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The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai, Tilal Al Ghaf – The SchoolsCompared Review

Background: The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai

“The Royal Grammar School Guildford is joining the Dubai education community in a new academic year full of excitement and optimism.

The school’s students, teachers and parents will get the best of two worlds – a school with a long history of excellence in education, in a dynamic city that is focused on the future. #

We welcome RGS to Dubai, and to a school community that has quality and wellbeing at its heart.”

Dr. Abdulla Al Karam. Director General. Knowledge and Human Development Authority. September 2021.

I look around and see the RGS Tudor Rose symbol everywhere.

I see the windows I look out of every day in Guildford reflected in the roof design.

I see the beams in the old building in these great black beams around us here.


But, most of all, I see RGS in terms of the community that is already coming together – we have lovely staff in Dubai, some of whom I have worked with for years in Guildford.

I know the team.

I trust them.

I have absolute confidence in them in bringing our ethos to this school.”

Dr Jon Cox. Royal Grammars School Guildford United Kingdom. 

“500 years of pioneering heritage, knowledge and practice of what makes great education and how to maximise the learning experience for each pupil through: exceptional teaching, a curriculum that maintains a balance between ‘what’ is to be learnt and ‘how’ it is learnt, as well as a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities.

This excellence has been refined and honed over many years and lessons learned to ensure that the quality is there in everything that we do.

Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai is truly a sister school of RGS Guildford UK; we share our values, our learning habits, our language.

Clare Turnbull. Principal. Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai. Speaking exclusively with SchoolsCompared in 2021.

The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai (RGSG Dubai) opened in Dubai in September 2021. The school’s aim was established 12 month’s ago: to bring to Dubai families all the 500-year heritage of educational excellence, and prestige, of the famous founding British home school.  The RGS Dubai opening has been has been managed by and implemented in close association with RGS Guildford in the UK – and all the promise here is of a very high prestige, genuine translation of one of Britain’s top schools into the international dynamics of a premium Tier 1 UAE education for students.

RGS Guildford Dubai will, on all-through opening, provide a full FS to Year 13 co-educational education for boys and girls aged between three and eighteen years from Early Years Preparatory through to Secondary GCSE and Sixth Form A’ Level.

The flagship British curriculum school opened its new campus on a landmark 10-acre campus in Tilal Al Ghaf, Dubai, to more than 250 students in Early Years and Prep School Phases – one of the strongest launches of a British Tier 1 Premium school in recent years, and one remarkable in the context of the school’s opening during the Covid 19 pandemic.

As of 2023-24, the school role stands at around 1200 students, up from around 800 students in 2023 – such is the demand for places.

54 nationalities are represented at the school with the largest nationality of students, by far, being British at some 53% of the total role. The next largest nationality of students are Russian students at around 3%. Waiting lists are currently operating for five year groups with significant pressure in the remaining five. Maximum class size is capped at 20 – and the school has committed to us that this will never, under any circumstances, be exceeded.



Directions to and map of Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai

The ‘Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai’ [RGS Guildford in Dubai] is the hub school for Majid Al Futtaim’s flagship Dubai community, Tilal Al Ghaf, adjacent to Hessa Street, between Dubai Motor City and Sports City.

The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai is the hub school of the Tilal Al Ghaf community in Dubai

The school sits on an impressive 10 acre site, and will, on all-through opening,  be able to accommodate 2,100 students – a relatively small school by Dubai standards.


The History

Established in 1509, RGS Guildford is renowned for its track record of academic excellence and an innovative approach to teaching that prepares young people for 21st century academic, industry and cultural life, whilst retaining an identity and uniqueness borne of both its historic roots in British history and deep commitment to values and whole child learning and development. By combining a foundation of heritage with a forward-thinking approach to teaching and learning, RGS Guildford is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the UK at both A Level and GCSE. As importantly, the school prides itself on developing well-rounded students with the spectrum of qualities that are traditionally seen to be the hallmark of a top tier private education, including the development of young people that are compassionate, high-integrity, emotionally intelligent, knowledgeable about the world beyond books, academically curious and ambitious to make a difference in the world.

Each year, all RGS Guildford’s pupils routinely secure places on the most competitive courses at leading world universities, with some 325 graduates over the last 10 years attending Oxford or Cambridge Universities. RGS Guildford’s alumni have gone on to have successful careers in all areas from business to sports, the creative arts and politics.

The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai shares the same ethos and academic rigour of its parent school in the UK and its expansion to the UAE marks a key milestone in the school’s 500-year history:

“Investing in the very best teachers, consistently and across the entire school, has ben a top priority for RGS Guildford Dubai, to ensure that our students achieve top-level results, and to build a culture and community that holds our children at its heart.

Dubai is a global city which is renowned for its diversity and dynamic mindset – qualities which have inspired RGS Guildford for hundreds of years.

To prepare our pupils for the challenges of the twenty first century, we must lead by example: staying true to our values, collaborating with others, innovating and striving always to be the very best we can be.

RGS Guildford Dubai is a central part of allowing us to realise this vision.”

Dr. Jon Cox, Headmaster, RGS Guildford UK.

More on RGS Guildford Dubai’s outstanding parent school in the United Kingdom can be found here.

Bottom line? This is resolutely not a franchise school in which a British brand comes to Dubai in name-only. The parent school is leading the educational philosophy, school ethos and curriculum of The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai. Governance of the school is conducted by a joint board representing both schools.

It is also worth noting that the school’s owner, Cognita, is one of the world’s most respected education groups, with a portfolio of more than 85 schools across Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, employing more than 10,000+ teaching and support staff in the care and education of 60,000 plus students. In the UAE today, Cognita owns both Horizon English School and Ranches Primary School – both highly regarded Tier 1 Premium British primary schools.  David Baldwin, Managing Director of Cognita in the Middle East, brings to all schools more than a decade’s experience in the UAE, including leadership positions in GEMS and Horizon English School. Over many years, has built up a picture of an individual deeply committed to education and the welfare of children, and one with an outstanding, proven track record of achievement for students.


School Leadership at The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai

Photograph of Clare Turnbull, Principal of the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai RGS Guildford Dubai

Mrs Clare Turnbull transferred directly from Royal Grammar School Guildford in the United Kingdom.

Mrs Turnbull told

Having served as the Head of Prep of RGS Guildford, the parent school in the UK for 13 years, I am truly delighted to bring the RGS values and ethos to Dubai.

We inspire every pupil’s interests and passions – and support them to become individuals who are confident, courageous and caring – intellectually curious, and kind.

The opening of The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai in September 2021 has seen us welcome pupils and parents to what is a fantastic school, one delivering a world-class  education for our students.

At RGS Dubai, we have a genuine investment in all our pupil relationships as we believe this is what promotes happiness, well-being and achievement in school.

RGS Guildford Dubai’s stellar curriculum is entwined with the school’s core values and provides a platform for students to reach their full potential, irrespective of their passion.”

Clare Turnbull. Principal. The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai.


Premium Facilities and Architecture

Complete facilities include:

  • Landmark architectural design with a hub street linking facilities across the tiered main structure

Photograph render of Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai RGS Guildford Dubai Ground Floor Classrooms

  • Sustainable building brief including extensive solar investment
  • Early Years classrooms with exterior and interior play areas
  • Distinctive Secondary and Sixth Form classrooms and teaching spaces

  • Dedicated state-of-the-art science, art, languages, music and technology Labs

Science plays a key part of the curriculum at Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai with home commitment to outlier subjects including electronics

  • 500+ seat, multi-purpose auditorium
  • Double-storey library
  • Landmark 25-metre competition standard swimming pool designed on the theme of an “amphitheatre of light”

World class Sport facilities at The Royal Grammar School Dubai - the new British Curriculum Tier 1 Premium School opening in Dubai UAE in September 2021

  • Supporting learning pool for younger children
  • Full-size football pitch and grassed sporting grounds

Sport at The Royal Grammar School Guildford

  • Sporting provision for the playing of cricket.  Students playing cricket at the founding school in the 1550s are documented as the earliest definite printed reference to the sport worldwide.
  • Extensive visual references to the UK home school with geometric iconography design providing an interpretation of RGS Guildford’s emblem, the Tudor Rose, an iconic British symbol that has been a part of the founding home school’s identity and history since 1552.
  • Extraordinary natural roof lighting leveraging technologies first introduced in the UAE at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The roof design incorporates chains and shaping  that nods to the founding school’s famous “Chained Library.” This will be only the second time these technologies have been used in the UAE and are designed to flood the internal building with light. The most famous example of its use is in the UK’s Eden Project.

The technology being used in the roof of the Royal Grammar School Guidford in Dubai is shared with the UK's Eden Project and Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. This will be only the second time the high tech solution has been used in the UAE.

The school has been designed by international architecture practice Bogle Architects on a brief to replicate key aspects of the founding school and distinct approach to teaching and learning. Ground-up sustainable, facilities are linked by a ‘street’ featuring a lush, central atrium of trees, plants and living ‘biophilic’ walls:

“The ‘street’ serves as a communal hub and breakout space for pupils as well as an extension of every classroom, providing a thoroughly modern and flexible learning environment with nature at its heart to reinforce pupil well being.”

The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai. 

The campus design seeks to maximise the school’s sustainability and provide an environment that supports child and staff wellness. The landmark stepped architectural design of the main building sees each successive floor expanding outwards to ensure the classrooms are self-shaded.

Photograph of the stepped architectural design of the Royal Grammar School Guidford in Dubai which provides shade for children and faculty

This smart design feature also provides the younger children located at ground level with fully shaded Early Years classrooms with exterior and interior play areas. The school also provides passive ventilation and biophilic elements, creating create a cool, comfortable learning environment that supports pupils in their studies.

“From the earliest stage of working with Bogle Architects, our ambition has been to ensure that the design of our wonderful new school aligns with and supports our distinctive approach to teaching and learning.

Our innovative British Curriculum features an array of experiences and activities, including in music, languages and sport, so it is critical that every aspect of our facilities complements the genuine breadth of what we offer and is designed with the individual learner and their well being in mind.

We are proud that this ambition has run through every aspect of the design and construction including the many specialist spaces in the school.

There is a great sense of flexibility and freedom throughout in order to enhance the way pupils learn and collaborate.

At the same time, we have put an emphasis on natural materials and extensive greenery, which we know from research enhances the way children feel in, and about, their school.”

Clare Turnbull, Head of Prep, The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai.

Visual references honour the school’s UK parent’s 500-year history. These include:

  • A landmark central atrium which provides a modern architectural interpretation of the original school’s historic courtyard. This open and dynamic space encourages interaction, enjoyment and wellness for pupils and teachers – and also includes an extensive parent café.
  • A large environmental canopy echoes the diamond structural motif of the leaded windows of the historic chained library in the parent school.

The architects told us:

“This is our first project in the UAE and the environmental challenges were clear from day one.

We wanted to make the building as passive as possible. This is where the stepping structure offered a solution for self-shading. This also creates an internal hierarchy for the distribution of children over the height of the building – the largest spaces at the top for the older children, and the more intimate on the lowest floor for the younger children.”

Ian Bogle, Founder, Bogle Architects.

Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai was the recipient of the Top Schools Award for Outstanding Architecture in a UAE School 2022.


The Interview

Listen here to the first interview with the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai. Clare Turnbull, Principal of RGS Guildford in Dubai, speaks to Tom Urquhart of Dubai Eye 1038FM:

Read more about both schools in our exclusive world-first interview with leaders of RGS Guildford in the UK and Dubai. 



Views from first floor classrooms at Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai

The eventual breadth of curriculum offers has yet to be confirmed – these are early days. However, if the school can mirror the curriculum breadth across Pre-U, A’ Level and EPQ of its founding home school in the UK, the offer of The Royal Grammar School will set the benchmark for British curriculum breadth of subject offer in the UAE. It will also be the first to offer Electronics and combined Religion and Philosophy.

The Sixth Form curriculum of the UK home school follows:

RGS Sixth Form Curriculum 19-20


The GCSE prospectus of the UK home school is equally as impressive:

RGS Middle School Curriculum 19-20


Key Appointments and Teaching Faculty

Mr James Bennett has over 15 years of experience in sports including leadership roles in sport at RGS in the UK.  His coaching expertise extends across the sporting disciplines of cricket, football and swimming to athletics, gymnastics and climbing.

Mr Joe Creal, Assistant Head, Upper KS2, was both educated at the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai and a teacher at the UK school. Prior to re-joining RGS, Mr Creal taught in Cranleigh Abu Dhabi and a co-ed prep school in Surrey.

For more than a decade, Mrs Laura Evans, has led the Learning Support and EAL Departments at the prep school in Guildford. Mrs Evans holds a Masters in Special and Inclusive Education and joins RGS Guildford in Dubai as Head of Inclusion.

A critical appointment, Head of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Mrs Sajida Al Bashir, brings 24 years of Arabic curriculum teaching experience to the school. Widely recognised in the sector for her inspirational teaching ability, the school aims to resolve the difficulties faced by many British schools in this complex teaching area. We have long argued that one of the core benefits of an education in the UAE for all students is an understanding and appreciation of Arabic culture and language. Universities, business and industry value this – and it gives students in the UAE a powerful advantage and differentiator over their UK educated peers.

Mrs Angela Sutherland, Head of Early Years, Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai, brings with her more than sixteen years of school leadership experience in Primary education drawn from both UK and Middle East schools,

Mrs Beckie Bennett, Assistant Head, Key Stage 1, Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai, has more than 10 years of primary, early years and sports teaching experience.

Mr Imran Akhtar, Assistant Head, Lower KS2, Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai,, brings to the school more than 13 years’ teaching experience drawn from both the UK and UAE.



Fees are Premium Plus, ranging from AED 75,000 in FS1 rising to AED 97,000 in Year 6.  Year 13 fees, on all-through opening and subject to increase, are projected to be AED 113,00. A 10% founding discount on the approved fees for 2021-22 sees the fee structure lowered to range between AED 67,500 at F1 to AED 87,300 in Year 6. The Founders’ Package includes a waiver of the annual IT fee for the duration the pupil is enrolled at RGSGD, a (one-time) Uniform Voucher which will be provided for each pupil, the provision of two school-led extracurricular activities for each pupil, and the inclusion of attendance at the Breakfast Club for every child.

Year Founders’ Tuition Fees 2021-22 Registration Fee
FS1 60,000 AED 6,000 AED
FS2 64,000 AED 6,400 AED
Year 1 72,800 AED 7,280 AED
Year 2 72,800 AED 7,280 AED
Year 3 72,800 AED 7,280 AED
Year 4 72,800 AED 7,280 AED
Year 5 77,600 AED 7,760 AED
Year 6 77,600 AED 7,760 AED

Read more on fees here. 


ECAs and Whole Child Development

ECA opportunities at the school we rate outstanding plus. They include:

  • Swimming (Hamilton Aquatics) – including Learn to Swim, Squad Swimming, Water Polo and Artistic Swimming.
  • Football (Manchester City Football School) including skills training.
  • Performing Arts including ballet, musical theatre, pop school, singing, drama and street-jazz from FS1.
  • Gymnastics (Absolute Gymnastics) including display, sports-acro and rhythmic gymnastics.
  • Piano, Music and Ballet (Melodica Music & Dance Institute) including ABRSM, Trinity and RAD Ballet.
  • Golf (Peter Cowen Academies).
  • Sailing (Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC)).
  • Horse Riding (Polo Club).


Learning more

Parents can learn more about the school from meeting Clare Turnbull, Head of Prep, The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai.

Appointments can be booked here.


Bottom line? The Verdict on The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai 2020-21

Campus of the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai

The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai is part of a growing global network of schools linked to the founding Royal Grammar School in the UK. These include RGS Guildford Qatar (which opened in 2016) and RGS Guildford Nanjing (which opened in September 2020). Further schools are planned worldwide. Two benefits follow for parents. First, this is a proven model. Second, the growing alumni network of the Royal Grammar Schools Guildford is exceptionally powerful in its reach.

Understanding the UK school requires a visit, but in terms of inspection results the scoring does not come higher from the UK’s independent schools’ inspectorate, the ISI. The latest report can be found in full  below:

Royal Grammar School Guidford ISI_Inspection_Report_2017


Bottom line? The founding home school achieves for its children – and in spades. The degree of success that will be achieved in transplanting the best of the UK home school to Dubai is something that only time, of course, will be able to determine fully. However, through multiple visits to the school and discussions with school leadership in both the UK and UAE, we are impressed. It is rare for us to be so confident about a school’s ability to deliver for students at such an early stage of a school’s opening – but what is being delivered here we already rate as outstanding.

What the school has opened with is the rare combination of outstanding school leadership, rooted in a flagship founding school; very significant investment in facilities (much here is in practice extraordinary) and an ambitious British curriculum (proven academically and whole child) rooted in hugely creditable values. It also offers something that many parents are instinctively drawn to – the prestige and security of a globally recognised school brand and its historic achievements.

Giving a final, meaningful verdict on any school at this stage of opening is not possible. However, on the basis of our many visits to the school and discussions we can confirm extraordinary levels of attention and care in the design and build of the school which already mirrors very closely the original plans and renders shared with us – and a steadfast, genuine commitment to delivering an outstanding-plus education for every child – one rooted in, and cognisant of the differences between children – and celebrating those.

Our meetings in particular with Clare Turnbull, Principal, David Baldwin, Managing Director of Cognita Middle East and Dr. Jon Cox, Principal of the UK school, are suggestive of a school that delivers highly on integrity, passion and vision. The commitment here is absolutely evident – and inspiring.

The bigger picture here is just how fortunate we are in Dubai, and the wider UAE, to have attracted Tier 1 schools like this for our children. Schools like The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai reinforce further the reputation of the UAE as offering one of the broadest and highest performing education sectors anywhere in the world. Parents no longer need to return to their home countries to access a world class education for their children – and dare we say it, many schools in the UAE today perform better (some significantly so) than their equivalent schools at home.

The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai delivers a no less than outstanding education for all its children. It will inevitably be different to the education offered at home – not just because the school will be co-educational, but, much more importantly, because the combination of the sort of banked historic knowledge, reputation and culture that this school brings to Dubai, in conjunction with the international dynamics of its new home in the UAE, will inevitably lead to the sort of magic that can only come from its being rooted here.

We know from our conversations with parents at the school and schools across the UAE that The Royal Grammar School started making waves. This was, some 10 months prior to its opening, the most talked about school in the UAE. Expectations for the school, inevitably, ran high on launch and since then the school has delivered on its commitments. Independent feedback from parents has been exceptional – and some of the most positive we have seen for any new school in the last decade.

Ultimately, however, the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai is not a page from Hello magazine. What really matters is how good an education it provides for all of its founding children and those to come in the years ahead. How caring the school will be – how happy its children will be – and how successful, academically and in their development of character, they will be. The rest …. bells, whistles and glass ceilings (however extraordinary they may well be), are just the icing on the cake. Everything we could have rightfully expected from the school at this stage of its journey are in place – and more. We expect this to continue as it gradually and sensitively opens to all-through provision in the years to come. The future looks bright. Very.

Watch this space.

© 2022. All rights reserved.

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Details to consider
2018/19 Overall ADEK / KHDA Rating

NA - school in pre-opening

2017/18 Overall ADEC / KHDA Rating

NA - school in pre-opening

2015/16 Overall KHDA / ADEC Rating

NA - school in pre-opening

Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review
Average Cost Per Year

FS1 60,000 AED
FS2 64,000 AED
Year 1 72,800 AED
Year 2 72,800 AED
Year 3 72,800 AED
Year 4 72,800 AED
Year 5 77,600 AED
Year 6 77,600 AED


National Curriculum of England
(1) EYFS
(3) A' Level

External Exam Boards


Number of A Levels offered

TBC. UK home school provides choice of 24 subjects plus.

A Levels offered

TBC. UK home school offers:
Fine Art
Classical Greek
Ancient History
Design and Technology
Drama and Theatre Studies
English Literature
Government and Politics
Physical Education

Number of I/GCSEs Offered

TBC. Founding UK home school provides 19+

I/GCSEs offered

TBC. Founding British home school provides extensive breadth of subject choice for students comprising:
Art and Design
Latin and Classical Greek
Design and Technology
English Language
English Literature
Additional Mathematics
Physical Education
Religious Studies



Value Added

School in phased launch TBC

Number of Students

Capacity 2100 -2200

Largest nationality teachers


Year opened

September 2021


Tilal Al Ghaf, Dubai



School canteen



Royal Grammar School Guildford

Web Address

• Outstanding school leadership with strong links to founding home school in the UK
• Proven expertise drawn from previous international school openings
• Outstanding historic home school with proven reputation for academic and whole child attainment and happy school dynamics
• Tier 1 architectural design with thoughtful and inspirational linkages to founding school
• Promised breadth and depth of British curriculum
• Extensive alumni network
• Tier 1 facilities
• Significant investment aligned with exceptional expectation


• The final shape of school provision will become clearer as it launches through its phases.
• No advertised scholarship or bursary provision to match home school provision – but these are early days
• The school has no published plans to offer a technical/vocational stream

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• The most talked about new school opening in the UAE for many years promises to set new benchmarks in British curriculum schooling. Everything is here to deliver, including a build that shines with imagination, the highest quality of facility provision, investment in school leadership and teaching faculty - and care to deliver on every front. Expectations run high – but this is a school that has the reputation, experience and heritage from its founding Tier 1 outstanding British home school to deliver. Watch this space.

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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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