It would seem good things really do come to those who wait…
Well, at least for those who’ve waited a year for the Lycee Francias Jean Mermoz, Dubai (LFJM) to be completed.
The school was originally set to launch in September 2016, however, issues appeared early that year and school management opted to delay the opening.
They rescheduled for September 2017 and found temporary places for those who had already signed-up. Oaktree Primary accepted the students for the 2016/17 academic year.
The school rose to the challenge admirably and added additional French lessons for the ‘displaced’ LFJM students.
Talking to LFJM principal, Thomas Dentinger, it's still unclear just how many have settled fully into their 'temporary' school, and how many still plan on starting with the new LFJM in September.
Dentinger says, “if they’re happy and the solution is good, then that’s fine too.”
For those who do consider returning however, the Lycee Francais Jean Mermoz promises to be something a little bit special, both inside and out. A cursory look at the architect plans suggests the school building will be nothing short of stunning.
Inside too, from the classroom layout to the ethos and philosophy, Jean Mermoz looks set to chart a new course for French schools, not just in Dubai but across the GCC.
LFJM will of course utilise the French National curricula- a well-respected and highly sought after choice in Dubai.
Although there’s only four entirely-French National schools in the city, no other curricula boasts such consistently top rated schools; with two Outstanding, one Very Good and the other rated Good.
In addition, the French schools are highly affordable too, (all under AED 55,000 for Grade 12), together these factors have consistently created a ‘seating scrum’ rarely seen in other Dubai curricula.
Within this setting, opening another French curriculum school in Dubai, seems a 'no-brainer.'
However, the LFJM is clearly not just ‘another French school.’
Student numbers will be kept small and capped at 26 per class, with four classes per Grade.
The grade/classroom layouts are unique. For ‘Maternelle’ (Pre-KG to KG2), the classes will at capacity have four per Grade with each ‘Grade-block’ placed together and sharing multi-use room(s) for break-out activities.
For ‘Primaire’ (Grades one to five), the set-up is the same, however, each four-class-Grade will share two break-out rooms.
Dentinger himself has extensive experience both in Dubai and overseas and hopes to introduce more 'global' ideas to the traditional French curriculum.
He plans to bring in teacher teamwork ideas such as pair-observation, morning briefings to challenge and improve best practice at LFJM.
One element that will remain ‘quintessentially French’ is the central full-sized handball court. Dentinger hopes to create a new handball league both across Dubai and further a-field. In fact, he hopes to interest the city's non-French schools in joining this national pastime.
The 23,000 square metre plot is certainly not large by new school standards, however given its location in central Al Qouz, it is impressive that the consortium of local owners managed to secure such a sizable piece of land at all.
Phase-one of the build includes both the Maternalle and Primarie sections, plus; a 250 seat- auditorium, two small swimming pools which Dentinger emphasises, are not for performance training but teaching basic-safety skills, plus a library and further sporting facilities.
The ‘College’ or Secondary section will be constructed during phase-two, planned for, ‘two or three years’ time,’ according to Dentinger.
Between phase-one and two however, the school will add one more traditionally-French building to the site, a dining hall.
In France, the lunch-time dining experience is central to every school day. Usually a sit down meal, often of several courses and each packed with high quality fresh food.
The LFJM lunch-time plans are no different, although the dining-hall will have to wait for September 2018 to be completed, until then, there will be a ‘healthy-lunchbox,’ policy in place.
For Dentinger it is once again important to wait and get it right.