With the continued maturing of Dubai’s education marketplace, and only two new schools opening for the 2019-20 academic year (unlike September 2018, which saw an incredible 16 new schools in Dubai alone) it is perhaps not surprising that what will come next is for schools to strategically improve upon their current facilities. This is clearly the plan at NAS Dubai, who invited our team to see the construction work in progress.
Our visit takes place on a hot June morning and we are surprised to find a bright pink ice cream van, rather than just construction vehicles sitting outside the works. Why? We pass a smiling group of Year 3 students who Principal Mr Matthew Farthing proudly tells us have just distributed more than 120 ice creams to the construction workers.
“Our values in action!” he says. Alas, the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com team arrive too late for our own sweet treat… Next time, perhaps!
What is underway at NAS Dubai is part of a two phase evolution of the current school. For the academic year commencing September 2019, the school has focused on providing a new suite of facilities for its Sixth Form. The new area in the school includes six English teaching classrooms (in total, there will be 13 new classrooms, with the remainder used for Sixth Form), a three-bed medical clinic, and a new multipurpose hall and multi-gym. Outside, (and an earlier completed part of this project, already in use) is a new full size rugby pitch, two multi-purpose courts and a second swimming pool.
In the second, as yet unscheduled, wave of construction a new secondary teaching block and an innovation hub or ‘maker-space’ will also be added. Once complete, the entire project will have a striking curved frontage.
Mr Farthing is keen that we understand the thinking behind these new buildings;
"These additional facilities aren't about adding to student numbers…what we wanted to do was improve the experience of the children who are already a part of our community. These are improvements that our families have asked for, we have listened, and we feel fortunate being able to deliver them. I think it really speaks to the strength of being a part of a group like Nord Anglia Education that we can achieve this.”
Before entering the site via what will become the entrance for Sixth Form, we looked at how the 5500sq m of new built up space will connect with the existing facilities.
A double door entry is being created on the first floor, about 20 metres from the administration centre and Principal’s office. This will bring students from the main school building directly onto the new first floor English teaching corridor. The school refer to this as the 'classroom bridge' from the older to new facilities.
On the ground floor, Sixth Form students will have their own entrance, facing out onto the street/parking area and approximately 200 metres from the main school entrance. Having recently spoken to parents about parking around the school, we found congestion and access to be a source of irritation for the community. The team hope that an additional entrance to the school will alleviate the issue somewhat.
The site is still covered with scaffolding and very much a work in progress on the day of our visit. The multi-purpose hall is as yet without a roof and many of the rooms still need windows. There is clearly still a lot to do with numerous contractors on site as we tour. That said, the ‘core’ of the works is nearing completion, the buildings are in place... but for the construction team a summer of hard work awaits. The NAS Dubai team appear relaxed and confident about an on time delivery of the project, ready for students in September 2019.
We pass through what will be a glass fronted reception area with an open aspect to the multi-purpose hall. Climbing the stairs to the first floor (the building is G+2) we view several of the new English classrooms and what will become the three-bed clinic. Classrooms have windows both to the exterior and to the corridor, a design feature in keeping with the rest of the school which creates spaces which are light and bright.
Looking out from these new rooms students will see the very large multipurpose hall and further sports facilities in the distance. The multi-purpose hall will be surrounded by a viewing gallery (which will also look out to the outdoor pitches), allowing supporters to cheer on their teams from above.
The second floor is devoted to the Sixth Form Centre, creating an independent, completely self-contained space for the older students. First, there is the library, which will also house independent study rooms for quiet work. Further on there are additional social areas.
The Sixth Form students at NAS Dubai are clearly in for something of a treat when it comes to their open plan common room area. This cavernous room will not only be equipped with study and social areas but also a space for independent food preparation. We can see this being a natural hub for teenagers! The common room then opens out on to a huge rooftop which will be devoted to social space, featuring comfortable seating, outdoor dining space and having spectacular views of the sports facilities. The Sixth Form will also have dedicated staff office space, with one member of the Senior Leadership Team moving into the building, to be on hand for students and parents alike.
While the stated purpose of this extension project is to add to the already top tier facilities at NAS Dubai, the real strength of this project is in the creation of a superb independent space for the oldest students, and indirectly, in creating more space for junior years as the sixth form moves next door. It will be interesting to see how the new spaces integrate, in action, with the existing school come September next year...