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Michael Wilson, headmaster of Cranleigh in the UK, talks about what Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be offering students when it opens its doors in September. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
Michael Wilson, headmaster of Cranleigh in the UK, talks about what Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be offering students when it opens its doors in September. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National

Cranleigh to open Abu Dhabi’s first boarding school in September 2014

The British curriculum school will open its doors on Saadiyat Island in September 2014.

Abu Dhabi // Students enrolled at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be so immersed in the school’s enriched learning environment they won’t want to go home when the bell rings at the end of the day.

At least that’s what officials are hoping for when the British private school opens its doors on Saadiyat Island in September next year.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi will be the first school in the emirate to offer students daily, weekly and full-time boarding facilities. It is also the first to offer an extended day programme, which will keep pupils busy from 7am to 6pm.

“The extended day is something that sets us apart, it makes us very unique in the marketplace,” said headmaster Brendan Law.

The optional extended day allows children to complete all their academic, extracurricular and recreational activities within the confines of the school’s seven hectares, sparing parents the hassle of shuttling their children to and from various after-school programmes all over town.

The school will have a 650-seat theatre, as well as specialised facilities for music, science and art. It will have two grass pitches, an Astroturf field, four tennis courts, two swimming pools and an indoor arena housing two full-sized sports courts.

Full boarding facilities won’t be available for another three years, but existing infrastructure on Saadiyat Island allows the school to offer flexible boarding, which gives the students the opportunity to sleep over one or two nights a week to start.

“If you look at the way the boarding community will build up, it will build up from an extended day,” said Michael Wilson, headmaster of Cranleigh in the UK.

The school’s children will want to board at the school because they will be “busy” and it will simply be more convenient to stay overnight, Mr Wilson said.

“This is a model where the child wants to do it because the child wants involvement and the child wants to continue,” he said.

“There really isn’t a point in going home for that particular day when they are really active at school,” Mr Law said. “It’s actually just much more fun, and then there’s a whole lot of fantastic evening commitments on offer. They can go in the swimming pool at night and play volleyball. There’s a whole lot of stuff that they can do, which means it’s much more fun to be at school than to be at home.”

If demand calls for it, schedules can be changed to speed up the construction of the boys’ and girls’ boarding houses.

“Our anticipation is that this extended day will kickstart a desire for boarding much earlier,” Mr Law said. “It’s a large site, and we can build two boarding houses without interrupting the educational flow of the children at all.”

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is the first and only international satellite of Britain’s prestigious Cranleigh Preparatory School, which was founded in 1865.

But administrators emphasised that they are not looking to simply transplant the British Cranleigh in Abu Dhabi.

“We’re not trying to bring that school across in its entirety, we’re not trying to replicate it, what we’re trying to do is translate it,” Mr Law said.

This translation retains the British curriculum, Cranleigh’s values, and enhances it with Arabic language and Islamic studies to foster independent learning and self-motivated work.

“What we’re trying to do here now is to say, let’s take the very best of what Cranleigh has to offer, let’s take the very best of what Abu Dhabi has to offer in terms of its cultural diversity … and let’s bring those two together,” Mr Law said.

The school has the capacity to accommodate up to 2,000 students between the ages of three and 18, but intends to admit only 1,600 so that class sizes can be limited to about 18 students for each teacher.

Registration is now open for children aged three to 14. Tuition costs between Dh65,000 and Dh80,000. A fee structure has not yet been set for boarding students.


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