Over Dh100,000 fees, custom menus: Inside one of Dubai's most expensive schools

Despite the high tuition fees, the school is operating at full capacity, with students now on a waiting list


Nandini Sircar

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KT Photos: Muhammad Sajjad
KT Photos: Muhammad Sajjad

Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 May 2024, 11:20 PM

From a special chef team that customizes the menu to lavish graduation ceremonies at Dubai Opera, one of the most expensive schools in Dubai lays out the red carpet for its students.

With a school fee exceeding Dh100,000 for Year 13, Repton School Dubai, situated in Nad Al Sheba 3, is the first UK-branded international school to commence operations in the UAE.

Notably, despite the high tuition fees, the school is operating at full capacity, with students now on a waiting list, according to the principal.

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Visiting the school may feel like a magical experience, with its turrets, portcullises, and palm trees, however, the eye-watering fees charged by the institution are likely justified by its ability to maintain an 'Outstanding' rating from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) since 2014.

Other schools in a similar fee range include North London Collegiate School Dubai, Gems World Academy, Swiss International Scientific School Dubai, Kent College Dubai, and Nord Anglia International School Dubai.

On Monday, Khaleej Times had the opportunity to tour this facility and learn about the metrics distinguishing it as a stand-out, top-tier school.

World-renowned tennis academy

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Principal, Gillian Hammond, said, “Our growth year-on-year, for three years now, has been 17 per cent and we're almost at capacity now. So, we're starting to get waitlists. Even when Dubai went through that big boom last year of 12 per cent, we still had a 17 per cent growth, which is phenomenal. We have students from all over the world. It was also voted among the top ten tennis academies in the world… that’s the Emilio Sanchez Academy that opened on our grounds last year.”

Gillian Hammond
Gillian Hammond

The Emilio Sánchez Academy is widely recognised for its unique training system, developed by coaches with global reputations. The academy has produced elite players like Kuznetsova, Andy Murray, Dimitrov, Hantuchova, Mónaco, and many others.

“That means there will be some tennis professionals who’ll go to Wimbledon (one day). It means that they can actually come from wherever they are in the world, and study with us, but go to the tennis academy before and after school hours,” she added.

Diversity and inclusivity

The school is also listed as one of the top 100 private schools in the world by the 2021 Spears Index.

“We’ve got 100 nationalities and we celebrated this recently. We want to make sure that we're fully inclusive and that is what brings our school to life. Our students are the future global leaders. They must have a global mindset. The more nationalities that we can surround our students with, the more intellectual they become.”

Bespoke pathways, stellar alumni

Although Repton makes a significant effort to emphasise its historic ties to its British namesake, its curriculum is specifically designed for international students who aim to attend universities worldwide.

Hammond emphasised that the school provides customised academic programs designed to redefine what an education beyond ‘Outstanding’ should look like.

She added, “We really wanted to make sure we are tailored for our students’ needs. We've also introduced BTEC (qualification for both business and sport) because not everybody's route is GCSE and A level or GCSE and IB. It might need to be a combination of different things. So, we've introduced some bespoke pathways, and we give very specific career advice for children. We're delighted with our alumni because our children go off to the best universities…. Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, Stanford. We're so proud of the list.”

Boarding facilities

With 72 full boarders, Repton School Dubai is only one of the two schools in the emirate that provides residential opportunities for students on a full-term or flexible boarding basis.

“We do a 1 to 10 ratio of staff to children within the boarding house. We also have a specific boarding nurse and then we have boarding securities (males and female) at the doors constantly. We see them as our own children.”

With two separate boarding houses, one for boys and one for girls, the experienced team of staff includes the housemaster or mistress, resident tutor, residential matron, boarding assistants, nurses, on-site doctor, and ancillary support staff.

The boarding houses provide accommodation for students in Year 7 through Year 13. Some students opt to stay on a weekly basis and return home on weekends, while others stay for the entire school year.

Sharing the boarders’ schedule, Hammond added, “The students dine at the restaurant, rejoining with their peers both in the morning and at lunch. Likewise, they gather for their evening meal together. This routine extends to weekends as well. In their boarding houses, younger children opt for dormitory-style accommodations so that they don’t feel lonely, and it also enables easy supervision. As they mature, they are gradually transitioned to independent or shared rooms, with two children often choosing to room together.”

In-house chef

With libraries, games rooms, social areas, sports, and other recreational facilities, the school staff makes sure all 72 teenagers are kept busy throughout.

“Underneath the restaurant block is a full-service hotel-style kitchen. There is a chef with his own team. We have an underground passage that delivers all of the food deliveries. We’ve hired our own chef and in-house team for the boarders. They also cater to the entire school. They pack lunches and serve hot lunch. They'll do the boarding breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner," said Hammond.

"This means that students get far more say in what are their favourites and what are the things that they really want to have. Additionally, there are themed meals for Diwali, Iftar, and Christmas,” she added.

Graduating in Opera House

Meanwhile, on Graduation Day, the students take pride in their achievements as the outgoing cohort gathers annually at Dubai Opera.

“The final stage of graduating is at the Dubai Opera where we go for our formal graduation ceremony. Everybody is excited about the special day. Students organise their outfits and get their caps ready in advance. It's a big occasion for us,” added Hammond.

Repton passport

In a first-of-its-kind, the graduating students are also able to view their results on their Repton Passport, the region’s nascent K-12 blockchain-secured multimedia digital portfolio launched in June 2022 by the Repton Family of Schools.

Students’ results are displayed along with their academic and extra-curricular accomplishments during their tenure at the school, as well as their very own digital year book.

Hammond explained these CVs include links to blockchain-secured credentials, which students can share using one-click authentication.

“The Repton Passport has an in-built CV Builder. The innovative feature enables students to seamlessly create multiple customised CVs, simplifying the process for university and job applications,” added the Principal.


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