School Description

Dubai English Speaking School (DESS) opened in 1963 in the upstairs room of a villa where expatriate workers were housed. There was one class which was taught by parents and a British Officer called Flight Lieutenant F. Luffman. The English school Dubai was soon housed in a ‘Nissan Hut’ in the area where the Dry Docks now are.

In 1967 the school was moved to its present site as the land where it was situated was needed for building the Dry Docks. Sheikh Rashid had allotted a large area of land in the Oud Metha area for schools and Dubai English Speaking School was given a site on this land. A charter was granted by Sheikh Rashid in 1969 by which a number of subscriber companies were given the right to elect a board of governors (now named Trustees).

The school continued to develop in the 1970s as Dubai itself expanded. As the school grew in numbers, more classrooms and other facilities were added. By 1974 there were four classes in each year group from Reception to Year 5. The school also began to have productions involving the children, although the first one, held in the central area, was rained off! The first productions were held outside but continued in the Gymnasium until Latifa Hall was built in the late 1980s. The first Christmas concerts were candlelit evenings.

In 1977 Miss Miles left the school and was replaced as Headmistress by Miss Bernadette McCarthy. Swimming had become an important part of the curriculum but until this time the children had to go to the British Forces pool in Sharjah, and later to the house of Madi Tajer on the Beach Road in order to swim and so it was decided to build a swimming pool on the school grounds.

The aims of the school from 1977 were to prepare children for the Common Entrance Examination and for transfer to primary or secondary education in the UK. It was not only the children of expatriates who were educated, the children of the Royal Family of Dubai were also pupils in the school.

The school working days were changed from Saturday – Thursday (8.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.) to Saturday – Wednesday (8.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.). Afternoon activities were also introduced which included football and archery – the first time this sport was practiced in the UAE. A further development in the 1970s was the introduction of the House system in 1978.

The present Year 6 classrooms were added in the early 1990s along with the P.E. office and storeroom. A further significant development was the grassing of the playing field which is now one of the best school fields in Dubai.

In 1997 Miss McCarthy retired and Mrs. Margaret Bell was appointed Headteacher.

Between 1997 and 2001 many of the original buildings which had been erected in the 1960s and 1970s were replaced.

Mr. Ken Battye became Headteacher in 2002 followed by Mr. David Hammond in 2005. Mrs Catherine Dando became Headteacher of DESS in September 2014.

The original Administration building, built in 1987 and opened by Princess Anne, was modernised in 2003.

From its humble origins in 1963, the school now boasts modern facilities and classrooms of the highest standards. There are now 1000+ children with 5 classes in each year group. The Primary School covers the National Curriculum for England for children from age 3 to 11.

In 2006, building on over 40 years of tradition and reputation for academic excellence, DESS opened its own Secondary school, Dubai English Speaking College (DESC) in impressive modern buildings in Academic City. We now look to the future, providing quality British education for children up to the age of 18 and preparing our students for university entry and adulthood.

In September 2014 DESS opened a brand new FS1 facility. As we celebrated 50 years in 2013, it is with great pride that we look back on the school’s progress since its beginnings in 1963.

School Contact Information


Latest Inspection Results
Principal's Details
  • Principal's Photo
  • Principal's Name
    Christopher Vizzard
School Type


Space availability
Examination Boards

GCSE, AS, A Level

Extra Curricular Activities

Extra Curricular Activities play an important role at DESC. Students participate in and enjoy many opportunities for involvement in areas outside the established curriculum.

We continually aim to produce a range of exciting sporting, creative, cultural and aesthetic activities that will help all of our students to develop their talents. There is a clear expectation of our students to participate in at least one ECA per term. All students have gifts and through the extra-curricular programme, we seek to enhance their learning experiences beyond the compulsory curriculum throughout their time at DESC.

At the start of each term, the ECA timetable is advertised on tutor notice boards, the College website and published on the Parent Portal. To register for an ECA, students just need to attend the first session and say that they wish to attend the activity unless otherwise stated.

For all ECA related queries, please email

Grade Levels
Other Information
  • Number of Students