Top UAE schools recognised

Awards looked beyond traditional criteria and included holistic development

James Mullan, co-founder of Which Media, presents the award for Outstanding Contribution to Education to Abdullah Al Karam.

They may lose weekends making lesson plans and sleep late to complete coursework grading, but Thursday was a well deserved night off for more than 850 of the UAE’s local teaching community, who attended the Top Schools Awards at Dubai Parks and Resorts.


Twenty-one awards, including the Outstanding Contribution to UAE Education, Best School Principal, and Best School in the UAE, were handed out in celebration of excellence in the UAE education sector., an education comparison site that helps parents choose a school for their child, received 170 nominations this year after opening nominations to all schools, parents, and editors.


David Westley, General Manager and Co-Founder of Which Media, said the awards looked beyond academics and assessed several other criteria that promoted ‘whole child’ education.

“The key thing is we looked at areas that traditionally don’t get looked at which is arts, sports, performing arts, how much a school embraces technology, which is the key for jobs tomorrow, or international initiatives. It’s basically about what you’ve got on top of the fundamentals to make it much more holistic education and develop more well-rounded children,” Westley told Gulf News.

Bagging the top prize for his outstanding contribution to UAE education is Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director-General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Sasha Crabb, principal of Victory Heights Primary School and winner of the School Principal of the Year award, at Raj Mahal Theatre in Bollywood Parks, Dubai

James Mullan, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Which Media and organiser of the event, said Dr Al Karam’s efforts and outward looking view have been instrumental in leading the growth of private education in Dubai, which is now home to 209 private schools.


Dubai English Speaking School and Dubai English Speaking College were jointly awarded the Best School in the UAE 2019 out of 10 finalists for being an institution where “every child counts,” according to Isobel Abulhoul OBE, one of the panel of judges.


Andrew Gibbs, the school principal, said when receiving the award: “I’m not sure we’re really the best school out there… But I know how hard you [teachers in the audience] all work, how hard everyone works within your organisations. Look after them, look after yourselves.”

Gibbs said what makes their school special is its well-intentioned people, one of whom is the much-loved site manager Mr Raj for being a symbol of trust, credibility, and authenticity in the school.


The crowd erupted in cheers when Sasha Crabb, principal of Victory Heights Primary School, received the School Principal of the Year Award for “ensuring that the happiness of ‘her children’ and the whole school community remains the priority’.

“I don’t think we’ve done anything differently…” Crabb said when she received the award. “We’ve just had to go with our gut, with our passion for what we believe is important to children.”

Jumeirah College was recognised as the Best School for Child Progress and Value-Add out of six finalists. Simon O’Connor, the school principal, said: “That’s what we try and do every day which is to identify where students can get to and help them make that progress.”

O’Connor also took the opportunity to thank the community for their support this week after one of their staff passed away in the school premises this week.

“Jumeirah College had a tough week and I just wanted to say thank you to so many people here tonight who had reached out to us,” he said.


List of Awards

■ Outstanding Contribution to Education in the UAE


Winner: Dr Abdullah Al Karam

■ School Principal of the Year, 2019

Winner: Sasha Crabb, Victory Heights

■ Best School in the UAE, 2019

Winner: Dubai English Speaking College and Dubai English Speaking School

■ British Curriculum School of the Year

Winner: British School Al Khubairat

■ International Baccalaureate School of the Year

Winner: Raha International

■ Best American Curriculum School of the Year

Winner: American School of Dubai

■ Indian Curriculum School of the Year

Winner: GEMS Modern Academy

■ Arabic Blended Curriculum School of the Year

Winner: Shaikh Zayed Private Academy for Boys

■ IB Blended curriculum School of the Year

Winner: Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches

■ Best Primary School

Winner: Dubai English Speaking School

■ Best Nursery

Winner: Aga Khan Early Learning Centre

■ Best post-16 Education

Winner: British School Al Khubairat

■ Best school for Technical Education

Winner: Dubai English Speaking College

■ Best New School

Winner: Safa Community School

■ Best School for Music

Winner: Nord Anglia International School Dubai

■ Best School for Theatre and the Performing Arts

Winner: Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi

■ Best School for Art

Winner: Brighton College Abu Dhabi

■ Best School for Sport

Winner: Dubai English Speaking College

■ Best School for Child progress and Value-Add

Winner: Jumeirah College

■ Award for Outstanding Use of Technology

JOINT Winners: Fairgreen School and Jumeirah English Speaking School – Arabian Ranches

■ Best International Initiative

Winner: Riverston School Dubai

Source: Gulf News