JESS Arabian Ranches (Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches) is a not for profit co-educational all-through school located in Arabian Ranches, Dubai.
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 two locations within Dubai, at Arabian Ranches and Jumeirah.
JESS Arabian Ranches was set up in September 2005 to meet demand from existing parents. Although the school had hoped to develop a neighbouring site to the original Jumeirah school, ultimately, the Arabian Ranches location was the best option presented at the time. The purchase of homes there by large numbers of Western expatriates (notably from Emirates and its associated companies) gave the school a head start.
Since its beginnings in Arabian Ranches almost 15 years ago, the school has grown to a size of over 1,420 students (over half of whom are from the United Kingdom). However, students come from a very wide range of nationalities - approximately 60 in total - and also educates approximately 30 Emirati students.
The school employs 123 predominantly British teachers, together with a further 40 teaching assistants. Maximum class sizes are said to be 22 students per class, and the teacher: student ratio is 1:12. Staff turnover, at 11%, is half the UAE average of 20-22% and speaks for a content and stable team at the school.
JESS has always maintained that it is an inclusive and non-selective school and currently has approximately 45 Students of Determination, with additional learning needs. The school's Oasis Centre has been offering support to students since its opening in Arabian Ranches, and one 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, having successfully negotiated the financing, construction, opening and ongoing operations of the school in Arabian Ranches. His position was taken by Mark Steed, formerly in charge of the Berkhamsted group of schools in the UK. Mr. Steed has had a particular focus on the use of Digital Technology, both for students but also for parents and staff.
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".
With Mr. Steed's move to Kellett School in Hong Kong, his position as Director has been assumed by Shane O'Brien, who was recruited by Rob Stokoe and has served as Head of Secondary under Mr. Steed. As such Mr. O'Brien can be expected to take over in a smooth transition which will no doubt be a positive factor for staff, parents and students. Mr. O'Brien's 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.
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.
But JESS also ensures that the focus is not purely on the academic or technology. Principal, 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 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 and ICT labs, Art, Drama and Design Technology facilities, an independent music centre, 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 saw 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.
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 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. One former student, Reuben Strobel, was runner up in the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Young Musician of the Year competitions in both 2017 and 2018. 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.
As further confirmation of the sporting achievement at the school, in addition to the obvious academic focus, twelve boys from JESS Dubai made history recently and put UAE Rugby on the world map after finishing runners-up in the world's largest school rugby tournament - Rosslyn Park 7s - narrowly losing to Harrow School for Boys in the Cup Final after strong performances in all their games. 196 teams competed in the competition in the UK; 195 of those were from the UK with JESS the only international school participant.
The latest 2018-19 IB Diploma results shows continued improvement and success among students at the school, with four students scoring the maximum possible 45 points for their Diploma studies, a fantastic achievement.
Overall results for 2018-19 were impressive. All 88 students who entered the IB Diploma examinations passed this year, as did the 2017-18 cohort, scoring an average of 37.94 points compared with 35.8 a year ago. 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, has achieved by far the highest average score of any UAE school, and is also more than 8 points above the global average of 29.62 and the UAE average of 32.26.
A remarkable 45 points were achieved by Finley Bettsworth, Holly Neille, Maia Roberts, and Reuben Strobel. A further five students achieved 44 points - these were Diana Domingues, Fran Day, Luca Simic, Katie Birimac, and Seren Coulson. Again, remarkably, all 88 Diploma students achieved over 30 points, with 79.5% achieving 35+ points and 36.4% achieving 40 points and above.
Students achieved 1.86 out of 3 for average core points - those points are given for the obligatory elements of Theory Of Knowledge, the Extended Essay and Community, Action and Service components, compared with a world average of 1 point.
GCSE results in 2018 exceeded previous records with a 7% increase in students achieving A*s with 40% of students being awarded the top A* grade at GCSE. 70% of students achieved A*-A grades and 99% of students achieved A* - C. These are remarkable statistics for a mixed ability school. The common used comparison of 5 passes at A*-C including Maths and English was 98%.
In comparison, for GCSEs for 2017, there was improvement year on year 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. Clearly, results are going from strength to strength each year.
Examination results are updated annually on the school's website. You can find details here - Examination Results. We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com strongly believe 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 remained ranked Outstanding.)
The results of the 2018-19 inspection round show that the delivery of quality education at JESS Arabian Ranches is once again back to Business as Usual, with the Outstanding rating restored.
It was the only one of the three 'downgraded' schools in 2017-18 to achieve this.
The key areas of concern for the inspection team in 2017-18 were largely related to the processes of assessment at JESS, together with the perennial issues related to Islamic Education and Arabic, and to progress in Secondary school Maths, and progress and attainment in Science - although actual IB results for 2017 and 2018 did not reflect any downturn in student performance.
Based on the current report, it would seem that for the most part, those concerns have been addressed. Islamic Education and Arabic, both as a first and second language, are largely rated Good in the Primary section and acceptable in Secondary and post-16 - although progress in Arabic as a second language in the Primary section has fallen back to Acceptable from Good. Progress in post-16 Mathematics attainment and in post-16 Science remain Very Good, but post 16 Science progress has been upgraded to Outstanding.
The remaining 33 key performance standards related to Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, the Curriculum, Teaching and Assessment, The Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, and Leadership and Management were all rated Outstanding. This included improvements from Very Good to Outstanding in Teaching and Assessment in the Secondary and post-16 sections, and two improvements in Leadership and Management.
Clearly the inspection team's concerns were allayed in 2018-19, when they described the strengths of JESS Arabian Ranches as:
Inevitably, the main areas for improvement were focused on Arabic and Islamic Studies, and also on ensuring a clear message to prospective parents in the context of support for students of Determination.
The inspection team recommended that JESS Arabian Ranches should:
If you would like to read the entire KHDA inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do, you may find it here.
A significant 572 students responded to the KHDA's Well-being survey, with results indicating that "students' emotional and social well-being" are stronger than the Dubai average, except for measures of perseverance and emotional regulation. Overall the girls' responses were more positive than the boys'.
A relatively small number of parents - 59 - responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey, but 99% of those who did were almost all satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school. They think teachers help their children to develop good learning skills, and all consider that their children are safe at school. Most feel their children are happy and have formed good friendships with other students and positive relationships with staff.
The WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey at JESS, Arabian Ranches reveals that parents are, in general, highly satisfied with the quality of education received with 94% impressed by the school's academic performance. 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, two-thirds of parents still consider it good value for money.
If you are a parent, teacher or Senior student at JESS Arabian Ranches, please share your experiences by completing our survey here.
Teachers also register high levels of satisfaction at the school as indicated via the very low level of staff turnover of 11%. Teachers no doubt benefit from the school's not for profit operations 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.
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.
Fees at JESS Arabian Ranches start at AED 39,837 for Foundation Stage 1, and increase to AED 49,230 from FS2 to Year 6 - these are mid to premium range. Secondary school fees however jump to top end premium, starting at AED 82,521 for Years 7 to 11, before moving to AED 93,852 for Years 12-13. There is also a registration fee of AED 100 and an Entrance fee of AED 500 on offer of a place. Neither are refundable, but both are significantly lower than those charged by many other schools in the city - a deposit of upward of AED 10,000 is not unusual in order to secure a place. The Entrance fee is offset against the first year's tuition fees. The debenture payment of AED 20,000 remains with the school until the child leaves.
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