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World Exclusive. Royal Grammar School Guildford UK and Dubai Go Head to Head. The Big Interview.
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Background. World Exclusive. Royal Grammar School Guildford UK and Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, go “Head to Head”.

Map showing route between London and Dubai and the Royal Grammar School Guildford UK and Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai

As an experiment, as we approach the launch of one of the biggest Tier 1, global brand, school launches in the UAE over the last 10 years, Johnathan Westley, Editor of SchoolsCompared.com, independently interviewed

  • Dr. Jon Cox, Principal of Royal Grammar School Guildford in the UK; and,
  • Craig Lamshed, the Founding Principal of Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai.

With the Royal Grammar School Guildford’s some 7 plus hours and 3,500 miles apart, neither the Principal of the home school in the UK, or the Founding Principal in Dubai, were made aware of the experiment in advance.

The aim? To help build an independent picture of the schools and, just perhaps, shine a light on what UAE parents can expect when the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai opens in September 2021.

There is no question that the Principal of a school plays an absolutely instrumental role in defining how a school will perform for children, its values and culture.

Royal Grammar School Guildford in the UK and Dubai compared by SchoolsCompared.com

However, we also know that the Royal Grammar Schools, in the UK and Dubai, are very intricately linked – this is a serious, high-integrity, values-rich partnership. The promise, for parents in Dubai, is that the educational philosophy and experience of students at both schools will share common ground.

We have deliberately asked a broad range of questions to try and capture the spirit of both Principals – and just perhaps the magic that will come from the partnership between the schools.

The result? You decide…

 

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK and Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, answer questions from the editor….

SchoolsCompared: What is the most positive memory you have from your own school days. How has it changed your outlook on what makes a fabulous school for children?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“My Biology and Music teachers were wonderful; enthusiastic, knowledgeable and great fun.

They both changed the course of my life by their passion.

A school can only be outstanding if it has exceptional teachers.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“A favourite memory of mine is my time playing trumpet with the Senior School Band and Jazz Ensemble. Being a member of the music programme was an amazing experience. I recall that we were fortunate enough to perform in Melbourne Town Hall, which was a big deal coming from the country. Being fully involved in the “whole school experience” made my time at school very rewarding.

Another is dress up day at Primary School, I may have been 8 or 9 at the time. I went dressed as a barber’s pole and my brother and his friends went dressed as a box of humbugs, all 4 of them in one giant box. I remember the fun we had as a family making our costumes leading up to the event.”

SchoolsCompared: What are the top five features of an outstanding school, in order, that must be delivered for every child?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Providing the best education possible for every pupil irrespective of circumstances.

A supportive community.

A sense of belonging.

Engendering a love of learning.

Providing wonderful opportunities.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

  • A culture of positive relationships between parents, staff and all stakeholders geared towards meeting the social and academic needs of each pupil.
  • Pupils’ happiness and experience.
  • Providing excellence in a diverse range of areas and pupil interests.
  • Providing the opportunity “for” and “love of” learning.
  • A drive to continuously improve at delivering an exceptional parent and pupil experience.

SchoolsCompared: What does the concept of a “whole child education” mean for you? How hard is it for a school to deliver at an outstanding level for students?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Caring for your students in every respect, academic, extra-curricular, well-being etc. so that they are fully prepared for the future.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Whole child education” means more than outstanding academic progress and attainment; it is about taking a genuine interest in pupils, their talents and their interest and then maximising every opportunity to develop these through rich and diverse experiences both within and outside the classroom and school. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that the level of the experience that pupils receive is outstanding.  Through being true to our values, hiring excellent staff, providing amazing facilities and partnerships, I firmly believe Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai will succeed in this area.

Another part of the school’s “whole child education” is maintaining our pupil’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing through the character development and pastoral care systems which have been designed to support every pupil; this will be supported through outstanding partnerships with our parents.”

SchoolsCompared: Girls are naturally better communicators than boys – schools need to recognise this and adjust teaching styles accordingly. True/False. If true, how?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Teaching young people requires energy, enthusiasm and inspiration whether boys or girls. Boys like competition and are, perhaps, more willing to take risks, which we can use in our teaching at RGS Guildford.  To be honest, I don’t see too much difference in the teaching of boys to girls.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Teaching should be such that we get the very best out of every child, irrespective of their gender. At Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, we pride ourselves on treating every child as an individual and working with them and their learning styles, to bring out the best.”

 

SchoolsCompared: “Chess is just as much of a sport as rugby. Outstanding schools recognise that the definition of Sport should be broadened to engage all students.” True/False – and why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Absolutely agree – I read out the chess results alongside the rugby results at assembly. Every activity has huge benefits for students and allows them to find their place in a school.  It is not all about the 1st XI or 1st”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“RGS is known for its sporting excellence and we plan to emulate this success in Dubai through providing a rich and diverse range of sporting experiences; this is very much dependant on each child and includes individual and team sports. Like the home school we will also offer a broad range of ECA’s that will cater to pupils and their passions.”

 

SchoolsCompared: Do you think students being “woke” is an asset?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“All young people need to be aware that things in this world need fixing and that many issues have been ignored or downplayed for many years.

They are, after all, the ones who are going to fix the problems.

Our job as a school is to help them see the bigger picture so that they are not focused on one issue to the detriment of their wider education.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“It is important that pupils are aware of themselves and the role they have in their own community as well as the international community. One of the goals of any outstanding education programme should be to make the world a better place and this is an integral part of our character education curriculum.”

SchoolsCompared: In rank order, which is more important: emotional intelligence, common sense or academic/technical qualifications. Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“They are all important but I would suggest that Emotional Intelligence is an essential skill in the world of the future.

One needs to be able to relate to others if you are to demonstrate your academic acumen.

That said, intelligence and creativity in terms of problem solving are often linked and that is equally important.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“I don’t believe there is a rank order. Through our focus on Quality Teaching, our Leaning Habits and Character Development program we will enable pupils to be reflective in different situations, so that they may effectively utilise their skills for the very best outcome.”

SchoolsCompared: Some students, even if given an outstanding education, will never be able to achieve academically. True or false. Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“False – achievement academically is not about passing exams and possessing a certificate full of A*s.

It is about being able to think critically, learn independently, work as a team, demonstrate resilience and be creative of thought.

Every young person can be trained in these skills.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“What is “outstanding” for one child may not be for another, it is not about comparison; it is about working with every child to enhance their talents, and abilities, in order to develop them as a person, while providing the best opportunities for success.”

SchoolsCompared: If you were a parent, what are the top 3 most difficult questions you would ask a school to find out if it was right for your child? What are the answers that should make parents run a mile?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“How will you look after the well-being of my child?

What is the culture of the School?

What are you trying to achieve for your students?

Any school which doesn’t have a very clear answer to these question should raise alarm bells.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Is the vision of the school shared between pupils, teaching staff and senior leaders?

How can the school evidence individualised learning?

Is the breadth and richness of the curriculum such that it enriches your child/children?

I would advise parents to run a mile if the answers to the above questions do not ring true to their individual child.”

SchoolsCompared: What makes a good teacher? Thinking about your school, what five qualities must a teacher have for you to be confident that they will deliver an outstanding education for children?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“A teacher must demonstrate passion, inspiration, engagement, enthusiasm and care.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

  • Their ability to develop excellent relationships with their pupils
  • An unwavering belief in their pupils
  • An undying commitment to providing an “outstanding” education
  • Always striving to be better
  • That they demonstrate exceptional curriculum knowledge, pedagogy and empathy

SchoolsCompared: How important is breadth of subject options at Sixth Form? Which subjects are jettisoned by some schools that you think should not be?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Breadth of options at Sixth Form is very important as every pupil has different skills and wishes.

We deliberately try to keep all options open regarding the less popular subjects such as Electronics and Greek as these have their own academic worth.

We [only] write the Sixth Form timetable once option choices are in to try to accommodate every students’ choice.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“The breadth of subjects is extremely important to pupils when it comes to facilitating future pathways.

I do not believe any one subject is more important than another, and as such it is important to offer as great a breadth of subjects as possible.”

SchoolsCompared: Will we still have GCSE qualifications in ten years’ time?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“We will have something akin to GCSEs but not in their current format.

It is important to provide opportunities for pupils to demonstrate their academic progress.

I would, however, like to see a paper either written or online which tests general academic ability, rather than testing memory.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“How long is a piece of string?

The GSCE qualifications have stood the test of time as a golden standard in education and are internationally recognised; however, education is changing rapidly, and it is possible that any one system as we know it today will be different in 10 years’ time.

Through the experience of the RGS we are confident that we can refine our education provision, irrespective of what the future brings, to remain gold standard.”

SchoolsCompared: If you were deciding the future of British education and could make three radical changes to help all schools deliver an outstanding education for the 21st century, what would they be and why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Post A Level applications to university.

A more tailored education for every student.

Less emphasis on league tables and passing exams.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“It is hard to improve on what is already highly considered the gold standard of education.

Outstanding schools like RGS are adaptive to the pupils that they have, that is they refine and adapt the curriculum, programmes and experience to maximise the opportunities and learning for the pupils in their care.

I would want all schools to take a genuine interest in their pupils, to personalise their approach and to support pupil character development; the same way we will at RGS Guildford Dubai.”

SchoolsCompared: Describe the top five things that make a Royal Grammar School education special/different…

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“We encourage independence of thought, the ability to think critically, self-motivation, the love of learning for its own sake, inclusivity and resilience.

These are at the heart of everything we do, they are not just words written as part of a marketing brochure.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“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.  Our Head of Prep Clare Turnbull joins us from RGS Guildford where she was a member of the senior leadership team for 16 years, 13 of which she was Head of the Lanesborough, the Preparatory School of RGS Guildford. Clare is joined by several members of the senior leadership team who have experience of the Royal Grammar School Guilford. In addition, the Headmaster of RGS Guilford, Dr John Cox will be the Chair of Governors of RGS Dubai.

Our pupil/teacher ratio supports personalised learning for all pupils in our care with a maximum class size of 20 in EYFS and 22 in subsequent years. This is about more than just ratio – it is about a commitment to each and every pupil: that our staff will know them, look in detail at their individual journey and support them in their progress.

Character development through the Riyada curriculum and our Learning Habits – we encourage our pupils to understand themselves, to understand how they learn, how to acquire the tool kit that allows them, as young people, to have the skills to thrive in an ever-changing world.  This then, in turn, allows our young people to understand and not be daunted by some of the significant challenges in the world. It allows them to understand how they can make a positive impact and become global thinkers.

Dubai’s newest state of the art campus providing cutting edge labs, light-filled learning spaces and amazing opportunities for Sports, Music and Arts!”

SchoolsCompared: British curriculum, American curriculum or IB curriculum? On balance, which is the best for the majority of students? Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“All curricula are good in their own way but the British education system is seen as the gold standard throughout the world and it is something of which we should be very proud.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Each curriculum has its place within the world of education today; each fits the needs of a certain group of pupils. The British curriculum has long been considered the gold standard of education, it is broad and individualised at the same time. Throughout, our highly trained team use the English National Curriculum as the basis for planning and assessment. We balance the richness of this curriculum with activities and topics that are led by the interests of our pupils. Young children connect learning through exploration, and our enquiry-based approach allows conceptual development to be encouraged through a multi subject and sensory approach. This allows the pupils to go far beyond the acquisition of knowledge and to develop the skills of critical thinking, creativity, risk taking, perseverance and teamwork through their investigations.  From the beginning we encourage our pupils to develop the ability to be organised, to reflect, to self-evaluate and so to refine their work and approach, thus making great progress.”

SchoolsCompared: What do you think is meant by a school providing an “international education”? Is it important? Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“An international education is about partnership, engagement in different cultures, sharing ideas across international borders and establishing a family of schools sharing the same vision and ethos.

Our young students will increasingly be competing for jobs in a global marketplace.

We need to give them the experience of global engagement and what better time to do it than when they are at school.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“An international education is one in which pupils develop an understanding and appreciation of what they are learning, how they learn, and how they think and relate in comparison to others in the international context.

This is even more important as cultures and regions across the world become more interconnected through regional hubs such as Dubai and the increased use of technology.”

SchoolsCompared: Inevitably, all things being otherwise equal, schools with higher fees will be able to invest more in students and deliver a better education. True/False. Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“True to a certain extent, although I have seen examples of an exceptional education in schools in some of the least affluent areas of the UK.

Higher fees, however, enable schools to attract the most inspirational staff and wonderful facilities – and opportunities are all part of providing the best all-round education.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Schools should endeavour to maximise the learning for all pupils given the resources that they have at hand, one of these will be the financial resources available due to school fees.”

SchoolsCompared: Is Value Add an important measure of how well a school is really achieving for students beyond the bells and whistles? Can you measure added value accurately across schools for the whole child education beyond academics? How?

 

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Value added is very important because it provides a school with the data it needs to confirm its educational provision or to seek ways to improve.

In the same way, data about emotional development and well-being (AS Tracking, for instance) provides information so that a school can be comfortable that it is identifying those pupils who need support.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Value Add is very important, this is fundamental to an excellent education. Parents need to know that the school is responsible for their children improving/developing and what this looks like across a range of different domains, including academic, pupil wellbeing and pupil engagement.  Improvement is just as important as attainment!”

SchoolsCompared: Can every child learn how to be confident, or can they “only” learn how to appear to be confident?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“You can’t change a student’s personality so don’t try.

Real confidence comes from excellent teaching and pastoral support.

It also comes from being comfortable in one’s own shoes and not having to conform to some stereotype.  This innate confidence is so much more healthy than a skin-deep swagger.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“Every child’s confidence can be developed; this is a not a have/have not scenario. It is important for schools to find opportunities across the whole school that support pupils develop their confidence. This is a key part of our Riyada curriculum – building strong self-awareness in every pupil so that they can be confident, make good choices, lead themselves and then others.”

SchoolsCompared: Is it better for students to leave school being humble, or arrogant? Why?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“Humble – every time.

It’s what I love about the boys who leave RGS Guildford.

They are right at the top of the academic pile and they have that innate self-belief, but they go out into the world exhibiting great humility.  They don’t think the world owes them a living just because of the school they attended.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

 

“Through our character education programme, RGS Guildford Dubai pupils develop confidence while being humble, this is a much better combination.”

SchoolsCompared: In one sentence, what would you like to have achieved for every student when they graduate your school for either university or business?

Dr. Jon Cox, Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford UK:

“I would hope that our students would be fully prepared with all the skills they need for the future, and looking forward to their lives after leaving RGS.”

Craig Lamshed, Founding Principal, Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai:

“To have provided them with the very best educational experience, knowledge, skills and network that will support them to successfully transition to the next stage of their lives.”

 

The SchoolsCompared.com independent review for parents of the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai can be found here.

A review of the Royal Grammar School Guildford in the UK, by our sister site Which SchoolAdvisor.com, can be found here.

© SchoolsCompared.com. 2021. All rights reserved

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

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