In April 2012 James was sitting at his computer, researching his family's upcoming holiday. As he was trawling through impossibly beautiful pictures of pristine white beaches his wife, Pom, came into the room and asked him:
"Have you ever heard of this school?"
A friend had asked her after being offered a job there. James looked inside his head, staring into a dark cavernous abyss and came up... empty. "Nope, never heard of it... Wouldn't it be great though if I could just tap in the school name in my computer, and all of the relevant information just sort of popped up - a bit like this hotel review site?"
Ping! James reached for his phone, and dialed his friend David: "You're always coming up with new Web sites... What about...?"
A week spent researching the internet, questioning friends and acquaintances revealed the high level of frustration and angst that existed among parents concerning many common issues related to their children's education. As parents themselves they could identify very easily with these concerns. There was a clear need for a dedicated, comprehensive website that addressed the real needs of parents educating their children internationally.
The idea was initially for a site that would be built up on comments on schools, but David, a content and digital journalist by trade, argued that a more in-depth review based web site, with the ability for users of the site to add their opinion would be far more used and valuable. School reviews require quite structured information in order to be used objectively. User generated content could capture the feel an 'objective' review could not, but facts and analysis would still need to be provided.
As parents, James and David felt they had three quarters of what was needed, but they missed the insight of an educator - someone who understood the dynamics of schools inside and out. The team knew the perfect candidate. Enter Mike, a senior educationalist with over 25 years of experience in the profession who immediately saw the benefits of the site for parents - and for schools.
After months of discussion David took all the acquired knowledge and used it to develop a prototype WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, a site that in the end proved robust enough to last over three years. In February 2017 a bespoke platform and content management system were built by our new technical lead, Luke (also known as Mr Google), based on your feedback, as well as ideas from the ever growing WSA team itself.
We very much hope you feel the site continues to deliver on its original promise. Five years on there is still plenty of road ahead, and you will find many reviews still work in progress. What's more, none of the pages on the site are static - too much is changing, schools are constantly in the process of upgrading and reinventing themselves; new schools are coming online, continually changing the educational landscapes of the markets we are within. Some of our reviews have now been rewritten over ten times.
Keeping up and progressing with the schools we cover is a sizable task, however your positive and kind comments fuel us. Please do continue to send your feedback. It really does help us in writing and defining WSA's next chapter...
Who We Are
Veathika Jain - News and Social Media Editor
VeathikaJain [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Formerly a journalist at 7 Days and The National, Veathika is now full time on WhichSchoolAdvisor.com reporting the news parents everywhere want to know.
Contact for: News. social media
Jenny Mollon - Early Years Editor
JennyMollon [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Jenny has revolutionised WSA's coverage of early years, a crucial time in a child's development. Jenny, a nursery teacher and manager, is responsible for both the reviews of nurseries and KGs on the site, as well as practical and hands on guides for parents with young children.
Contact for: Early Years
Cursty Hoppe - Features Editor
CurstyHoppe [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Moving to the UAE in 2012 with two small daughters, Cursty initially battled with changing countries and curricula. "In honesty, I really didn't do to well" she says of her initial school choice. "Before WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, there was no collated school information, and I made all the classic mistakes; I panicked, I didn't visit enough schools, etc." she says.
However, after much research, lots of school tours and talking to as many people as she could, she found and secured a place in a school the whole family loves.
"The guilt associated with making a really bad school choice stays with you for years," she says, "which is why now, via WhichSchoolAdvisor.com I'm passionate about helping others make the right choice- from the start."
And, while she covers all aspects of education on the site, she is happiest working directly with parents, helping them make the right choice from day-one.
Contact for: General editorial enquiries, feature ideas
Carli Allan - International Editor
CarliAllan [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
A former editor of Explorer magazines and books, Carli is responsible for the editorial growth of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com as we expand to the East and West. Over the last 12 months we have launched in the UK, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong. As we open up new markets, Carli will be our go to person.
Contact for: WhichSchoolAdvisor.com worldwide.
EhabHeyassat [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
2017 saw the launch of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Arabic (http://whichschooladvisor.me), headed up by former Forbes, and Microsoft MSN journalist Ehab Heyassat. Since launch the site has seen spectacular month on month growth which continues into 2018.
Contact for: WhichSchoolAdvisor.com Arabic
Lyn Soppelsa - Community Manager, Editorial Consultant
Contact: LynSoppelsa [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Lyn has lived in the UAE for almost 17 years and all three of her children have been educated in part or full in Dubai, in both the UK and IB curricula. She has recently been through the process of searching for a new Sixth Form school for her younger daughter to enable a switch of curriculum for the final two years.
Lyn’s interest in education started as a Parent Relations Executive/ Registrar for one of the GEMS schools. She also worked as the Registrar for a new school. This was followed by eight years working in Relocations.
Lyn joined WSA very early in its development in late 2013 and has previously headed up both sales and consultancy for WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. In 2017 she takes on the exciting new role of Community Manager and Editorial Consultant to help us deliver school news and information to those that need it, where they need it.
Contact for: Editorial story ideas, WSA on social media
Maureen McDonald- Commercial Director
Contact: MaureenMcDonald [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Former head of sales at much loved newspaper, 7 Days, Maureen's move to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has been seamless, thanks to her beat on education while at the UAE daily. Maureen brings over a decade of commercial experience to WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.
Contact for: Sales, commercial opportunities
James Mullan - MD, Co-Founder
Contact: jamesmullan [at] whichschooladvisor.com
One of the two founders of WhichSchoolAdvisor.com James Mullan has been a communications advisor for more than 20 years, working with some of the most successful global and regional brands. He has been running his own communications consultancy, based in Dubai, for almost seven years. He's also taken an active role in community events and was one of the founding committee members for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. As a long-time resident of the UAE and a parent of two daughters, James has a deep interest in the education sector and is delighted to be playing a role, however modest, in its development.
Contact for: General business issues. James should also be contacted for media comment.
David Westley, GM, Co-Founder
David Westley is a long time UAE resident, journalist and digital media entrepreneur. Having architected and worked on some of the biggest information and news based Web sites in the region including Gulf News, Yahoo! and Arabian Business, he thought he would put some of his expertise into working on a project close to his heart: education. With a daughter who has been schooled in both the UAE, and at boarding school in the UK, he is aware of the advantages and the pitfalls of UAE and international education options.
Contact for: General business issues. David can also be contacted for media comment.
Dr Michael Biggs - Founding Consultant
Mike Biggs is an educator, senior school leader and lifelong learner with research interests in education. Having worked in primary, secondary and higher education in the UAE over a twenty-five year period and, as an experienced headteacher/principal in Dubai, he has a wide knowledge and first hand experience of the challenges parents face.
Mike no longer has day to day involvement in the site, but his advice when we started was invaluable. We know he still watches from afar, and his articles continue to inform parents on the site to this day.