UK curriculum based The Winchester School, located in Jebel Ali, is home to just over 3,800 boys and girls (an increase of over 200 in the past year), 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.
The story so far...
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 3,800 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 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 five years, from 2015-16 to 2019-20, 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.
Following the announcement by the KHDA in September 2019 - and unrelated to Covid 19 which resulted in some school inspections being cancelled in the 2019-20 academic year - The Winchester School, together with all other rated Very Good or Outstanding in 2018-19, will no longer participate in a full annual Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau inspection process, but rather will be subject to a one-day review visit for which no new report will be issued. The statistics in this review are therefore from the 2018-19 inspection report unless otherwise stated.
The seventeen year old school employs 224 teachers and 45 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. Teacher turnover was running at 17% - a little above average for a Dubai school, and quite high for an Indian curriculum school.
The school describes itself as "highly affordable", and it is almost certainly one of the best value schools offering an EYFS and England and Wales based curriculum. 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 300 students (around 7%) 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 limited number of schools to attain this rating.
We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com were delighted that the Winchester School shared its A' Level and IGCSE results with us for 2018 and 2017. This is no longer the policy of the GEMS Education group, one we think is a mistake. Instead many GEMS schools hide behind an 'average' or highly selective data which provide little useful data and hide some very good achievement in reality, as the Winchester's results show.
Unfortunately, it seems that The Winchester School has joined this latter group! No details of A Level or IGCSE results are now included on the school website. Instead, following the tradition of many Indian curriculum schools, there is instead a long list of School Toppers - and even this provides no specifics about what the students achieved.
The school did reveal that 72 per cent of IGCSE grades were awarded at 9 – 5 for 2020 - however, this is a relatively unhelpful basis for comparison since there is no more detailed breakdown. No A Level results were published.
Some of the more high-achieving schools within the group have started to publish the results, but these remain in the minority. We include below the details of the last 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 (2019-20) inspection round and rated Outstanding by the KHDA for English and Mathematics at Foundation Stage and at the other end of school life, at Post 16. Primary and Secondary English and Mathematics were 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, 10 are rated Very Good (in Primary and post-16 mainly) whilst they are rated largely Good within the Secondary school. This is a real achievement, and one where many much more costly schools fail to measure up to the KHDA's standards.
The other five key performance standards are also a mix of Outstanding and Very good ratings, with Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills rated Outstanding across the board. Teaching and Assessment is rated Very Good across the school although there had been a fall in performance in Foundation from Outstanding. And whilst Curriculum adaptation is rated Outstanding across the school, the design and implementation, whilst rated Outstanding in Foundation and post-16, is rated Very Good in Primary and Secondary.
The protection, care, guidance and support of students is rated Outstanding across the school with the exception of Care and Support in the Primary and Secondary sections which is again rated Very good. The leadership and management of the school is largely rated Very Good, with the relationship with parents and the community rated Outstanding.
Overall the KHDA inspection team identified the strengths of the school as:
With such a long list of 'Outstandings', it is difficult, at first sight, to see why the Winchester School is not rated Outstanding overall.
The key recommendations from the KHDA to The Winchester School are to:
The Winchester School is a very large school with action plans which, whilst focusing on what is most needed for improvement, lacks consistency in terms of monitoring implementation. The challenge for the Senior management team seems to be ensure that that action is taken where it is needed and rigorous evaluation of teaching and moderation of internal assessments is required.
If the team can do this, in WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's opinion, the Outstanding rating for the school cannot be far away.
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.
The KHDA was particularly effusive about the strong relationship between The Winchester School, its parents and the wider community. Parents were found to be actively engaged in the life of the school and are confident that their views are valued and acted upon. They are kept up to date by a range of "highly effective communications systems" and feel that the school's strong local and international partnerships help nurture their children's academic and social development.
93% of the 785 parents who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey were also positive about the standard of education being provided by the Winchester School with the report noting that "Almost all parents are satisfied with the quality of education provided and fee that their children are safe. Most report that their children are hard-working and having fun at school. The issue of concern most frequently raised was the quality of Arabic teaching. (According to the report, this was investigated during the inspection and found to be of similar quality to other teaching in the school).
Feedback to the KHDA's Well-being survey from 1,033 students was largely positive. Almost all students felt safe and happy at the school and felt that they work hard enough to succeed academically. There were some concerns expressed about the cost of after-school sports activities which prevented students from participating as fully as students at other Dubai schools.
Feedback to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com via its School Survey has been mixed. Of the responses from a relatively low 40 parents, just under half of parents would recommend the school (against an average of three-quarters for UAE schools in general), though a further 20% were unsure. The school has thus far not performed particularly well in an assessment of its academic performance by parents (with some 40% being satisfied with this measure and 25% dissatisfied), or in the level of feedback provided to parents (a similar percentage). And despite the mid-range fees for what the regulators certainly fee is a high quality school, just under 30% of parents that fees represented good value for money, whilst a similar percentage disagreed completely with this view.
That said, survey results are still limited in number. Given the paucity of responses, results may currently be skewed. If you are a parent, teacher or student at The Winchester School, please share your experience with other potential members of your community by completing our Survey here.
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, that 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 based, GEMS managed school. Fees start at AED 13,822 for FS and rise to AED 30,835 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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