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 Will: "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 in the UAE.
The idea was initially for a site that would be built up on comments on schooling in the UAE and beyond, but that evolved quite quickly to a more in-depth review based web site, with the ability for users of the site to add their opinion. 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 the facts would still need to be provided.
As parents, James and William 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.
Eight months later, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com was born...
We very much hope you feel the site continues to deliver on its original promise. Four years later 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 UAE's educational landscape. Some of our reviews have been rewritten five or six times.
Keeping up and progressing the first dedicated education site in the UAE 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
Cursty Hoppe - 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, new story ideas
Emily Jardine - Reviews Editor
Contact: EmilyJardine [at] WhichSchoolAdvisor.com
Originally from California [we forgive her], Emily Jardine is our Reviews Editor, and makes sure that the information we provide on schools is accurate and up-to-date.
A journalist and educator, she has lived abroad for most of her adult life.
Emily is passionate about the role of transparency in education in creating positive change. Working for WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is an important extension of that belief because as school information becomes more accessible and transparent, parents and students can identify good schools more easily. That in turn, means schools step up their game knowing that parents have choice, and are increasingly making educated decisions.
Contact for: School reviews, general editorial enquiries
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 - GM, 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 management issues. James should also be contacted for media comment.
William Stoot - Editor at Large, Co-Founder
Contact: [email protected]
William Stoot is a long time UAE resident and writer. Having architected and edited some of the biggest Web sites in the region, 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.
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.