Now, as their inaugural academic year comes to a close, we visit the schools again, this time to ask their founding principals what they’ve learned and enjoyed during their first roller-coaster year at the ‘helm.’
Our third and final founding principal to, ‘take the WSA hot-seat’ is Heather Mann, principal at RanDBS- Jumeirah Park.
Describe DBS-Jumeirah Park in one paragraph?
DBSJP is a thriving, high performing, inclusive school, enjoyed by all at the heart of the Jumeirah Park Community. We have used the English National Curriculum and traditional British values as the foundation, enriched by the local culture and heritage of the UAE. Teaching is innovative, challenging and creative; based on best international practices and delivered by an exceptional team of caring and dedicated teachers and support staff.
Describe the last year in 3 words:
Pioneering, rewarding, exhilarating
What have you learned about yourself over the past year as a founding principal?
Despite the frustrations and challenges that come with the role of founding principal, I truly love my job. I am pleased that I still have found time to work with groups of children which helps to keep me grounded and in touch.
Are you ‘on-track’ with your plans for year one outcomes? If not, can you explain?
Yes, being part of a group of schools, backed by a strong Central Taaleem Team has enabled all our plans to come to fruition. Through a recent successful inspection we have learned that DBSJP was one of the most successfully launched schools in Dubai this year.
Have there been any surprising positives over the last year?
I shouldn’t be surprised by our students as they are all wonderful, but it is remarkable how quickly our children new to Dubai have settled, adapted to the culture and made strong friendships. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for! The Rhodes Dining Initiative has been a huge success too, Chef Gary has taken a very hands on approach during the year and we are pleased that he was keen to join our Advisory Board.
Did you experience things you didn’t expect/plan for? How did you overcome these?
Despite rumours of a difficult financial climate, DBSJP has continued to grow and be popular with new families to Dubai and also to families moving within Dubai. We have seen 25% growth during the year. Additional classes were resourced and opened with new staff deployed to accommodate this.
If you could go back one year in time and give one piece of advice to your old self, what would it be?
Never underestimate the time it takes to develop partnerships and trust with the community. The time invested in meeting people is well worth it and has the potential to create mutual understanding and unparalleled success.
What will be your primary focus for year two?
A primary focus for our second year is the opening of the Secondary School with the aim of building on the many successes of the first year. As an ‘all through’ school, we are planning carefully for a continuous learning journey to prevent the usual dip in student attainment that so often occurs at the start of secondary education when schools are changed.