by Belinda Breeze

In September 2024, a new uk curriculum school, Noya British School, will open on Yas Island, and Rachael Giles is gearing up to begin a new chapter in her life as its founding principal. She brings an abundance of experience from schools in the UAE, UK, and Europe, including her current role as principal at Liwa international for girls in Al Ain, joining her new school ahead of its opening for the 2024-25 academic year. Education UAE caught up with Rachael to find out more about her appointment and the philosophy and facilities to be had at Noya British School, which will open from nursery to year 6 and progress with natural growth over the coming years.

Rachel Giles, Founding Principal Noya British School

Education UAE: How do you feel your previous UAE experience will assist in opening the new school? And what specific experience from your previous roles do you expect to draw on in your new role?

Rachael Giles: Having worked in the UAE for over 10 years, I have valuable insights and understanding of the local culture, educational landscape, and regulatory environment in addition to local and national priorities such as inclusion and national identity. I believe I am well equipped to navigate the unique challenges and opportunities associated with opening a new school in the region. Furthermore, I already have a wealth of experience successfully leading a school in Abu Dhabi, which was rated Very Good with Outstanding features at the end of my first year, so I am very confident that Noya British School will go on to achieve great success as the first Aldar school. Additionally, through Aldar Education’s wide network of schools, Noya British School will benefit greatly from the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and resources. This network enables collaboration among educators, sharing of innovative teaching methodologies, and access to global educational trends.

Education UAE: What is your vision for the new school, and how do you plan to implement it?

Rachael Giles: My vision for Noya British School is to create a vibrant learning community that prioritizes academic excellence, holistic development, and student well-being. We plan to implement this by fostering an inclusive and nurturing environment where every student feels empowered to reach their full potential. Our curriculum reflects this vision by prioritising academic excellence while also incorporating elements that promote personal growth, critical thinking, and creativity. Through innovative educational practices and an engaging curriculum, we aim to equip our students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the future.

Education UAE: How many teachers – and with what qualifications and nationalities – is the school hoping to attract, and what subject specialists will be employed for the opening?

Rachael Giles: Recruitment is already underway; our teachers are predominantly from the UK and Ireland. The majority already have experience of teaching in international schools in the context of the UAE. We are in the process of recruiting Ministry of Education subject specialists, along with well-qualified teachers who deliver the English National Curriculum.

Education UAE: What will be the key strengths of Noya British School?

Rachael Giles: Our approach at Noya British School goes beyond traditional teaching methods. We will foster a dynamic learning environment that emphasises academic rigour alongside holistic development, ensuring that our students not only excel academically but also thrive socially and emotionally We believe that learning extends beyond the classroom, which is why we offer a diverse range of extracurricular activities to complement our academic programme. Students will have the option to participate in various activities designed to promote physical, social, and emotional growth. Technology integration is also a key component of our educational approach at Noya British School. Our state-of-theart facilities include smart classrooms equipped with the latest educational technology, providing students with interactive learning experiences. This holistic approach ensures that students receive a solid foundation for their future success.

Education UAE: Noya British School will be the first National Curriculum for England curriculum school on Yas Island. Are you expecting to attract predominantly expatriate families?

Rachael Giles: We anticipate attracting a diverse mix of expatriate and local families. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment that welcomes students from all backgrounds and nationalities. Additionally, as part of the newly established Aldar Schools segment, Noya British School stands out for its commitment to providing exceptional education at an accessible cost. Education UAE: How are applications currently being handled? Where can parents go to find out more about the school?

Rachael Giles: We are pleased to say we have received an extremely high volume of enquires and applications. We have a range of open days where parents can come along and meet me and ask any questions they may have. We also have assessment days where children can receive on-the-spot admission should parents wish to secure a place right away. All of our open days and events are listed on our website.

Education UAE: How will provision differ at Noya British School versus an Aldar British Academy given the lower fee levels?

Rachael Giles: While both schools share the same commitment to academic excellence, Noya British School distinguishes itself through its focus on providing quality education at an accessible cost. We prioritise not only academic excellence but also the holistic development of each student, fostering their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical growth through state-of the-art facilities and a wide range of extracurricular activities.

Education UAE: What are average class sizes likely to be across the Primary school?

Rachael Giles: The average class sizes at our Primary school are carefully determined to ensure an optimal learning environment for students. We prioritise a balance that allows for personalised attention while fostering a collaborative and engaging atmosphere. The specific class sizes may vary based on factors such as year group. All class sizes will be in line with ADEK regulations.

Education UAE: Tell us about the facilities or resources at the school?

Rachael Giles: We have two semi-Olympic swimming pools, sports fields, outdoor play areas, and subject-specific classrooms such as science labs.

Education UAE: How will the school ensure inclusivity and accommodate students with SEN and those who are gifted and talented?

Rachael Giles: We have appointed an experienced, highly qualified head of inclusion and teachers to ensure that our SEN students are well supported and have the correct provision for their needs. Ensuring an inclusive and supportive environment is essential for the holistic development of students.

Education UAE: What extra-curricular activities are likely to be available initially?

Rachael Giles: By fostering a collaborative and community-driven approach, we will create a vibrant and inclusive extracurricular programme that truly enhances the overall educational experience for children at our school.

Education UAE: What will the school hours be?

Rachael Giles: The exact school timings are yet to be approved but our goal is to be aligned with most school hours – 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. This will be slightly different for the early years. Extracurricular activities will commence after school hours.

Education UAE: Will there be bus services, and if so, to which locations?

Rachael Giles: Yes, we will be offering this across Yas Island, Saadiyat, Reem Island, and Khalifa City. However, depending on ADEK regulations, we may be adding buses across Abu Dhabi city and other areas outside of these locations. This depends on the number of students living in each area that require access to the bus and travel time. We welcome all enquires for transportation and we will do our best to accommodate all students.

Education UAE: What do you plan to do in your first 100 days as head at Noya British School?

Rachael Giles: In my first 100 days, my key focus will be to establish strong connections with my students, parents, and the local community whilst ensuring that our students are thriving in a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment. After the first day, I want our students and parents to be happy and excited about being part of this special community.