At a glance
The anticipation towards Kent College is driven by the promise of the arrival of a 130-year-old, highly respected and successful English boarding school into the very brand conscious Dubai. The UK school achieves an ‘Independent Schools Inspectorate’ “Outstanding” rating in every category of inspection. Dubai parents are clearly expecting similar quality in the UAE: A heady 80% of those visiting the review on SchoolsCompared.com placed it at the very top of their shortlist.
"While some schools in the UAE carry the names of famous UK schools, the links between the two may not go much further. But we are not just a franchise of Kent College Canterbury – we are effectively a second campus, with close collaborative management between Dubai and the UK." Founding Principal, Patrick Lee-Browne
That there is not - yet - widespread awareness is simply because this is not a school prospective parents could stumble across and discover via huge hoardings on Sheikh Zayed road, or digitally online. For whatever reason there has been very limited promotional activity. Awareness has been built instead though via word of mouth and we believe "below the line" corporate marketing activities (we note a 5% corporate discount).
Editorially WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has been doing its bit however to raise awareness to what we believe should be an important new option for parents. You can read our interview with founding principal here, as well as our Hard Hat Tour of its build up here.
The school has of course now opened, and at least for the parents of the 256 children that started at the end of August, Kent College Dubai is no longer on a shortlist, but a day to day reality. Those children represent over 10% of an eventual capacity of 2120 - not bad we think for its first year, but about one-third of the "hoped for" 750 students. That said pupils are spread relatively thinly across year groups with average classroom sizes of 13 - uniquely Kent has opened year groups FS1 all the way to Year 12. The only years not to have opened are the years leading to direct GCSE and A Level examinations (Years 11 and 13) - for obvious reasons.
Currently Kent College Dubai offers A Levels but has already signified its intent to be dual curricula, and also offer the IB Diploma programme. "We will initially offer A-levels in the Sixth form, but as soon as possible we intend to offer the alternative of the International Baccalaureate Diploma as well."
We think this is an inspired move allowing all-rounders to take the IB route, while allowing those with a focus on either the Arts or Sciences to play to their strengths via A Levels. That it has not been done elsewhere (in the UAE, dual curricula is offered by leading private schools in the UK) is that it costly with significant implication on required staff numbers. That said, Kent is a premium school, with a fee structure to allow strength and depth in staff numbers.
The school is also clearly intending to offer a balance between the arts and sciences. "Music, Art, Drama and Technology all have a central place in the academic and wider curriculum and we will expect our pupils to get fully involved in performing, creating and innovating." Patrick Lee-Browne
For prospective parents what this ultimately means is that, as long as the school delivers on these early promises, your children's development should not be interrupted either by a curriculum that does not suit, or by a paucity in subjects offered.
Currently the offering of subjects is respectable, although not quite best in class. GCSEs offered are English, Maths, Science, Arabic, Art, Design Technology, Drama, Geography, History, Islamic Studies, Music, Spanish, and PE. At A Level students can choose four subjects from: Arabic, Art, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Design & Technology, Drama, English Literature, French, Further Maths, Geography, History, Islamic Studies, Maths, Music, PE, Physics, Psychology and Spanish.
As noted the promise of Kent College Dubai is that as well as being a UK curricula school, it will also be a "British" school in terms of culture and context. This is a Kent College "in its DNA", with the self-imposed litmus test being that transitioning between the two "should be seamless".
That does not mean it intends to be a direct carbon copy of its sister school however - there are a number of important differences. As SchoolsCompared.com notes: "Culturally the UK context provides for a caring Christian family community based on a Methodist school foundation “with religious education a strong feature of the curriculum".
Kent College in the UK is also a small school with a capacity of just over 700. It is to a degree defined by its medieval surroundings – and by that we mean Canterbury, one of England's most impressive ancient cities.
Kent College Dubai too will be defined, in part, by its surroundings - it is just that these could not be more different.
In place of the bucolic heart of Chaucer's England, the new Kent College lives in Dubai, in the heart of the Islamic world, within state of the art new buildings and quite possibly the world's first 22nd century city.
This fact is not papered over in the school's vision, which includes amongst its aims and values "to encourage pupils to respect and appreciate the heritage and culture of the UAE, which underpin and influence contemporary life in Dubai".
Pupils are already highly international, coming from "a great range of countries" - 53 in total according to information supplied by Kent College to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. The biggest groups from the UK (20%), Spain (7%), US (7%); Australia (6%), India (6%), Italy (5%) and Sweden (5%). Despite being a considerably larger school - at least in intent - teacher to student ratios will be broadly similar. Kent Dubai currently employs a significant 52 teachers (predominantly recruited from the UK, Ireland and UAE), necessary given it teaches A Levels from its first year. The maximum in any year group will be 20 per class. The average, as noted, is significantly less than this currently.
The school is also already very balanced in terms of gender representation at early years and in the junior school. However in senior school the split is 63:37 for Males to Females. This is early days however, and even the senior school is likely to become more balanced as total student numbers grow.
Facilities are as you would expect – top tier. A walk through is provided here, but noteworthy is the state of the art 458 seater auditorium, its outdoor & indoor sports facilities including sports hall, six lane swimming pool and training pool, and its specialised hockey astro pitches. As increasingly standard in top tier UAE schools classrooms are equipped with Promethean smartboards. From Year 3 upwards children carry around state of the art equipment, each being issued with a Chromebook.
A key to Kent College Dubai however is a hope that its facilities will not be limited to its immediate grounds. The owner of the school is Meydan MHK Education LLC FZ, part of the Mir Hashem Khoory Group of companies, and according to its web site, Kent College Dubai is meant to be part of a larger US$ 70-80 million initiative to build "Nurseries & Kindergartens, a Primary and Secondary British School (K-12), a British Boarding School, and a Finishing School for Girls" in to the Meydan project. The overall goal is to take advantage of the uniqueness of the areas facilities to offer Horse riding, Show jumping, Endurance...
How successful the owner is in making this happen for Kent Dubai will go a long way in answering how the UAE school will be able to absorb the DNA of a sister school that sits on an 80 acre site (for the Senior School) and includes the Moat Estate farm.
The school already has a reasonably developed set of extra curricular activites, including sewing, papercraft, a multitude of sports, puzzle games, board games, maths club, reading club, fitness, dance, singing, zentangle drawing, music, arabic stories, film club, pinata, yoga, construction, tumble tots, animation making, 3D design, chess, photography, drama, and an entrepreneur club...
The school will no doubt benefit in terms of future growth from its location in Nad Al Sheba 3, next to a 1500 villa development being built by Meydan for Emirates Airlines. There are more Emirates links. Tim Clark, president and CEO of the airline is named by Kent College Canterbury’s website as one of their most prestigious alumni. MHK’s managing director, Shoaib Khoory, was previously employed by Emirates Airlines and was part of the Emirates launch team together with Tim Clarke in 1985. He retired from Emirates to join MHK, some time ago.
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