Durham School Dubai, Dubai Investments Park 1/Green Community – The Review 2022

Schools Compared – 10 August 2022

Background and Location

One of Great Britain’s most prestigious and historic independent schools, Durham School, is to open in Dubai this August – bringing an alumni that stretches from the “genius” of Political Strategist Dominic Cummings, the man many see as the mastermind of Brexit, to Granville Sharpe, the 19th century anti-slavery campaigner and founder of Sierra Leone; Noel Hodgson, the First World War poet who lost his life on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916; and Geoff Parling, current England second row forward and British Lion.

On that note, the British founding school is also something of a giant in Sport, with a breadth of offer including the fifth oldest Rugby Club and third oldest Boat and Rowing Club in the world (dating from 1847).

The home UK school was founded more than 600 years ago in 1414, before being given the royal seal of approval with the awarding of royal foundation status by King Henry VIII in 1541. Parents can expect of Durham School Dubai something with all the cache of its founding home school, combined with the premium Tier 1 modernity of a 32 million square metre development in downtown Dubai Investments Park replete with state-of-the-art world-class contemporary design and facilities ranging from a dedicated English National Curriculum Foundation Stage, both primary and secondary classroom complexes, specialist Science, Art and IT labs, an acoustically designed music performance hall, Performing Arts and Lecture auditorium, multi-purpose sports hall and 25-metre indoor swimming pool.

Durham School Dubai launches initially to Grade 8, with Grade 9 opening in August 2023 and subsequent years opening in phased launch to all-through eventual provision of GCSE and a choice between gold standard A Levels and BTEC technical qualifications at Sixth Form.

The third of Durham Schools launched internationally (after the opening of Durham International School, Nairobi in January 2021 and Durham School for Girls, Doha in September 2019), the 1700 capacity, co-educational British school will directly serve the catchment areas of Arabian Ranches, Damac Hills, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Jumeirah Village Circle, the Green Community, Motor City and Dubai Sports City – but the pull of the heavyweight school is expected to attract parents from across Dubai and further afield.

Durham School Dubai Fees

Fees for a major British school name, after traditional Founding Discounts, are moderate with exceptional value in later years admissions amounting to around a third of KHDA approved fees.

YearAgeKey StageKHDA Approved Fees2022/23 Discounted Fees
2023/24 Discounted Fees
FS 13-4EYFS54,00042,60042,600
FS 24-5EYFS54,00042,60042,600
Year 15-6KS 169,00045,60045,600
Year 26-7KS 169,00045,60045,600
Year 37-8KS 275,00051,00051,000
Year 48-9KS 275,00051,00051,000
Year 59-10KS 275,00051,00051,000
Year 610-11KS 275,00051,00051,000
Year 711-12KS 387,00057,00057,000
Year 812-13KS 387,00057,00057,000
Year 9*13-14KS 493,00066,000

More on launch fees can be read here. 

School Leadership

Leadership is considered and serious in the shape of Mark Atkins, who today has been confirmed as the Founding Principal of Durham School Dubai.

Mark Atkins, Photographed at the launch of Durham School Dubai in March 2022

Mr Atkins brings to Durham School Dubai more than three decade’s experience worldwide across schools in the Middle East, India, China, Malaysia and Europe. Mr Atkins is best known in Dubai as the founding Headmaster of Repton Junior School Dubai, the first premium UK brand boarding school in the Middle East where he was architect of both the curriculum and assessment, and his board membership of Evolvence as Head of Academics and Education across Repton Dubai, Repton Abu Dhabi and Foremarke Dubai. Mr Atkins also brings with him senior strategic experience as the Chief Operating Officer of Repton International Schools, advising the Board of the founding school, Repton in the UK, on its international development strategy.

Mark Atkins, Founding Principal, Durham School Dubai positions the school very much in the context of the heritage of its founding British school’s values and commitment to developing each child as a unique, individual talent:

“At Durham School Dubai, it is our responsibility to develop successful, well-rounded, responsible and socially competent young people who will thrive in, and contribute to, the global community of the 21st century.

In pursuit of this aim, we are mindful that every child is an individual – and that every educational journey is different.

Every child is unique; they have their likes, dislikes, talents and personality.

By getting to really know your child, we help them to develop the skills, self-esteem and confidence necessary for future success – and thus produce thoughtful, happy, kind and well-rounded young men and women, ready and prepared to make their mark on the world.”

Read the official SchoolsCompared Interview with Mark Atkins on the makings of an outstanding British curriculum school in the UAE here. 

Headteacher Ms. C.J. Wightman, M.F.A., B.A., P.G.C.E. comes to Durham School Dubai from her role for three years as Assistant Head, and Head of English, at the respected Brambletye in Sussex, UK, a co-education day and boarding school for children between two and thirteen years of age. She is well known in her region for her former postings as Head of Year and then Head of English at Repton, Dubai before becoming a a founding member of the Prep department of Foremarke Dubai as well as being Head of English and Head of Year.

Ms Wightman read Drama at the University of Manchester and considered joining the legal profession and television production before finding her passion as an educationalist. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Manchester, been a Judge on BBC Radio 2’s ‘500 Words’ and is a published novelist. Ms Wightman is an outspoken advocate of children and tackling poverty in all its forms and is subject to considerable praise from parents in feedback we have received from her time in the emirates.

Impressive, courageous and inspiring, Ms Wightman ‘walks the walk’ – and has a history of working to help those in Kenya, facing poverty, a lack of nutrition and education through her contribution to URAFIKI, a not-for-profit that to date has secured the education of some 1500 children – and helped 15,000 elderly people access basic food and water. Her novel addresses issues of political oppression and empowering young women.

She is a keen swimmer and squash player.

Durham School in the UK – Motives and Ambition for Dubai Students

Kieran McLaughlin, Headmaster of Durham School in the United Kingdom, told SchoolsCompared:

“Following the successful opening of Durham schools in Qatar and Kenya, we are delighted to announce the opening of Durham School Dubai in August 2022.

With its strategic location, excellent facilities, competitive fee levels, experienced leadership team led by Principal Mark Atkins – and an uncompromising dedication to the quality of education, we are confident that Durham School Dubai will quickly establish a strong reputation.

When each and every young man and woman leaves a Durham School we ensure they do so with moral integrity, ambition, responsibility – and kindness.

Durham School Dubai – Official Prospectus

Planning for British Sixth Form at Durham School Dubai is already in place with development of both technical and academic stream qualification pathways including consideration of both BTEC and new T Level options.


Facilities are Tier 1 premium:

  • Independent Foundation Stage schooling
  • Primary classroom complex
  • Secondary classroom complex
  • Dedicated British Sixth Form – phased launch
Purpose built design sees a plethora of lightwall learning spaces in the school as pictured
  • Lightwall learning spaces
  • Science labs by specialism
  • Art space and facility and gallery spaces
  • Technology labs
  • Acoustically designed music performance hall
Landmark auditorium at Durham School Dubai with theatre AV
  • Large auditorium with theatre infrastructure
  • Multi-purpose sports hall
  • 25-meter indoor swimming pool
Shaded roofing structure at Durham School Dubai over the central atrium play area specially designed for younger children
  • Inspirational shade-sail play areas targeted to age

Applications and Contact Information

Initial information is available by email at admissions@durhamdubai.com and the official Durham School Dubai website here.

Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared Verdict Durham School Dubai 2022

The launch of Durham School Dubai is another chapter in the ongoing story of Tier 1, globally recognisable British independent school brands choosing Dubai. The winners in this are parents: increasing choice across a broad range of very high quality schools means competition for places – and the driving up of standards for children. Durham School Dubai follows on from the landmark launch of Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai in 2021, itself following in the footsteps of major British names finding their satellite homes in Dubai including Repton, Kent, NLCS and Brighton.

Stand-out in the school’s mission is to provide deep investment in the whole child across Sport and the Arts – and we find it creditable that, for example, in Sport, the focus is on inclusion for all children, not just the most elite and accomplished.

Telling is the school’s very early investment in developing Sixth Form pathways including technical and academic stream breadth of qualifications. This is a school set on the long-term development of an outstanding whole child education for all its students.

On graduation, students can expect to enjoy a formidable global alumni of Durham graduates with all the networking opportunities this brings.

One example of the calibre of teacher recruitment at Durham is Úna O’Driscoll, an accomplished teacher and educationalist, joining Durham School Dubai this August. Miss O’Driscoll is a graduate of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick City, where she completed her Bachelor of Education. Her areas of expertise are in Mathematics, digital technologies and wellbeing. She moves to Durham School Dubai from her previous post as a full-time Primary teacher and Assistant Principal in her school in Limerick city. She brings to Durham an associateship with the PDST in Digital Technologies, and expertise in Summer Camps and LEGO. Miss O’Driscoll gained a first-class honours in the liberal arts mathematics component of her degree and taught in the Liberal Arts Department of Mathematics and Computer Studies in Mary Immaculate College. She was the regional manager of Lego Education in Limerick and Clare, managing camps for children from 6 years of age to teenagers.

It’s early days, but stand-out, experienced leadership in the shape of Mark Atkins, evidenced consistently during our visits, is strongly suggestive of serious ambition here. This, combined with Tier 1 facilities, very early development of IGCSE and British Sixth Form qualification pathways, powerful investment in high calibre British teachers – and what is best described as a formidable ambition for every student to meet every ounce of their ability, talent, potential and vocation, makes Durham School Dubai one of the most inspiring Tier 1 Premium launches in recent years.

There is so much to recommend this school already in place – but the best is yet to come.