Situated close to the Emirates Airline staff housing development in Meydan South, the school has many ‘Emirates families’ and a historic link to the organisation too; Mr Tim Clark, the President of Emirates Airline is a well-known alumnus of the UK campus of Kent College. The school auditorium is named for Sir Clark.
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The school’s campus is spread across 53,000 square metres and is housed in a series of beautiful, modern blocks surrounding large sports fields and secure car parking areas.
An eye-catching corner block juts out and is covered with asymmetric red, white and pale yellow tiles giving it cool, arty first impression.
Children living close by are strongly encouraged to cycle to school, and as we arrived for our visit several security staff were on hand to monitor their safe access to the school. There are numerous cycle racks dotted around the buildings. We also noted many parents and children approaching the school on electric scooters, in some instances children were wearing helmets on these relatively fast vehicles, but many were not. This is obviously a community issue and not within the control of the school. We understand the Principal circulates regular safety messages and reminders.
Whilst we were unable to secure a parking space near our arranged meeting place in the secondary school, we parked nearby in the Foundation Stage car park with relative ease. As with many schools in Dubai, the nearby roads (although just two lane and mostly serving residences) were busy and parking at a premium.
As we entered the secondary school reception, we were happy to see many children greeting the security guard on duty by name. James is clearly popular with staff, students and families alike! Our ID was checked and we were greeted by Mr Chris Starling, one of the two Vice Principals of the school.
Kent College is clearly a ‘premium’ school and classrooms and facilities reflect this. Every classroom is equipped with Promethean interactive whiteboards, walls are typically kept white with brightly coloured accents. Children’s work is also prominently displayed throughout the school. In the Foundation Stage area (home to the very youngest children, ages 3-5), we noted the displays including informative commentary for the parents to read.
Foundation Stage occupies an entirely separate, low rise building, with brightly coloured checkerboard walls to the exterior. Set in an almost figure of eight configuration, the building has two central outdoor areas, one for FS1 and one for FS2 classes. All classrooms have doors opening out onto this space and children are encouraged to spend much of their time outdoors. Both play areas have sail shades for the hotter weather.
Junior School classrooms are very spacious and we liked how much natural light they all received. There is plenty of room for several different activities at once and the adjacent (very wide) corridors are often use for ‘break-out’ activities or quiet reading.
The Senior School has many impressive facilities, including science laboratories, drama studios equipped with an impressive array of audio-tech equipment and a fantastic Design Technology suite.
Outside, the Junior School children have access to an ‘adventure playground’ with high quality wooden play equipment, offering challenge and excitement to a range of ages. Recent additions to the play areas are large scale ‘loose parts’ in the form of wooden planks, painted tyres and colourful blocks. Children are encouraged to get creative at play time and can be seen using these items to create cars, ramps, dens and many other interesting ideas.
We met with Tracey, who has a daughter in Year 12 (who joined this year); Narita (who has children in Year 4 and Year 2) and Nas (Mum to a child in Year 4). Narita, Nas and their families have been with Kent College since the school opened.
Tracey’s family have recently arrived in Dubai from a previous posting in Saudi Arabia. She told us that finding a school from overseas had been challenging and that Kent College had been the only school that made her feel 100% welcome from first interaction.
Click here to read our detailed Kent College REVIEW!
After just over one term with the school, her first impression had been overwhelmingly that this is a “true community school”. Tracey appreciated the benefit of being in a “new school, yet with history”.
Small class sizes (limited to 16 in Foundation Stage and 20 throughout the remainder of the school) and an attention to personal detail had been key to her child’s successful transition at this key stage of their education.
Looking ahead to university, Tracey hoped that the school would improve its ‘life skills’ offering – she was keen to see her child taught the principles of budgeting and managing their finances. Tracey could not fault career guidance in general however, that had been good.
For Narita and Nas, parents in the Junior School (and committed PFA members) Kent College had been a resounding success for their children. Nas commented that “here, you always feel the very genuine sense of commitment from teachers.” Other parents agreed that teachers were always on hand to talk and responded to emails quickly. Narita had moved her children from another, well regarded, Dubai school and was emphatic about the ‘huge difference’ that Kent College had made to her children.
All of our parent panel emphatically agreed that “this is a school where our voices are heard”. They felt listened to by the leadership of the school and knew how to escalate concerns should they arise.
Communication between home and school is at “just the right level”. Each year group receive a weekly newsletter with useful information and dates, an app (Schools Buddy) is used for booking ECAs and school trips and class teachers had recently begun using the popular ‘Class Dojo’ app to share photos and activity updates.
When asked about the ‘feel’ of the school, a fairly lengthy discussion ensued! Eventually it was agreed that the culture here is “thoroughly family orientated” and that daily life for the children was in a highly personable yet fairly formal environment.
The PFA were described as being “very much committed and very much used by the school”. This commitment was seen from the outset, with the school and PFA working with a HR consultancy to develop the PFA motto “One Body, One Voice, Every Child”.
Despite the popularity of the school amongst parents, there are clear areas for improvement.
First, and possibly most complex to address, is the issue of the pool being “the wrong way around”. Difficult to notice on our tour, but parents pointed out the deep end of the main pool was closest to the training pool used for the very youngest children. Without fencing to separate the pools, parents felt that this constituted a significant safety hazard. The school is aware of the concern and is said to be looking at ways to address this. The swimming pool, although attractive and a good size, was also criticized for having limited seating and space around it, causing over-crowding during events such as swim galas.
Road safety and parking, a common complaint in Dubai schools, was another issue raised by parents, especially because of the large numbers of young children cycling to school. Nearby pavements are fairly narrow, at times causing conflict between pedestrians and cyclists (we were told). The parents felt that the security team and school leadership had taken a lead in this and were doing as much as they could to alleviate the issue. The school was also praised for considering this issue when planning ECAs – this term had seen the introduction of a ‘Learning to Ride’ activity, free of charge.
The issue of parking was definitely considered a significant negative, especially in the Secondary School where parents felt that most of the space was reserved for buses. Parents expressed concern for continued and worsening parking problems as the school continues to grow.
Lastly, and again a fairly frequent concern for parents all over Dubai, the school uniform came in for some significant criticism. The uniform is seen as smart and attractive (in Foundation Stage, girls wear a pretty, flowery retro dress and boys a white polo shirt and grey shorts. For the older children, girls wear a tartan skort or skirt, white shirt, tie and a blazer. Boys wear either grey shorts (for juniors) or trousers plus the same shirt, tie and a blazer).
These are considered poor quality and expensive. Wearing of white polo shirts in Foundation Stage was seen as impractical, and the fit of some of the more expensive items such as skorts, PE kits and blazers were all described as poor. The most expensive item, the blazers, did not wash well and were worn very infrequently, despite the significant cost.
These issues aside, we were pleased to meet a panel of parents who were obviously delighted with their child’s experience of school.
Meeting the Students
Our last but most important group of school stakeholders were, of course, the students themselves. We met:
A confident and articulate bunch (who were delighted to partake in the biscuits on offer during our chat!) we thoroughly enjoyed our time with these young ambassadors of the school.
We noticed a common theme in their descriptions of Kent College – without exception they all mentioned how ‘proud’ they were to be a part of it. In fact, and contrary to the view of the parents, many of the students complimented the uniform, saying that they had been noticed outside of school, receiving positive feedback from people outside of the school community.
“The uniform always gets noticed in the supermarket!” said Shaan, adding that “people say, that’s the best school in Dubai. It makes me proud when people say that!”.
The fact that the school remains a relatively small community had clearly allowed relationships to flourish. New students described their peers and teachers as easy to get to know and bullying was a rare occurrence, mostly handled by the student council (student council members take break time ‘supervision’ sessions).
Mr Starling, leader for Pastoral care came in for particular praise from the Senior Students, with everyone agreeing that they could approach him at any time if they needed.
Students felt able to have very open relationships with teachers, with Yara describing them as ‘super easy’ to get to know. Another common theme here was the students describing the great sense of humour of the teachers, with one even describing the relationship between staff and students as “Respectful yet goofy!”
Children were developing a bank of great memories from their time at Kent College, with camps and expeditions being particularly memorable and happy experiences. Sporting events were great fun, with the school sporting atmosphere described as competitive, yet kind and supportive.
When asked what they might change at the school, the children were united in their concern for:
Last thoughts from our panel of student experts? “This is a kind school”, all agreed. This was the overriding message they wished to convey about their school.
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