x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai school to be rebranded after falling out with global school group

An Indian school in Dubai has parted ways with the international education group it belonged to.

DUBAI // An international school group plans to open a new campus in the emirate to compete with a school that recently ended a contract with it.

Score Plus Education says a dispute led to the termination of their agreement in March with Singapore's Global Schools Foundation (GSF), which is responsible for 20 Global Indian International Schools (GIIS) worldwide.

The Dubai school, which started with 450 pupils in 2010 and now educates about 1,000, has until next year to rebrand.

Management at the school wrote to parents last week to inform them about the separation from GSF, and has already rebranded the kindergarten section Ambassador Kindergarten.

Full ties with the GSF brand will end by April 2013, after the notice period has been served.

Kamal Kalwani, chief operating officer at Score Plus Education, said the differences with GSF arose when it asked for a controlling share in the school.

"It started last year in October when the franchiser came for a board meeting and our plan for a new campus was shared. Then in October they said they wanted a controlling stake."

But GSF disputed that claim, stating: "No binding offer was made by us to buy the school and the key reason is linked to the franchisee's failed attempts to procure school land from the regulators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi without the knowledge and consent of the Singapore foundation.

"The franchisee called for a meeting with GSF in early 2011 and told us he would launch his own brand of schools in Dubai under another family members name. GSF drew his attention to his contractual obligation not to enter into competing business."

A group spokesman said it was "pained" by the turn of events. "We are acutely aware that we need to pull out all stops to get a school up and running here in Dubai… to try to provide a GIIS option which will ensure there is no discontinuity to students going forward."

The school has held meetings and set up online discussion groups to reassure parents there will be no change in the academics or other operations.

Vivek Agarwal, whose child is in KG1, said there was no difference with the quality so far. "We came here because of the brand, but also because we have friends who told us the school here is good."

"The teachers are the same and that is where the quality lies.

Another parent, who said she was also drawn to the reputation of the school group, said she will wait to see how things pan out in the coming years.

"My daughter is happy in the school now and that's what matters. I have not decided what I will do later but it does not seem to be a big issue if the people here remain the same."

Mr Kalwani said GSF had very limited involvement in the school's operations and that a name change will not affect the education or operations of the school.

"We were the first to start the ICSE in the school group. Everything from pedagogy to teachers' development and facilities has been our input.

"The brand name may have gotten the parents through the door but the word of mouth appreciation is what led to our growth.

"Parents must know that the signboard may have changed but nothing else has."

GSF representatives said they provided the system to set up the school. "He had no prior experience of running schools, and used GSF intellectual properties and system and processes to create a school," said a spokesman, who added that they were also involved in the initial staff and teacher training.

The school has retained its principal and all its teaching staff.

Winston Gomez, the principal of the school, said he had decided to remain on in his post. "It's the same team here and we are working to evolve our curriculum."

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which regulates private schools in Dubai, did not wish to comment on the dispute but acknowledged Ambassador Kindergarten as a new school.