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Cognita follows Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai launch with shock takeover of KHDA Outstanding Horizon English School.

In a powerful vote for the quality of education in the UAE, Cognita, the UK-based global education group – and one of the world’s major educational conglomerates running more than 82 schools across 11 countries worldwide, has followed its launch of the Tier 1 Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai (opening in September 2021) with the acquisition of the KHDA Outstanding Horizon English School in Dubai from Al Najah Education.

More on the landmark September 2021 opening of the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai can be found here.

Horizon English School, established in 1989, is one of the jewels in the crown of UAE English National Curriculum founded Primary schools, with a stellar reputation for academic and whole child development. The story of how, each year, parents at the school clamour for the school to find a way to open to all-through provision to Year 13, has become deeply embedded in educational folklore – such is the love for the school by its children and families. The reality is that the school’s location and constrained footprint has never made this possible without it moving and opening at a new location.

The surprise move by Cognita is widely seen as a powerful endorsement of UAE education and, in particular, the role of the KHDA in establishing a framework for outstanding schools and inward investment. The news is even more positive given the impact of Covid 19 and its impact across schools and investment.

Cognita’s first move following the acquisition was to confirm with parents at the school that it would be investing strongly in “refurbishing and enhancing […] facilities [and] creating even more vibrant learning spaces for the children”. The commitment to invest by Cognita continues with a promise to maintain all agreements in place with parents on school fees and the contractual relationships with teachers.

Whilst not confirmed, it is likely that children at Horizon English School will now enjoy priority entry to the Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai. Historically, Horizon English School children have been welcomed by the spectrum of Tier 1 UAE schools, but enjoyed preferential entry to the all-through Horizon International School, this also owned by Al Najah Education. Horizon International School is not part of the acquisition by Cognita and, with the links now broken, it is likely that the relationship between the Horizon schools will now weaken.

The acquisition of Horizon English School by Cognita will be a loss for Al Najah education, leaving it with just two schools in Dubai, the aforementioned Horizon International and the Sabari Indian School.

It is speculated that one driver for the acquisition has been Mr David Baldwin, the Managing Director of Cognita Middle East. Mr Baldwin was the Head of Horizon English School between 2013 and 2015, a period which saw Horizon English School achieve the highest accolade of Outstanding School status from the Dubai school’s regulator. During our visits historically with Mr Baldwin, we found an extraordinarily inspired school leader with a deep commitment to the education of children both at his school and the region – and an inspired understanding of the dynamics of Horizon English School and its place in Dubai’s history of leading British schools.


Our review of Horizon English School can be found here.

More on Cognita can be found here.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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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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