DUBAI // As Barney Holt strolled the corridors of his new school with his parents, he touched every sculpture, stared at wall charts and took the front seat for introductions of teachers who will educate him every day for the next few years.
A Year 7 pupil at Dubai College this year, Barney, 11, tried on his uniform and met classmates and senior pupils a few days before the full rigour of classes began.
"It's really good to be here," he said. "Look at all the features, the basketball court - they even have cricket and rugby."
Barney was one of 130 pupils touring the campus on Thursday before starting lessons today.
"Coming in before the school year begins to meet up with the teachers and classmates reduces the pressure of the first day a bit," he said.
The session included activities for parents and pupils, who were guided by older students to different departments and classes.
The guides answered queries from the curious newcomers, trying to put the nervous group at ease with humour and small talk.
"We are here to help the new pupils and their parents with any questions or concerns they have," said Kate Ashwell, a year 13 pupil.
"I remember my first day and it is quite intimidating if you do not have someone to support you."
Kate said the event allowed the new pupils to familiarise themselves with the people they can approach if they have a problem.
"They should get comfortable with us today and it's always easier to talk to your peers rather than a teacher," she said.
Chloe Williams, 11, said she was not nervous because an old friend was also joining the school.
"We are looking forward to a year filled with work and drama," Chloe said. "All the teachers seem so nice too, so it's not frightening at all."
Martin Wooley, the head of Year 7, said the programme helped to strengthen communication between the school and families.
"It's very much a day for the parents and pupils," Mr Wooley said. "The parents form an integral part of their children's education and they need to know us and what we do."
After a break for refreshments, the pupils filed into the auditorium to hear the school's guidelines and a talk on time management.
They then took part in some team-building games organised by the senior pupils.
The activities included rolling up newspapers and stacking them to form the highest tower in the shortest time.
"This helps us bond and it's just basically to build teamwork and team spirit," Kate said.
Gigi Young, the mother of Claudia who starts at the college today, said she appreciated the session.
"The tour and meet and greet is a fantastic way to make the children comfortable with their teachers and surroundings where they will be spending a lot of their time," Ms Young said.
She said the school came highly recommended by friends.
"I know they are academically driven but at the same time they have a balance of extra-curricular activities," Ms Young said.
Omar Shams's son is already at the school and now his daughter is about to start there.
"It's good we were asked to participate as well," Mr Shams said. "We get to meet the other parents and the children get to make friends."
He said he was happy with the progress the school had made in the past 30 years. "It's very hard to get an admission here because it's one of the best, and there is a stringent entrance examination," Mr Shams said. "But it's worth it."