Pristine Private School is widely regarded as one of the best value UK curriculum-based schools in Dubai. Historically, a lack of transparency when it comes to published results from external examinations had made measuring its performance against its peers somewhat difficult. Recent updates to this information have addressed this issue.
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 eight 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 5,800 to the official tuition fees) can be one quarter or less than the fees demanded at Dubai's most pricey UK curriculum schools.
Recent feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com from parents, teachers and students in response to our School Survey have been positive. The following a reflective of the views of a growing number of parents who have completed our Surveys in October/November 2021:
"School is second home to my child. He feels safe there and has made many friends. Teachers are compassionate and management has an open door policy."
"Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students, and enthusiastic parents with high expectations. The teachers are nurturing and loving while providing the structure and guidance my child needs. The class size ensures amazing involvement between the child and teacher. I have been impressed at the level of feedback and over all communication. My child's progress is visible when he talks about the topics he studied in school. Reading is an integral part of Pristine. Students are motivated to read by organising various reading competitions."
"Provide quality education and having high expectations of students as well as teachers. Also for being secure and organised school - a safe learning environment for students."
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, Mrs. Shagufa Kidwai has been with the school since 2015 and has clearly implemented a range of improvements during her tenure.
The school's Mission is 'To empower students to fulfill their potential and be successful global citizens'.
Its Vision - 'To be committed, compassionate individuals who positively enhance the lives of others'.
Pristine Private School currently provides an education for approximately 1,520 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.
With the school clearly in high demand, PPS announced in 2021 that it would be opening a separate Junior Campus for the 2022-23 academic year. The new facility will be purpose built for Foundation Stage and Key stage 1 ( year 1 and 2).
There are currently 134 teachers, the majority from India, together with a further 21 teaching assistants at the school giving a very respectable teacher:student ratio of 1:11. Teacher turnover in 2017-18 was well below the UAE average of 20-22% running at 11%. This is usually a positive sign of satisfied staff and good leadership. However, the number had increased significantly for 2019 with a turnover of 24%. How much of this was due to dissatisfaction by staff (or the leadership) or as a result of the economic situation is not known.
Historically, Pristine Private School (PPS) did not publish its IGCSE and A Level results, so how well students performed academically in external exams was not known. Happily this situation has improved, and whilst details are still somewhat limited, those that are available suggest strong academic performance. Full details can be found here.
60 students were 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.
In common with all UAE schools, PPS, its staff and students have had to adapt to the situation brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic.
According to the Principal, "with a stringent well laid out reopening plan, we transitioned successfully to hybrid learning this academic year and I am glad to share that we have been able to run hybrid lessons with about 55 to 60 percent of students( 750 plus students) attending on-campus lessons with full safety protocols in place".
PPS 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.
Historically, the school was divided into Junior, Middle and Senior schools sections, but has now adopted the more common FS, Primary and Secondary structure of UK curriculum schools.
From Foundation Stage to Year 2, the 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 Stage programme is based on the 'Early Years Foundation Stage.
Students in Year Groups 3 to 6 follow the National Curriculum framework for Key Stage 2, where they are introduced to a range of subjects including Arabic, Islamic Education, English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Art, PE, Modern Foreign Languages, Values Education and Computing. Students also study Thinking Skills and develop strategies such as Consider All Factors (CAF) and Plus Minus Integrity (PMI). ICT is an integral part of all curriculum areas and includes dedicated ICT lessons. According to the school, the curriculum plan lays great emphasis on providing students opportunities of experiential learning and developing 21st Century Learning Skills.
Students from Year 7 follow the Cambridge Lower Secondary 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 (French or Urdu) 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) continue to follow the Cambridge Lower Secondary 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 a relatively narrow range of IGCSE options - often something of an issue at lower-fee schools, who tend to limit the number of subjects on offer. The focus is most certainly on either a Commerce or Science stream in common with Indian curriculum schools or schools largely educating students from the sub-continent.
At PPS, students are required to take at least eight IGCSE subjects. In addition to the core subjects of Enterprise/Combined Science, First Language English or English as a Second Language, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or Computer Science, and Mathematics, they may choose from Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Accounting, Business Studies, and Economics. In order to offer a more diverse range of options, students may also choose one further subject only from Urdu, French, Art & Design, Environmental Management, English Literature, or Travel and Tourism. In providing this final group of subjects, an acknowledgement of the value of non-traditional and arts-based subjects appears to have been made.
AS/A options (students generally take four subjects at AS and 3 at A Level) include Accounting, Art & Design, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English Language, English Literature, Information Technology, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, and Travel and Tourism,
PPS appears to modified its AS/A Level options recently in order to provide its students with the opportunity to take a broader range of subjects - notably with a wider number of Arts-based subjects available. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has also been informed that PPS will implement the BTEC diploma programme from September 2021.
In addition to the qualifications being offered through the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum and Cambridge GCE curriculum, subject choices from the internationally recognized Business & Technology Education Council (BTEC) curriculum and Pearson Edexcel qualifications are now offered to students of Secondary and Post 16.
The BTEC programme provides alternative subject choices that allow students to be equipped with applied knowledge and practical skills paving the way to a career in the selected field. This qualification also adds value to Secondary students’ portfolios preparing them for the next stage of Post 16 education. Post 16 students’ portfolios reflecting the BTEC qualification is, according to PPS, "an additional feature that highlights their acquisition of practical learning in preparation for university education as the qualification is internationally recognized by universities world over."
In common with many higher fee UK curriculum schools in the UAE, PPS has also implemented research and project-based qualification opportunities which are highly regarded by UK universities in particular.
The school offers the Cambridge International Project Qualification (CIPQ) where students develop their investigative and exploratory skills of wider study from the fields of Science, Technology or Humanities to produce a detailed research report that is assessed and awarded a qualification by Cambridge.
In addition to these, various opportunities for students exist to develop their higher-order thinking skills of research, reflection and communication, sought after by universities and prospective employers, through participation in activities such as the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest, Taqaddam Project and Business Cup Challenges.
In December 2020, PPS students participated in a short story writing competition organised globally by UNESCO and The Idries Shah Foundation. Young teenagers from all over the globe were invited to write about the challenges of today and tomorrow in the format of a short story and share their perspectives in various age categories from 12-18 years. Stories were to be written on the potential for future societies to be fair, inclusive, peaceful, resilient, sustainable and/or tolerant. Students were required to submit a short story that was original and unpublished in either English or French with a word limit of 250-500 words.
The theme of this 2020 First Edition was “Once upon a time in my future”. Over 45 short stories were submitted from PPS and in May 2021, the school received information that out of the 1000's of entries UNESCO received, 60 stories from PPS students were shortlisted.
Subsequently, of the 6 shortlisted candidates in the UAE, 4 were Pristine students! The final Gold, Silver and Bronze Laureates from the shortlisted candidates were declared in an online webinar of the final awarding ceremony from Paris in July 2021. Zarya Usman (PPS A Level student),was announced as a Gold Laureate in the 18 years old category.
To add to the school’s laurels, two further students, Mishkat Zaheer (Year 9) & Mariel Julienne (Year 11) received an Honorable Mention for the exceptional quality of their stories.
Extra-curricular activities and curriculum enrichment experiences are, according to the school, "threaded through all year groups which develop a secure understanding to practice tolerance and diversity in the context of UAE and the wider world". These experiences are carefully planned to be meaningful and experiential for PPS students enabling them "to imbibe the spirit of universal human values of diversity and tolerance".
Opportunities for creativity, innovation and social contribution are introduced through a wide range of enrichment activities such as field trips, outdoor lessons, independent investigations, Project Based Learning, STEAM Challenges, Apps and digital platforms, community links, debates and talks, author visits, interschool and intraschool competitions, national level competitions, internship experiences and parents as partners.
Additionally, "Community Service is incorporated in the school system which effectively provides our students an opportunity to apply what they have learnt in the classroom to real human needs so that they can make a difference to the society."
Historically, PPS had not published it examination results, and it was not possible to ascertain how successful the school is academically. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is delighted to see that the school's freshly updated website does now include some rather basic. but none-the-less encouraging data.
|IGCSE||% of exam entries graded A*-A||% of exam entries graded A*-B||% of exam entries graded A*-C|
|Global Averages 2020||49||71||88|
On the face of it, PPS students have performed at or above global levels at IGCSE for the past four years. Of course, 2020 and 2021's results were atypical since no examinations were taken by students as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, with Centre Assessed Grades being awarded by schools.
We would very much like to know more about the number of students who were entered for the examinations, and the number of subject entries, in order to get a better picture of the size of the IGCSE contingent at PPS. By comparison, the 2021 IGCSE results for those UAE schools who provided their details to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com can be found here.
We were very happy to receive direct feedback from the school for the 2021 IGCSE results who informed us that 87 students who were enrolled for the examinations. 6 students were awarded 8A*s in all the subjects and 8 students received 7A*s.
PPS also includes AS and A Level results information:
|AS Level % of exam entries graded A*-B||A Level % of exam entries graded A*-B|
|Global Averages 2020||53||62|
Again, PPS provided additional details to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, noting that a cohort of 56 students achieved their A Level qualifications with a 100% pass result including 'a whopping' 81% average of A* to B and 54% of awards at A* to A. Top achievers included 4 students who received A*s in all their 4 subjects enrolled for the A Levels.
We are delighted that PPS has helped place in context the number of students who participated in the examinations for 2021. The 2021 UAE results round up for AS and A Level results can be found here.
The top 5 university destinations for graduating students (A level) for the 2020-21 academic year were: Kings College London, UK, University College London, UK, American University of Sharjah, UAE, Lancaster University, UK, and University of Calgary, Canada.
Commenting to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com on the success of her students, Principal, Mrs. Shagufa told us “It is with immense pride that we celebrate our A Level and IGCSE results every year, and this year’s results despite all the challenges have been no different. Meticulous planning, consistent efforts of our students, teachers and the leadership team, and effective hybrid learning conducted throughout the year enabled students to perform their best despite the current scenario. There was no compromise on students’ learning and 60% of students attended school on campus. I congratulate the whole school community wholeheartedly for coming together in these unusual times.”
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.
We understand that the school will launch the Pristine Junior Campus in brand new premises at the start of the Academic year 2022-23. This will be a custom-built premise with great learning spaces that will host classes of the foundation stage and Key stage 1.
What the Inspectors say
The most recent KHDA report may well have been something of a disappointment to the school. Whilst in 2018-19, it looked likely that PPS was only steps away from a Very Good rating, in 2019-20, there has clearly been some backward movement along the path to improvement.
In common with all UAE schools, PPS participated in a Distance Learning Evaluation in 2020 as a result of the move to online learning following the disruption caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. PPS achieved the highest Developed rating. You can read the full report here.
For the full 2019-20 inspection, the DSIB team found the strengths of Pristine Private School to be:
However, there were clearly concerns from the inspectors' perspective.
Where a year ago, every key performance measure (bar one) for Student Achievement in English, Maths and Science across the school was rated at least Very Good, (with the exception of Foundation stage, where four out of six were rated Outstanding), the most recent inspection saw a fall in ratings for post-16 English attainment to Acceptable (from Good) and progress to Good (from Very Good). In Maths and Science, progress in Primary and Secondary has also fallen to Good from Very Good, whilst post-16 attainment has fallen to Good from Very good.
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 three of the four measures - Curriculum Design and implementation is now rated Very Good together with post-16, where Assessment and Curriculum Adaptation are rated Good.
Inspectors commented that "the quality of teaching varies, it is most effective in the FS and post-16 phases. Most teachers have secure subject knowledge and in the primary and secondary phases, teaching and assessment are good. However, some assessment information is inaccurate and so lesson planning does not meet the learning needs of all students. Curriculum planning is most effective in the FS. Elsewhere, there is a good balance of between the development of knowledge and skills. In Arabic, however, the focus is largely on acquiring knowledge. In the primary, secondary and post-16 phases, the curriculum is not always well adjusted to meet the learning needs of all groups of students."
It is 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. Inspectors noted that "Students' personal and social development is outstanding and is well-embedded and aligned with the school's mission statement. Students’ understanding of Islamic values is very strong, and better than their awareness of Emirati and world cultures. Students have a well-developed understanding of social responsibility. Students’ innovation skills are developing".
The key performance area of Care, Protection, Guidance and Support is also evidently a strength of PPS. Whilst ratings in relation to Health and Safety were Outstanding, Care and Support were rated Very Good in Foundation and Post-16 and Good in Primary and Secondary. The inspection team found that "students' physical well-being is given a very high school priority. The identification of students' educational needs, including students' of determination, is developing well. In the post-16 phase, there is high level pastoral care, guidance and support".
The final key performance area - that of Leadership and Management - is another where inspectors felt improvement was necessary. The two key measures of the Effectiveness of Leadership, and School self-evaluation and improvement planning were downgraded from Very Good to Good. The inspectors found that "the capacity of leaders to improve is mixed. The impact of leadership on students’ achievement is variable across the phases. It is mostly good but is best in the FS and post-16 phases. Some self-evaluation judgments are too generous and lead to planned actions that do not fully address key priorities. The identification of teacher development needs is inaccurate because peer observations are insufficiently focused on the impact on outcomes, especially in the primary and secondary phases".
And whilst the measures for Governance and Management, staffing, facilities and resources retained their Good ratings, the inspection team found that "The owners have a long-term commitment to school improvement but rely very much on school leaders to ensure it" rather than gathering information themselves. In addition, although the school operates very well on a day-to-day basis and there are improved resources, especially in technology, in some lessons, resources are not sufficient for students to work individually on tasks within group activities.
The inspection team's recommendations to PPS were to:
If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings - you will find it here.
Pristine Private School has done well so far in feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor in our School Survey, based on a relatively small number of responses with an overall score of 3.9/5 or a positivity rating of 78%. Parents (over 80%) would recommend the school, and are happy with attainment academically and with their interaction with the school. However, close to 1 in 5 parents who had responded to our survey felt that additional external tuition was required for their child. (although this is well below the UAE average of 30%). Close to 90% of students enjoy going to school a tremendous amount or quite a bit, and feel a strong or quite strong sense of belonging.
Even the often thorny issue of fees is not a major concern, with 63% believing that they represent good value for money, and the remainder partially agreeing with this statement. Again, a small percentage of parents dissented with just 7% disagreeing with the majority. Where there was a difference of view was in terms of the quality of education provided compared with the home country of students. Whilst 52% of parents felt that it was better than their home country, and a further 32% felt it was on a par, the remaining 13% felt that the standard was not as high as at home.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Pristine Private School and would like to share your experience with other potential members of your community, please do so by completing our survey here.
A total of 706 parents responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey. Almost all (93%) parental survey respondents were satisfied with the quality of educational provision, and most agreed that it represents value for money. Almost all agreed that teachers develop students' learning skills well, and school information helps parents to support their children's learning. The same proportion believes that children are kept safe at school. Most consider that students are respectful and helpful towards one another.
575 students from PPS responded to the KHDA Well-being Survey. Those who responded to the survey indicated that they feel safe at school. Bullying was not seen to be an issue. Students enjoyed a positive social climate, both with close friends and wider friendship groups. They remain confident in their abilities to learn effectively and feel positively engaged by their learning experiences in school.
According to the KHDA report, 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.
There seems to be little question that most parents and their children are satisfied with the quality of education provided by PPS. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com had also been encouraged to see that the school was clearly making on-going efforts not only to maintain the Good quality of education at its affordable fee level, but striving to improve significantly. It was disappointing, therefore, to see that there had been some backward steps over the last academic year in relation to the KHDA's requirements.
Given that those areas identified as in need of improvement were largely in relation to teaching and assessment, we wonder if the much higher level of staff turnover in the previous year contributed to the setback. We have no doubt that the senior team will be taking every possible action to ensure that progress moves forward and the move up to a Very Good overall rating is firmly in target.
Irrespective of the last inspection report, there is no doubt that PPS will remain a popular choice for parents seeking an affordable British curriculum school with a long history and experience of delivery. Prospective parents can also now have confidence in the academic performance of the school through the recent publication of its examination results - something that we would encourage other schools at this price-point to do.
Fees at Pristine, as noted, are relatively affordable, ranging from AED 10,054 for FS1 to AED 18,835 per year. However, the school charges a range of mandatory additional fees which add AED 3,900 to AED 5,800 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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