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 700 students from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities (although the single largest group is British).
JESS Jumeirah has been rated Outstanding for the ninth year running (and for the tenth time in eleven years) in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full report has been issued.
JESS Dubai, The Story So Far
Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS), 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 2,050 students.
JESS Dubai started with 17 students in 1975 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 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.
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. No inspection took place in 2016-17, as JESS Jumeirah was one of the Outstanding and Very Good rated schools exempted from the DSIB round by its participation in the Abundance project, where by high-attaining schools mentored schools in need of support. The latest KHDA Inspection for 2017-18 has again rated the school Outstanding.
The Jumeirah school does not offer secondary education, but its sister school, in Arabian Ranches, does - Jumeirah English Speaking School, Arabian Ranches - which was most recently ranked Very Good by the KHDA. This was a drop from its previous Outstanding rating, driven primarily by the provision of Arabic and Islamic Studies and assessment processes used within the school. In the view of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, it remains an outstanding school overall. If your child is at JESS Jumeriah, he or she will be able to transfer to Arabian Ranches for secondary school.
The school employs 50 full-time teachers (down three from the previous academic year), including the principal and 33 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 6%, a reduction from 15% two years ago and generally an indication of a stable and happy environment for staff. 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 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 18 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, the current report noting that "The leadership provided by the headteacher, capably supported by senior leaders, middle leaders and governors, is highly inspirational and appreciated by students, staff and parents. Strengths and weaknesses of the school are well known. Relationships are excellent. Governors monitor the school and hold leaders to account for the impact of their actions. Partnerships with parents are outstanding".
The school's latest inspection report notes "Attainment and progress in English, Mathematics and Science remain outstanding in the Foundation Stage and the primary school. Both attainment and progress in Arabic and Islamic education are good and better than reported at the previous inspection. Students’ innovation, enterprise, enquiry, research, problem-solving and critical thinking skills are developed very effectively so that students’ learning skills are outstanding overall".
The school's BSME report also notes attainment that is "well above the standard required".
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.
Areas to improve on according to the KHDA's inspection team include Arabic - a perennial recommendation for JESS Jumeirah - and the majority of the UAE's private schools. However, even here, the rating for both Attainment and Progress across Arabic as both a first and additional language, and Islamic Studies are rated Good - a definite achievement. Specifically, inspectors have asked the school to " Improve the quality of teaching for effective learning in Islamic education by: sharing the very good and outstanding practice that already exists; increasing opportunities for students to use evidence from the Holy Qur’an and Hadith to support their Islamic knowledge; [and] providing students with more research options to enhance their understanding of the subject.
Teachers should also "improve the quality of teaching for effective learning in Arabic by: sharing the very good and outstanding practice that already exists; ensuring that work is better planned to challenge all students especially the more and less able students; increasing students’ use and retention of vocabulary in Arabic writing, as well as providing students with verbal and written feedback on their work and how to improve.
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 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.
JESS Jumeirah has a long waiting list to enter. To have any chance of getting a place for your child, you'll need to buy a debenture 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 Jumeirah weighs in at a hefty AED 20,000 (in line with that of the Secondary school and increased AED 10,000). 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, if you are seeking a place in the Foundation section, we advise you to register.
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.
KHDA approved fees for 2017/18 range from AED 39,030 to AED 48,234 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. 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.
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