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30 June 2016

Message from the Principal 

Wherever you go, there you are.

I don’t want to write this.
What I want to be writing about is how wonderful our students and staff are so I’m going to do that instead.
I’m also going to write a little about how far we have come from the pile of sand (quite literally) just over 2 years ago to the vibrant and thriving community we are now.
It seems so long ago but in reality it really wasn’t.
We are now members of COBIS, Cambridge and EDEXCEL centers, IGCSE world leaders, HSK approved, IB Candidates, League winners, Cup holders, KHDA approved, TV presenters, Leaders of marches, Julliard associates and a huge list of other accolades and accomplishments too numerous to mention.
In fact, when I look back at the promises we made to your children two years ago, and what the incredibly hard working and committed team we have here has delivered - I am, briefly, proud.
Sally and I recall from time to time the rather skeptical expressions on the faces of some parents when they came around the building during construction or met us at ARENCO towers in those very early days. Some took the risk that we would be true to our word and to them, we remain deeply grateful for their trust.
For parents who have only just recently joined us the story is different of course. Many of these new parents have been genuinely stunned when we have told them that this is only the school's second year of existence.
To both of these groups we all, the whole team, don’t forget for one minute the duty that we have to your children.
Education is hugely subject to the winds of intellectual fashion. This is unfortunate and normally I don’t address this fact in the newsletter, I tend to allow the very capable Ms. Lamb and Mr. Cullinan to do that.

But chief amongst our promises is that the school would be, and will remain, what we said it would be. This is not a simple proposition. Many of the things that now just “Are” were by design.
We are not a Bring Your Own Device school for example because it makes educational sense. At least in our opinion. The evidence that children should spend more time staring at computers doesn’t stack up. We made this clear to parents so that they had a choice. We chose to offer a wide range of languages because this is such a valuable tool for the world in which our children will live. Equally though we chose to add in a woodworking space because those skills are part of a well-rounded person, in our opinion. We could have put in another computer lab I’m sure but students are not lacking for computers…
Even such things as teacher choice, gender and age balance is considered. Little girls should not only see female teachers in particular roles. Little boys the same. Male primary teachers are important. One of the best teachers I have ever worked with was a male primary teacher who could often be found on his hands and knees working with the children at their level. He was also 6’2’’ and played Rugby like a monster…
The school's communications were similarly designed to bring parents into the process of educating their children. At least to the degree that they were able.
Many of these choices were made based on experience rather than research.
This might sound remarkable I suppose but my issue, as I have mentioned before, with educational research in particular is that one can find studies to support diametrically opposing views with ease. This gives a credibility gap that I find hard to reconcile.
As an example one person (John Hattie) who is always quoted at me by candidates for senior posts and Educational Consultants published a meta-analysis of many studies across the globe. He famously found that class size has a tiny effect on student outcomes but that quality teacher interaction does. I cannot overstate how often Hattie is quoted in educational literature and thought. I cannot, if I am frank, also overstate how often he is quoted by business people wanting to open schools and put upwards of 25 students or more into a class…
But to my mind Hattie has, like many in an ivory tower, missed the point. A teacher has finite time. They are human beings, passionate and committed to their work. With 20 students to divide their time between they will simply have more time and opportunity to spend quality time with each one than with 25 or more. This to me is common sense.
Personally I suspect Hattie’s figures were heavily skewed by very large classes in China where the style of education is quite different. The results are high but I was asked to work with Chinese schools on bringing in new methods of teaching to address the issues around this style of teaching. I think he’s wrong and that his conclusions are akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes and very convenient for those wanting to “cram them in”.
It could also be that I’m simply not clever enough to understand Hattie’s work.
Nonetheless we have 20 in our classes because we said that is what we would do, and it is what we have done and will continue to do.
I have taken a brief break just now to walk around our school. Today marks my last day as Principal, which is the reason I didn’t want to write this.
I know in my head that Matthew will do a fantastic job. In fact if I’m very honest with myself I know that in five years’ time our school will be better with him at the helm than it would have been with me. He is a very clever and very driven man with a far better head for detail than me. In my heart it is a far less easy place to be today.
But… This is a fantastic school. Not perfect I know. But I also know schools, I have inspected them for many years and this school is, in the real world, genuinely outstanding. It is also my baby.
It is very much more the work of many people and certainly not all my doing. It is so far from that that I often feel quite a fraud accepting congratulations from parents because so many people worked so hard and contributed so much of themselves that I feel any accolades should be with them.
I am happier to accept the criticisms for our mistakes in fact as these are far more likely to be due to me personally.
And yet, despite all the above, it is my Baby.
Like a parent watching their child step unsteadily into the classroom of a brilliant teacher I cannot help but feel a deep pang of loss…
My only consolation is that my most important role in the school, that of a father, continues and I Intend to make more of that role than I ever could as Principal. It is a real comfort to me that my children will continue to build their own lives here. I cannot ask for more for them.
As a teacher and Principal we see so much of families' lives, we are privy to many details of personal stories, both wonderful and sad. It is a privilege to do this job.
It has been a privilege to lead this school and to care for your children.
It bring me to tears to write this newsletter, even though I know it is the right thing for the school. I can serve best in my new capacity, there is no argument there.
Nonetheless, for today… I will say only “thank you” because I can find no other words.
Wherever you go, there you are. We are here together and our school is greater for it.
Have a lovely holiday and see you next year.
All the best
Mike Embley


Message from the Head of Primary 

Dear Parents,
Well we all made it to the last day of the school year!
I’d like to say thank you so much to all of our EYFS and primary parents for allowing us the privilege and pleasure of teaching your children this year. Secondly, a big thank you to all of your children for participating in everything that NAS Dubai has to offer with enthusiasm and commitment.
To those of you who are moving away from Dubai, I wish you all the best in the future. You will always remain a part of the Nord Anglia family and we hope to see you again if you’re ever passing through.
To those families who are returning to us next year, have a relaxing break and get ready to do it all again in August!
Have a fantastic summer, I hope you make some wonderful memories with your families.

Elizabeth Lamb

Message from the Head of Secondary
As we come to the end of another year I wanted to take this opportunity to give thanks to all the people who make this environment such a wonderful place of work.  Schools are places where every single individual has an investment, where all of us come together to ensure that our students have the most amazing experience that gives them the skills, the passion and belief to succeed in the future.
The transient nature of Dubai means at the end of year I will have to say goodbye to parents, colleagues and students.  This year I am finding it particularly difficult to say goodbye.  Unfortunately, we're loosing some fantastic families who I have worked with and enjoyed getting to know as individuals. I will miss welcoming them in the morning, seeing their familiar faces in the auditorium and sharing a coffee at Chatter Box Cafe.  To all families that are leaving, I wish you luck and please keep in touch and update us all on your new adventures.
We lose Ms Hassan, Mr Cahalane, Ms Swain and Ms Robinson!  I will miss them all, they all have exciting new journeys to take and I have thanked them all on behalf of parents, students and their colleagues.  They are all child centered practitioners who recognise the importance of personlised learning.  

Finally to the students, this is always the hardest element for me as the dream of any headteacher is to see them graduate.  I hope that they have benefitted from the experience they have had at NAS Dubai and again I wish them all luck with their adventures. They will always be part of ‘Team NAS’ and have all helped to create this wonderful learning environment.
We look forward to welcoming new students, new families and new staff.  I am very excited about the journey as we move forward to becoming a full secondary school progressing through to IB. Our Year 10 and Year 11 students will be sitting GCSE across the breadth of subjects and I am eagerly anticipating the promising outcomes.
I wish to finish my newsletter as I did with the awards assembly to students.  I spoke to students about kindness and being good human beings.  In a time of uncertainty our role in schools is even more important, not only with academics but also in nurturing the emotional intelligence and mindfulness in our children. You will see on our facebook page our new student video to please share and pass on.  We are proud to be a school that will not except any form of prejudice and our young people embrace the community in which we work and live. 
Have a wonderful break, look after each other.

Liam Cullinan

Video Link 



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