At a glance
NOTE: As Kings' School Dubai received an Outstanding rating in 2015/2016, there is no new KHDA report for the 2016/2017 inspection cycle.
Kings’ School Dubai is the only school in Dubai to have achieved an Outstanding ranking from the KHDA for eight years in a row – since Dubai’s regulator began inspections.
Based in Umm Suqeim 3, the mixed gender school is a 5 form entry school and has 914 children aged from 3 to 11. The majority of students are British but a total of 48 different nationalities are represented within the school.
There are currently 71 teachers and 30 learning assistants on the staff, most of whom trained in the UK or have English National Curriculum experience.
Teacher to student ratio is 1:13 in primary. This is low by UAE standards, meaning staff should be able to give pupils good levels of individual attention. Teacher turnover is also low - 15% in the last academic year. The UAE average is between 20-22 percent.
The KHDA notes an Outstanding quality of education - and has consistently since inspections began: The quality of leadership, relationships between all staff and students; student progress, the school’s innovative, engaging curriculum, the behaviour, positive attitudes and conscientious approach of students were all rated in the highest positive terms by the education regulator.
From as early as its 2011/12 report the KHDA has noted weaknesses in classroom support for students with additional learning needs, and noted that the quality of Arabic teaching is not up to the same level as that of other subjects. These remain the schools only weaknesses of note. In its latest report (2015/16) the DSIB says Kings should ensure teachers employ greater rigor in Arabic, and improve individual programs for special educational needs and disabilities.
Attainment and progress of Islamic studies is largely see as "Good" and Arabic studies is seen as "Acceptable". Kings' is rated Outstanding for English, Maths and Science - across phases for attainment and progress.
According to the school, the English National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is followed with a clear emphasis on teaching skills and concepts that challenge children at all levels. "Every opportunity is used to embrace first hand experiences and educational visits are used widely to enhance learning."
"The children at Kings' are integral partners in driving its success and range from roles such as Student Council and House Captains to Sports Council and Librarians who drive and shape the school with independent thinking."
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is highly positive. Close to 90% of parents surveyed would recommend Kings Dubai to other parents, the vast majority are satisfied with the academic performance of their children. There was a more balanced view as to whether the school offers good feedback, on discipline and on “Good Value”.
September 2014 saw the opening of two new schools under the brand – Kings’ Nad Al Sheba, and Kings’ School Al Barsha, neither of which has yet to receive a rating. The new schools allow the Kings' brand to offer schooling from pre-KG to secondary for the first time. Kings’ School Al Barsha is located on the Umm Suqeim Road in Al Barsha South, Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba is close to the Meydan development and the upcoming Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid City. A paid shuttle bus is offered for students between Kings’ School Dubai and Kings’ School Al Barsha for parents who have children at both campuses.
Fees at Kings' Dubai currently start at 40,777 AED for Foundation Stage and move to 61525 AED by Year 6. Once a school place has been offered, as per KHDA regulations the school requires a “new student registration deposit” which is 25% of the annual school fee (quite a hefty amount to find, but deducted from the first terms fees). Before the end of the summer term, a re-registration fee for the following academic year is required for all Kings’ Students. This fee is 10% of the annual school fee (deducted from the first terms school fees).
At all Kings’ schools fee payment options were reviewed and in order to give parents more options a new structure was introduced this year, where parents can either pay in full for the year, pay termly by 3 cheques or pay with 10 post dated cheques. The 10 post dated cheque system was introduced in order to give parents the option to spread payments over the year in line with salaries.
Which School Advisor Visit Review - King’s School Dubai, 14th June 2017
Led by a determined headteacher who is held in strong esteem by the school community, Kings' School Dubai is clearly one of the best primary schools in Dubai. The campus is light, bright quite large but through careful planning retains a cosy, welcoming feel. The creative arts and sporting opportunities available are exceptional for this level.
Kings' Dubai opened in 2004 and is the original or mother ship of this fast growing school brand. Branches now in Al Barsha and Nad Al Sheba are both catering from primary through to secondary. This British primary school follows the English National Curriculum but with its own twist which focuses on emotional intelligence.
Kings' School Dubai is a popular residential area and Kings' School Dubai is at the heart of this area not far from the Al Wasl road, Jumeirah Road and Umm Suqeim street (see WSA Area Guide). The school is housed in two modern curved two storey blocks behind secure fences and the now mature palm trees and bougainvillea which make for an attractive aspect.
Parking is rather limited so drop off time and pick up are not easy but security is on hand to supervise. We were warmly greeted by Alison the PA to the headmaster who took us to meet Mr Bede Higgins who is in his third year at Kings. Our first question was ‘Why are you in education?’ Bede had decided while at school himself that he was going to teach. He modestly explained that he had discovered an interest and ability in leading and inspiring others, and as he put it ‘not hierarchical in mind but about people’.
In his day to day working as a head he believes it’s the energy and enthusiasm of the children that gets him out of bed every day. He loves the notion that at primary level ‘all children think that anything is possible’. Kings' School Dubai he feels offers a broad experience for all children and that they are happy to come to school.
We inquired about Bede’s journey through education and his specialism when he started out. Originally he was a secondary maths and PE teacher. He taught in New Zealand for three years and in the UK at Thomas’s London Day school where he became a specialist in primary education. On arrival in Dubai he was head of PE for seven years at JPS and was assistant head at DESS for four years. When employed at Kings' School Dubai he was deputy head for the first year before being appointed as head teacher.
Bede believes Kings' School Dubai to be unique because it has history and has developed its own culture as it has evolved and grown. He explained how the school has a strong and well-deserved name in the Dubai community and that Kings' School Dubai has changed over the years to meet the community’s needs. A strong sense of belonging has created a really happy feel with supportive parents and fantastic staff.
He spoke of the many enriching opportunities where there is something for everyone such as the leagues developed in sport. We wanted to know where the school was headed and Bede expressed how he wanted to build on the community feel as many parents live locally and sense they are ‘part of something special at Kings’. The school’s greatest accomplishments Bede described as ‘their high levels of attainment’ receiving ‘outstanding’ from the KHDA in every year of inspection.
Challenges here he thought to be ‘the transience of Dubai’, although he explained they are very stable at Kings' School Dubai. There are also many other choices of school on the scene. The key phrase Bede would choose to sum up Kings Umm Suqeim is ‘warm, engaging with a community feel’. Bede believes all departments in the school to be strong and successful with the aim to ‘teach the whole child’ along with old fashioned values of morality.
The arts are integral to the curriculum here with an emphasis on singing. There are major year 5 and year 6 productions and a focus on class assemblies. Kings' School Dubai tackles bullying with zero tolerance and any issue is dealt with immediately. Their policy is very formal and any problem is thoroughly investigated. A week has been set aside to teach the ethos of tolerance called ‘Power for Good’. At Kings' School Dubai they call homework ‘home learning’ and they review with parents to get the balance right and to ensure it’s productive and attainable.
Bede feels that innovation is always in action across the board. Maximum class sizes rise from 20 in Foundation 1 to 24 in upper groups. Staff retention is helped by trying to create an inclusive and engaging environment. Teachers are emotionally supported and encouraged to get together and have fun.
Bede believes that all staff, however busy, are prompted not to take life too seriously. INSET training for staff is ongoing and is run by the three King’s management group. Bede told how their induction week for new staff is ‘the whole deal and unparalleled’. There is an open acceptance policy for pupils here as long as the school believes that they can cater for the individual.
Special scholarships are on offer for year 6 to gain a place for secondary at Kings Al Barsha. The entrance exam at Kings' School Dubai is age dependent with a play based assessment lower down and a CAT 4 writing and maths test higher up. When pupils leave this primary 60% head to Kings Al Barsha, others to various schools here in Dubai or go back to their home country or other destinations.
Bede wants prospective families to know how they can be involved in the community as five parents are on the governors board while many others get involved in the Kings' events. Pupils are offered lots of leadership roles as there is a student council. Children are also offered the chance to be ‘charity ambassadors’.
Our parents interview was with Nicola who has a seven and a nine year old and Hillary who has two six year olds at the school. We asked why they had chosen Kings' and it was ‘reputation’ and ‘word of mouth’ which had persuaded them. What has most impressed them about Kings' is how very happy their children are in this community where they feel they really know the teachers.
Our parent representatives have never considered leaving the school and praised the traditional and respectful values on offer here. Challenges they decided were the improvement work which is in progress and perhaps a ‘nice indoor play area’ to be added.
Nicola and Hillary feel the school is good value for money but realize it becomes more expensive the more their children get older. The uniform provider here is Zaks and there is no shop on site. The quality they believe to be good and a second hand shop run by parents is available.
Kings' School Dubai is quite strict with uniform policy, style of shoes, tie etc and year 3 upwards an optional blazer is worn. School food on offer is provided by the Bloom company and thought to be very good, although many children bring a packed lunch from home.
At drop off which can be very busy it’s been made possible to arrive early at 7.15 to ‘early birds’ so they can avoid the crowds. A bus service is not available here but a service operates from Umm Suqeim to shuttle children to secondary at Al Barsha. Local school trips are considered fine and clubs and ECAs of a good choice. Most are internally provided and free while a few external classes are paid for. One in-school activity was given special mention which was mini-book design which taught pop out fold out creative skills.
Instead of a parents association at Kings' School Dubai there is King'; Events where adults get involved. If the parents have any practical issue they said they can take this up with the phase leader. The school/teachers communicate with parents on a daily basis via a book that each child carries which includes reading record etc. Hillary and Nicola find teachers really approachable and that they reply to any email query at once.
Their opinion about homework is that it’s pitched at about the right level. Both parents feel that their children are challenged. Learning support is offered to students who need that bit extra and are put in to what’s called ‘booster groups’. These sessions they feel to be very helpful, supportive and with good follow up.
We inquired if our parent representatives thought education here is as good as in their home country and the comment was ‘they are so well looked after here.’ Phrases to sum up how Hillary and Nicola would choose to sum up Kings to prospective parents are ‘very friendly school’, ‘teachers always there’, ‘doors always open’, ‘children are pushed in a positive way’, ‘kids are encouraged to ask’ and ‘children get involved in problem solving as a group’.
Finally our parents spoke of the special celebrations and events where parents get involved which are ‘always great’. Arts Week they thought to be ‘an amazing programme’ with music and displays which were so inspiring and very impressive with beautiful performances. They suggested that prospective parents should try to get into Kings'. They are ‘so happy’ and feel ‘it’s good to be here’.
It is always a pleasure to interview pupils on our school visits and we were happy to meet Aidan, the head boy, Alexandra, the head girl, Ziyad, the deputy head boy and Lucy, the deputy head girl. These four bright, enthusiastic and articulate students have been at the school from between two to eight years. We asked what was special about Kings' School Dubai and what makes them proud to be here. Our group spoke of how ‘very inclusive’ it was with a warm welcome for everyone adding that ‘you never feel left out’.
The teachers are all ‘so welcoming’ are ‘kind’ and ‘like kids’. They describe as one huge bond ‘like a family of people’. One comment about how the school could improve came from Aidan who is a bit of an environmental warrior and wants further community involvement. When describing staff-pupil relationships our group were very positive. They described teachers as ‘like our friends’ who they feel to have ‘such close relationships with’ and ‘can talk to them about anything’.
Student culture is ‘jokingly competitive’ when involved in any challenge but they all get along. We asked about issues of bullying and it was considered very rare. If an issue such as name calling occurred it was dealt with extremely well.
A student council exists and our team believe they are taken very seriously by getting involved in charity work, animal care, organizing meetings and have managed to negotiate lighter homework. These school leaders describe the food on offer at Kings' as ‘really good and not expensive’. Comments on school uniform is that they approve as it’s comfortable but ‘the PE kit is a bit sweaty!’
We wanted to know about the workload and if pupils feel challenged. Our group believe they are individually pushed in most subjects. The quality of teaching they describe as ‘good’ and that there is a ‘really happy atmosphere’. Teachers have a sense of humour, are understanding and use very good styles and a variety of teaching methods.
A wide of choice of ECAs is on offer here which our pupils felt ‘was a bit overwhelming at first’. Great sporting opportunities are provided leading to BSME level competition. Pupils are not permitted to bring in mobile phones but personal iPads are allowed. Kings' connection to the Dubai community has seen them involved in the Smart City project, the collection of goods for charity boxes for construction workers and recycling campaigns.
The pupils spoke of meeting their best friends at school and how these connections are ‘amazing’. We looked for phrases our group would use to describe Kings' to prospective students and received ‘amazing’, ‘open’, ‘inviting’, ‘warm’, ‘wonderful headmaster’.
They would recommend Kings' ‘as it is the best school’. Again they described the headteacher as so welcoming and calm and the leadership team as ‘so kind’, ‘amazing’ and ‘open’. There is also such a big variety of leadership opportunities for children. Year 6 for example get involved in helping lower school classes.
Alison the headteacher’s PA took us on a full guided tour and as we explored the campus she explained how it’s been described as ‘two kidney beans surrounded by shoeboxes’, maybe in shape a little but this campus is very well designed. It is quite spacious and modern and has lots of natural light. The two main buildings are designed to have an open feel and are cleverly divided up so it retains a sense of cosiness.
We walked past outdoor animal gardens for guinea pigs which are now safely housed indoors and tortoises which looked to be very happy! We spotted an aviary and learnt that certain pupils have the responsibility as animal keepers. There is a large astro turf football pitch and a fenced ball game court along with a spacious outdoor play space for younger pupils. There are decking areas with soft floors for the cooler months and an outdoor covered court for further sports. A spacious upstairs gym with mirrored walls is used for dance classes.
There are two auditoriums for the main buildings, libraries, IT suites and swimming pools. While we were visiting a large show was in the process of being performed by what looked like the whole of years 5 and 6. Lines of children were all dressed up and excitedly preparing themselves for their opportunity to be on stage.
We walked through the huge welcoming staff room where reprographics are available and on hand from day to day. Two fully qualified school nurses run the medical clinic. There are two music rooms in each building with plenty of instruments and we learned that group music making is encouraged. In one room we saw ‘Robbie’s Rocket’ a part of the staging for a show the music teacher had written.
The libraries are attractive spaces with wooden floors and an imitation tree feature. In addition they have added small ‘intro’ library spaces to encourage reading and sharing books. Classrooms are colourful, inspiring with octagonal tables whiteboards throughout and great wall displays of pupils work.
There are lots of plants around the corridors and there is a relaxed atmosphere in this very welcoming school.
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