Abu Dhabi: The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) in Abu Dhabi announced on Sunday its partnership with Cranleigh School, a British independent school founded in 1865, to open an elite campus on Saadiyat Island in the third quarter of 2014.
The signing ceremony which took place last week at Manarat Al Saadiyat included Shaikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, TDIC’s Chairman, Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, representatives from the Royal Group, and Cranleigh’s representative in the region, alongside senior delegates from Cranleigh.
Anthony Townsend, Chairman of Governors at Cranleigh School, told Gulf News that the school had been thinking about an overseas project, but wasn’t sure where best to do it.
“So when this opportunity came up we thought this was very interesting,” he said. “With TDIC’s involvement on Saadiyat Island and what was already in the pipeline, with the museums, we thought what a wonderful environment that would be to start the school in.”
While Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is still in the schematic design phase, it will be built over seven hectares of land, with a capacity to accommodate more than 1,600 students between the ages of three and 18. Once built, the school will become the largest school campus in the emirate with open green spaces and equipped with the latest technology. The school will have a shared 650-seat auditorium, 2,900-square-metre sports centre and 19,300 square metres of outdoor fields, two grass pitches, an Astroturf pitch, four tennis courts, two swimming pools and an indoor arena comprising of two full-sized multi-purpose courts. “We’ve seen that that the students who can excel on the sports field or on the stage or in music, the start doing better in the classroom. A little bit of confidence gained in succeeding outside the classroom reflects very well inside the classroom. And obviously this works best if it’s all in the same school,” Townsend explained.
The school will also introduce a broad academic curriculum with emphasis on the individual and lots of opportunities for students to take part in a full range of talents in fine arts, performing arts, music, sports and cultural activities.
Townsend said their research suggests that the students would predominantly be local students, with over 40 nationalities taking part. “We’re not arriving here as a British school trying to impose a model on Abu Dhabi. Quite the reverse. We’re saying Abu Dhabi is as it is, let us see how we can adapt a British model to work with it,” he explained.
Located next to Manarat Al Saadiyat and the UAE Pavilion in the Saadiyat Cultural District, the school will also offer boarding facilities — a first for Abu Dhabi. Various boarding arrangements in purpose-built houses — separate for males and females — will be offered, including full-boarding as well as individualised day and weekly boarding options. However, the majority of students are expected to be day pupils.
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will also be one of several education facilities on Saadiyat, such as a pre-school nursery opening in 2013 and New York University Abu Dhabi which is expected to be completed in 2014.