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Learning with Purpose

by Eddie Rayner

The Arbor School provides a purpose-driven education that honours the best traditions of the knowledge-rich British curriculum while applying it to real-world local and global issues. Its secondary curriculum, which is dedicated to fostering long-term transformation, is built on the notion that people are inextricably linked to one another and to nature.

The Arbor School will launch its secondary Year 10 programme in September 2022


The Arbor School is a community of learners who are developing the knowledge, understanding, skills and dispositions needed to be innovative and capable leaders, with a strong set of ethical values, anchored by a deep sense of Ecoliteracy, sustainability and environmental justice.

Student Character Strengths:  Strength of Will. Strength of Mind.  Strength of Heart.

Key Information


An international, ecological school, currently offering places in Foundation Stage 1 through to Year 9, the Arbor School will launch its secondary Year 10 programme in September 2022.

The school will offer a broad portfolio of traditional GCSE options, providing familiarity and security to families and students; A-levels will follow soon after. With superb facilities and knowledgeable staff, the Arbor School will have a focus on sustainability and science subjects, design and technology and the visual and expressive arts. The introduction of the bespoke ‘Global Impact Certificate’ supplements the core subjects and continues the eco-literacy journey of the Arbor School’s secondary students into Year 10.

This individualised approach recognises the future’s unpredictability and will prepare students for it by focusing on universal competencies through diverse but interconnected disciplines. Students will have the opportunity to expand their creative capacities and discover their purpose and passion thanks to a strong emphasis on trans-disciplinary studies.

The school will also offer the BTEC and ASDAN programmes, as well as unique options from a selection of carefully curated alternatives that will stimulate students’ curiosity and help them to evolve from problem solvers to change-makers.

More than just content or subject matter, Ecoliteracy is a way of life

The Curriculum

The Arbor School’s curriculum is a necessary response to changes in the nature of education, society, and the environment. It has been established to ensure that the subjects, programmes of study, and outcomes are delivered to the highest standard while ensuring that children are engaged, challenged, and reflective. It is based on the National Curriculum for England.

The school believes that real-life projects and themes provide meaningful context and purpose for children, allowing for project-based, cross-curricular topic approaches that foster independent learning.

Literacy and numeracy are given particular attention. The Arbor School then adds to the curriculum with specialised sessions in languages and creative disciplines, with a strong emphasis on experiential learning.

Ecoliteracy Overview

Ecoliteracy, sustainability and environmental justice form the three pillars at the core of the Arbor School vision, ‘Enough for all, forever’.

Ecoliteracy provides an overarching way of thinking about the world in terms of its interdependent natural and human systems, as well as the consequences of human actions, while sustainability and environmental justice give framing contexts for deep and ethical thinking, learning, and action.

More than just content or subject matter, Ecoliteracy is a way of life. It’s how we plan a meaningful and long-term path that values the environment as the common foundation for all human social and economic interests and activities. Human well-being and growth are compromised without globally healthy and fully functioning ecological systems, and our vision of a society where there is enough for everyone forever is unattainable.

Despite the immensity of the task, the Arbor School remains optimistic and has opted to define its learning curriculum in Ecoliteracy terms.

Ecoliteracy differs from previous environmental education approaches, which saw humans as a destructive force in nature and saw education as a means to mitigate that destruction. Ecoliteracy is a teaching method that educates students on how to think about ecological and human social well-being in their daily lives and in community decision-making.

The climate-controlled biodomes and learning gardens provide important spaces for children to learn more about their ecosystem and surroundings


Complementing this approach to learning, the Arbor secondary school offers unique facilities designed for a transformational experience. Each learning space is inspired by nature, blended with cutting edge design and functionality. The result is a range of learning and recreational spaces which allows students to connect to their future. Embracing students’ creativity, the open and airy Market Space provides an area to reflect and study, socialise, present to colleagues, or display artefacts produced in the atelier, from design, fashion, textiles, and fine art to digital media. State of the art science laboratories, computing and sound sites have been carefully curated to help develop students’ STEM skills.

‘Six climate-controlled biodomes; three large geodesic domes that sit at the centre of the Arbor School Bio Park, two of which serve as a full tropical ecosystem available for Ecoliteracy education throughout the year, are among the school’s ‘living classrooms.’

The climate-controlled biodomes and learning gardens provide important spaces for children to learn more about their ecosystem and surroundings.

As a result, the school can immerse its students in environments that they would not otherwise encounter in Dubai.

Even in a desert setting, the Arbor Biofarm demonstrates how a high-yield organic approach to cultivating fruits and vegetables can give a healthy, bountiful harvest.

The Farmhouse at the Arbor School creates a link between the well-being of students and the direct farm-to-table experience. 

Providing organic, low carbon footprint lunches and snacks, it provides its children with the highest quality food, created in a sustainable kitchen.

At the heart of the secondary school, the Wahah is a hub for networking, and homes facilities such as Arbor’s farm-to-fork organic concept canteen, theatre presentation area, sixth form common room, wellness platform, counselling spaces, and clinic, all representing the centre of the Arbor School community.

The Arbor School’s curriculum is a necessary response to changes in the nature of education, society, and the environment

Leadership Team

Mr Brett Girven brings a critical eye for detail, an in-depth understanding of the Dubai and UAE educational climate, and a relentless drive to ensure a high-quality education is provided for every child. 

He has developed a passion for the environment and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Science, majoring in Zoology. Mr Girven continued on to study Environmental Science at post-graduate level, and throughout his teaching career has always enjoyed the Ecology and Environmental Science side of teaching Science and Biology.

Mr Girven ensures that the future development of the school is carefully balanced to ensure the holistic growth of all learners, leading to academic excellence. He believes that it is important for the Principal to be visible, meeting and greeting children and parents as much as possible. He also believes that a smile is an important start to each day.

Head of Middle School
Ms Mandi Kirby is Head of Middle School, with nearly 30 years of teaching experience, including 15 years as a senior leader in the Middle East. She has a Bachelor of Education Honour’s degree from North Riding College in teaching the 3-13 age range with a specialism in Mathematics. Ms Kirby also gained Master’s degrees from The Open University and Warwick University in Education and Educational Research, with a focus on gender equality.

Head of Primary School
Mr Daniel Nichol gained a Master’s in Education and Educational Leadership from the University of Bath. His BA in Geography and Environmental Education will ensure he keeps the Arbor ethos and vision at the heart of his leadership. He believes passionately that each and every child has the potential to bring something unique and special to the world in which they live.

Head of Inclusion
Mrs Rachel Smith-Green has responsibility for establishing outstanding systems for the identification and education of Persons of Determination, gifted and talented students, and pupils with English as an additional language. She studied at Goldsmiths University in London where she gained an honours degree in Education and Art before embarking on her career in teaching.

Head of Psychology and Well-being
Ms Esra Uzsayilir is a UK trained Educational Psychologist who has been working in education for more than 15 years. Esra works holistically with children and families offering psychological assessment, consultation and therapeutic work; she has trained in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.