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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

The UAE's most expensive school officially opens 

British ambassador and KHDA director general attend opening ceremony of North London Collegiate School

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, helps bury a time capsule at North London Collegiate School to mark its official opening. Christopher Pike / The National
Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, helps bury a time capsule at North London Collegiate School to mark its official opening. Christopher Pike / The National

Two months into the new term and pupils at the UAE’s most expensive school have taken their first steps towards a future at some of the world’s leading universities.

The North London Collegiate School in Nad Al Sheba, Dubai has been officially opened by Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, and Philip Parham, British ambassador to the UAE.

Fees range from between Dh83,000 for pre-kindergarten to Dh130,000 for pupils entering Grades 11 and 12.

Pupils joined a ceremony where a time capsule was buried at the centre of the school grounds to mark the official opening.

“It has been an extraordinary experience to open the school and take it forward,” said Daniel Lewis, school principal.

“The school is academically selective, so we do give students a range of tests on their ability and the progress they have made in the curriculum, particularly in English and maths.

“It is important the students coming here will benefit from what we have to offer, which is a highly ambitious, fast-paced academic education.”

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Last year, the London school was named the top General Certificate of Secondary Education school by The Times newspaper, and has been the highest-ranked International Baccalaureate school in the UK for 12 years.

The South Korea branch launched in 2011 and its International Baccalaureate point average has risen to 38 out of 45. A score of 38 should qualify pupils for Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard universities.

Parents must pay further fees for extracurricular activities. Although it is a mixed environment, with children from all over the world, a large percentage of the 250 pupils are from British schools.

The school is selective about who can attend, and prospective pupils must sit several tests to prove their capabilities. Christopher Pike / The National
The school is selective about who can attend, and prospective pupils must sit several tests to prove their capabilities. Christopher Pike / The National

Despite the school’s proud British heritage, where it has been teaching children in London since 1850, it won’t be applying for British Schools Overseas accreditation.

NLCS is teaching a curriculum largely reflective of UK standards, and is an International Baccalaureate Continuum School.

“If we go for accreditation we will likely go with the Council of International Schools (CIS) rather than the BSO,” Mr Lewis said.

Revised BSO standards were introduced in September, according to England’s Department for Education.

The department said that schools in the region can still opt for a BSO inspection, to show parents the standard the school is at, but they will not receive official accreditation without meeting equalities standards.

“The revised standards for British schools overseas mirror the standards set for independent schools in England very closely,” said a DfE spokeswoman.

“There is a requirement in the Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural curriculum (SMSC) that ensures principles are actively promoted which encourage respect for other people and reflects the values which we want British schools everywhere to promote.

“Where it is not possible for schools in some countries to meet these standards, they will not be formally accredited as a British School Overseas.”

British businessman Riyaz Suterwalla has been living in Dubai for 11 years and wanted to send his two children, aged 6 and 4, to NLCS because of its good reputation for achievement.

“It was always a top-performing school so the brand was a major factor for us,” he said.

“Other schools here from the UK have not performed and parents have been very disappointed.

“Education is right up there on the list of priorities for parents. A lot of my friends have moved back to the UK for that reason, as Dubai hasn’t quite got there yet.

“There are a lot of British school choices here but it is 80 per cent of where the UK is in quality.”

South African Tina Wiklund has recently moved out from the UK with her investment banker husband and children, Alexandra, 6, and Eric, 4.

“Finding the right school before moving here was a huge consideration,” she said.

“The school stood out, and I loved the way the education was delivered in London.

“It is very important to us to know the children will be getting the same standard of education here in the UAE as in the UK, as we don’t know where we will go from here.

“We want them to have the same understanding of what they are doing, so they are able to express themselves.”

Dr Al Karam, director general of the KHDA, Dubai's education regulator, said: “Parents choose a school sometimes because of the price point or because other children go there, or have seen ratings on the website.

“The 250 kids and parents have chosen this school because they have done their research and know they will not find this kind of education anywhere else here.

“It is important they have the choices to help keep these people in Dubai.”