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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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. 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/Computer Science, they may choose from Accounting, Art and Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Development Studies, Economics, English Literature. Historically, the school offered Enterprise, French, Physics, Travel and Tourism and Urdu, but these options are no longer mentioned on their website.
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, Travel and Tourism, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. Environmental Management, Global Perspective, and Sociology appear to have been discontinued.
In common with many Indian-led schools, there is very little opportunity for creative or artistic options at A Level, with the focus essentially on Commerce or Science as is typical within the Indian curricula.
The school makes no mention of Extra-curricular activities on its website, despite the Principal's assurance "In our deep commitment to the holistic education of the child we offer a range of extra-curricular activities with the aim of extending the students’ learning in enjoyable and interesting ways." 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."
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.
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.
DSIB inspection 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.
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.
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.
The school has done well so far in feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor in our School Survey, based on a relatively small number of responses. Parents (over 80%) would recommend the school, and are happy with attainment academically and with their interaction with the school. None felt that additional external tuition was required for their child. Close to 70% of students enjoy going to school a tremendous amount, and feel a strong sense of belonging.
Even the often thorny issue of fees is not a major concern, with 60% believing that they represent good value for money, and the remainder partially agreeing with this statement. No parents dissented. Where there was a difference of view was in terms of the quality of education provided compared with the home country of students. Whilst 50% of parents felt that it was better than their home country, and a further 25% felt it was on a par, the remaining 25% 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.
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. However, in order to ensure that newcomers can also have confidence, we do strongly urge that the school publishes its examination results - something that many other schools at this price-point are increasingly willing 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:
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information