Dwight School in New York was the first in the United States to be an all through IB school. Via Bloom Education, the company responsible for the opening of Brighton College Dubai in addition to the two schools of the same brand in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Dwight School Dubai is now the fifth campus globally, bringing the Dwight expertise and experience for the first time to the Middle East.
The story so far...
Ground work on the school plot in Al Barsha South began in June 2017 and was completed on time for the September 2018 opening. The Dubai school is the fifth in the Dwight network after New York, London, Seoul, and Shanghai. The school is co-located on the same site as the new Brighton College Dubai, and will share some core facilities.
The original Dwight School is located on Manhattan's Upper West Side and eschews the US High School Diploma in favour of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which it uses for students from ages two through grade twelve.
While far from out of the ordinary here, the fact that forty countries are represented among its US school student body - international students account for one-third of the total cohort - is a source of some pride and actually quite core to the school. Dwight is international in outlook through and through. The same can be expected of the branch in Dubai.
Who is leading the school?
Janecke Aarnæs, formerly head of Oslo International School, an IB World School in Norway, is the school's founding principal.
Ms. Aarnæs is said to bring more than 22 years of experience in public and private education to her new role, including six years as head of school at Sonans Oslo and a strategic project role as business development manager at the Scandinavian School of Brussels (SSB).
Her experience also includes stints with private educational start-ups, such as the Sonans Privatgymnas, a Norwegian upper secondary school for adults in Drammen, where she was founding principal, and for performing a demerger at SSB, that resulted in the founding of the Norwegian School of Brussels (DNSB).
It is worth noting however that Ms. Aarnæs has no experience of working within a US high school environment. Clearly while Dwight is a US import, it is very much an internationally oriented IB school.
Ms. Aarnæs was "excited about the amazing opportunity" to bring the Dwight School's mission to the Middle East.
"I aim to be a strong female role model who inspires young learners to dare go their own ways, constantly absorb new information, challenge their assumptions and believe that every individual has the power to make a positive difference. I look forward to working with my colleagues, students and parents, and equipping Dubai's young people with the right skills for the future."
I have never heard of the school. Is it well known?
In the independent school sector, in the United States, yes.
The school was founded in 1872 by Julius Sachs as part of the Sachs Collegiate Institute, Dwight School was first known as "The Sachs School" and has been evolving through mergers and acquisitions New York style ever since. Awareness is helped by some pretty interesting alumni. Being a school for the affluent, in what has been the centre of the world, has resulted in a list that is both eclectic and impressive, including Truman Capote, Julian Casablancas (actually everyone from the Strokes), Paris Hilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Vin Diesel... We could go on. And on.
Interestingly Blake Spahn, vice chancellor of the group of Dwight Schools has committed to an open door policy for Dubai's students into its sister schools:
"When you are admitted to one Dwight school, you are admitted to them all.”
Students moving to countries with Dwight schools will be "admitted immediately" and should there be no places available, existing students will be placed at the top of the waiting list.
What about the curriculum?
Dwight will offer the IB curriculum, starting with the Primary Years Program in KG and moving through the Middle Years Program, prior to offering the IB Diploma Program in Grades 11 and 12. It is the second school located in this sector of Dubai to offer the full IB continuum - GEMS World Academy Dubai is located close by and is one of the longest established IB curriculum schools in Dubai.
What is unique about the Dwight programme?
Dwight Dubai will offer its Quest and Spark Tank programmes.
Quest is Dwight's learning support programme. This is billed as additional support beyond the provision the school will routinely offer in terms of differentiation, learning intervention and specialist support. The programme is planned in collaboration with parents and faculty and replaces the need for outside tutors by using a Quest mentor who works with teachers.
Dwight's Spark Tank programme is for its gifted and talented children and aims to develop innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership among students.
Dwight School in the US is selective. Will it be selective in the UAE?
No. Ms. Aarnæs has said Dwight Dubai is non selective and inclusive which means its admissions policy is at odds with the parent school. Interestingly, it also means that someone in Dubai could get a spot within an inclusive, non selective school and transfer to Dwight US, which is selective.
The admissions process at Dwight School US is based on school reports, teacher recommendations, ERB/ISEE test results, and student/parent interviews.
Given the non-selective nature of Dwight Dubai, an additional component to run alongside the IB Diploma could be beneficial for some of its students longer term. The IB requires strong all round academic ability to pass with a good enough grade to get into a top-tier university. BTEC, T-Levels and the IB CP would be a vocational way to go, and one we think would provide a valuable alternative pathway for less academic or more career and technically oriented students.
We are not surprised Dwight has chosen the route of being non-selective however. It is competing with Dubai College, North London Collegiate School, its neighbour Brighton College, Nord Anglia Dubai, JESS Arabian Ranches, Kings' - we could go on - for the best, brightest and most affluent. That's some fight.
What about the facilities?
It is still early days yet, but the school has been built on the same plot as Brighton College Dubai, whose sister school in the United Kingdom is equally prestigious, and similarly aged (est. 1842). The two Emirate of Abu Dhabi-based Brighton Colleges, in Al Ain and in Abu Dhabi, are both rated Outstanding by ADEK - two of a small number of Abu Dhabi schools to achieve the highest rating. With the team at Bloom Education leading the development of both Brighton College Dubai and Dwight School, the bar is clearly set high.
The combined development has reportedly been given a value of more than AED 275 million with the campuses built across a 10-acre site. Each school will be ground plus 3 floors with facilities spreading across 89,000 square metres of space.
We understand there is pretty much an equal split between the two schools.
Brighton and Dwight are operationally independent but share some facilities, including a 600 seat auditorium and 400 m running track. In addition both schools benefit from a Centre of Excellence for Arabic Language, Culture and the Arts. There is no real clarity on what that is exactly, but it shares some of the plot with the two schools.
Why is Dwight more expensive?
We're not sure, but we doubt it has anything to do with facilities. IB schools in general are more expensive operationally than GCSE and A Level based schools as they require smaller class sizes and more individual attention.
What about fees?
Given the prestigious nature of both schools, the fact some facilities are being shared, the cost of the build, and the eventual price point - AED 105,000 for the final year at Brighton and AED 130,000 for the final grade at Dwight (where they start at AED 114,000 in pre-KG) we would expect facilities to overwhelm, not underwhelm. These are serious fees, pitching the school at the highest tier in the Dubai school sector.
In an effort to attract students to the school for the new academic year starting September 2019 - and also to support students already enrolled potentially - Dwight has recently announced a Scholarship programme.
Students in Dubai will be given the opportunity "to ignite their spark of genius and pursue their passions", with the school’s newly launched Spark of Genius scholarship programme for the academic year 2019/2020.
Designed to encourage students to develop entrepreneurial, innovation, and leadership skills beyond the classroom, the scholarships will be awarded on a competitive and merit-based basis to students who demonstrate expertise in a specific category including academic, athletic, innovation and performing and visual arts. Furthermore, the Dwight scholarship will give access to Dwight’s global network of schools, and the opportunity for students to participate at international Dwight School events.
Each scholarship is awarded for two academic years and successful candidates will receive a 50% tuition reduction based on the school’s founding family fees. The programme is open to both enrolled and prospective students from Grade 5 to Grade 10. Further information can be obtained by contacting the school via this link.
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