Updated October 2020 – Kent College Dubai, new school leadership, Expansion of BTEC, IB Career-related Programme ambitions, Scholarships and Schoolscompared.com verdict 2020
Background – UK roots in values and a culture of kindness
Opened in 2016, Kent College Dubai is the second campus of Kent College, Canterbury, United Kingdom. The school is insistent that it is neither a franchise, nor a school run simply under a brand – Kent College is the “real deal”. The school is managed in partnership with the UK as a second campus and the aim is that, to all intents and purposes, children attending the Dubai campus should experience the Canterbury experience – and changing between schools, when and if required, should be relatively seamless.
Culturally the UK context provides for a caring Christian family community based on a Methodist school foundation “with religious education a strong feature of the curriculum, whilst welcoming members of other faiths, and none, in a spirit of openness and tolerance.” The school’s motto is “Lux tua via mea”: which means “Your light is my way” and the school has 13 sister schools all connected by their Methodist foundations.
The school is known colloquially as “KC” and notable alumni of the UK school include the Conservative MP John Redwood; The (Labour) Deputy Speaker, Natascha Engel; composer, Raymond Yiu; Anthony Scrivener QC; Simon Dingemans, CFO at GlaxoSmithKline [GSK]; and, in a UAE twist, Tim Clark, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Airlines whose view of his experience at the school can be found in the video above.
In the UK, the Junior School, whilst providing for a natural slipstream to the larger Senior School, is geographically separate and sited some one mile away. The Junior school was founded much later, in 1946; Kent College itself, as a Senior School, has a history stretching back to 1885. All parts of the school will be within striking distance on the Dubai campus – an advantage over its UK sibling.
Kent College, both within its Junior and Senior Schools, achieves an ISI “Outstanding” rating in every category of inspection. This is the second highest award given by the ISI after the extremely rarely awarded “Exceptional” and inspection areas include governance, leadership, academic achievements, extra-curricular provision, pastoral care, teaching, learning and personal development and facility provision. Make no mistake, Kent College is an exceptional school by any standards.
There are structural differences, however.
First, in scale. The Dubai campus will educate over three times the number of children. In the UK, the whole school, Junior and Senior combined, educates just 700 children. In Dubai the eventual capacity is 2120.
The contrast becomes even more stark at Foundation Stage/Junior levels where in the UK the school educates only 170 children – in Dubai it will be more than six times larger with up to 1100 pupils.
Whether these dynamics will allow Kent to port its character easily is not by any means a certainty, notwithstanding a commitment to limit class sizes to 20 pupils.
Second, in Dubai, the relatively modest 13-acre (53,000 square metre) site contrasts with its UK sister’s 80 acres for the Senior School including the Moat Estate farm to which the children have access. In Dubai, however, a strong emphasis will be placed on the outstanding equestrian infrastructure afforded within Meydan City which provides some balance. Different also does not inevitably mean worse, and Meydan, in particular, offers in its Equestrian links a real positive over the UK school. The school’s owners, Meydan MHK Education LLC FZ, describe it as central to the larger US$ 70-80 million initiative to build “Nurseries & Kindergartens, a Primary and Secondary British School (K-12), a British Boarding School, and a Finishing School for Girls” within the broader framework of the Meydan City project.
Interestingly the UK school site brands the Dubai campus with almost equal weight to its home grown school on its front page and there is a real sense that the bridge between both schools could be greater than many of the school’s UK-UAE peers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Facilities at Kent College Dubai pretty much deliver on the original promise to be top tier to match the ultra-premium fee structure. They needed to be as Kent has launched into one of the most competitive premium school environments anywhere in the world, notwithstanding the shortage of places. Thus far facilities include dedicated EYFS provision promising “calm, beauty and inspiration”; separate dedicated Junior (aged 5 – 7 years, spread over two floors) and Senior Schools (aged 8-18) mirroring the UK structure; cricket and hockey pitches; a swimming pool; athletics track; netball and basketball courts; “beautiful” KS1 play areas; dance studios; large, comfortable and fabulously equipped 458-seat theatre/auditorium (on our visit Broadway musicals including Mama Mia were being rehearsed); food and nutrition labs; arts studio, music rooms; drama studios; Science Laboratories (Chemistry, Physics, General Science); Music Technology Labs; Design Technology workshops; Food Technology Labs; Health Suite; Fitness Rooms; and separate junior and senior libraries. The Dining Rooms have yet to be commissioned (PH7 will provide the catering in both the ground floor and 1st floor dining spaces when they come on stream).
The Sports Hall is large and contains bleacher seating as well as a dividing curtain. In total the area is marked out for 8 badminton courts, 3 Basketball courts and an additional court to accommodate Hockey, Handball or Football. Swimming is to be provided by M&S Sports, who will offer Football too. The Pool is 25M. Kent has already enjoyed some success in inter-school leagues and competitions. External fields cover a large area of the campus, and include a 2G Astroturf Hockey Court, a 4G Astroturf Rugby Pitch and Football pitch. The school is keen to develop Hockey (which is often not continued at Secondary, arguably because DASSA (the sport’s regulatory body in UAE) have hitherto focused on Primary school Leagues ( JESS, Kings, Kent). Kent are keen to develop Hockey at a more senior level if they can and have attracted Youth and Adult Hockey Academies with the indoor and outdoor hockey facilities they offer. Similarly they are keen to develop Basketball and may well be the only School in Dubai able to offer facilities for a Basketball Tournament rather than the existing League game options.
As of March 2017, the new Secondary School building had opened and now (2020) homes Year 7 – 13. Our visit to the school coincided with the children moving themselves to their new classrooms – quite literally transferring their own desks, chairs and books. The deliberate decision to give the children a sense of ownership in moving themselves is telling of the old school approach that echoes the pioneering spirit and culture of the founding school.KENT COLLEGE Dubai-Prospectus_Print-2017 compressed
A stand-out feature of the school stems from its being structured to offer fully dual-stream International Baccalaureate/A’ Level post-16 provision in due course. We have strongly argued that schools exclusively offering the IB Diploma can place too significant academic demands on children and the initial launch of the school to provide A Levels is we think a good one. The IB Diploma will eventually compliment this provision for the very brightest, polymath, linguistically talented children. Eventually too, we would like to see all schools, including Kent, offer a technical stream so that every child can have an education best matched to their skills. The new British T Level would be an interesting addition to the Kent curriculum when it launches in 2020. It will be interesting to see whether the school picks up the challenge.
More information on the breadth of GCSE and A’ Level provision can be found below.GCSE Kent College Dubai
Kent College Sixth Form
As of 2020, Kent College now offers a Level Three BTEC in Business, which has been timetabled such that pupils can and are encouraged to take the BTEC (equivalent to 2 A-levels) alongside 1 or 2 A’ levels. Breadth of subject provision has now been extended to include A-level Economics.
The school’s Founding Principal, Patrick Lee-Browne, was recruited from Rydal Penrhos – one of Wales top independents and a sister Methodist school with Kent. Instrumental in early-stage planning of the new Kent Dubai campus, he was an obvious fit and brings with him a reputation for getting things done. Mr Lee-Browne led the school after the Rydal and Penhros school’s merger, no small feat; is wedded to the cultural Methodist whole-child culture underpinning Kent; and his training as a solicitor gave him an eye for detail seen as critical in the launch and development of the new school.
In August 2018 the new Principal of Kent College Dubai, Anthony Cashin, joined the school. Mr Cashin brings with him more than 30 years experience drawn from across schools in Australia,Japan, Denmark, Thailand, Oman, Ajman and, latterly, as Principal and CEO of GEMS Metropole in Motor City. Mr Cashin has particularly expertise in establishing both the English National Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate in new schools and in ensuring that Arabic subjects are delivered with passion and impact rather than being just paid lip service.
Kent College Dubai Scholarships and Bursaries
Impressively, Kent College, like its UK founding school, is deeply committed to its scholarship provision at Sixth Form. The Kent College Scholarship Programme offers a 50% reduction in 4 areas:
- Academic Achievement. For Kent College Academic Scholars there is also provided a 1:1 tutorship with a member of the Senior Leadership Team throughout the lifetime of the Scholars education;
- Music and Performing Arts. For Kent College Music and Performing Arts Scholars there is also provided 1:1 mentorship and guidance with the most appropriate member of the Performing Arts Team that best fits the Scholar’s abilities, masterclasses and summer schools – as well as the chance of a scholarship with Urdang International – a top international Performing Arts conservatoire based in the UK;
- Sporting and Athletics Excellence. For Kent College Sporting and Athletics Scholars there is also provided a guarantee of elite sports development and sports leadership responsibilities. Scholars join the Excellence Pathway where individual and team based skill mastery sessions are combined with sports nutrition, psychological preparation and strength and conditioning. The most appropriate sports specialist will be chosen according to the child’s talents to guide and mentor the sportsman or women to reach their full potential;
- Arabic Studies (native and non-native). For Kent College Scholars in Arabic Studies there is also provided a guarantee of developing the language by having 1:1 mentorship with one of the Arabic Language Team, and school and Scholar led opportunities to further improve language communication level though sourcing specialist Language Summer Schools either in appropriate schools or universities.
The scholarship application form can be found below:Kent College Scholarship Application
Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com Verdict 2020
We think that Kent College Dubai has the makings of an absolutely exceptional school, but parents should manage expectations. Kent College Dubai will have its own culture and unique “way” and not simply replicate a mythical slice of “little England.” Nor should the school, or parents, want that. It is structurally a very different school, in a very different part of the world.
This said the very close relationship between campuses in Canterbury and Meydan, which is a transparently genuine one and heavily built into the DNA of the school’s founding, will afford students a tremendous opportunity to be educated under the Kent umbrella and, in years to come, join a body of very impressive alumni that traverse every corner of the world.
It is also a school gradually evolving into its buildings. Currently it has an extraordinary intimacy that comes with its relatively small founding role. There is a real, palpable sense that children and faculty are working together to create the school.
The underpinning of the UK school too should afford prospective parents significant confidence in applying to the school in its early journey, notwithstanding that they should expect the inevitable teething issues of any new school. That brings with it exactly the pioneering spirit, and opportunity to shape the school, that later generations of children will not enjoy to such an extent.
We left the school after our last visit with a sense that an already rich and vibrant school so early in its life has the makings of a very special one for the Emirates in the years to come. This is a school with a definite “wow!” factor – not simply because of the facilities, as exciting as they are, but, much more importantly, because of the dynamic and inspirational working together of the school, its faculty and the children they serve.
There is so much potential here. We particularly praise the school for the planned dual stream A Level and International Baccalaureate Career-related programme Sixth Form. This will be a first in the UAE and we think will be an outstanding offer for young men and women. We rate the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme very highly, as on par with the International Baccalaureate Diploma – and a fabulous alternative to A Levels for students with a mix of academic and technical interests, ability, potential and career aspirations.
The IB CP programme, like A levels, opens doors to all the Tier 1 universities worldwide and is arguably the most accomplished of all the technical university pre-qualifiers worldwide. One key test for us of a school’s genuine breadth of subject offer, and this commitment to inclusion and meeting the needs of all children, is the provision of both technical and academic streams for children.
The commitment to scholarships provision is another stand-out feature of the school – and probably the most thoughtful of any Scholarship Programme in the UAE. The fee remission element is generous – but it is the parallel, highly personalised programmes of enhanced mentoring that come with scholarships that makes these so attractive and impressive.
The launch of BTEC is also hugely creditable.
Feedback from the school we have received is mirrored by that of our sister site, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com – outstanding. From a standing start this is a school that has won the affections of faculty and parents quickly and powerfully. Parents should note that grading of the school as “Good with Very Good Features” by the Dubai Inspectorate of Schools is a creditable verdict for any school’s first inspection.
With new schools we are generally hesitant in our recommendations, but it would be churlish in this case not to heap praise where it is clearly due. So much has been achieved in such a short space of time – and the potential and investment is clearly here in spades to move forward. The next real test, for us, will be the introduction of the IB CP. Now that will be groundbreaking. Watch this space.
Good with Very Good features (First inspection)
NA - new school
NA - new school
NA - new school
YEAR 1: 58,000
YEAR 2: 69,000
YEAR 3: 69,000
YEAR 4: 74,000
YEAR 5: 74,000
YEAR 6: 80,000
YEAR 7: 80,000
YEAR 8: 86,000
YEAR 9: 86,000
YEAR 10: 92,000
YEAR 11: 92,000
YEAR 12: 98,000
YEAR 13: 98,000
National Curriculum of England
(3) A Level
(4) Aims to to introduce the International Baccalaureate in the Sixth form as and when pupil numbers allow.
Design & Technology: Product Design
Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
BTEC Level 3 Business
A* - B: 71%
(1) 100% pass rate
A*C (4 - 9): 95.9*
(1) Pass (1 - 9): 100%
A* (8-9): 24.8%
A*A (7-9): 47.9%
Highest grades achieved by an individual student: 2 9s, 5 8s and 1 7
English (Language and Literature) (Core)
Islamic Studies (non-examined)
Design & Technology
Current role: 809 (September 2018)
(1) EYFS = 130
(2) Junior School = 420
(3) Senior School = 259
(1) Senior School - 1:8
(2) Junior School - 1:13
Meydan City, Nad Al Sheba 3, Dubai
International, representation from 69 countries
Meydan MHK Education LLC FZ / Mir Hashem Khoory (MHK) Group
(Independently managed by Kent College, UK (non-franchise)
+971 (4) 318 0700
• High cache brand
• Genuine UK independent port to Dubai – "not a franchise"
• Stellar backing of Meydan and Mir Hashem Khoory LLC (MHK)
• Potential for seamless transition between UK and Dubai campuses
• ISI "Excellent" school foundations across the board
• Strong leadership grounded in the Methodist tradition underpinning Kent culture
• Tier 1 facilities
• Outstanding scholarship programme
• Evolving BTEC Programme
• Strong and evolving subject breadth to ensure that Kent College can meet the needs, ambitions, interests and potential of the broadest range of children.
• Premium plus fees – hugely competitive market in which schools need to be more than exceptional
• Inevitably something of an unknown quantity and parents will need to balance risk and opportunities of a new school in the balance
• Fees significantly increase in later years
• Advertised sibling discounts are not as generous as other schools