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. 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 there are good facilities. Both sites have temperature-controlled swimming pools, air-conditioned sports halls and netball courts. The Arabian Ranches campus has one of the largest grass sports fields in Dubai and a fully equipped PE studio, which is often used by the younger children for dance and movement classes.
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. In 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.