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The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai, Tilal Al Ghaf 2021
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Background: The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai

The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai (RGSG Dubai) has now confirmed its opening in Dubai. The aim, to bring to Dubai families all the 500-year heritage of educational excellence of the founding school, is being fully managed by and implemented in close association with the British home school in the UK. The promise is of a very high prestige, genuine translation of one of Britain’s top schools into the international dynamics of the UAE.

RGS Guildford Dubai will provide an all-through co-education for boys and girls aged between three and eighteen years from Early Years Prep through to Secondary GCSE and Sixth Form A’ Level.

The flagship British curriculum school will open its new campus in September 2021.



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

On completion, the school will sit on an impressive 10 acre site, and will be able to accommodate 2,100 students.


The History

Established in 1509, RGS Guildford is renowned for its track record of academic excellence and innovative approach to teaching that prepares young people for life, whilst retaining its historic roots. 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.

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 will share 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, is 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.

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


School Leadership at The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai

Photograph of Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal RGS Guildford Dubai. Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai.

The school will be led by Founding Principal Mr. Craig Lamshed, who brings over 25 years of education and senior leadership experience to the UAE, including as a Principal in Dubai across British, UAE, International Baccalaureate, Australian and American curricula.

Mr. Lamshed has been a brand leader for Cambridge Schools in Dubai, a member of the Global Education Review and is accredited as a British Schools Overseas reviewer. He brings to RGS Guildford Dubai proven experience of founding a secondary school in the UAE, profound and wide-ranging educational leadership, including in Dubai, and a passion for excellence.

“I cannot wait to welcome pupils and parents through RGS Guildford Dubai doors in 2021 to what will be a fantastic school and an amazing educational experience for our community.

We have a genuine interest in our pupil relationships as we believe this is what promotes happiness and well-being in school.

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

Craig Lamshed. Founding Principal. The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai. 

Mr Lamshed will be joined by Founding Head of Prep, Mrs Clare Turnbull, who is transferring directly from the UK parent school.

Photograph of Clare Turnbull, Founding Head of Prep at the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai RGS Guildford Dubai

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 be bringing the RGS values and ethos to Dubai.

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

Clare Turnbull. Founding Head of Prep. 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. November 2020.

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.

RGS Guildford Dubai will open in September 2021, subject to KHDA approval and completion of construction at the campus in Tilal A lGhaf.


The Interview

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



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 would 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 follows:

RGS Middle School Curriculum 19-20


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

The Royal Grammar School Guidford 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).  and will be followed by RGS Guildford Dubai in 2021.  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 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 reort 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. What the school will start with, however, is the rare combination of outstanding school leadership rooted in a flagship founding school, very significant investment in facilities (much here extraordinary) and curriculum (proven academically and whole child) with something that many parents will be drawn to that other new schools simply cannot secure – the prestige and security of a globally recognised school brand and its historic achievements.

It is too early to put a price on this but expect Tier 1 fees.

Giving a final, meaningful verdict on any school that has not opened is impossible. However, we have visited the site and 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. Our meetings in particular with Clare Turnbull, Head of Prep, are suggestive of a school that will deliver high on integrity, passion and vision. The commitment here is 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 do not 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 than equivalent schools at home.

As it stands today, we expect The Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai to deliver a no less than outstanding education for all its children. It will inevitably 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 and schools that already The Royal Grammar School is making waves. This is already, some 10 months prior to its opening, the most talked about school in the UAE. Expectations for the school, inevitably, run high.

Ultimately, however, this is a school not a page from Hello magazine. What really matters is how good an education it will provide for all of its founding children and those to come in the years ahead. How caring the school will be – how happy its children. 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. The future looks bright. Very.

Watch this space.

© 2020 – 2021. All rights reserved.

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© 2020 – 2021. All rights reserved.

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

TBC - expected Tier 1 premium


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 2200

Teacher to Student Ratio


Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

NA - school in pre-opening

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


• New school still in pre-opening build phase
• Final shape of school provision will become clearer next year
• 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 BTEC 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 quality of facility provision and care to deliver on every front. The school’s leadership is already on the ground in Dubai and guiding the school’s opening – highlighting a level of commitment to the school’s success significantly ahead of the curve for a new schools’ launch. 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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