UK curriculum based The Winchester School, located in Jebel Ali, is home to just over 4,200 boys and girls, aged between three and 18 years. The single largest demographic is Indian, but the school had students from almost 90 different nations including Pakistan, Arab countries, the UK and the Philippines.
One of the older GEMS schools, The Winchester School (TWN) in Jebel Ali, which is one of the larger GEMS UK curriculum schools, accommodating close to 4,220 students, is a school that has become a benchmark in many ways, not only for GEMS but for other operators of affordable schools. The school also welcomes 441 students of Determination (over 10% of the student population).
The school stands out for its managed growth, academic achievement and much improved KHDA inspection rating. This is the model that the newer GEMS Founders' schools in Al Barsha and Al Mizhar are no doubt keen to emulate. Indeed, prior to opening, the Founders' schools were originally expected share the Winchester brand.
The Winchester School is particularly worthy of note for rising up the rankings in a way that is unique among schools in Dubai. Between 2008 and 2011 this was a school rated Acceptable. For the past eight years, from 2015-16 to 2022-23, the school has been rated Very Good - just outside of the top rating of Outstanding. Leaders, teachers, parents and students at Winchester should feel incredibly proud. This is also a vindication of the belief that it is possible to receive an excellent standard of education in a moderately priced school.
The school is led by Principal Meenakshi Dahiya, who joined the school in 2016.
The school, which celebrates its twentieth birthday this year, employs 236 teachers and 49 teaching assistants, all "well qualified and suitably experienced" according to the KHDA, Dubai's education regulator. Most teachers, like the student body itself, are recruited from India and Asia in general. A teacher:student ratio of 1:18 is on the higher side - unsurprising in a school at this price point. Teacher turnover is running at 24% - above average for a Dubai school, and high for an Indian curriculum school; how much of that is due to the substantial class sizes, and demand on teachers as a result, is unknown...
The school describes itself as "highly affordable", and it is almost certainly one of the best value schools offering the EYFS and the National Curriculum for England. Students are entered for external Cambridge, UK IGCSE, AS and A-Level examinations in the upper school phases. The school has also recently introduced Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) vocational courses for post-16 students.
Students in Foundation Stage follow a largely play-based approach to learning with the aim of developing a range of skills focused around the six core areas of the EYFS curriculum.
Years 1 and 2 (Key Stage 1) students are encouraged to develop skills of reasoning, problem-solving and creative thinking. Core Subjects include English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities (History and Geography), Islamic Education, Arabic first and second language, UAE Social Studies (Arabs and Non Arabs), Moral Education, Personal Social Health Citizenship Economic Education (PSHCEE), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Physical Education (PE), Music and Art.
In Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6), there is a continuation of Key Stage 1 subjects enhanced through increased analysis and through individual and group projects, aimed at enabling students to rationalise and think independently.
In addition to the core subjects and the inclusion of French in years 4, 5 and 6, students are encouraged to develop their creative and physical skills with an increased emphasis on extra-curricular activities which further encourages initiative, innovation and development of talent in personal areas of interest. Art contributes to the learning of presentation and creativity skills; Music develops knowledge of harmony, whilst Public Speaking, Drama and Elocution aid in the expressive capability of the student. Physical Education encourages discipline of the mind and body in addition to developing team and individual cooperation and ambition.
From Years 7 to 9 (Key Stage 3) students study a wide range of subjects as a means of laying the foundations for the IGCSE subject options for Year 10 and beyond. Core Subjects inclue English, Mathematics, Science and UAE Social Studies. Additional subjects include Arabic (for Arabic Speakers), Arabic (for non-Arabic Speakers), Art, French, Humanities (History & Geography), Information and Communication Technology, Islamic Studies (For Muslim Students) or PSHCEE (For non-Muslim Students), Moral Education and Physical Education.
Students get the exposure to use the latest technologies to enhance their learning. For example use of VR in lessons. incorporation of AI and coding into the curriculum enables our students to be up to date with the latest developments in society. Integration of STEAM is an intrinsic feature of learning across school.
At Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) students begin their two year study programmes for IGCSE examinations with Core Subjects of English and Mathematics, together with a range of School-assessed subjects including Islamic Education/PSHCEE, Moral Education, Physical Education and UAE Social Studies (for Year 10 only).
A wide range of optional subjects from which students choose six are Accounting, Arabic (Compulsory for Arabs), Art and Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English Literature, Environmental Management, French, Food & Nutrition, Geography, Global Perspectives, History, ICT, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, and Travel and Tourism.
Finally, as students enter Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13) they are required to select four subjects, all of which lead to AS and A levels examination. Options may vary for each Academic Year but include a range from Accounting, Art & Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English Language, Geography, Global Perspective, History, Information Technology, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Sociology and Travel & Tourism.
For students seeking a more vocational and technical option, The Winchester offers the BTEC qualification. This is a career-based qualification designed to develop a range of practical knowledge and skills and an increasing numbers of employers and Higher Education institutions and universities are choosing BTEC-qualified candidates. Similar to A Levels and at the same level of qualification, BTEC is a two-year programme. The Winchester School offers the BTEC National level 3 Diploma in Applied Science, Business Studies and Information Technology. Students are additionally required to take Moral Education in Years 12 and 13.
As well as the focus on the academic, The Winchester offers an enormous range of Extra-curricular activities ranging from academic to sports, to creative to investigative. Many activities are teacher-led and attract no additional fees, but there is also a wide range of options offered by outside suppliers. Details can be found here.
Almost 450 students (around 10%) have been identified as needing some form of SEN support, a significant number and evidence of the inclusive nature of the school. The school's provision and attainment for students of Determination was rated Very Good in the last KHDA inspection - one of a relatively limited number of schools to attain this rating.
After several years when GEMS schools in general did not publish their examination results, the Winchester School is one of many that now share this information directly with WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. Whilst we believe that examinations should not be the sole focus of a good education, and certainly not the sole judgment, we do believe that they are an important indicator of a school's success as measured by its students, and a decision-making tool for parents and students.
In 2023, when concerns were expressed by many with regard to the decision to return to grade boundaries to pre-Covid levels and the likely fall in top grades and passes awarded by the examiners, The Winchester School shared that a cohort of 147 students sat a total of 430 A Level examinations. 10% of entries were awarded A*, whilst 31% of entries achieved A*-A grades and 55% received A*-B. The highest individual awards by two students were 4A* awards, with two further students achieving A*A*A* A A and A*A*A*A respectively. These highest achieving students were among the top students in the UAE.
The school also had a small cohort of approximately 15 students who were entered for 36 BTEC qualifications. These were awarded 58% Distinction*, 36% Distinction and 6% Merit.
At I/GCSE, a cohort of 255 students (among the largest cohorts in the UAE) were entered for 1,890 examinations. 22% of entries were awarded A*, with 45% achieving A*-A and 70% achieving A*-B. The overall pass rate at A*- C (in line with predictions that this figure would fall) was 81%.
In line with the 2021 policy change, The Winchester School revealed its A Level results for 2022, in the first full examinations since the pandemic, 133 students were entered for 418 examinations. With almost double the number of students compared to 2019 (133 compared with 70), almost double the number of exam entries, 20% were awarded A* compared with 2019, whilst a quarter more entries achieved A*-A (44%). 69% of entries were awarded A*-B. A sizable 46 students were awarded A* grades compared with 15 in 2019 (when the cohort was half the size).
In 2021, in line with a general change in policy at GEMS, The Winchester School was among those who provided full details of their results - something we at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com very much welcomed.
In common with 2020, as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, no examinations were held for A Level and I/GCSE students. Instead, results were based on Centre Assessed Grades whereby teachers and the leadership of the school awarded grades based on internal assessments and predicted grades.
TWN revealed that 125 students were entered for a total of 392 A Level examinations. Some 26.3% of entries were awarded the highest A* grade, whilst 56.6% received A*-A grade and 77.8*were awarded A*-B. The school did not confirm the percentage of awards at A*-C or A*-E which would have revealed the overall pass rate.
In terms of 2021 I/GCSE results, 224 students were entered for 1,858 examinations. Of these, 27.6% of entries were awarded the highest A* grade, whilst 51% of entries achieved A*-A grades and 72.2% received A*-B. 86.2% of entries achieved pass grades at A*-C.
In 2020, the school did reveal that 72 per cent of IGCSE grades were awarded at A*-C - however, this is a relatively unhelpful basis for comparison since there is no more detailed breakdown. No A Level results were published.
No information was released with regard to 2019. We include below the details of the previously published sets of results. Given the successes of the students in these years, it is all the more disappointing that TWN no longer provides this data.
|A Level results||2018||2017|
|Name of School||The Winchester School,Jebel Ali|
|No. of students in A level cohort:||68||48|
|No. of exam entries||234||133|
|% of exam entries graded A*||15.38||14.98|
|% of exam entries graded A*-A||33.33||23.84|
|% of exam entries graded A*-C||55.98||55.07|
|% of exam entries graded A*- E||98.55||91.39|
|Overall pass rate A*-E||98.55||91.39|
|Number of students excluded from the statistics||-||-|
As these A Level results show, there has been almost a 50% increase in the number of students who sat A Levels in 2018 compared with 2017, and almost double the number of exam entries. Despite this rapid growth, students achieved a higher percentage across each of the grade bands in 2018. The Winchester and its students can be justifiably proud and have reason to "shout about" their achievements. The top 10 students all achieved at least three A grade A Levels with at least 1 A* each, with the highest achiever obtaining 5 A* grades, followed by a fellow student with 4 A* grades and three further students who achieved a minimum of 3 A*s.
|Name of School||The Winchester School,Jebel Ali|
|No. of students in GCSE level cohort:||221||200|
|% of cohort entered for GCSE exams||100||100|
|No. of exam entries||1605||1413|
|% of exam entries graded A*/9-8||15.75||15.78|
|% of exam entries graded A*-A /9-7||40.68||39.46|
|% of exam entries graded A*-B /9-6||65.25||61.63|
|% of exam entries graded A*-C /9-4||86.45||81.32|
|% of students achieving 5 A*-C/ 9-4 including English and Maths||79.63||76|
|Overall student pass rate A*-C||86.45||81.32|
|Number of students excluded from the statistics||-||-|
IGCSE results show a less marked growth in terms of student numbers and exam entries, but the results again show an improvement in almost all grades. The school singled out 25 students who all achieved a minimum of at least 2 A*s and a minimum of 7 IGCSE passes. The highest achieved an exceptional 11 A* and 2A's. The next highest achiever obtained 9 A* results, and a further four students achieved 8 A* grades.
The school is located in the centre of The Gardens, Jebel Ali Village, behind the Ibn Battuta Mall. It has expanded from its original building to two adjacent buildings, separated between the Primary and Secondary schools. The school has a reasonable level of facilities (although not up to the level of GEMS' top end schools, although given the fees, this could not be expected). They include well-equipped classrooms, a multi-purpose auditorium, a variety of sports fields to encourage specialised learning in different outdoor games, music and art & craft rooms, and two well-resourced libraries. Extra-curricular activities seem limited, and very much focused on sport - basketball, cricket, tennis, and soccer in particular.
All the classrooms are equipped with overhead projectors, Promethean/pull down screens and an internet connection is available in all the class rooms. ICT is a key component in lesson delivery. The spacious state-of-the-art, air-conditioned, multi-purpose auditorium is a superb indoor facility for students to play numerous indoor games , as well as develop their public speaking and theatrical talents all through the year. In addition to a large multi-purpose auditorium, the school has a variety of sports fields; the outdoors and indoors sports fields have been refurbished with new sports flooring recently.
Well-equipped Art & Craft and Music Rooms are designed to support talented young artists and musicians in every age-group, while encouraging everyone to develop these skills. Innovative Art Cafes led by students, are available in Primary and Secondary buildings to encourage free art expression and development. A rather more unusual feature is the Food and Nutrition lab. Food and nutrition is offered as an IGCSE subject and students are also able to develop their culinary skills through break time club and after-school activities.
For the scientifically-minded, well-equipped science laboratories are available to encourage the practical application of science subjects, in both the primary and secondary sections, whilst six computer laboratories with multi-media facilities support the teaching of ICT which is a compulsory component of the curriculum up to Year 9. The school also has two STEAM Cafes, one each in Primary and Secondary, equipped with the latest technology like LEGO, Robotics, 3D Printers and Doodlers. STEAM is an integral part of the curriculum across the school with dedicated lessons in the STEAM café from Year 4 to Year 9 as well as the incorporation of STEAM in lessons in most subjects across all year groups. These facilities are further enhanced by a dedicated 3D room with a 3D projector and 3D glasses to view educational 3D videos for Science and Mathematics for Primary and Secondary from EUREKA by Designmate.
The Winchester was again rated Very Good in the latest (2022-23) inspection round. In reality, it is generally much more than a Very Good school, and could rightfully market itself as a Very Good school with many Outstanding features.
It provides an Outstanding education , based on the DSIB inspectors' ratings, for English and Mathematics at Foundation Stage and at the other end of school life, at Post 16. Primary and Secondary English and Mathematics are rated Very Good across the board. Science is rated Outstanding across all sections of the school.
Of the sixteen ratings for Arabic and Islamic Studies, progress is rated Very Good across the school, whilst attainment is rated Good in Arabic as a second language across the school. In fact, Arabic as a first language is rated more highly than the second language provision. This is a real achievement, and one where many much more costly schools fail to measure up to the KHDA's standards.
Of the 32 further key performance indicators, across the key performance standards of Students' personal and social development and their innovation skills, Teaching and Assessment, the Curriculum and the Protection, care, guidance and support of students, all but nine are rated Outstanding.
Overall the KHDA inspection team identified the strengths of the school as:
The clarity of vision of the principal and the support of an effective leadership team, ensuring that students’ wellbeing and strong partnerships with parents are at the heart of this welcoming school
A motivating curriculum and extensive range of extra-curricular activities, together with students’ impressive academic achievement and high-quality performances in the arts and sport
The inclusive ethos, provision of effective care and support and encouragement of a strong sense of social responsibility
The supportive introduction to education in FS, providing the base for students’ outstanding personal development.
The key recommendations from the KHDA's DSIB inspectors to The Winchester School are 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 and the recommendations - you will find it here.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com via its School Survey has been mixed. The school has one of the lowest approval ratings at 1/5 - or 20%.
Of the responses from a relatively low (for the size of school) 80 parents, just 29% would recommend the school (against an average of 82% for UAE schools in general), with a further 13% were unsure and 58% who would not recommend the school.
As is so often the case, it is the dissatisfied customer who tends to share his opinion rather than those who are content, and the survey responses are evidently skewed towards parents who are less satisfied in this case.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at The Winchester School, please share your experience and opinions with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
As part of the 2022-23 inspection process, the KHDA asked the DSIB inspectors to evaluate the 'Quality and wellbeing provision and outcomes' as a development of the regulator's highly regarded focus on Wellbeing in recent years.
This provision was found to be at a High Level - the second of four possible ratings.
The inspection team found that:
Despite the somewhat negative views from the parents who completed the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Parent Survey, there is little doubt that, from the perspective of the KHDA, and the parents who still continue to join the waiting lists for entry for their children to the school, The Winchester School remains one of the most popular and successful schools in the city.
A trend-setter in terms of providing a high quality, and broad education (particularly in relation to IGCSE and A Level choices, and with the introduction of BTEC qualifications), at an affordable price, The Winchester has set the bar high for other UK curriculum schools seeking entry to, and success in, this sector of the market. We expect it to continue to raise its standards, and so doing push its competitors to do so also - a win-win for the schools concerned and their students.
Fees at The Winchester School are, as noted, relatively very affordable for a UK curriculum GEMS managed school. Fees start at AED 14,237 for FS and rise to AED 31,760 for Year 13. Tuition fees are paid termly and in advance. Sibling discounts start at the fourth child at 25%, rising to 50% for the fifth and sixth child.
Additional fees are payable, which include providing for uniform, educational visits and learning support needs, if such individual needs are identified by The Winchester School Support for Learning Department, Examination and Transport fees are invoiced separately.
Children must take an age related placement test to enter, but an offer of a place is not based solely on the test. The school also conducts an interview with each child.
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