Ramdan Kareem from AbuDhabiWeek.ae


Monday, 23 April 2012

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Parents and students welcomed at inaugural reception


All the staff at Brighton College

With the new school year about to start, preparations are in full swing at Abu Dhabi’s newest addition, Brighton College, to welcome its first batch of students on Tuesday 13th September.

Abu Dhabi Week was lucky enough to have been invited along earlier this week for a sneak preview of the school’s state-of-the-art facilities with its headmaster, Mr Brendan Law.

A year on from our last meeting we couldn’t believe the transformation on site. For the past nine months 1,300 workers have been working in shifts for 24 hours to get the school finished on time, and to the highest specifications, and their hard work shows.

With a grand entrance gate, flanked by palm trees and a grass amphitheatre fronting the enormous glass atrium of the reception hall, this is not like any school we’ve ever walked into. The glass lifts ascending from the lobby would look more at home in one of the many five star hotels dotted around the city, but here they are at Brighton College, ready to whisk any physically challenged students off into the vast network of corridors hovering above.

“This is where we’re planning to host parents on Thursday [8th September] for a relaxed welcome reception,” said Law. “Then the students will be invited back in small groups for orientation days next Sunday and Monday, with school officially starting on Tuesday.

“We wanted the students to acclimatise to their new surroundings and allow their parents time to ask any questions that might still remain unanswered.”


Headmaster, Brendan Law with his own children

We can certainly see why the students may need time to orientate themselves as just a few minutes into our tour we’ve already lost our sense of direction. A quick look into a few of the classrooms and pastoral areas though and we begin to feel more relaxed. Each room is built to cater to small groups of students, fitted out with the latest technology, and common room areas are stuffed full of comfy sofas and personal lockers to allow students their own space, away from the classroom.

“Although Brighton College isn’t going to be a boarding school in the traditional sense, we’re following a traditional model of placing the students in houses,” said Law. “Each house will have its own common room area, and students will be assigned personal tutors within these houses whom they can then go to with any academic and personal queries or concerns.

“The common room areas will be a place where the students can create their own atmosphere and relax in more comfortable surroundings. We’ll start with four houses – all named similarly to their counterparts in the UK – which will be sorted by year groups to start with. Eventually we’re hoping to have around ten.”

Each of the school’s students will also have access to an impressive array of extra-curricular activities, with more than 100 on offer, including horse riding, ice skating and sailing. Though many of these will take place off site, the majority will take advantage of the tremendous array of facilities on offer at the school, including swimming pools, football pitches and the aforementioned amphitheatre for those who want to be outdoors. Students can also enjoy the fully equipped arts wing, with its own art studios and gallery, music rooms and recording studios, drama and dance areas, plus a fully operational theatre (with the largest projector screen at any school in Abu Dhabi – or so we’re told!)

We particularly liked the plans for a school greenhouse, which will be housed in an enormous atrium overlooking one of the site’s many courtyards. Eventually intended to be the school’s own version of Cornwall’s Eden project, students will be able to enjoy biology lessons in the proper surroundings. And with each of them having access to a laptop and WiFi, the walls of the classroom no longer present a boundary.

And it seems the teachers are just as excited as the students about starting school next week.

“I’ve moved from Fujairah to start here so I’m a little dazzled by it all at the moment,” said Stephen Deady, year four teacher. “I love the greenhouse, and I can’t wait to get into the classroom and see the students’ reaction to the place.”

Paula Cumming, an Abu Dhabi veteran and year four teacher was just as vocal: “I’ve taught in a number of schools in Abu Dhabi, but I’ve never seen anything on this scale.

“We’ve been meeting for the past two weeks to discuss plans for the first year, but I can’t wait to actually get into the classroom and see all of these enormous corridors full of kids.

“The chance to be involved in a project like this, where we can create something really special from scratch is a real privilege, and we just can’t wait to get started.”

William Blake, who has joined from Brighton College UK, said: “I’m very excited to continue my career in the Brighton College family of schools, the excellence that is resulting in the top co-education results in the UK is sure to be continued here in Abu Dhabi.”

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