About DESSC & Our History

Dubai English Speaking School and College (DESSC) is the oldest English school in Dubai. Established in 1963, DESS and later DESC have offered a British education in Dubai for over half a century. Over this time, the schools have grown from single classrooms to some of the most advanced educational facilities in Dubai.


DESS in 1963Dubai 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).

Dubai English Speaking School - 1970s buidlingsThe 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.

Classes in the 1970sThe 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.

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

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.

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.

As we celebrated 60 years in 2023, it is with great pride that we look back on the school’s progress since its beginnings in 1963.


Our secondary school, Dubai English Speaking College (DESC), was established in 2005 (originally located at the Oud Metha site of DESS) to meet the needs of our parents and their children requiring continuing British education up to Year 13.

Under founding Headteacher, Mr Peter Daly, DESC opened with just 35 Year 7 students and has grown gradually. The college is now thriving with over 1700 students in Years 7 to 13, has an excellent reputation and, together with DESS, numbers over 2700 students.

In 2011, Andrew Gibbs was appointed Headteacher during which time the college has doubled in size and been rated “Outstanding” by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau, since 2012. In 2014, following Mr Gibbs’ appointment as the first Principal of DESSC (DESS and DESC), Chris Vizzard (previously Deputy Headteacher) became Headteacher. Mr Gibbs became the Principal/CEO of DESSC in December 2020.

The modern spacious facilities are located in Academic City and were officially opened in February 2007. The college was further enhanced in 2017 with the addition of the state of the art Sixth Form, offering a purpose built first class facility for pre-university experience.