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Q+A: Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

Q+A: Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi is a co-educational school, providing a British-curriculum education for pupils aged three to 18 years. Here the school answers our questions and takes us on a guided tour...

What happens when prospective parents visit the school and when do the visits take place?

Before joining the Cranleigh community, prospective parents are encouraged to visit us for a tour of the campus when they will be able to meet members of the Admissions team as well as the relevant Head of School. Our tours actively encourage parents to take a look inside classrooms in order to witness our teaching at first hand.

We run tours during term time, three times per week as detailed below:

  • Sundays 8:30 – Senior School (Years 9 and above) Please come to Senior School Reception
  • Tuesdays 8:30 – Pre –Prep School (FS1-Year 2) Please come to Junior School Reception
  • Thursdays 8:30 – Prep School (Years 3-8) Please come to Junior School Reception 

A tour lasts approximately 45 minutes. We aim to run small group tours to make them as personable as possible, with no more than five families at a time.

We kindly request that you do not drop in as we are not always able to provide you with the best possible experience at the last minute. We run regular tours and we would rather you join one of those.

Please book onto the tour that is most appropriate for the ages of your children. Time permitting, we will be happy to take you on a tour of the other parts of the school, once the other prospective parents have left.

What facilities do you offer?

Set on the largest school campus in the city, we are fortunate to boast excellent facilities to support our busy academic and extra-curricular timetable.

At Cranleigh Abu Dhabi we house specialist facilities for Music, Science, Art, Design and Technology, Drama, Dance, and Sport, as well as state-of-the-art IT facilities, with the latest technology available for our pupils. Further campus facilities include a fully equipped 440-seat auditorium, a 100-seat recital hall, an indoor sports centre with gymnasium and dance studio, as well as two outside grass pitches, tennis courts and swimming pools. These facilities will be augmented with the addition of a full-size Astro Turf pitch and four additional tennis courts in future development.

The school’s state of the art facilities, coupled with its location – a stone’s throw from the Manarat Al Saadiyat and the Louvre Abu Dhabi – afford a unique opportunity for it to play a meaningful role in the emerging Cultural District. The school has forged strong relationships with leading cultural organisations, from Abu Dhabi Art to the Tourism and Culture Authority, and is also working closely with several universities, including NYU Abu Dhabi and Zayed University, to ensure it both adds to and gains from the Capital’s wealth of artistic and creative activity.

What is your teaching philosophy?

A child's future success isn't dictated by academic grades. When the ultimate goal is to produce a confident, well-rounded adult, there is much more to learn than just core subjects.

With GCSEs, A-levels and IB diplomas in such high demand, many schools focus predominantly on achieving the highest academic grades for their pupils. This, however, is not the case at Cranleigh. We are vehemently opposed to what can be referred to as “teaching to the test”; instead, we strive to ensure that all our pupils are offered a holistic education in order to prepare them for life beyond their school days, in a fast-changing, online world. “Not all children are Ivy League or Oxbridge material,” says Headmaster, Brendan Law, “and the world doesn’t need them to be. What it needs is a generation of assured, well-rounded, emotionally intelligent young adults."

Academic results do, of course, remain a primary driver for us and the first group of IGCSE results provide evidence of this. All ten students who took IGCSE exams last summer  — a full year early —achieved the top A* grade. Five of these A* grades were achieved in Maths and the others in either French or Spanish.

We are determined that a Cranleigh education will maximise our pupils’ academic capabilities, but our ambition is to give them more than just that. We want to develop their sense of enquiry, their interpersonal skills, their diversity and their capacity to manage time in this demanding digital age. We want our children to leave us as tolerant, confident individuals, capable of managing the pace of change that adult life will throw at them.

How large are the classes in your school?

At Cranleigh, we have an average of 18 children per class. In Pre-Prep there is one teacher and one teaching assistant per class. In Years 3 and 4, teaching assistants are shared. From Year 5, children are taught by specialist teachers and class sizes vary depending on the particular subject and stream a child is in, often they are much smaller than 18.

What is the teaching programme in your Sixth Form?

We are very excited to have recently launched our Sixth Form. Our first A Level students will commence their courses in September 2017. While the focus for these important years is firmly on academic rigour, the approach we are taking will further develop our pupils in a broad, non-traditional manner, ensuring they have the opportunity to deepen their critical thinking, debating and listening skills. The exams are important, there can be no denying this, but there is an opportunity to give students so much more during these last two years at school and that is what we plan to do by adopting Harkness – the innovative discussion-based teaching and learning method, first adopted in the United States by Phillips Exeter Academy in the early 1930s.

The Harkness method was inspired and funded by wealthy businessman and philanthropist Edward Harkness, whose own schooling had left him so uninspired that he made it his mission to bring about educational reform. Harkness is used in many of the top US schools and also at several British schools, notably Wellington College which adopted it in 2008.

Harkness places the onus on the student to prepare for the lesson and come to class ready to discuss topics in a collaborative, tutorial style that encourages and develops listening skills and interaction with other minds. It is an approach that helps students hone university-style research skills to better prepare them for the next stage of their academic life. The process ensures every voice is heard and valued and this helps to overcome the fear of being wrong. It is the students rather than the teacher who run the show. Teachers become facilitators, coaches and learning partners. Classes are small, typically groups of about 12 students, and are held at an oval table, allowing eye contact with everyone.

What additional help do you provide for children with learning difficulties?

Cranleigh recognises that among even the most able pupils, there are those who may struggle with specific learning needs. Similarly, some children with specific educational needs may have other talents and strengths to contribute to school life. In order to support those pupils, there is a Special Educational Needs department that operates within the school’s Mild Inclusion policy. Teachers within that department are specifically trained and experienced to provide individual educational support to ensure that every Cranleighan meets his or her full potential within mainstream education.

Whilst we pride ourselves on dealing with families on a personal level, on a case-by-case basis, a child that requires extensive one-to-one support is unlikely to cope with the rigours of life on our campus. We have the staffing to be able to handle mild to moderate learning difficulties that necessitate one-to-one tuition for up to 60 minutes per week and some in-class support for core subjects; anything more than that is likely to need more specialist attention. For further information regarding this, please talk to a member of our Admissions team.

How do you challenge the more able?

Our goal is to always ensure that all pupils’ academic needs are met, whether they require additional support or extension work. In the Prep and Senior School most subject areas are set by ability, resulting in levelled teaching within each year group. In addition to this, with a maximum of 18 pupils per class, our teachers are able to give each pupil individual attention to ensure their needs are fully met.

Outside timetabled lessons, we run an Enrichment Programme for pupils we feel need additional stretching. This programme is offered to high-ability, motivated pupils and involves bespoke sessions with an enrichment tutor and features three major strands: Academic Extension of the curriculum, Skills Development through extra-curricular activities and events, and a platform for Independent Study.

“The Cranleigh Enrichment Programme is a powerful tool in further challenging and developing pupils’ minds," explains Morgan Whitfield-Carney, Head of Humanities and Head of Scholars. “We bring in specialist knowledge through local and international lecturers to engage with students and spark debate and action, and complement this with a programme of trips, conferences and competitions that includes Model United Nations and the World Scholar’s Cup.”

But it is not only these enrichment students who are encouraged to think and learn beyond the standard curriculum. “Cranleigh is so lucky to be at the cultural and intellectual apex of Abu Dhabi, enabling it to utilise the people and resources on Saadiyat Island,” says Ms Whitfield-Carney. “Last year a group of our Design & Technology students had the opportunity to spend a day with the Experimental Research Department at NYUAD. Our Year 6s and 7s met with Saadiyat’s resident Marine Biologist, Arabella Willing, as part of a conservation project focusing on the Humpback Dolphins and the Hawksbill Turtle. And our GCSE dance students received feedback on their individual dances from world-famous ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta on the Cranleigh stage as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.”

What is your homework policy?

Homework, or prep as it is called at Cranleigh, is highly valued as a medium of work which is used to reinforce learning, develop skills such as time management, focus and discipline and encourage independent learning. In addition, prep provides a consistent measure of progress for the teachers.

At Cranleigh, pupils from Year 3 upwards complete a large proportion of their prep at school, in designated daily prep sessions which run from 15:30 to 16:30. We believe that children benefit from completing their homework in a classroom setting, with teachers on hand to assist, rather than at home, when they are tired. This then allows the pupils to stay after school for clubs and activities free from the pressure of pending work.

Can parents get involved?

We have an active parent body at Cranleigh. Each year group has at least two representatives who meet with school representatives twice per term. Furthermore, the school forms parent committees for specific tasks and events.

Parents work closely with the school in support of our National Day celebrations as well as an annual International Day, which is, in fact, largely run by our parental body who work together with fellow compatriots to showcase their home country’s culture, cuisine and heritage. The Cranleigh Community Committee works to plan and deliver charitable initiatives from bake sales to seasonal ‘Souks’ (markets).

In addition, we benefit from a number of parents’ technical and artistic skills in support of drama productions – specifically in the areas of costume design and scenery.

What extra-curricular activities do you offer?

The school’s activity programme goes beyond what is considered a normal school day in the UAE. From Year 4 onwards (optional in year 3), the school day finishes at 4.30pm to allow for extra-curricular activities to be incorporated into the daily routine. After 4.30pm, elective after-school activities continue until 5.45pm. The choice on offer is broad and changes termly. Activities range from golf to horse riding and dance to cake baking.

Do you offer the Duke of Edinburgh Award?

Yes, we offer the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, which is the same thing but in an international setting. The children will be using some of the skills they learn here on some of the outward bound trips that we will be offering, including Year 8’s trip to Nepal in June.

Do students have the opportunity to participate in Model United Nations?

Yes, along with World Scholars Cup and other local and international academic competitions. 

Do you offer Brownies/Guides/Cubs?

Yes, we offer Brownies which is hugely popular.

Do you have an annual production?

Our extensive performing arts programme allows students to draw on the valuable experience of performing on stage. Indeed, we actively encourage them onto the stage as much as possible in their time with us, whether it be in the performing arts or in other areas such as public speaking, debating or as part of an assembly.

The music department organises regular concerts, ranging from the Informal Concert Series to larger one-off events such as the ‘Create an Opera in Five Days’ event.

For those interested in Drama, this year will see five formal plays, including an Arabic and English play, The Musical and year group specific productions such as the Year 3 and 4 show, Alice in Wonderland. In conjunction, smaller plays will include House Drama as well as informal performances created as part of the internal Extra Curricular Activity programme. 

Dance is also a hugely popular medium at Cranleigh and there are plenty of chances for our dancers to display their skills. Last year our show, Dance Unleased, involved 113 students from Years 3–10 and we were also honoured to have ballet dancer Carlos Acosta lead a workshop with our Year 10 GCSE Dance students.

Do you offer Royal School of Music examinations?

Yes, however both the examinations and private tuition have an additional fee.

Do you have a school choir?

Yes, a school choir as well as separate Prep School and Senior School choirs.

Do you have a wide range of food options?

We have a food nutritionist who oversees all our menus to ensure pupils benefit from healthy and balanced meals. All our food is cooked and prepared on site in our two purpose-built kitchens. In our Senior School we also have a Healthy Eating Café, available for Year 9 + pupils as well as parents, staff and visitors.

All images: Cranleigh Abu Dhabi

To view the Winter's profile for Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, please go to this link.

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