The Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) is a modern British international school that teaches the UK curriculum and caters almost exclusively to the expat community in Dubai.
JESS is situated in central Dubai. The original campus on Sheikh Zayed Road is for early years and primary; a second site at Arabian Ranches is all-through from early years to sixth form. The Arabian Ranches campus is based in a residential district of the same name, which has a golf club located behind it.
Both sites have large, established campuses with shaded, generously equipped playground areas, interactive whiteboards in every classroom, multipurpose PE studios, big sports fields, fully appointed ICT and music departments and well-resourced libraries.
New Zealander Shane O’Brien joined JESS in 2011 as head, before becoming director in 2019. Fun fact: he had an impressive career as an athlete, winning a gold medal for rowing in the 1984 Summer Olympics before he began his teaching career.
As the school is a non-profit making organisation, all children are required to have their place supported by a debenture of which there are two types: corporate and personal. Corporate debentures were sold to companies who wanted to support JESS on a long-term basis and eligible employees were given priority on the waiting list (these are no longer available for purchase). Personal debentures cost AED20,000 (approximately £4,000) at both schools. Personal debentures are not payable until a place is offered, cannot be purchased in advance, and give no priority on the waiting list. The application process itself is very simple: families complete the application form and pay the AED500 fee to be added to the waiting list.
The school teaches the English national curriculum and all lessons are taught in English. At primary level, specialist teachers deliver the programmes for computing, Arabic, Islamic studies (for Muslim pupils only), music, library and PE. There is a great selection of trips: for instance, Year 1 children visit a science museum for hands-on practical activities, and Year 2 pupils go to a desert wildlife park as part of their study of animals in the local environment.
The Oasis learning department offers in-class support, focus groups and 1:1 tuition for those pupils who need it.
The Arabian Ranches campus houses a music centre with digital recording studio, modern science, art and D&T facilities, dance and drama studios, a lecture theatre and a 500-seater auditorium with outside amphitheatre.
Sport is strong and the school has more than 75 competitive teams. The main sports are rugby (boys), netball (girls), football, swimming and athletics, with pupils competing weekly throughout the year against other top schools in the UAE. Teams are also entered into local and regional competitions in all the major sports, and as part of the programme there are opportunities to play against visiting sports teams from around the world.
There are good facilities too: both sites have temperature-controlled swimming pools, air-conditioned sports halls, multipurpose PE studios and netball courts. The Arabian Ranches site has one of the largest grass sports fields in Dubai. In 2021, a new outdoor training facility opened and it has equipment for strength and conditioning training and core fitness. There is also a gym, where pupils in school teams follow bespoke training plans to work on targeted areas to improve their performance. There is a fully equipped PE studio, which is often used by the younger children as well as for dance and movement classes.
There is a big emphasis on extracurricular activities and the list is ever-changing: it currently includes traditional clubs such as swimming and drama, as well as more unusual options such as Tibetan bowls, indoor bouldering and Warhammer.
There is a real focus on tutor-parent links, with a supplementary PSHE programme based around four themes: health and wellbeing, social interactions and relationships, personal attributes and living in the wider world, and moral education. At Arabian Ranches, the community is prebuilt: expats and parents live in the district, which is served by the school. Communication is a priority, and the close proximity makes parental attendance at sports events and productions more feasible.
An excellent option for those looking for an all-through school, teaching a UK curriculum.