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Brighton College Dubai, Al Barsha South

Brighton College Dubai, Al Barsha South

by Jon WestleyDecember 21, 2016

• Outstanding UK parent
• Proven experience of delivering Very Good schools in the Emirates
• Brand
• Academic results
• Impressive SEND capacity and provision for academic students
• Leadership structure designed to provide clear, separate and targeted educational and whole child provision at key phases
• UK parent controls in place to protect quality


• Significant planning still underway
• Hugely competitive Tier 1 landscape
• Some parents may question the need for any shared facilities (although we are clear that the school is self-contained)
• How Brighton can set itself apart in this sector will lie in the detail ahead

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“Brighton’s reputation is built upon offering its pupils an innovative curriculum and outstanding pastoral care in their pursuit of academic excellence, all underpinned by a passionate belief in the importance of the individual.

Every child in the Brighton College family of schools is valued for his or her own sake, encouraged to develop his or her talents to the full in a community where there are no stereotypes and where every achievement, however small, is noticed.” Ian McIntyre, Director of Schools, Brighton College International Schools



Founded in 1845, Brighton College (UK) is a top-tier UK independent secondary day and boarding school offering a British curriculum through to GCSE and A’ Level. The school has a reputation for being forward thinking, even some say radical, within the context of its competing framework of other top, mostly conservative, British public schools. More on this below.

The school was named the UK Independent School of the Year in 2014 in the Independent School Awards and the Sunday Times Independent School of the Year 2012. Its current Head, Richard Cairns was named by Tatler as England’s Headmaster of the Year in 2012. Academically it is top-10 in the UK

Brighton College is adjacent to its own Preparatory school educating children between 8 and 13 and a nearby pre-prep for younger children between 3 and 8. The Dubai campus will, combine the ambitions, specialism and ethos of each of the schools by phase in all-through provision but will not offer boarding. However, prospective parents should note that the Brighton Schools in the UAE have a very unique way of protecting the benefits of this structure within an all-through school – again, more on this below.

The planned Brighton College Dubai (BCD) will be a new FS1 to Year 13, British, English national curriculum school. Set to open in 2018, BCD will give the Emirate its own sister of the flagship Tier 1 UK independent after its first branch openings of Brighton College Abu Dhabi in 2011, and Brighton College Al Ain in 2014. Both existing schools are rated Very Good, or A2 by the Abu Dhabi inspectorate. Our review of Brighton College Abu Dhabi can be found here.

It is worth noting that, in 2014, Brighton College Al Ain was awarded the highest grade ever achieved by a new school in Abu Dhabi, something that augurs well for the Dubai opening.


What the Brighton College brand means in practice for Dubai

The new 40,000 plus square metre, 10-acre campus will be home to a mixed co-education boy and girl role and, as with the UK school’s first two Colleges, be launched with very significant controls in place to ensure the quality of provision and the fundamental ethos guiding the new school. It is worth quoting directly the confirmation SchoolsCompared has received directly from the UK parent:

“The Governors of Brighton College concluded eight years ago that a Brighton College education was something that local and expatriate parents overseas would find appealing and so set about establishing its network of international sister schools.

It established Brighton College International Schools (BCIS) to manage their development and to ensure compliance with Brighton’s school operating standards.

Brighton UK selects the head of each sister school and helps to appoint the initial senior management and academic staff.

BCIS works closely with the Heads and senior teams of each school to ensure that they are able to develop as authentic sister schools of Brighton College in the UK, sharing its ethos and values, and delivering an outstanding education that will enable Brightonians to access the world’s leading universities. Ian McIntyre, Director of Schools, Brighton College International Schools.

Prospective parents should note the expertise of Brighton College in opening new schools also now extends to an extraordinary 20-acre all through school, Brighton College Bangkok, which opened to pre-prep phase in September 2016.

Brighton’s motivation in broadening international access is driven by three passions: to enable the College to offer Bursaries for those otherwise unable to afford fees; to accelerate the UK school’s building programme to further enhance facilities for children; and to establish a significant endowment fund for future generations of children.

Whilst not yet published, we expect Brighton College Dubai to establish a bursary programme on launch, this intrinsically part of the UK school’s ethos and cultural dynamics. We will update parents on this as we learn more.


Unique features

Prospective parents should note that one of the very unique and special features of Brighton schools in the Emirates, and one designed to replicate the feel, ethos and achievements of the UK parent schools, is their choice to divide each phase schooling with its own Head. This is an expensive investment to make, but what ensures is that each phases school life is designed around the needs of children at their respective ages. In practice this means that each school has three Head of Schools falling under a single guiding Principal.

There are some other really interesting features of the UK school, some of which will not probably travel to the Emirates, which are important for prospective parents to be aware of because they go to the heart of the meaningful ways Brighton’s reputation in the UK is designed around each child – and often at odds with the sometimes stifling conservatism of other Tier 1 old British public schools. Examples of these include Brighton’s very different approach in its early years saw a ban on corporal punishment and the idea of true democracy extended from student election of the Head Boy to choice of Captains in school teams – and even sport remained voluntary. This did change later, but arguably that liberal child-centric remains definitive of the school.

Modern examples of this include the decision in 2016 to allow choice for all students, boys and girls, of which uniform to wear that best represents them to respond to gender dysphoria;  and the school’s passionate arguing for co-educational education on the grounds that girls in particular may suffer difficulties forming relationships with boys later as a result of being schooled separately.

Whilst it is difficult to read into existing schools the degree to which UK culture travels, both of Brighton’s existing schools in the UAE are graded Outstanding in their personal development of children and broader student care and welfare.

Parents should arguably not expect mirror images of the UK schools but, rather, successful melding of East and West and seamless integration and appreciation of the cultural context of the UAE and broader Arabic culture, language and history. Both schools are notable in this regard for their outstanding (150 activity-strong) ECA programmes, and Social Studies programmes, both of which go beyond academics in developing the whole child in a broader context.

One unknown at present is who will lead the new school and we expect an announcement of the new Principal in 2017.


Facilities and fees

Again, if we look at existing provision within the two current Brighton schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, the promise in Dubai is of Tier 1 outstanding facilities. We can expect too that Brighton College Dubai will have learned from the previous schools some obvious pitfalls. Both existing schools in their development and opening, for example, paid too little attention to the importance of shaded areas for children, and we can expect the new campus to have none of these sorts of teething issues and, probably even beyond this, to actually build on the strengths of what it has learned works in the new school.

Facilities that have been confirmed as being in place to include a dedicated Learning Resource Centre; iconic back box theatre for performances; sports hall; outdoor pitches; games courts and a swimming pool. We anticipate the pool will be at least 25M and we are awaiting confirmation of this.

Two “big ticket” facilities will be shared with Dwight school an adjacent all-through IB school opening simultaneously with Brighton which we review here – a 600-seat auditorium (for showcasing performances by both schools to larger audiences) and an IAAF standard running track.

Brighton School Dubai has strongly emphasised to us that it is an “entirely stand-alone” school and that these “shared facilities” are more “icing on the cake.” In the majority, prospective parents should understand that the school will leverage its own outstanding blackbox theatre and own internal sports facilities. This is a self-contained Tier one premium school from design to delivery and it would be misleading to look at the school as just one hub of a super-campus.

One factor we would note with regards to the new Dubai school is that it has the space to ratchet-up (outstanding) facility provision still further, particularly compared with the Abu Dubai school which is somewhat constricted by its city centre location. It is worth bearing in mind that we are expecting premium fees for the school, and year-on-year the competition at this end of the market is increasing – and parents’ expectations of what they can expect ever more demanding. Brighton will need to pull some “rabbits out of the hat” if it is to compete – and these will need to be planned now.

As it stands, with fees ranging between 48,500 AED at FS1 and 74,100 AED in Year 13, Brighton is competing in Abu Dhabi at the very top end of the premium fees sector in Abu Dhabi and in its fees above very high performing British schools including the British International School (with fees between 47,900 and 63,000 AED) reviewed here and Al Yasmina (with fees between 41,580 AED and 57,330 AED) reviewed here. Only a limited number of schools, including Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, with fees ranging from 65,000AED to expected 100,000AED at Year 13, reviewed here, are pitching much above this.

It will be interesting to see in the highly competitive Dubai context, where Brighton will position itself with the premium and ultra-premium sector, particularly given that its British parent is one of the most expensive independents in the UK. Prospective parents should expect Dubai fees to be up to 1/3rd higher than their Abu Dhabi counterparts.


Our view

Brighton is one of those schools that should find its natural fit in Dubai. It is also a school that, even given the understandable dearth of information available to us at such an early stage, we believe should give prospective parents some confidence in shortlisting. The Abu Dhabi and Al Ain schools are genuinely impressive – and can be visited today to accurately gauge the type of atmosphere and ethos that will play out in Dubai.

However, Brighton is an academically selective school. It has proven itself in both of its existing schools to be genuinely committed to investment in, and delivery of outstanding provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – and English as an Additional Language (EAL). However, it is selective too in those children it will accept with special needs – and all children must pass its entrance examinations and testing at the same standard. Prospective parents of children with academic potential at the least should be looking at Brighton and it may not prove the best fit for less able, or mixed ability children. This explains why currently its schools do not provide for alternative more vocational post-16 curricular including BTEC.

Whilst it is early days, we have no doubt that Brighton College Dubai will make a strong impact in the Emirate’s Tier 1 educational provision – it may set one or two new benchmarks too. However, competition is very intense in this sector, and Brighton College Dubai, to set itself apart, would probably do well to work out how it can best leverage the radical differentiators of its UK school better in the UAE so that it can really, and very clearly, set itself apart from that competition for parents. Watch this space.

Details to consider
Type of school

Private, for-profit

Full WSA Review

News: Go
Coming soon: Go

Average Cost Per Year

Not published


National Curriculum for England

Number of A Levels offered


A Levels offered

Drama and Theatre Studies
Business Studies
Government & Politics
Design & Technology
Further Mathematics

A Level A* to A

(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 72% A*B

A Level A* to C

(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 100% A*E


(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 97%
(2) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 88% A*B


(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 64%
(2) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 37% A*

Number of I/GCSEs Offered


I/GCSEs offered

English Lit
English Language
Design & Technology



Waiting list


Value Added

Not published

Number of Students


Teacher to Student Ratio

(1) Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi benchmark: 1:10

Largest nationality teachers


Teacher turnover

(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: 25%

Year opened

September 2018


Al Barsha South, Dubai

Student composition

(1) Brighton College Abu Dhabi benchmark: British (largest nationality)


Mixed, co-educational

School canteen



Brighton College International Schools
Bloom Education master lease

Admissions Telephone

+971 (0)2 815 6504 (Brighton College Abu Dhabi)

Web Address

Coming soon

About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Acting Editor of and the International Editor of You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]
  • Kylin Wang
    March 26, 2017 at 9:40 am

    How can I apply to this school if I am currently a 10th grader in an American-Curriculum-based international school in Beijing? Is there a legitimate way to do that?

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