Brighton College's new school in Abu Dhabi
PUBLISHED: 01:16 12 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:07 20 February 2013
Headmaster Brendan Law on setting up Brighton's College's new school in Abu Dhabi
The children are back at school again, but after all the last minute preparations of getting them ready for a new year, imagine the task of setting up a completely new school, in a completely different culture. This is exactly the task headmaster Brendan Law faced when he opened Brighton Colleges new school in Abu Dhabi
Brighton College had been considering an international venture for some time. Schools such as Harrow, Marlborough and Dulwich have also gone down the same route. Brighton College Abu Dhabi (BCAD) is the realisation of a joint venture between Brighton College UK and Bloom Properties, the property and lifestyle development arm of National Holding of Abu Dhabi. British education has got to be one of the best exports the UK has got at the moment says Brendan Law, the head.
There is real desire and need for British independent schools in the wider world. It is tremendously exciting for both myself and Brighton College not only to be bringing British education but top quality British independent education to a completely new country and community.
Brighton College is currently enjoying a position as one of the leading schools in England, having achieved the best A- Level results of any co-educational school for the last three consecutive years.
Professor Lord Skidelsky, Chairman of the Brighton College Board of Governors noted: This initiative is a wonderful opportunity and has been much anticipated by everyone at Brighton College. It is further evidence of the forward-thinking ethos of an institution recognised as one Englands top schools.
Their man out in Abu Dhabi is already setting his standards at the same level, but then he always has.
Born and bred in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, educated at Grey College and the Universities of Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, Brendan Law has always been forward-thinking in his career. After being a private tutor to the President of Saabs children in Sweden he might have taken a completely different path. I love cars and have always been lured by the glitz and glamour of the motor industry, says Brendan.
An offer to stick on the road to secondary education with Bedford School proved too much to turn down, however, and he went on to become its youngest senior housemaster at 33 years old.
Brendan readily admits he always had his sights set on becoming headmaster.
Headmastership is always a challenge and I love challenges. I was very taken with the idea of running a prep school. So when Westbourne House School, Chichester, offered him its first external appointment as headmaster, he had no hesitation in accepting.
It was a real privilege and I am indebted to Westbourne for being open-minded enough to take me on. Over the last eight years, with excellent teaching staff as well as the wonderful children and their parents, we have really raised the bar, achieving over 30 scholarships in each of the past two years.
One bleak, cold February afternoon Brendans wife brought an advert from Brighton College into his study.
I can still remember that afternoon when Linda brought this ad in about Brighton College starting a school out in Abu Dhabi. It was just at that point in the British winter when I really start to struggle. I am South African after all, I need the sun on my back. So I picked up the telephone to Richard Cairns, headmaster at Brighton College.
Since then Brendan has been involved in every aspect of the creation of Brighton College Abu Dhabi, from staff recruitment and curriculum setting to site meetings with the developers and choosing everything from door furniture to carpets. Even my own kids helped me with the tiles for the bathrooms! laughs Brendan.
Brighton College in itself is a powerful brand and the new school is big news in educational circles at the moment. BCAD has already surpassed its pupil intake which was originally expected to be between 450-500 and now stands at 600.
Over 50 academic staff will teach pupils from 46 nationalities. The staff have all been hand-picked by Brendan, including an internationally renowned pianist from New York. The school itself will be vast, including a 460-seater theatre, two dance studios and numerous state of the art facilities for sport, music, art and technology.
We will be offering the whole package for the children out here, driving up the academic standards but also incorporating the music, drama, art, sport and technology as well, says Brendan.
Many of the pupils are children transferring from other schools in Abu Dhabi, whose families are obviously keen to buy into this vision. Most of the marketing for the school has been done at a very personal level. My voice has been used as much as possible in the promotions including radio invites, says Brendan. I very much believe in people before paper. Most people havent experienced this approach out here. I will be very visible around the college and also in the classroom as a teaching head.
Brendans family have also been fully involved from the very start. His wife Linda will be working with him and their two children will be going to BCAD. Linda played a huge part in my success at Westbourne and I am very lucky to have her again by my side out here. says Brendan.
As a family we are so excited to be out here. Abu Dhabi is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Its amazing what they have achieved out here - its so clean , its safe and the climate is wonderful, theres just so much opportunity to be had. I can work a full day and still find time to go out on the water or catch a game of golf.
Thats another thing I am keen to incorporate into school life starting sailing clubs for example.
Its hard to believe that this time last year all we had was a desert and a dream. Its been an amazing journey, as a headmaster, to be able to start a brand new school from scratch. To be involved in the building of it, the staff recruitment, the admissions, everything really.
Together we aim to make Brighton College Abu Dhabi the best school in the Middle East. Ive always said the best school in the world is the one that suits your child the most. We are fortunate that many of top families in Abu Dhabi think that to be true of us.
The school opened on September 13.
For further information on Brighton College Abu Dhabi visit