Dubai's Aquila School On Track, A Hard Hat Tour

One of the new ‘affordable’ UK curriculum schools due to open in September 2018 is The Aquila School. We donned our hard hats and construction site boots to inspect its progress…
Dubai's Aquila School On Track, A Hard Hat Tour
By Veathika
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We started our hard-hat tour on a warm morning accompanied by project managers from Aspect and the school’s principal Wayne Howsen.

The tour was led by Steven Langman, the Design Director at Aspect, who started with a glimpse into the plans, where we could see how and where each building will come up.

The Aquila School’s architects are NEB and the contractors are Intermas Contracting. Owned and managed by International Schools Partnership (ISP), an established education brand with 28 schools across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

The school is Ground plus 2 floors

The group also owns Reach British School in Abu Dhabi, Aspen Heights and Nibras American School in Dubai.

Unlike many school projects we have toured over the last couple of years, Aquila’s design is based on clusters. The design allows for short corridors with uniquely shaped classrooms.

Steven Langman said: “The design philosophy was mainly to have clustered spaces and for that reason there are reduced corridors. Overall the classrooms are being built around break out areas.”

The corridors are short for natural light and cluster design

The campus is designed in a way where there is abundance of natural light, so spaces where there are 2-sided classrooms, a long outdoor shaded play area is being built to get enough light.

The design also encompasses the free flow philosophy of the school to have lots of open spaces, series of clusters and have an informal teaching environment.

The Foundation Stage classes have their own outdoor areas and two internal play areas, with a separate entrance and reception for the Early Years.

There will be a walkway here to connect the 2 clusters

There are various walkways and bridges made on different levels to connect the various clusters, providing easy connectivity.

The total plot area of the school is 30,000 sqm with the phase 1 built up area being 21,000 and the overall built up area will be 30,000 sqm (including Phase 2).

The school is being built in two phases, with block A and C being part of phase 1.

We entered through the reception area of the Early Years, which will be ready in early April.

Principal Wayne Howsen said: “We are planning to have two classrooms ready with the main reception area by early April, it will be like a model classroom to show the parents how each class will look.”

The Foundation block has about 5 play areas with a separate entrance. What struck us the most about this space is that no class is a square or a rectangle. There are various corners and differently shaped classrooms with plenty of break out areas to play and move around.

Outdoor FS play area in between two sided class rooms

Adjacent to the Early Years is the main entrance of the school, which has a massive reception area that includes admin offices, conference room, a café for the parents and a twisted staircase leading to the balcony.

There’s a huge library on the first floor with immense natural light, overlooking the main entrance to the school. The school is on the main road with no buildings in front to block the view,” explained Steven.

The staircase leaded to the library

Next to the main entrance and the admin block is the B block, which will have sports facilities, performing arts rooms and an auditorium. There will be separate entrances from the ground level and the first floor to the auditorium.

The sports facilities will include two swimming pools on the ground floor of Block B, two sports halls on the first floor and a full size football pitch behind the block.

Entrance to Block B which have swimming pools, sports and performing arts facilities

There's ample parking provision with the buses having their parking slots at the rear, while the staff and parents will have space in the front and the side of the school.

Located between The Villa community and the Sky Court Tower, Aquila school will have an immediate catchment area for enrolment.

“We have 3 lots of parents, one from around the area, second from Silicon Oasis and Arabian Ranches and the third lot of parents are those who are more focused on the progress of their children. We aim to provide an enquiry based education and even our assessments to enrol kids are free flowing,” explained Wayne.

The assessment is more like a “play date” with some reading and writing involved.

Pockets of natural light

The school will start with FS to Year 6 in September 2018 and will open more years in subsequent years.

So far some 38 students have already registered for September 2018, while more have registered interest.

At capacity Aquila will house 2,900 students once all phases are complete. It aims to start with 5 form entry.

The construction is on track and the school is scheduled to be ready by early August

Teacher recruitment is done with one teacher being hired for each year group so far.

Wayne comes from Al Muna Academy in Abu Dhabi, which has been rated ‘Outstanding’ twice and he has brought in some teachers from there.

“ I have recruited 4 teachers from Al Muna, while 3 are coming from the UK. We have recruited 1 teacher for each year group and made a list of people who we want to hire later, based on enrolment numbers,” said Wayne.

FS Reception area which will be ready by early April

The school will offer mid-range fee structure in a location full of families, and more to come with lots of construction in full swing next to the school.

It offers all the facilities for an all round child development. Aquila has a good chance to start with some sound student numbers who will enter what is looking like a uniquely built school.

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