Visiting Manor Primary School for our Hard Hat Tour was rather like taking a step back in time. Located almost directly on Sheikh Zayed Road, next door to the English College, it was impossible to ignore that only two years ago, this building was home to English College Primary School. Two years on – during which time the building has continued to be fully maintained with a/c’s functioning and the swimming pool maintenance regime unbroken, the staff of the new Manor Primary School are in the enviable position of knowing that there will be no last minute delays or glitches in advance of opening.
The front of the school has been painted and the familiar multi-coloured blocks of colour have been replaced with shades of green and vivid red. Inside the main entrance, a new reception area is being installed and corridors and classrooms are being painted and decorated. The most striking artwork is in the main entrance, the corridors and in the shared areas between the classrooms, where the Head of Art and some extremely talented students from English College have been painting murals by hand. Their work is truly stunning and certainly not of the usual framed picture variety found in most schools.
Initially, the school is expecting to welcome less than 100 children and, therefore, only the ground floor classrooms (together with a specialist Shared Technology room for IT and Music – where I-pads and lap-tops will be the norm - separate Art and Food Technology rooms, a library, the enormous Sports Hall and swimming pool) will be put to use.
Classrooms are arranged in pods of 3 or 4 (depending on year group) with an external play area located between each pod on the ground floor.
Many of the resources of the original English College Primary are still in place including books and storage, so the school already has a lived-in feel. Children will have access to their own outdoor space and there is a separate Foundation Section with shaded outdoor play area for the youngest students. Older children will also have access to the playing fields of English College. Current plans are for 1 class per year group to open from FS1 to year 6 with a maximum, at capacity, of 20 children per class, 2 classes per year group and a total of only 400 children when the school is full. This is very small by Dubai standards, and will ensure a real community school feel to the campus.
Governance of the English College (to whom year 6 students will be guaranteed entry in future years) and Manor Primary are both under the supervision of LVS Ascot - a UK-based Charity that has a long association with Education. The Management team of LVS has taken over responsibility for both schools, with the existing team at English College (under Ian Jones) and a new team at Manor Primary under the leadership of Karen Davies, an experienced Head from the UK. Staff at Manor Primary are all UK trained and native English speakers. Although the schools are licenced separately and therefore under separate management structures, in reality, there will be close cooperation between the two.
There is a real sense of confidence in the new team at Manor Primary and the existing team at English College, much optimism about the rebirth of the Primary School which is in a great location in the heart of Jumeirah/Umm Suqeim. There is also a recognition that some parents may be nervous about the long term prospects for both schools, given recent history, but absolute conviction that both schools will go from strength to strength with the involvement of LVS. Many former ECPS parents are holding off making a decision to return to the school; hopefully their concerns will be allayed with the opening of Manor Primary in September and the various infrastructure improvements that are planned across both campuses.