Inside the purpose-built Abu Dhabi school tailored to new era of education

An exclusive tour of the soon-to-open Nord Anglia International School Abu Dhabi

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One of Abu Dhabi's newest schools has been designed for a new era of learning, according to its executive principal.

Nord Anglia International School Abu Dhabi is due to welcome its first pupils at the end of August.

The final phase of construction is currently under way to ensure that it meets the deadline and opens on time.

The National was invited to take an exclusive hard-hat tour to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the new facility at Reem Island.

Being based in Abu Dhabi gives us a real opportunity for collaboration as it’s a place that celebrates identity and diversity
Liam Cullinan, Nord Anglia International School Abu Dhabi

“This is a school that has been built for the specific needs of the current generation of young people,” said Liam Cullinan, executive principal.

“We’re building a school that’s empowering young people to create change.

“We have a responsibility as teachers and educators to build an environment that does that.”

The school, which has a total size of 37,500 square metres, will be home to 112 classrooms, 20 of which are specifically for early year pupils, as well as six music rooms, five art rooms and media labs.

It has three swimming pools, the largest of which is 50 metres in size, and will even have a padel tennis court.

Mr Cullinan said the school is on course to open its doors to welcome the first wave of pupils in the new school year.

There is expected to be 300 pupils through the door for the first year, ranging from Foundation Stage 1 up to Year Eight.

Eventually, the school will have 2,500 pupils, with classes all the way up to those studying A-Levels.

He said the new school has been designed with modern education needs in mind, blended with a unique Abu Dhabi identity.

Inside Nord Anglia's new Abu Dhabi school

Inside Nord Anglia's new Abu Dhabi school

“We need to understand the pace that education is moving at and the need to offer a space and opportunity to learn,” said Mr Cullinan.

“Being based in Abu Dhabi gives us a real opportunity for collaboration as it’s a place that celebrates identity and diversity.

“Not only do we want to celebrate the diverse community here, we also want to create a place that encourages children to flourish and think outside of the box when it comes to learning, creating and exploring.”

Being based in Abu Dhabi’s Reem Island will also bolster the school’s standing, he said.

“If you look at the trajectory of Abu Dhabi and Reem, in particular, you will see a place that’s on a forward trajectory,” said Mr Cullinan.

“Reem is an exciting place to be and we are noticing more and more families are moving to Abu Dhabi.”

Lessons have been learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools across the world had no choice but to teach remotely, he added.

“We learnt a lot from Covid, not least the importance of human connectivity,” said Mr Cullinan.

“Now we are a global family and globalisation is something all of our children need to adapt to.

“I’m a dad of a three-year-old and a five-year-old and my eldest students could in 10 years’ time be shaping the planet for my own children.”

One aspect of education at the school will include ensuring lessons are designed around the interests of pupils to ensure they remain engaged, he said.

“We’re going to look at a child’s interests and ensure the curriculum is tailored around them,” said Mr Cullinan.

Ensuring pupils have the skills to cope in the world once their education ends is a key challenge, said a senior teacher.

“We’re trying to create a learning journey for our students that prepares them for the uncertain world they’ll face when they leave,” said Michael Connor, founding head of primary.

“We're trying to create a curriculum that meets the needs of our students and is contextualised for where they currently are.

“We also want to have facilities that ensure students have first-class learning experiences.”

Updated: May 28, 2023, 7:26 AM