Pristine Private School is widely regarded as one of the best value UK curriculum based schools in Dubai. However, a lack of transparency when it comes to published results from external examinations make measuring its performance against its peers somewhat difficult.
Pristine Private School has been rated Good for the seventh year running in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
Clearly doing something right, Pristine Private School celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017 and has now held a Good KHDA rating for six years. This makes it one of the best value, Good rated UK curriculum schools in the emirate. Fees (not inclusive of a range of mandatory extra fees which add between AED 3,900 and AED 4,500 to the official tuition fees) can be one fifth or less than the fees demanded at Dubai's most pricey schools.
However, it should be borne in mind that Pristine Private School (PPS) does not publish its IGCSE and A Level results, so how well students perform academically in external exams is not known. The school does provide a list of university destinations, but there is no reference as to when students entered tertiary education. What we do know is that the school has been rated Good by the KHDA's DSIB inspection teams for six years in a row, and that many ratings in the most recent inspection report are not only Good, but Very Good or even Outstanding - find out more in our What the Inspectors Say section below.
Set up in 1982, PPS is one of the older UK curriculum, but largely Indian staffed, schools in Dubai. The Founder, Shahida Salam, is clearly very much still involved with the school. The Principal has been with the school since 2015.
The school's website shares its Core Values.
"We value intellectual freedom, curiosity, and engagement; critical and creative inquiry; rigorous debate; and intellectual integrity in all endeavors. We are committed to inculcating honesty and dedicated approach towards learning as a life-long pursuit.
The globalized world of today finds an amalgamation of different cultures, all brought into one common place . At PPS with 48 nationalities studying we are committed to cultural diversity, mutual respect among all persons, compassion for others, honest and open communication, and fairness and integrity in all that we do.
Mindful of humanity’s interdependence and the dignity of every individual, we promote respect for diversity and are committed stewards of helping students to grow as confident self respecting individuals who will become better future leaders . We take pride in the utility and beauty of our campus as a place of intellectual engagement and personal growth".
These are not merely fine words. PPS is rated Outstanding across the board in the 2017-18 KHDA inspection report in all aspects of Students' Personal and Social Development, and Innovation skills. This is a rare accomplishment among Dubai schools.
Pristine Private School currently provides an education for approximately 1,500 boys and girls from FS1 to Year 13. The demographic of the school is dominated by students from Pakistani families; with significant numbers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka. In total, close to 50 different nationalities are represented at the school.
There are currently 130 teachers, the majority from India, together with a further 30 teaching assistants at the school giving a respectable teacher:student ratio of 1:14. Teacher turnover last year was well below the UAE average of 20-22% running at 11%. This is usually a positive sign of satisfied staff and good leadership.
Just 40 students are currently identified as having special educational needs. The school is described as a "caring and supportive learning environment" and provides "adequate provision" for students with special educational needs and disabilities.
The school offers the National Curriculum for England and Wales. At Foundation Stage it follows the Early Years curriculum. In the primary and secondary phases it follows the National Curriculum of England and Wales through the Cambridge curriculum, as well as the Ministry of Education framework for Islamic Education and Arabic. Senior students sit the University of Cambridge International Examinations (IGCSE) at Year 11, and Cambridge AS and A-levels at Years 12 and 13.
What about academics?
Unusually, the school is divided into Junior, Middle and Senior schools sections, rather than the more common FS, Primary and Secondary.
The Junior School is for students from Foundation Stage to Year 2 and its programme is designed to encourage and support "all students to acquire the highest standards of knowledge and skills that students should acquire in Foundation stage through Year 2. It is a broad, balanced and differentiated programme of study, complying with the National Curriculum". The Foundation Stageprogramme is based on the 'Early Years Foundation Stage Principles'.
Students in Year Groups 3 to 8 form the Middle School, covering the National Curriculum framework for Key Stages 2 and Key Stage 3. Students from Year 7 follow the Cambridge Secondary 1 Programme. The MOE framework is used for Islamic Education and Arabic. Students cover a range of core subjects including Arabic, Islamic Education, English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Art, PE, Modern Foreign Languages and Values Education. ICT is an integral part of all curriculum areas including dedicated ICT lessons .
The Senior School Programme is provided to students in Years 9 to 13. PPS aims to provide "a challenging course that leads to development of successful learners who are confident enough to become global citizens of tomorrow. The Senior School provides a vibrant and stimulating environment, where students continue with academic challenges whilst preparing for the independence of university, further education or employment". Senior school students are expected to take an active role in the whole school, running the School Student Council and acting as mentors and role models for younger students.
Students of Year 9 (KS3) follow the Cambridge Secondary 1 Programme and take the Cambridge Secondary Checkpoint Examination at the end of Year 9. Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) and Key Stage 5 students (Years 12 and 13) study for the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), which comprises of Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge International AS and A levels.
Students at PPS are offered quite a wide range of IGCSE options - often something of an issue at lower-fee schools, who tend to limit the number of subjects on offer. At PPS, students are required to take at least eight IGCSE subjects. In addition to the core subjects of English as a First Language or English as a Second Language, Environmental Management, Mathematics and ICT, they may choose from Accounting, Art and Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Development Studies, Economics, English Literature, Enterprise, French, Physics, Travel and Tourism and Urdu.
AS/A options (students generally take four subjects at AS and 3 at A Level) include Accounting, Applied ICT, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Economics, English Language, Environmental Management, Global Perspective, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Thinking skills. In common with many Indian-led schools, there is very little opportunity for creative or artistic options at A Level.
Unfortunately the school does not publish details of its examination results, so it is not possible to ascertain how successful the school is academically. This is a great pity as there is clearly academic talent within PPS. In June 2019, Cambridge International Education (the curriculum and Examination Board for the Cambridge Secondary curriculum and IGCSE) announced that a team of year 10 students from Pristine Private School had won the Cambridge Upper Secondary Science Competition for the Middle East and North Africa region.
The competition was open to schools, in which teams of students studying for Cambridge IGCSEs investigated their own choice of scientific topics. The winning project involved investigating the water purity level by filtration using carbon filter. The aim of the competition, held for the first time in 2019, was to give learners the chance to develop their passion for science, while also developing their skills in collaboration, communication, innovation and creativity.
Sonika Saxena, Head of Science at Pristine Private School, said: “This is a classic example of ‘Science for a Cause’. We wanted to find a solution to the problem of generating clean drinking water economically, thus catering to millions of people in developing countries who still do not have access to pure water. The team’s strong imagination led to invention of this innovative method of low cost filtration. This will further inspire many more to find solutions to real world problems using their scientific knowledge.”
All teams were judged by an expert panel, including Dr Rachel Garsed, Senior Engineer at CMR Surgical, Dr Elaine Wilson, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University, Dr Judith Roberts, Head of Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary, Development, Cambridge International and Dr Maryke Helen Eccles.
What about Facilities?
Pristine offers good facilities for its students with Science and Computer Laboratories, Interactive White Boards in Classrooms, Libraries, Art Studios, and a Sports Complex which was purpose built with racing tracks, game courts and the swimming pool. There is also a multipurpose auditorium. Outside, covered sand pits and a shaded courtyard give children the opportunity to play and expend their energy. A specially designed play area for the Kindergarten is provided, with climbing frames and slides, for the development of gross motor skills.
The KHDA inspection report starts with comments on the Leadership and Management of PPS. There is clearly much that is going well at the school. "The principal, senior management team and governors are strongly committed to improvement. They share this vision with staff, students and parents. Parents play an important role in supporting the school. Staffing levels are well managed. Senior leaders’ accurate identification of priorities for development is leading to improvements in students’ achievement and aspects of provision".
The inspection report uses the common organisation of a UK curriculum school (Foundation, Primary, Secondary and post-16) to report its findings, which given the school's internal structure is slightly confusing. However, in this context Primary would be Years 1-6, Secondary Years 7-11 and post-16, Years 12 and 13.
As mentioned earlier, it is very rare for a school to achieve Outstanding ratings across all areas, and throughout the school, related to the Personal and Social Development and Innovation skills of its students. In PPS' case, inspectors found that "Students’ very high level of personal and social skills continue to be a key strength of the school. At all levels, students are polite, courteous and responsible. They have a deep knowledge and understanding of the Emirati culture within the UAE. Students are building strong innovation skills which are related to the local and world-wide technical and scientific development". This is high praise indeed.
In terms of Students' Achievement, PPS students are doing rather well. Islamic Education is rated Good for Secondary and post-16 attainment and progress, whilst Primary is rated Good for attainment and Very Good for progress. However, in common with many Dubai schools, ratings for Arabic as both a first and additional language are not as highly rated, with both rated Good in the Primary school section, but Acceptable in the Secondary and post-16 phases.
The core subjects taught in English fare rather better, with English rated almost entirely Very Good across all four phases of the school (the sole Good rating went to post-16 attainment). Mathematics attainment is rather more variable with Foundation stage being Very Good, and the other three sections Good, whilst progress was rated Outstanding in Foundation, Very Good in post-16, and Good in Primary and Secondary. Science was also rated Very Good for attainment and Outstanding for progress in Foundation, Very Good against both measures in Secondary and post-16, but a little further back in Primary with Good for both measures.
In many ways, these subject ratings are reflected in those for Teaching and Assessment and for the Curriculum. Foundation was again the star of the show! Ratings for Teaching for Effective Learning and Assessment, and Curriculum Adaptation were rated Very Good, whilst Curriculum Design and Implementation was rated Outstanding. Both the Primary and Secondary school sections achieved Good ratings across all four measures, whilst in post-16, Teaching for Effective Learning and Curriculum Design and implementation were rated Very Good (an improvement on the previous inspection), with the remaining two measures Good.
Inspectors commented that "Teaching and learning are stronger in Foundation Stage and post-16, where teachers’ knowledge of how students learn best supports approaches, which motivate students and encourage creativity". They also found, in relation to the curriculum, that "Opportunities are being provided for students to develop innovation skills in projects and cross-curricular activities. Students, particularly in Foundation Stage and the primary phase, benefit from the additional focus and development of reading and writing for pleasure".
The key performance area of Care, Protection, Guidance and Support is also evidently a strength of PPS. Inspectors noted that "The welfare of students and keeping them safe and protected are a given a high priority. Attention to their social and emotional needs is of a very high standard. Students with special educational needs/disabilities (SEND) are welcomed and supported. Accurate identification of barriers to learning and ways to support progress are still developing". Whilst most ratings were Very Good, this was a downgrade from Outstanding in relation to Health and Safety, the inspectors noting that "However, procedures to ensure all health and safety aspects are not always consistently applied". Concerns were specifically raised in relation to dismissal processes, which, no doubt, PPS will have addressed very quickly.
The final key performance area - that of Leadership and Management - is another where PPS is performing well, with four of the five measures rated Good, and the fifth - the relationship between the school, parents and the community - rated Very Good. "Senior leaders work closely together, with a strong purpose and vision of improvement, in line with national priorities. The principal shows a deep knowledge of all staff and students. Positive ethos and working relationships ensure effective collaboration across departments and phases, supporting the wide range of student achievements and successes". Inspectors also found that the implementation of action plans for improvement are leading to positive outcomes, such as a greater understanding by teachers of how to use assessment outcomes to improve students’ learning.
Parents are very supportive of the school and involved in many day-to-day interactions. The school organises workshops to share information such as how to understand assessment data about their children's achievement. Parents with students who have SEND feel very welcomed. The parent council liaises effectively with governors and feedback from surveys of parents’ views are taken into account and acted upon by the Governors who visit the school regularly and take part in celebrating achievements.
Inspectors also praised the school's facilities and resources, noting that "the newly resurfaced games court and dedicated areas for computers, technology and libraries are helping to enhance the learning environment. Most subjects are well resourced, especially in the Foundation Stage. Learning technologies for use in the primary phase are more limited".
Key recommendations for the school are that it should:
The school has done well so far in feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor in our School Survey. Parents would recommend the school, and are happy with attainment academically and with their interaction with the school.
Feedback to the KHDA mirrors our findings with parents largely satisfied who returned the survey, are positive across almost every aspect of their child’s experience. They consider their children are well cared for and supported to make good progress in their learning. A few would like their children to have more access to extra-curricular opportunities
Pristine Private School, finalist in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's Happiest Schools in the UAE competition
Fees at Pristine, as noted, are relatively affordable, ranging from AED 9,850 to AED 18,453 per year depending on Year Group. However, the school charges a range of mandatory additional fees which add AED 3,900 to AED 4,500 to the tuition fees.
Pristine Private 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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