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Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches Review

JESS Arabian Ranches (Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches) is a not for profit co-educational primary and secondary school located in Arabian Ranches, Dubai.
Parents' Rating
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3.8 of 5 stars
At a glance
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
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Availability 2019/20
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Annual fee average
AED 64,500
Annual fees
AED 39,030 - 91,950
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
15%
Principal
Mr. Mark Steed
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British

Nearby nurseries

2.6km • EYFS curriculum
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Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Outstanding
Curricula taught
Availability 2018/19
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2019/20
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 64,500
Annual fees
AED 39,030 - 91,950
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
Opening year
2005
School year
Sep to Jul
Teacher turnover help
15%
Principal
Mr. Mark Steed
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
British
MORE arrow_drop_down
First Published:
Monday 1 October, 2012

Updated:
Wednesday 10 April, 2019

JESS Arabian Ranches (Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches) is a not for profit co-educational primary and secondary school located in Arabian Ranches, Dubai.

JESS Arabian Ranches has again been rated Outstanding in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process, following a "dip" to Very Good in 2017-18.  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 Arabian Ranches, the Story so Far

Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS), Arabian Ranches, is one of the most established schools in Dubai, and one of the few non-profit making schools in the region. JESS started with 17 students in 1975 and has grown to the two locations within Dubai, Arabian Ranches and JESS Jumeirah.

Read about the latest 2018 IB Results here

JESS Arabian Ranches is the second branch and was established in September 2005. Since then the school has grown to a size of 1,394 students (over half of whom are from the United Kingdom). The school employs 123 predominantly British teachers. Maximum class sizes are said to be 22 students per class, and the teacher: student ratio is 1:11.

JESS has always maintained that it is an inclusive and non-selective school.  Its Oasis Centre has long been a facility of the school for which there is no additional fee.  Students in need of additional support are provided with this by a team which seeks to identify, as early as possible, barriers to learning and to provide appropriate, age-related support. A personalised pathway is identified for each child with constant monitoring using technology that is a key part of the school's systems. An Education Psychologist and Counselling team are located at the school. 

In September 2015, the long-standing Director of the school, Rob Stokoe, retired, and his position was taken by Mark Steed, formerly in charge of the Berkhamsted group of schools in the UK.  Mr. Steed has a particular focus on the use of Digital Technology, both for students but also for parents and staff. 

The inclusive nature of the school means that there is a requirement for extremely effective assessment and tracking tools to ensure that individual student needs are being addressed.  An on-line tracking system means that parents have access at any time in order to see their children's progress.   The technology also allows staff to input, monitor and address student progress and attainment through computer-aided/Artificial intelligence-based performance/gap analysis, enabling personalised learning to be put in place for each child - a system that is currently in use throughout the Primary school. 

In addition, the school also operates a Social Media monitoring system which is able to identify what applications students are accessing and to raise awareness about on-line safety.

In June 2018, the Board of JESS announced that Mr. Steed would be leaving JESS to join a school in Hong Kong in June 2019.  His successor will be Shane O'Brien, who has been Head of the Secondary School at JESS Arabian Ranches for several years.  His successor has been named as Michael (Mike) Weller, who is travelling in the opposite direction to Mr. Steed and joining the school from Hong Kong.  Both he and Mr. O'Brien have a background in sports.

What about the Curriculum? 

The curriculum followed by the school is initially UK based with students up to the end of Key Stage 4 following the National Curriculum of England and Wales when they sit GCSE examinations, and subsequently the increasingly sought-after International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the IB Career-related programme in Years 12 and 13.  JESS has consistently been among the most successful IB curriculum schools in the UAE. 

The strong focus on technology means that all students participate in the Digital Technology curriculum.  Students are encouraged to be Digital Leaders, with peer mentors in Years 4 to 6 supporting children in lower years. 

From September 2017, JESS began to offer BTEC ‘PLUS’ courses in Art & Design, Business, and Sport in their Sixth Form. These courses are for students who want to work in these fields or who want to go on to study related subjects at university.  As Extended Level 3 Diplomas, they are the equivalent to 3 A-Levels and the ‘PLUS’ means that students can also get an additional qualification such as ‘A’ levels in Art History and Securities and Investment, or a coaching qualification.  The school also facilitates the arrangement of internships for students of the BTEC programme, to assist them in the process of "learning through doing".  BTEC students take part in the same IB classes and are taught by the same teaching staff.  The school is currently considering expanding the range of BTEC options.

Although the school follows the UK curriculum until Sixth Form, it uses the IB learner profile to guide all elements of the curriculum.  A particular area of focus has been on Independent Learning and the Make A Difference programme is designed to support this aim, with all students from Years 3 to 13 learning practical age-appropriate skills and improving their independence, particularly addressing conditions in the UAE which mean that children do not necessarily have the same opportunities (or demands placed upon them).  An important element of the programme addresses practical life skills that students will need when they leave school and home.

Whilst the academic side of the school has perhaps received more focus in recent years, JESS has also always participated in a wide range of competitive sports and also in an exceptionally broad range of Music and Performing Arts.  The recent appointment of a Director of Sports has meant this is an area of the curriculum that is going from strength to strength.  As a result the school is able to offer a personalised curriculum to students who are involved in competitive sports where they need to travel to participate. 

What about Student Achievement? 

The latest 2017/2018 IB Diploma results shows continued improvement and success among students at the school, with three students scoring 42 of the possible 45 points for their Diploma studies, a fantastic achievement.  In 2016-17, one student achieved the "perfect" 45 points.

Overall results for 2017-18 were impressive.  97 of the 103 students took the examinations for the full IB Diploma, with the remainder participating in the IB Career-related programme (IBCP). The average DP point score has increased to 35.5 - and is potentially likely to increase further with re-marks. This compares with a global average score of 29.78 (down slightly from 29.9 in 2016-17) and the UAE average score of 31.41.  Some 62% of students scored above 35 points and there was an overall pass rate of 100% (compared with a global average of 79%). 

In addition:

13.4% of pupils achieved 40 points or more (equivalent to more than 4 A* at A-level)
61.9% of pupils achieved 35 points or more (equivalent to 2 A* and 2 A at A-level)
93.8% of pupils achieved 30 points or more.

Students achieved 1.86 out of 3 for average core points - those points given for TOK, the Extended Essay and CAS components, compared with a world average of 1 point.  Although down on the average score of 2.02 in 2016-17, this is still an excellent achievement.

Although the IBO generally discourages comparisons between schools, given the widely differing circumstances in which schools offering the curriculum operate globally, it is fair to see that JESS, as a non-selective school, is currently the most successful, in terms of IB results, within the UAE.

In 2016/2017, the school achieved an IB average of 35.3 in the original results issued - exactly the same as it achieved in 2015/16. It scored 2.02 out of 3 for average core points (compared to the world average of 1 point).  Following remarks and resits, in January 2018, the school's average IB score was elevated to 36 points, with all but 1 of the 88 IB Diploma candidates having passed.

Almost one in five students (18.2%) achieved 40 points or more (equivalent to more than 4 A* at A-level) and over half (55.7%) of pupils achieved 35 points or more (equivalent to 2 A* and 2 A at A-level). In total 92.0% of pupils achieved more than the IB world average of 30 points. 

For GCSEs for 2017, there was improvement year on year with their best results to date, with 65.6% of students achieving A* to A and 98% A* to C. For 2015/2016, 21.8% of exams passed were A*, 57.9% of exams passed at A* or A grade, 97.0% of exams passed at A* to C and 92.9% of pupils achieved 5 passes (A*-C) including Maths and English. This was a record year for the school, although previous years have been almost as strong.

Examination results are updated annually on the school's website. You can find details here - Examination Results. WSA strongly believes all schools in the region should be as transparent with the results of their students.

What do the Inspectors Say? 

For the five year period up until 2015-2016, the school received the Knowledge and Human Development Authority inspection rating of Outstanding, after two years of a Good rating by the KHDA. This rating remained for 2016-17 as JESS Arabian Ranches was exempted from inspection as one of the schools that participated in the Abundance Project mentoring schools whose performance was Acceptable or Weak. 

In the 2017-18 Inspection round, therefore, it was something of a surprise to learn that JESS Arabian Ranches was one of three schools of high repute (the others being  Dubai International Academy and the Indian High School Dubai) that were downgraded to Very Good. (The original JESS in Jumeirah remains ranked Outstanding.)

Overall, the KHDA remains very impressed with JESS. As the report notes, the school's strengths are that it: "...instils in students a sense of personal and social responsibility, respect for UAE values and culture, and a love of learning. The care, guidance, and support for students are excellent. Parents and governors are integral to the success of the school. Most school leaders are effective and innovative role models to their staff. High levels of performance are sustained across the school, particularly in English".

Student progress and attainment is Outstanding across the board, save for Islamic Education and Arabic, which was rated Acceptable and with a drop in progress to Acceptable from Good in Arabic as a first language. English, Mathematics, and Science were found to be Outstanding in both student attainment and progress in all sections of the school with the exception of progress in Maths, and progress and attainment in Science, which fell from Outstanding to Very good.  It must be noted that actual IB results for 2017 and 2018 do not reflect these changes so it is not immediately clear on what basis Inspectors drew their conclusion.

Also highly ranked is students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills. As the report notes,

"Students of all ages show very positive attitudes towards school. They [are] clearly motivated, enthusiastic and resilient learners with high levels of independence and self-reliance skills." 

The campus has a warm atmosphere and collegiate environment. Students’ behaviour is described as "exemplary". Not to take anything away from students themselves, JESS AR clearly has a system designed to encourage certain types of behavior.

"Positive behaviour was actively promoted and rewarded, and students showed high levels of self-discipline throughout the school. Older students were exceptionally good role models for younger students. All students were polite and helpful." 

Teaching for effective learning and assessment are rated Outstanding in Foundation and Primary but were again marked down to Very good for both criteria in Secondary and for assessment in post-16.  Inspectors noted that in relation to effective learning that:

"In Arabic and Islamic education, [however], teachers’ knowledge of how students learn effectively is not as evident".  They also noted that "In the upper secondary phase and in the Diploma Programme, many lessons are focused on examination questions, and opportunities for deepening students’ understanding are missed".

There appear to have been particular concerns in relation to assessment tools and their use. Inspectors noted that "the full range of external benchmark data available to the school is not always used effectively, especially in the secondary phase. The quality of feedback to students in the secondary and post-16 phases is variable."  WhichSchoolAdvisor.com understands that these comments may, in part, result from the school's preference for, and use of a different bench-marking system (midYIS), in addition to the KHDA's prescribed GL system.

The curriculum, Protection, Care and Guidance of students and Inclusion were all rated Outstanding, as were relationships with parents and the community, governance and facilities (including management, staff and resources).

Provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is another area of the school ranked as Outstanding. As the report notes, "The school uses a wide range of effective identification procedures to ensure accurate identification of need, including the use of external providers for more complex cases. The information is used effectively, with parental contributions and teacher observations, to plan well-designed and individualised education programmes."

In terms of the Leadership and Management of JESS Arabian Ranches, comments from the Inspectors are largely positive, although both the effectiveness of leadership and the school's self-evaluation and improvement planning were downgraded to Very good.

"The director and leadership team have an innovative and coherent vision for the school as a beacon of educational excellence. A positive culture of learning has been established, particularly in the Foundation Stage and the primary phase. Effective strategic direction has resulted in sustained high performance in external examinations in the other phases. Distributed leadership creates an ethos of collective responsibility with most leaders feeling empowered. School leaders understand the strengths and areas for development and have clearly identified key priorities. They work diligently to evaluate school initiatives."

At the nub of the concerns would appear to be comments related to Middle leaders who "contribute their expertise, although this is variable in the secondary phase. They design innovative and creative solutions to address the school’s priorities. This has had a limited impact on students’ achievement in Arabic and Islamic education".

Student feedback through the pre-inspection survey found that almost all of the 271 students who responded "express high levels of satisfaction with the quality of education. Some seem concerned about learning to read Arabic..."

Some 295 parents responded to the survey and also expressed "high levels of satisfaction with the quality of education and the quality of leadership and teaching. Some concerns are about the promotion of literacy in Arabic, and children reading for pleasure at home. Specific comments relate to weak teaching in Arabic..."

What about Facilities? 

JESS Arabian Ranches makes good use of its nine-acre site and its facilities are every bit as good as any of the best profit making schools with 70 teaching areas, Science & ICT labs, Art, Drama & DT facilities, an independent music facility, a 500-seater Auditorium, 1000 sq metre sports hall, two temperature-controlled, shaded swimming pools, equipped playground areas and extensive playing fields.

The focus on sports and JESS' participation in the various school leagues and competitions has recently seen our sister website, www.schoolscompared.com, rate the school as one of the Best Schools for Sports in the UAE. JESS currently has more teams competing in leagues than any other in Dubai.

A 4000sq. m Sixth Form development and extension was completed at the end of 2013. It includes a PE/dance studio, seminar rooms, a senior study hall, an examination hall, a cafeteria and a further auditorium.

What do Parents Say? 

Parents at JESS, Arabian Ranches are in general very highly satisfied with the quality of education received. They also praise the school's inclusive nature. Parents would universally recommend the school, with students having a strong sense of belonging, and for the most part really enjoying their time at the school. Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments of JESS Arabian Ranches is that despite its premium fee structure, parents still consider it good value for money. More here.

Note: If you are a parent with children at the school, add your voice here.

It's not only parents that are happy with the school's general direction: Students and teachers also register high levels of satisfaction at the school. Teachers no doubt benefit from the school's not for profit nature which, in general, usually means more training, and better remuneration. Dubai's not for profit schools in general suffer less from high staff turnover.

JESS Jumeirah and JESS Arabian Ranches are incredibly popular schools, and the Primary years are difficult to get children into. The school has waiting lists for all years except Sixth Form (Year 12) but these lists tend to be shorter in the Secondary year groups as new schools have opened around the Arabian Ranches area which has alleviated some pressure on places.

The Debenture System

As a not-for-profit school, a personal debenture (an interest free loan you make available to the school) is required for all children joining the school over and above school fees. There are two types of debentures available: Corporate and Personal. Corporate Debentures were sold to companies who chose to support JESS on a long term basis by investing in the initial building of the schools. In return for this commitment their employees, (if eligible), gain priority on the waiting lists.

A personal debenture requires parents to pay AED 20,000, but only after a place is offered. This is fully refundable when the child leaves the school.

On the school's website, it is clearly indicated where the funds go, which is a model more schools could follow. 

Seventy percent of fees go to staffing. This is a substantial wage bill and really demands teaching in the school is outstanding... Fortunate then that that is predominantly the case - according to school inspectors...

What about Fees? 

Fees at JESS Arabian Ranches start at AED39,030 for Foundation Stage 1, and increase to AED 48,233 from FS2 to Grade 6 - these are mid to premium range. Secondary school fees however jump to top end premium, starting at AED 80,848 for years 7-11, before moving to AED 91,950 for years 12-13.  

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