teacher of the Year at the Global Pearson BTEC awards.
With no examinations taken in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, it is interesting to compare the results of 2019 (the last year when exams were taken) to those of 2021.
With a cohort of 92 students, all of whom passed the IBDP, the average score for the school was 39 points! 98.9% of students achieved a score of 30+ points, 88.1% achieved 35+ points and over 43.5% achieved 40+ points. Six students achieved the top score possible of 45 points. In terms of BTEC results, 12 JESS students achieved their Level 3 BTEC qualification ensuring entry to universities of their choice. Of the 220 exam entries, 75% were awarded Distinction*, 91% received an award of Distinction, 5% were awarded Merit and 4% achieved a Pass. Nine of those 12 BTEC students (75%) achieved the maximum award possible which is D*D*D*.
There is also a Primary school on the Arabian Ranches site, although this tends to be more heavily oversubscribed than the Jumeirah school.
What about the facilities?
Physical facilities at both JESS sites are state of the art reflecting the aims of JESS in providing a broad and balanced education for pupils. The Jumeirah site has interactive whiteboards in every classroom, fully equipped ICT and Music departments and extremely well-resourced libraries. Outside, the large, well-established campus has shaded, well-equipped playground areas. The Foundation section is completely separated from the main school buildings with plentiful outdoor space for its young students.
Sports facilities include temperature-controlled swimming pools, an air-conditioned sports hall, a multi-purpose PE studio, netball courts, and large sports fields. Swimming is an important part of the curriculum throughout JESS. There are two outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pools: one for use by younger children as well as a training pool for swim squads, galas and curriculum swimming. The training pool is a 25m, shaded and temperature controlled swimming pool, complete with changing facilities; the pool also features Fina World Championship standard diving blocks and anti-wave lane ropes.
The learner pool is 10m x 15m and a consistent depth of 0.8m across the pool. This allows younger and less confident swimmers to develop the fundamental skills required for success in the safest possible environment. The pools are overseen by a fully-trained lifeguard and they are totally covered by shading; spectator seating and changing rooms complete the poolside facilities.
The large tiger-turf sports field is used for games lessons, extra-curricular sports clubs and fixtures. The outdoor pitch can be used for a variety of sports including football, rugby, rounders and cricket. The pitch also has markings for athletics and is often used to train and prepare for athletics competitions. The fully shaded and cushioned outdoor Netball court is used for curriculum PE and regularly hosts netball fixtures with other schools. Its versatility means that a multitude of sports from Hockey and cricket through to rugby and football are played on the surface.
To ensure that sports continue through the whole year, even in the very hot months, indoor air-conditioned sports facilities include a multi-purpose, fully equipped PE studio which enables younger pupils to experience a wide variety of sports activities and games during their lessons, and is the venue for dance and movement classes. The air-conditioned sports hall is located at the centre of the school ensuring the high profile of sport within JESS Jumeirah.
The latest KHDA Inspection for 2018-19 again rated JESS Jumeirah Outstanding for the ninth year in a row.
In line with the KHDA's announcement in September 2019, JESS Jumeirah did not participate in a full inspection in the 2019-20 academic year, being subject only to a shortened one day inspection for which no new report was issued.
The report's summary notes that "Students achieve Outstanding results in English, mathematics and science in the Foundation Stage (FS) and the Primary school. In both phases they apply exceptionally well-developed learning skills across the curriculum".
Importantly, in the context of the school inspection and rating process, students' attainment and progress in Arabic and Islamic Studies are good. Students also develop high levels of skills in physical education, music and art. Ratings across all of the subjects delivered in English are Outstanding.
The award of the highest level of ratings does not stop with Academic Achievement either. All five remaining key performance standards, including Students' Personal and Social Development and their innovation skills, Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum, The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, and Leadership and Management are rated Outstanding.
In fact, there has been only one change to the ratings this year, and this was for Governance, which was downgraded to Very Good. This was apparently due to a perceived need for the school leadership to be "held to account" more effectively for the quality of staffing, teaching and leadership for Arabic and Islamic Education - a perennial issue for almost all private schools in Dubai. Further development of the school's inclusion policy for Students of Determination is also required.
Overall, however, the inspection team defined the strengths of JESS Jumeirah as:
The school's BSME report also notes attainment that is "well above the standard required".
In terms of areas for improvement, these inevitably focus on Arabic and Islamic Studies, and on the policy for Students of Determination following the launch of the KHDA's Inclusive Education policy.
Inspectors recommend that:
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - please go here.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com highly positive. 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 organises 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.
Parents who responded to our Survey gave the school a rating of 3.9/5 - a positivity rating of 78%. Parents say that 63% of children have a tremendous sense of belonging to the school, and their children enjoy going to JESS a tremendous amount. 59% believe that JESS's fees are good value for money whilst a further 37% partially agree. Parents are 90% entirely satisfied with their children's academic progress, which may explain why 81% have never considered moving their child to another school and 89% would recommend JESS Jumeirah to other parents.
If you are a parent or teacher at JESS Jumeirah, please share your opinions with others potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
According to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, some 137 parents who responded to the survey - approximately a quarter of the school's parents - were satisfied with the quality of education provided by JESS Jumeirah. All thought their children were safe in school and almost all believe dthat teachers had helped their children develop skills to learn effectively.
There is no doubting the quality of education at JESS, both in Jumeirah and Arabian Ranches. Both schools usually have long waiting lists for entry. To have any chance of getting a place for your child, you'll need to buy a debenture - unless your company has taken out a corporate debenture of which you can take advantage. (Corporate debentures take priority over personal ones on the waiting list).
The current cost of a personal debenture at JESS Jumeirah weighs in at a hefty AED 20,000 (in line with that of the Secondary school). Even with the debenture you are likely to spend 2-3 years on the waiting list. As ridiculous as it may sound, many parents contact the school as soon as their child is born. JESS operates a strict system in terms of timing of applications and if you are seeking a place in the Foundation section, we advise you to contact the school to ensure that you adhere to the registration process.
Having said that, the more transient nature of Dubai over the last couple of years means that if you're new to Dubai, it is worth checking whether places have arisen at short notice. Otherwise, your only real chance presently, is if your company has a corporate debenture that you can take use.
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. School uniforms are required even at this age, and parents should feel comfortable that their child is ready for this environment.
What about fees?
KHDA approved fees for 2019-20 have been aligned between the Jumeirah and Arabian Ranches campuses and range from AED 39,837 for FS1 to AED 49,230 from FS2 to Year 6 per year. Secondary school fees at JESS Arabian Ranches, for parents who will see their children move on to Year 7, are AED 82,521 for Years 7 to 11 and AED 93,852 for Sixth Form. There is also an application fee of AED 100 and an entrance fee of AED 500 on offer of a place. Neither are refundable, but the Entrance Fee is considerably less costly than that of many other Dubai schools, where anything up to AED 10,000 is the norm!
Certainly the Primary fees look 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. However, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that the KHDA is considering not-for-profit schools in a different category to for-profit when it comes to fee increases, which would allow more substantial increases provided the school can justify them.
Jumeirah English Speaking School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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