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The Arbor School, Al Furjan – The Review

Arbor School review quote


Photograph of children in the "snug" hidden above the climvbing wll - one of many magical places at the Eco School in Dubai

The Arbor School, Dubai, offers a Tier 1, premium British, English National Curriculum based education. The school, set in fabulous grounds across a large 7.5 acre site, opened in September 2018 as the educational hub of the Al Furjan community.  Year 10 GCSE provision opened in September 2022  with a creditable investment in subject provision/choice for students – and major new Arbor in-house certification across three core areas of environmental specialism. The Arbor School Sixth Form opens in September 2024.

Education at The Arbor school aims to radical and visionary. The school provides an education for sustainability, not about sustainability. It is equally, if not even more about, justice, humanity, ethics, fairness, equality, a more harmonious world. To build a better world Arbor focuses on exploring the world in all its aspects through the fundamental ecological concepts – and giving students exposure to an extraordinary breadth of opportunities to discover their purpose, talents and passion. Together Arbor gives its students the tools to graduate and build rewarding and successful lives.  Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai, explains this powerfully:

“We are not a school that does what schools have done before, or do currently. We do education, and educated Arbor students, differently.

What has been done before in education got us into the state of the world we have today.

We do not believe in the status quo. The status quo is just another word for sustainability. Our students do not accept the world as it is. They do not accept that the focus should be on sustainability.

We could have easily just designed a school that supports the status quo. We could have educated children in sustainability and keeping things the same. But, look around you, the same is not good enough.


We do not look at addressing existing problems and existing solutions. This is the approach of most schools. This sort of model looks at the status quo and the existing world and focuses on incremental tweaks to essentially keep it working as it is. It looks at keeping everything the same, but, say, doing things more cheaply, or doing the same things more quickly. This approach maintains the status quo.

But we do not look at the world, education and the opportunities for our students in this way.

We look much more radically, and aspirationally, at the possibility of a world that is not merely sustainable, but one that is abundant – a world that flourishes and has harmony. This means we question everything.

We are all more than just “green”, if we think of a world that is abundant. Lots of schools teach how to be more sustainable and put a band aid on existing problems. We teach, instead, how to look beyond the world we have to an eco-centric view of the world that puts human beings, not as the middle of everything, but as part of everything. As soon as you do this, Nature is not elsewhere, something to be used and pillaged, but its health, is our health. The world needs to change, be better – and the extraordinary education here is designed around this, and the concept not of sustainability, but abundance.

We are a holistic school that sees everything as connected. In practice, for example, this means that every child has opportunity, not just some children. We are all connected. We call, for example, inclusion at our school, THRIVE. We see our role is ensuring that every child thrives and flourishes because of that connection, and on their own terms. This rejection of the status quo and simple, easy sustainability of the status quo, imbues everything, absolutely everything, we do that Arbor.”

Abundance, rather than Sustainability, is explored through a diverse syllabus stretching across the same broad spectrum of British curriculum subjects you will find at all outstanding British schools, but with a much greater depth of purpose. Do not expect a school that is a narrowly focused on green issues and teaching in a limited array of subjects that are focused only on ecology. That is not what the school is about.

Instead, Arbor is focused on working out how the world can build globally sustainable communities based on a world that works for all people. This is a radical approach to sustainability and very different from the way that sustainability and eco-literacy are taught and explored by other schools.

Arbor is clear that it is not about “small-thinking” approaches that focus on micro solutions like solar panels, insulation and other equivalent sticking plasters, or approaches that cut off sustainability and ecology from the rest of human knowledge. The school goes beyond sticking plasters, advocacy and green issues to look at the much bigger picture of how a world can be created, using all disciplines, in which these sticking plasters are not needed at all. it is about looking at the bigger picture of how we can make the world abundant, so issues like Global Warming not only do not occur, but, for example, work in reverse. A good example is in Economics, where the school looks at alternatives to Capitalism and the strangle-hold of markets, which inherently, in practice, work against abundance, justice and humanity. The same holds true of study in History, which is always looked at through the broader, much more pressing lens, of learning the lessons of the past to build a better world.

The Arbor School is one of two new specialist schools established in Dubai that have aligned their teaching and curriculum around themes related to the environment including sustainability, ecology and the technologies underlying each. Our review of the alternative Fairgreen International School, can be found here. The schools fundamentally differ in their offering alternative International Baccalaureate (Fairgreen International) and British English National Curriculum (Arbor) curricular.

An aerial image of the Arbor School in Dubai showcasing the biodomes at the hub of school life

If there is a single message we have taken from Arbor School Founders and Principal it is that children achieve their best when a core British Education is taught within an inclusive, supportive, compassionate and deeply ethical framework which imbues learning with context, integrity and values.



The Arbor School is within easy reach of both the Sheikh Zayed Road and Mohammed Bin Zayed Road. The school also attracts families in the Green Community (just a six-minute journey), Dubai Marina and the Palm and much more broadly from across Dubai, parents drawn by its British school dynamics and unique educational model for children.

Map showing the location of the Arbor School in Dubai



Photograph of Brett Girven, Princiapl of the Arbor School in Dubai within a major ecology research hub. Mr Girven brings a rare and considerable research background in Environmental Science to the school.

Mr. Brett Girven joins the Arbor School with more than a decade’s consultancy and leadership experience in Middle East education and considerable expertise drawn from his research background in Environmental Science and Zoology.

A scientist by training, Mr Girven completed his Bachelor’s degree in Science in his native New Zealand, majoring in Zoology. Postgraduate study in Environmental Science preceded his formal teaching qualification from Dunedin and later study with Manchester Metropolitan and UCL in Educational Leadership and Headship respectively.

Early teaching expertise focused on Science and Biology, this leading eventually to his move to the Middle East to work for GEMS Education in Abu Dhabi as Science Curriculum Network Leader managing the delivery of school improvement programmes in Science for 18 schools across the GEMS network. This was followed by a move with GEMS Education to Riyadh where Mr. Girven managed school leadership consultancy for Kingdom Schools before formally taking on the role of School Principal between 2012 and 2016.

Mr Girven returned to the UAE for a one-year post with Al Dhafra International School in Al Ain as the Head of Secondary School before taking up the post of Deputy Principal at the KHDA Outstanding Kings’ School Al Barsha between 2017 and 2019. “Mr. Girven played a critical role in moving the school to attain an Outstanding rating from the KHDA, moving from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’ during his tenure.”

Mr. Girven lives in Dubai with his wife and three children. A keen sportsman, Mr Girven finds time to coach in rugby and compete in triathlons – as well as pursing interests in movies, animal welfare, developments in Environmental Science and educational leadership.



In 2021-22, The Arbor School Dubai was recognised by as one of its highest ranked “Happiest Schools in the UAE.”

The Judges said:

“Today we welcome the Arbor School in Dubai to our SchoolsCompared accredited list of the very happiest schools in the UAE for children – but also for families and teachers.

The Arbor School in Dubai is quite extraordinary. Today, its grand biodomes, each bursting with flora, fauna, inspiration and the hope for a better world in equal measure, have come to represent a school that is deeply underpinned by its deep-seated ethical commitment to the environment and its protection.

Children here shine with their passion to change the world for the better, each with views richly substantiated by knowledge of climate change and the impacts of each and every action we take as the world races for net zero carbon neutrality worldwide by 2050.

So often, education is dominated by questions around whether ideas can change the world – about how meaningful learning in books can really be. Arbor school children show us, and in the most multi-faceted and brilliant ways, that ideas do matter, that passion counts and that action and children are the future of our world. We all need to act now to recognise it is each of them that will carry the consequences of what happens next in a very real race against time.

In these, and so many other ways, the Arbor School in Dubai is an absolute inspiration – and a school filled to bursting with happiness fuelled by empowered children on a mission to understand how they can, each and every day, make a difference.

very deserving accredited Happiest Schools in the UAE award winner 2021. 

Prepare to be… wowed!”

Curriculum – academic and technical stream, ECA provision and Sport

In all subjects, as far as possible, the school does this using place-based learning, which brings these most fundamental of ecological concepts alive. It pulls in disciplines across the curriculum, from the Arts to the Sciences, to do this. Arbor is not a green school, if that is understood as meaning a school that only teaches, for example, Zoology or Botany. Instead, it is about giving all subjects weight – from Literature to Economics, from Physics and Chemistry to Mathematics, but within the overarching context of ecological opportunity, sustainability and abundance.

Examples of local and contextual place-based learning include integration within the curriculum of powerful local areas of research and natural impact. These include:

  • The Jabal Ali Marine Reserve which is used by students every day, four days a week, between October and January by students – more here;
  • The desert, its wadis and mountains. The desert is not about being green, as most people understand green, it is about a plethora of ecological issues that take in every discipline; and,
  • The Fujairah Research Centre to explore economic solutions and impacts of human experience, research and developments – more here

These and related areas give students a lens to explore culture, moral and social issues, Economics, Sustainability, Mathematics, Literature, Geography, Arabic – every possible subject and part of human experience.

In this way, Arbor is better understood not as “green school” but, rather, as a school for future economists, biologists, literary critics, politicians, mathematicians, activists, designers, engineers, journalists – students across every discipline, who will leave the school understanding the world through the deeper mindset of ecology, context and the opportunities. These are the future leaders of a world that is not a tweaked version of the world we have now, but a different, new and better one.

The GCSE option in Global Perspectives (Cambridge) in many ways brings these disciplines together. Partly project-based, partly essay-based and partly examination-based, the subject focuses on the type of deep experiential, place-based learning and empirical engagement that Arbor believes is central to an outstanding education and explores the major issues of the twenty first century using knowledge from all disciplines.

You can learn more below:

Global Persepctives IGCSE Cambridge Curriculum


The school separately awards its Global Impact Certificate.

The Arbor School Sixth Form is integrated within the Secondary School. Breadth of subject and qualification pathways will be announced in 2024. But place-based learning is centre-stage in the planning, and the curriculum will include Advanced Level study in Global Perspectives. The Sixth Form offer will be defined annually by the needs of each cohort of students.

Arbor offers significant breadth of subject provision at IGCSE.  These will in the most part extend to A Level advanced study in combination with BTEC options in technical stream subjects including Business and Technology. A core differentiator is Arbor’s in-house Impact certificates in three areas – more below.

Core Subjects 

  • English Language & Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Science (Double Award)
  • Separate sciences: Biology
  • Separate sciences: Chemistry
  • Separate sciences: Physics
  • Arabic A
  • Arabic B
  • Global Perspectives
  • Islamic

Optional Subjects 

  • Additional Mathematics
  • Art & Design
  • Business Studies
  • Computing Science
  • Design Technology
  • Drama
  • Engineering
  • Food, Hospitality and Catering
  • French
  • Geography
  • History
  • ICT
  • Music
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Spanish

Arbor Impact Certificates

Global Impact Certificates are offered in three areas:

  • Ecological Design
  • Ecological Sustainability
  • Environmental Justice

The Ecological Design Global Impact Certificate

This Certificate seeks to:

  • Cultivate design and technology skills that mirror the current and emerging expectations of the workplace.
  • Build knowledge and understandings of the role of ecological and social sciences in the design of sustainable and socially responsible products and/or services.

The Ecological Sustainability Global Impact Certificate

This Certificate seeks to:

  • Build knowledge and understandings of the composition, structure, and processes of ecological systems, including their plant and animal biodiversity
  • Develop skills in the use of ecological research methods and the processes for conserving or restoring the productivity of ecological systems.

The Environmental Justice Global Impact Certificate

This Certificate seeks to:

  • Build knowledge and understandings of the interrelationships between environmental quality and social justice, including the premise that everyone has the right to live in a clean environment and access to the natural resources needed to sustain health and sustainable livelihood.
  • Develop skills in the use of social science research methods and social change processes.

The Global Impact Certificate is offered at four award levels, each indicating one year of successful programme completion

  • Global Impact Certificate – Bronze
  • Global Impact Certificate -Silver
  • Global Impact Certificate – Gold
  • Global Impact Certificate – Green

All students completing a Global Impact Certificate will:

  • Engage in inquiry and design challenges formulated by teachers and professionals working in the area of study, as well as developing their own personal inquiries based on individual passions and interests
  • Conduct original research and use their research to design and implement projects that addresses global sustainability challenges in the area of study
  • Complete a bespoke workplace experience related to their chosen certificate
  • Present their research and project experiences to authentic audiences that include peers, teachers, parents and professionals working in related fields A new (and highly experienced) Head of Art is spearheading the development of the Arbor School’s creative spaces, including its Eco-Maker Space. The aim is that Art will be matrixed with other subjects to both bring them to life and drive child interest and skills in Art itself.

Arbor’s Environmental Education Advisor oversees Environmental Studies for all students.

The date of Sixth form A’ Level studies is not confirmed but expected to “follow soon after” the launch of Year 10 GCSE provision in 2022.  The uniting focus is resolutely on sustainability and science subjects, design and technology in all its forms and the visual and expressive arts.

The introduction of the bespoke ‘Global Impact Certificate’ supplements the core subjects and continues the eco-literacy journey of Arbor’s secondary students into Year 10.

“This personalised programme acknowledges the uncertainty of the future […] and focuses on universal competencies through distinct yet interconnected subjects. With a strong emphasis on trans-disciplinary study, students will have opportunities to flex their creative capacities and discover their purpose and passion.”

BTEC and ASDAN programmes will follow at Arbor Sixth Form.

“Our mission is to prepare the students for this ever-changing world, whether that be into further study at the highest calibre tertiary institute, to enter into an apprenticeship, to become an activist, or stepping into the world of creativity and design.

In putting the learner first — their interests, their skills, their needs, their experiences — we recognise their strengths and challenges and provide multiple avenues for them, not just to engage in the learning process but to lead it, demonstrating their understanding along the way.

A new narrative for education is upon us, and this calls for bravery. Most schools prepare their students for exams, at Arbor we will certainly do that, but we will also prepare them to flourish in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world which they will inhabit.”

Brett Girven. Principal. The Arbor School. November 2021.



Sporting provision at the Arbor School extends to planned membership of the Development League and current memberships of both DASSA, and BSME. Sports include Swimming, Gymnastics, Basketball, Netball, Football and Tennis with development ongoing in touch rugby, sailing and winter sports ( including skiing).


ECA provision

ECA and extended curriculum options are Tier 1 and extensive. They include:

  • LEGO Robotics
  • Gardening
  • Chess
  • Photography
  • Hip Hop
  • Taekwondo
  • Martial Arts
  • Ballet
  • No Bake Cooking
  • 3D printing
  • Sketching Club
  • Learn Makaton
  • Dodgeball
  • Observational drawing
  • Eco-crafts
  • Fizzy Fingers (a chance to practice and improve your fine motor skills)
  • Coding
  • Drama
  • Magic Science
  • Humanities Book Club
  • Musical Theatre
  • Animal Art (creating art based on all the wonderful animals on this Earth)
  • Percussion ensemble
  • Arabic games
  • Mad Scientist
  • Core European Languages
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Drama and Role Play
  • Quran Recitation and stories; and
  • Yoga
  • Nature Made and Eco-crafts (Arts and Crafts programmes creating art from natural materials)
  • Literal Festival Reading and Writing (Student engagement in reading and writing competitions geared towards the Dubai Literacy Festival)


The views of parents at The Arbor School


A School is about teachers and a Principal who care enough about your child to put human connections and interpersonal relationships at the very core of what they do.

We chose Arbor for so many reasons.  But the main reason is the individualized attention – and genuine care – which we knew our son would receive. This care is academic, emotional and, in terms of the physical infrastructure, right across the care for students provided by the school. ).

We were proved right and, in just one year, my son, who is 9 years old now, has blossomed into the confident, sporty and intelligent boy we knew he always has had the potential to be.

We are proud Arborists and so excited about the plans the Arbor School has for children as it develops.

The owners are visionary, passionate and principled and all the teachers who teach my son are dedicated to giving the children an outstanding education. ”

Parent. The Arbor School, Dubai.


“Our class teacher is very positive, approachable and nurturing – my son is happy in school, speaks very fondly of his teacher and has made friends.

He really enjoys sport and has a good relationship with all of his specialist teachers.

In terms of his progress across the curriculum, he has shown an increased interest in phonics and numbers.

I am happy with his after school activities: he has found football and Tae-Kwan Do ECAs both fun and led by good coaches.

My son loves the outdoor garden and particularly visiting the tortoise.”

Parent. The Arbor School, Dubai.



“The Arbor School has a great team of teachers focusing on individual development.  The ecoliteracy values and curriculum at Arbor are so important for our future generations to survive and this aspect of the school is the most important to our family.  The school environment is very welcoming, the staff are pleasant to speak to and there is lovely greenery all around the premises.”

Parent. The Arbor School, Dubai.


“We had a very negative experience in my son’s previous school before we removed him to enrol him at Arbor. This previous school was considered to be one of the “top schools in Dubai.”

It certainly was not for us.

This proves just how misleading it is to solely look into KHDA reports or follow the reputation of the same school abroad before actually experiencing schools in Dubai first hand.”

Parent. The Arbor School, Dubai.


Fees and the cost of an education for joining Families at the Arbor School in Dubai 2021 – 24

Latest Fees 2023 – 2024

Year Group  

Tuition Fees – AED


FS1 42,000
FS2 47,600
Year 1 55,250
Year 2 55,250
Year 3 60,350
Year 4 60,350
Year 5 64,600
Year 6 64,600
Year 7 72,250
Year 8 72,250
Year 9 76,500
Year 10 76,500
Year 11 76,500

Historic Fee information

Joining Year Group as of September 2021
Joining Year Group as of September 2021 Fixed Fee for 2021-2022 Fixed Fee for 2022 – 2023 Fixed Fee for 2023-2024
FS 1
FS 2
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3 52,000 56,800 56,800
Year 4 56,800 56,800 60,800
Year 5 56,800 60,800 60,800
Year 6 60,800 60,800 63,750
Year 7 60,800 63,750 63,750
Year 8 63,750 63,750 72,000
Year 9 63,750 72,000 72,000
Year 10-13 TBC TBC


Arbor School facilities and infrastructure 
Photograpg of two geodesic biodomes at the Arbor School in Dubai highlighting the self-contained bio diversity that the school can create in learning zones for children

Facilities include climate controlled atria; learning gardens; specialized science laboratories; art rooms; auditorium and associated black box theatre; libraries by phase; canteen; and, six  biodomes, in which students interact with soils, flora and fauna as “a fundamental part of their educational experience”. 

Sports facilities include a football pitch; multi-purpose hall for indoor sports; a variety of outdoor courts and a specially designed swimming pool. Architectural design briefs clearly show the three tier main school structures.

The Arbor School was the first in Dubai to include within its supporting curriculum an ethical focus around ecological education including sustainability. The Arbor School’s multiple integrated biodomes represent the single biggest educational investment of its kind in the Emirates.

A complete list of facilities follow:

  • 81 classrooms
  • School Building size: 20,000m2
  • 6 Climate-controlled biodomes (3 large, 3 small). 2020 is seeing major new changes coming on stream including the introduction of more animals to enable students to study, at first hand, detailed aspects of biology, zoology, and environmental studies.

  • Ecological Bio Farm
  • Internal atrium
  • Learning gardens
  • 340 capacity Auditorium
  • Black Box Theatre
  • Library
  • Dining Hall
  • Specialised Science Laboratory
  • Food Technology Laboratory
  • “Cabinet of Curiosities” room/centre

  • Two swimming pools
  • Multi-purpose hall and gymnasium
  • Outdoor and indoor play areas
  • Multiple sports courts
  • Full-sized, football pitch
  • The EcoActive half term camp is run onsite at Arbor in partnership with Green Planet. 

In 2020, The Arbor School launched The Farmhouse at the Arbor School, a school restaurant/cafeteria which links the wellbeing of students and the direct farm-to-table experience. The venue provides organic, low carbon footprint lunches and snacks and the very high quality of food is created in a sustainable kitchen. The aim is to “more closely aligning our food operations with Arbor’s core pillars of Eco literacy, sustainability and environmental justice” and showcase for students the direct “farm-to-fork” model use of school-grown produce from its biodomes in the provision of food to students.

The approach is complemented by the careful sourcing (where possible) of seasonal ingredients from local and sustainable suppliers.

The Farmhouse at the Arbor School is spearheaded by accomplished cook, baker and restaurant operator Chef Anna Maria Herreras and offers fresh, healthy (and delicious) meal plans to students whether they are vegan, vegetarian or “no veggies at all” (!) from FS1 through Year 8.

There are many other features of the school of the school to be found by exploring, including a hidden “Snug” at the top of the Climbing Wall (photograph above) which children use for reading. Together, the picture is of an extraordinarily well thought out school designed to inspire in children a deep seated love of learning – and a happy, nurturing education.



An aerial image of the Arbor School in Dubai showcasing the biodomes at the hub of school life

The Arbor School is fully academically, culturally and SEND inclusive.  Inclusion is important to the school’s founder, Abdullah Al Sharhan, best known for his founding of the inclusive Australian College of Kuwait. The College was established in large part to meet the higher education needs of students whom he perceived as being failed by the Kuwaiti education system and offers the spectrum of academic and broader technical educational, the latter including a range of courses across engineering and aerospace.

Mr Al Sharhan wanted to provide all students “a second chance” to secure a College education, and one aligned with the technical demands of industry, particularly in the face of ever higher demands for grades for entrance into existing colleges and universities.

“Often grades do not reflect capabilities. In fact, I was one of those students, as my grade was D or the equivalent. But I went to the United States, it took me five years to graduate, but I graduated. So what if I spent an extra year studying compared to 40 years working? And so I thought, I am sure many of these students have capabilities that have not been tapped.”

Abdullah Al Sharhan, Founder, the Arbor School, Dubai

Underlying this is a recognition that children develop at different speeds – and that no child should be left behind.  It is hoped that this technical and vocational expertise will carry across to The Arbor School through  BTEC and T Level qualifications as they come on stream.



The school is unique in its approach across a number of key areas:

  • Project-based curriculum. A significant and meaningful project and place-based experiential learning approach powerfully supports the British English National Curriculum based core curriculum. The approach brings education to life for children and encourages investigation, creativity, compassion, a sense of justice and the broader academic and whole child character building that defines the best British School education. A minimum of eight hours per week is invested in cross curricular project work drawing on strands of thinking and ideas from the Arts, Social Science, the Sciences and Technology.


  • Happy school environment for students. During our visits and in independent feedback from parents we have found the Arbor School and exceptionally happy one. The atmosphere is exceptionally  positive and caring – and the ability of the school to inspire curiosity in children is stand-out. Problem solving and creative thinking is deeply embedded within the curriculum and a school environment that encourages and inspires children to be confident and develop. Ethical values and compassion are also stand-out features of the school.


  • Science and Ecology. This permeates the entire curriculum, resources, books and activities for children. The Founders share a conviction that Science, and the broader curriculum, should be brought to life to secure academic knowledge in experiments and practice. Programmes have been established in a plethora of integrated field activities including trips to the deserts, mangroves swamps and heritage sites across the UAE, many inspired by the children’s own interests. The core British curriculum is delivered with a focus on all 17 of the United Nations sustainable development goals which provide a foundation for study across the Arts, Social Sciences, Mathematics and core Physics, Chemistry and Biology to bring these goals, and impacts to life for children. The Arbor School leverages the topic based cross-curricular approach of the International Baccalaureate in bringing subjects together to strengthen the core British curriculum. A good example is in the study of global chocolate production, this drawing on multiple issues across Economics, sustainability and compassion, marketing, legal and moral justice, technology, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, perception and taste.


  • Architecture and Facility provision. The building design is GOLD rated in terms of sustainability. At the heart of the school is the UAE’s first climate and humidity controlled “biodome” in which food is grown – and consumed in the school canteen. The Arbor School is one of very few schools in the UAE actively working towards LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) – the most widely used, high-prestige green building rating system in the world.


  • Inclusion. The inclusive focus stretches from Gifted and Talented children to those with identified needs, for example in Dyslexia. Investment in inclusion is significant with an in-house Educational Psychologist, in house Counsellor, an Arabic SEND team, in house speech and language therapy. In many schools one or all of these functions is outsourced with specialists attending school a set number of times each month, often at the cost of a weakened relationship with children. This is an area of provision in which the Arbor School excels.


  • Child focus and care. Safety and care for children is a priority and the school has invested heavily in pastoral care as well as IT and CCTV systems to ensure that the moment children set out from home to when they leave school each child is looked after as a core priority. The owners see each child’s sense of safety and their appreciation of their own individual value within the school as keystone foundations of being able to prove a world class education in which all children can meet their potential.


  • Future plans as the school moves forward include a dedicated Sixth Form that will ensure that students on leaving the school are properly equipped and supported for leaving school, whether for university or industry. We have covered extensively the importance of dedicated Sixth Forms or equivalents in our Post-16 Guides series. Our 16+ Education Guide can be found here.


  • In-house, in-depth specialist Arbor School certification across all major areas of environmental learning (see above).



Photograph of young students at the Arbor School in Dubai undertaking reserach in ecology and environmental science within one of the school's major biodomes. The school's geodesic structures enable students to study in self-sufficient ecosystems that replicate key climates worldwide.

There was a time when looking for a top-flight British school meant parents looking at how many GCSEs and A’ Levels in the classics it taught, the results its students gained,  its university destinations, reputation and (most importantly)  the ‘fit’ of the school to a child. In the most elite schools, the provision of Latin was a shorthand test of its being genuinely top tier. Many parents added boarding schools to the mix just to be certain ….

Relatively few children, compared with today, went on to study A’ Levels – and those that did tended to be the most academic children, focused on university and an academic life or the professions (medicine, law …) rather than industry. This is a simple way of looking at things – but it pretty much captures the equation in many cases.

Today, schools that offer this old-style format are increasingly looking out of touch – and students are demanding – and need, much more. The best schools today increasingly offer technical stream options for their students (for example, BTEC Engineering) as well as a close link with research and the demands of business and the rapidly evolving very different global economy. When Gates wrote that modern day businesses need to respond at the speed of thought, today he could equally have been describing the tests of current outstanding schools.

The Arbor School is a stand-out school in the UAE in the way that it has responded to these new demands of a globalised economy. It is one of only two schools in the UAE to be grounded in the ecology and environmental sector – and has been built ground up to relate its teaching to developments in technology and Science rather than inevitably outdated textbooks.  The focus is highly interdisciplinary (politics, economics, culture) and teaching expertise is rooted in developments and values drawn from across the atmospheric sciences, ecology, environmental chemistry and geosciences. The global economy in Environmental Sciences is rapidly growing – you only have to think of the move to electric cars and battery technology on the one hand, to alternative power sources across solar wind and wave to see two of the many areas in which demand for skills is both urgent and pressing. Global warming, regardless of debates of its speed, is already having impacts with countries facing extremes of weather, the extinction of whole species and the risks of flooding and environmental catastrophe. This is an area of education, under-served, critical to business industry and government – and absolutely cutting edge.

The demand for jobs in this sector is outperforming the broader Sciences by a third – and average salaries run to in excess of six figures in the geo- and atmospheric science professions. Core professions include:

  • environmental management and conservation
  • local and central government agencies
  • environmental consultancy
  • weather forecasting
  • government and university research
  • geophysical services
  • the energy sector
  • sustainable resources management, including energy
  • the water industry
  • cross sector specialists across almost every sector from aviation and automotive to agriculture and retail.

More than 90 universities in the UK offer courses in environmental science and related subjects including both Cambridge and Oxford universities – here and here.

The Arbor School combines this interdisciplinary core focus – and then overlays a premium, traditional British education rooted in IGCSE and (from September 2022) gold standard A Levels and BTEC/T Levels, these offered in conjunction with Arbor in-house certification. The aim, to build a school with a global reputation as a pioneer in the sector, has already seen the school make a profound contribution to education in the UAE.

In the UK, in different ways, this sort of schooling has a rich provenance. Lancing College, for example, integrates agriculture powerfully within the curriculum through its integration of agriculture and British farming.

Bottom line – when students graduate from the Arbor School, they will do so with a first class British education and a cutting-edge broader, interdisciplinary education in environmental science, ecology sustainability and related technologies. This should put Arbor School students at a significant advantage – whether that is in university entrance or direct-to-industry routes on leaving school.


The Arbor School Dubai – The Best School for Environmental Science, Sustainability and Eco Literacy in the United Aran Emirates 2023 – 2024

Best School for Environmental Science and Sustainability at The Top Schools Awards Main Image (Reduced)

The Top Schools Award for Best School for Environmental Science, Sustainability and Eco Literacy in the United Arab Emirates 2023 – 2024 was presented to Mr Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai.

The Arbor School Dubai was recognised with the Award for Best School for Environmental Science, Sustainability and Eco Literacy at The Top Schools Awards 2024

Pictured Left to Right: Mr James Mullan, Co-Founder, The SchoolsCompared Top Schools Awards; Mr Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai; and Mr David Westley, Co-Founder, The Top Schools Awards

Learn more about The Arbor School in Dubai here:

Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai receiving The Top Schools Award for Best School for Sustainability, Environmental Science and Eco Literacy from David Westley, Co-Founder, The Top Schools Awards

Pictured Left to Right: Mr Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai receiving the Top Schools Award for Best School for Environmental Science, Sustainability and Eco Literacy from Mr David Westley, Co-Founder, The Top Schools Awards

Our Judges said:

“The Arbor School stands out in so many ways, but it is the radical approach to environmental education adopted here with passion, seriousness and intent, that is absolutely stand-out. The result in is an exceptionally inspirational and meaning-rich education for students.

Abundance, rather than Sustainability, is explored here, this through a diverse syllabus stretching across the same broad spectrum of British curriculum subjects you will find at all outstanding British schools, but with a much greater depth of purpose. Do not expect a school that is a narrowly focused on green issues and teaching in a limited array of subjects that are focused only on ecology. That is not what the school is about.

Instead, Arbor is focused on working out how the world can build globally sustainable communities based on a world that works for all people. This is a radical, activist approach to sustainability and very different from the way that sustainability and eco-literacy are taught and explored by other schools.


The Arbor School is a rare pioneer in education. Brave, principled, innovative, many see first the six biodomes that dramatically define the landscape around it. But impressive as these are, these are mere pointers to the much richer education and underpinning philosophy that really go the heart of what is being achieved here for children. The richness of offer here is truly something to behold. This is a school that is leading the world in all that it achieves for children and its rich and pioneering re-drawing of the foundations of an outstanding education.”

Read the complete story from our Judges here:

The Best School for Environmental Science, Sustainability, Nature and Ecology at The Top Schools Awards 2023 - 2024 was presented to The Arbor School in Dubai

Bottom line? The Verdict on The Arbor School  2023

An image used by The Arbor School in Dubai to highlight the central importance of the environment and schooling with a conscience



Where to begin in this outstanding pioneering school? There is so much here to celebrate.

To start, few schools have an owner whose experience, expertise and passion are invested so deeply in the school he cherishes as a fundamental  vehicle to inspire the best of children and their future. The investment here academically is stand-out – but it is in the uniqueness and vibrancy of the ecological ethics and science that work experientially in tandem with the British curriculum that makes the Arbor School really shine for parents. Children here are encouraged to be confident in their curiosity – and creativity and innovation follow in spades.

Arbor is the first school in Dubai to integrate biodomes into the curriculum to bring the Sciences practically to life. The thought and investment here is both considerable, moving and impressive.

It is also the first school to offer an in-house environmental qualification – and one with considerable sophistication. We expect the Arbor Certificates to offer students a considerable USP with both future employers and universities.

Speaking with the owners, and children, it is quite impossible not to be inspired.

The Arbor School is one founded on and in conviction, integrity and vocation. The belief in the innate value of education here – and the responsibility that a school must carry for the environment and its students, demonstrates itself in the commitment that every child must be able to meet his or her potential academically and as a human being – never is the potential and ability of children measured exclusively in numbers on the conveyor belt of examination league tables as at other schools.

The children who graduate from Arbor, we think, are likely to be those that set the minds of examining boards on fire with compassion, sense of purpose, innovation, belief in making a difference in the world – and love of learning for its own sake.

Passion to deliver the extraordinary runs deep.

School Review visit conducted by Mrs Tabitha Barda, Senior Editor, (Pictured left), here in conversation with Mr Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai

School Review visit conducted by Mrs Tabitha Barda, Senior Editor, (Pictured Left), here in conversation with Mr Brett Girven, Principal, The Arbor School Dubai (Pictured Right)

On our latest meeting with the school’s leadership our Senior Editor came away with the following comment, one we think worth quoting in full:

“The credentials of all those founding The Arbor School are hugely impressive and the project is driven by intellectual and political conviction.

These are all individuals absolutely at the top of their fields in terms of qualifications, research and experience of delivering this extremely inspiring new mode of education.

This project has elements of uniqueness on a global stage – and it may well in future years become a blueprint for education in the sustainability field…”

To deliver on this scale of ambition requires investment. This is reflected in the fees which are premium. More than this, however, it requires a school to have a fundamental sense of purpose and ambition for its children. This is a  much rarer thing. The Arbor School delivers this – and in doing so gives us a genuinely groundbreaking British curriculum school for the emirates.

Each year, more innovation shines through. In 2021, The Abor School initiated the launch of The Dubai Oyster Project, in partnership with The MAINE New England Brasseries Company and Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG). The project will rehabilitate the historic natural reef system off the coast of Dubai to increase local biodiversity.

The Arbor School’s secondary students, who are currently studying the oceanography of the UAE, will fill discarded fish traps known locally as “gargoors,” with the oyster shells in order to repurpose the shells as they provide structures where marine plants and animals can grow.

This is a school that you can explore, not just visit, such is the extraordinary richness of the offer here for students, parents and the broader community. On that note, the commitment to community here is real and runs deep. Adult wellness classes at Arbor, include both Reflection Yoga classes, held in Arbor’s Reflection Garden, and Art classes, these held in the school’s (fabulous) purpose-built art space with experienced artist, Sam Brown. Film, photography and pottery/sculpture add to the mix.

Very highly recommended.

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Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

First inspection due 2021 - 22

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2016/17 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating


2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating


Type of school

Private, for profit

WSA Good School

Under review 2019-20

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1: 28,000
FS2: 44,800
YEAR 1: 55,250
YEAR 2: 55,250
YEAR 3: 60,350
YEAR 4: 60,350
YEAR 5: 64,600
YEAR 6: 64,600
YEAR 7: 63,750


National Curriculum of England
(2) A Level
(3) Technical education BTEC/ T Level TBC

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered

(1) Dedicated Sixth Form to come on stream later
(2) BTech technical stream options in Business and Technology in planning

A Level A* to A


A Level A* to C

School in phased launch


School in phased launch


School in phased launch

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

25 plus

I/GCSEs offered

English Literature
English Language
Further Mathematics
Computing Science (ICT)
Physical Education as required
French plus further modern languages as required
Design Technology - Graphic Design
Design Technology - Resistant Materials
Design Technology - Food Technology)


Fully inclusive

Value Added

Not published

Number of Students

400 plus (January 2020)

Teacher to Student Ratio

10:1 to 12:1
(1) Maximum class sizes: 20
(2) All classrooms are equipped with breakout spaces for work with individuals and smaller groups both inside the classroom and in adjacent hallways to ensure that every child received concentrated personal support and learning

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

Not published

Year opened

September 2018


Al Furjan, Dubai


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



(1) Chairman and COO: Abdullah Abdul Mohsen Al Sharhan
(2) Holding company: Al Mutatawera Gulf General Trading (MGGT)
(3) Chief Executive Officer: Dr. Sa’ad Al-Omari

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0) 4 581 4100


• Ambitious hugely inspiring curriculum that embeds each child's curiosity, interdisciplinarity and breadth of learning.
• British school dynamic and core curriculum
• Tier 1 facilities and provision
• Outstanding school leadership and hugely committed owners
• Outstanding school curriculum
• Outstanding whole child development and ethical underpinnings of the school
• Unique Arbor certification in 3 core areas of environmental impact


• New school in phased launch - the school will meet its fullest potential for children as it embeds its dedicated Sixth Form provision in future years.

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• Extraordinary, pioneering school that delivers in spades for children. This is a groundbreaking, inspiring and outstanding school for the emirates. Very highly recommended.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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