x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'Building site' holds up school opening

A British private school has delayed the launch of its Dubai branch until 2011, saying it does not want to open 'in the middle of a building site'.

A British private school has delayed the launch of its Dubai branch until 2011, saying it does not want to open "in the middle of a building site". The Oundle School had been scheduled to open its Jumeirah campus this year, and had recently delayed the opening to 2010. However, its director of educational development, Philip Couzens, said the school would now be delayed by two years because a larger real estate development that surrounds it is still a jumble of construction.

The development is behind schedule because of the economic slowdown, he explained. He did not disclose the proposed location of the school or the name of the construction project. "It's a pity, but other projects in Dubai are probably in the same situation. It's a slowdown," he said. "We would have been opening in the middle of a building site." But, he added: "In the long run, we're as confident as ever that the school that we're planning is in the right place to be successful."

The new school will have space for about 1,600 primary and secondary school pupils. A local partner will fund it and pay a fee to Oundle, a coeducational school in Northamptonshire founded in 1556. Typically such arrangements can involve the payment of a one-off fee to the parent institution when a school is set up, plus regular payments thereafter. However, Mr Couzens insisted it was not just a moneymaking exercise for Oundle and there would be strong teaching links with the parent school.

"There does need to be a real educational connection," he said. "There is formal responsibility for monitoring standards." Some Oundle staff are expected to teach at the new school, and Mr Couzens said teachers recruited for the Dubai offshoot would be expected to spend time at Oundle. He added that although the Dubai school would somewhat resemble the original architecturally, it would be "an interpretation" rather than just a copy.

There will not be a boarding school, such as at Repton, the first British private school to open in Dubai, which started a boarding operation last year. "We've never intended to have a boarding element to it," Mr Couzens said. "It's a response to what we see as the market demand in Dubai." Other leading British private schools have shown an interest in the UAE, including Brighton College, which plans two branches in Abu Dhabi.

@Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae