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In August, Durham School Dubai will open its gates in Dubai Investments Park. The school is accepting enrolments for children from EYFS up to Y8 with students eventually going on to study for their A-levels in the 6th Form.

The UAE school will be a branch of Durham School in the UK; an elite institution that has been educating children for more than 600 years.

Mark Atkins, Principal, Durham School Dubai, says that this close association offers unique advantages in an already competitive UAE education sector. “I believe that Durham School is a place where the standards and expectations associated with traditional British education, honed for the last 600 years, can provide the springboard to success in the modern, multi-cultural, 21st century, population of Dubai,” he says.

The school will teach an enhanced version of the English National Curriculum, with a clear structure and high expectations, which Atkins believes can be advantageous to children. He says that the basic foundations of learning are often overlooked in favour of novel approaches to teaching. “With over 36 years’ experience in education, I have seen pretty much everything from the outstanding to the inadequate and everything in between. I have worked in English state schools, in top tier English independent schools and in international schools.

“During this time I have become a convinced that education, first and foremost, must be based on what the children need before aimlessly following the latest trend; I am weary of education being used as a political football or a testing ground for the latest, soon to be discarded, fad,” he says.

Teaching fundamental skills

Atkins is adamant that children at Durham School Dubai will be provided with the fundamental skills they need on which to build their learning, both academically and beyond. “Children need to know what they are learning and they need clear structure in that learning. First, they need to be competent in reading and in all of the elements that make up English as a subject – grammar, comprehension, appreciation of literature, spelling and writing for different purposes (they should also be taught handwriting). Mathematics must concentrate on developing skillful, accurate manipulation of numbers to enable pupils to calculate accurately.”

The quality of education will at least match that offered at Durham UK and that the same ethos standards and expectations will be applied to the pupils here as it is in the United Kingdom.

- Mark Atkins, Principal, Durham School Dubai

He says that this process starts immediately at Durham. “At a young age they must be taught their number bonds and the multiplication tables and, as they progress, be able to apply mathematical principles to problem-solving. Children also need to investigate – they are naturally curious and opportunity should be given to them to conduct hands-on science experiments, encouraging scientific thinking.”

While Atkins acknowledges the many benefits of utilising the latest technologies in learning, he is equally skeptical about an overreliance on tools such as computers and tablets. “Children spend far too long gazing at screens and living life in a virtual world – there has to be a place for traditional learning in school that requires children to talk to each other, interact with each other and the teacher and produce work in books that they take a pride in and that their parents can see,” he says.

Confidence for life

Academic achievement is a central pillar of the ethos behind Durham School but building children’s confidence for life is also a key philosophy, where staff will develop students’ characters, confidence and social skills. The school’s ‘MARK’ values are built on instilling moral integrity, ambition, respect and kindness.

The new school in Dubai follows Durham schools in Qatar and Kenya and Atkins says that parents and children should expect the same high quality of education as students in the UK. “The quality of education will at least match that offered at Durham UK and that the same ethos standards and expectations will be applied to the pupils here as it is in the United Kingdom. That is not to say that this is an outpost of the UK school, far from it. Durham is a school for Dubai not just a school in Dubai and our mission is to educate pupils from all over the world whose parents want them to have a high quality traditional British education.”

The staff will be highly experienced and predominantly English and Atkins says the Dubai school plans to equal the UK institution’s famous achievements beyond academia. “Durham has a proud reputation for sporting success and we aim to replicate this, and, at a time when there is so much talked about STEM education we are also very focused on also delivering a high quality arts programme,” he says.

While Durham School Dubai will offer students excellent facilities and resources, it will also receive regular quality assurance visits from the UK school to ensure the brand’s high standards are met and maintained.

The Principal says he is reluctant to sell the school preferring instead to attract parents and families who share the values, principals and standards of Durham. He recognises its distinct approach to teaching, high expectations in discipline, work ethic and behaviour are not for everyone and suggests parents attend one of the Dubai school’s regular open days to make a decision independently. “The only way to understand if the school is right for your children and right for you, is to visit the school, meet the staff, see the facilities and experience the ethos for yourselves. I believe Durham school is a very special place.”

Durham School Dubai has a Founding Families Special Offer where parents have the option to take upto 41 per cent discount on the first year’s tuition fees or instead benefit from a fixed discounted fee for three academic years.

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