Abu Dhabi: One of the oldest British schools, established in 1968 and now known as The British School - Al Khubairat, stands out as one of the most established schools in the region as they celebrate their 40th anniversary next month.
The British School - Al Khubairat (TBSAK) is administered by a board comprising parent representatives and nominees of the British Ambassador.
Previously known as Al Khubairat Community School, TBSAK began their journey when a number of British expatriates arrived in Abu Dhabi and coordinated with a company to place their children in an-all-English curriculum school. That was when the school premises was located in a tiny facility in Khalidya Street, accommodating 30 pupils in one classroom.
The school was established in 1971 with an Emiri decree from the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and in 1980 TBSAK was relocated just off the Airport Road.
A previous article by Gulf News titled 'A school for the new millennium' reported Al Khubairat's new building designed for the 21st century along with a new school logo respecting the Emirati culture.
At the new premises, the school started a kindergarten and grades one to four, all located on the ground floor. Sports and recreation facilities at the time were equally important to academic teaching.
The school still has certain landmarks such as the 15-metre water tower, the 25-metre senior swimming pool and the auditorium where pupils used to assemble every Thursday. Pupils till secondary school still wear the same light blue and white chequered uniform as in the past.
Principal Paul Oakley said the school has undergone three phases of development.
In the first phase, the building was built in 2000 with extra facilities and the curriculum was modified for subjects such as science, modern languages, information communication technology, history and geography.
The Jubilee Building, built in 2001, houses the junior grades three to six, with 20 classes, a group of five classes in each year.
The phase three building, built in 2005, included facilities and classrooms for art, English, mathematics, music, business studies, economics, Arabic, theatre, library and a new auditorium. The school for the children was renovated by in 1980 and a second swimming pool, 15 metres in length, was built.
"The secondary school, started in 1999, now has 720 pupils on roll with a rapidly growing Sixth Form. We now run till 13th grade. I witnessed the opening of the phase three building. After having one small classroom for only 30 pupils, the school now has 100 classrooms and 1,730 pupils since September 2008. For our 40th anniversary we have decided to set up an alumni association for our former pupils to gather round and discuss changes the school has undergone," said Oakley.
A special corner for comments sent to the school by Al Khubairat alumni allowed us to get a glimpse of memories shared by former pupils.
'Old Girl' Lisa White said in her letter: "It's 18 and a half years since I left Al Khubairat and the same amount of time since I last visited the school. I have many fond memories - Father Christmas visiting by helicopter every year, and the fantastic school productions, 'Rats' and 'The Jungle Book' were the ones I can most vividly remember being involved in. The loveliest thing about my time in Al Khubairat is that even after all these years, many of us are still in contact with each other, there's always going to be a special bond between Al Khubairat children."
Another 'Old Girl' Nicola Smith (nee Harper) said: "I can remember being given a Queens Silver Jubilee commemorative mug and coin in assembly in 1977. Everyone also got a plaque when they left."
'Old Boy' Stefan Emiljanowicz said: "Al Khubairat eh? When I started there in 1973, it was a series of portakabins on an expanse of mud, probably the largest expanse of mud in the UAE ... everywhere else was sand, they chose to build the school on mud. Our classroom, when I was in kindergarten had a back garden."
Assistant Head of Primary School, Shona Colthart, has been in TBSAK since 1994 and talked to Gulf News about the changes she has witnessed.
"When I first arrived at Al Khubairat I came as a single teacher since only single teachers were allowed. As the school got larger, many married couples ... were allowed to teach. The number of classes has also increased with increasing number of pupils." She added that in the past there was a teaching assistant for each teacher and a teacher for children with special needs.
Now, there is a Special Needs Department in the school and a learning support assistant who works with a teacher, not including the class teacher and her assistant.