First up, is founding principal Patrick Lee-Browne at Kent College Dubai.
Briefly explain why Kent College should be on every parent's’ shortlist?
The 2015-16 school rankings recently published by KHDA show the Outstanding category to be dominated by British curriculum schools. This reflects the high standard of teaching and the quality of overall educational care that are a characteristic of our education system.
Because Kent College is so directly linked to our founding school in Canterbury, we will not only deliver the spirit as well as the letter of the British curriculum in the classroom, but also ensure that our pupils experience the wider educational benefits of the independent system in the UK – small classes, attention on each pupil as an individual and a holistic approach to all aspects of their life in school so that their self-confidence and personal development grow as they move up through the school.
We have been very fortunate in having KHDA approval to open all yeargroups from the outset, so we will be a complete school from Day 1. And to make sure we deliver a high quality education, and live up to expectations, the school buildings and facilities have been very well planned and will be of an excellent standard.
Why do you think prospective parents are less receptive in sending their child to a new school?
Because in general a new school doesn’t have any ‘form’. There is some security in joining a new school that is part of a well-established group or chain of schools, but until the team of teachers and support staff have established themselves and can show some evidence of their effectiveness, any parent is bound to be wary of making that commitment for their child’s education to an institution that hasn’t yet proved itself.
If the brand is well-known, parents will be more ready to commit, and I have been really impressed by the number of parents who already know about Kent College Canterbury (or have done their homework to find out about the school) and understand that our brand has roots and substance.
What do you see as the ‘pros’ of sending children to a new school?
We are here in Dubai for the long term, and the pupils who join us when we open will have a tremendous sense of pride in future years in being the pathfinders who set the standard and created the ethos of the school for subsequent generations. Years have been spent on careful planning and consideration of every aspect of the school’s activities, and our pupils will benefit from that investment of time and experience in the quality of the classroom technology, the latest equipment in the science labs and DT workshops and throughout the school. Whether it’s a new car or a new house, or a new gadget, we all get a buzz from something new, and a school is no exception. And I know from the number of emails that I’ve had from our teaching staff that they are just as excited as the pupils!
What do you think are the ‘cons?’
As I suggested earlier, the lack of proven ability to deliver a high quality education, and the risk that the school doesn’t live up to its promises. In our start-up phase we have worked hard to give parents facts and information about the school and the curriculum and activities that we know we can deliver. The biggest unknown is the way in which the whole team will come together and bond from the start. And of course, parents want to be assured that the building will be finished on time, and their child’s first weeks or months will not be blighted by ongoing construction work.
What questions do you think parents should ask of a new school and what should they look for on their tour?
Explain the curriculum and how you will be delivering it. (Most parents will have particular areas of interest that they will want to find out about in more detail, eg languages provision, textbooks v. online resources and worksheets, policy on setting and streaming etc).
Are your teaching staff all recruited, and tell me about their qualifications and experience.
How is the extra-curricular programme organised, is there a charge for activities, and to what extent are the teaching staff involved?
What tutorial and other pastoral structures does the school have, to make sure my child is given the individual attention she or he needs?
How will the school communicate with the parents, and how will I be kept informed about academic progress, or make contact with my child’s teachers or tutor?
What is your approach to homework, and is there time during the school day for pupils to complete it or are they expected to do so at home?
What arrangements have you made for catering, transport, and health care during school time?
How would you suggest parents go about assessing the suitability of a new school in the absence of KHDA inspection results, parent testimonials etc?
Check out who is operating the school, and who has made the investment in the building.
The impression created by the start-up team and the Head or Principal is also very important, as they will be creating the culture of the new school once it’s up and running. If it’s in a group or chain, the track record of other schools in the group may be an indicator of the new school’s likely performance; if like us it’s a standalone school, the reputation and educational quality of the founding school will be significant.
Parents can find out a lot about a school through asking the kind of questions I’ve suggested in answer to the previous question.
The KHDA approval process is rigorous, so parents can be confident that a school that has met KHDA requirements has every opportunity to be a successful place for their children to grow and develop.