With the summer holidays a matter of days away, most school leaders have their eyes on the finish line and have little time to talk, but as we met Head of School, Mr David Hutson, at Dwight School Dubai, the mood was one of excitement with an eye on, and foot in, the next academic year. Mr Hutson told us:
“We’ve been keeping our focus on what is happening now, on teaching and learning, on exams and graduations. But I think we can allow ourselves to get excited about the move to our brand new campus now, and all that it brings with it.”
Mr Hutson continued:
“This new start provides us with the opportunity to be what Dwight is in its entirety, to have full autonomy on the education we are providing, and to move into a beautiful new campus. The curriculum has been the same as that in the US, the teachers the same [fit], but we can now do things in a way that is true to the Dwight values and philosophy, to the ethos and vision of the Spahn family.”
The new Sports City campus is a mere 10-minute drive from the current Barsha South school but feels worlds apart due to its surroundings and architecture. Warmly understated and wrapped in greenery, the campus lends itself well to the smaller community and family ethos of Dwight. Formerly the site of GEMS United School (which closed in 2020), this facility has required only a modest face lift and alternations to accommodate the specific needs of its new occupants.
The campus is comprised of multiple independent buildings, allowing for a set-up of smaller ‘schools’ for each section within the larger school campus (this is of particular benefit to children in the early years section, who can enjoy their own entrance and facilities without crossing paths with much older children). Between and around these buildings are green courtyards, play facilities and sports fields.
Classrooms for all age groups are unusually spacious, but we were assured that class sizes would not be increasing with the space from their current capacities of 20 children in early years classes and 24 in PYP and MYP.
Mr Hutson was keen to highlight the large auditorium in the new campus, which he says will greatly enhance the school’s performing arts department and provide a setting for many community events. The school’s new MIT inspired tech creation space, ‘Fab Lab’ is also a source of pride for the team. MIT describes the concept as “a digital fabrication laboratory, a place to play, to learn, to mentor and invent”.
Curious as to whether there would be any major staff changes, we asked Mr Hutson about teacher retention with the move. He told us that the majority of the existing school’s teachers have made the choice to move with Dwight:
“Many of our teachers have told me that they are moving with us because they believe in Dwight and they believe in what it stands for. When you're an educator, it is really important that you believe in what you’re doing. We haven't needed to recruit many teachers, but we do have some exciting new additions to our team joining us.”
Experienced IB educator Kate Hernshaw, previously of Dwight School London, will join the school as Head of Lower School, enhancing the connection Dwight School Dubai has with its sister schools around the globe. The school will also welcome a specialist early years music and arts teacher, and a lower school ‘maker space’ teacher.
Mr Hutson explained that Dwight families have also expressed their loyalty and told us that the majority are moving with the school. As a means of satisfying parent and student curiosity about the new facilities, while bringing the community together, the school recently hosted a barbeque for its families in the new campus.
Renovations at the new campus will continue through the summer, with the team scheduled to set up following their summer break, in time for the new academic year. For Mr Hutson, as with all the current staff, the excitement level is palpable:
“I am cutting short my summer holiday to make sure that we're ready: I'm incredibly keen to see how it will look immediately after completion of all the renovations. And then of course it is all hands on deck to make sure we're unpacked and ready for the start of term. I really can't wait...”