Planting Confidence

by Eddie Rayner

The Ghaf tree is playing an enhanced role in 2019, with it being the theme and inspiration for the Year of Tolerance. A school in Abu Dhabi is nurturing their versions of Ghaf trees in a unique way.

Michael Wilson, Principal at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, explains: “At Cranleigh, the Ghaf seed is the equivalent of a nursery child. It has all the ingredients needed for growth and it generates roots to go in search of water, which can be a metaphor for developing skills and traits. Similarly, our education is based on identifying what a child is good at and enjoys doing. This is usually where their confidence is and we feel that we can draw on this confidence to develop other skills as the individual matures and grows.”

Rated one of Abu Dhabi’s leading schools, Cranleigh Abu Dhabi may only be in its sixth year, but it brings with it over 150 years of experience delivering a high quality British education through sister schools in the UK.

“We also believe that children learn in the classroom, at home, on the sports field, on stage performing, travelling and interacting with others,” Michael says. “So it is our job to provide a multi-faceted educational experience where each child is given opportunities.”

Earlier this year the school added the title of International School of the Year at the TES Independent School Awards 2019, to their lists of accolades. This award was in recognition for their ambitious arts and cross-curricular project, Water in the Desert: A Zayed Legacy. Some would say that Michael’s leadership style was instrumental in ensuring this project happened.

“I encourage both teachers and students to be bold and give things a go. I would rather they made mistakes trying to achieve something than played safe. As parents we are often so keen for our children to get things right that we do it for them. I encourage parents and staff to let go in order to allow the children to hit the odd bump and learn how to ride the bump better next time, ” he shares.

School Facts


Cranleigh Nursery – Year 13

Co-Curricular Activities
Approximately 350 last academic year – sports, performing arts, visual arts, coding and robotics, baking, language clubs, chess club, Arabic calligraphy

Arabic, French, Spanish and Latin

Number of students
Approximately 1,400

Number of teachers
Approximately 150

Nationality of students
65+ nationalities

Nationality of teachers
Mainly British but also Irish, South African, Jordanian, French, Spanish, Canadian, Kenyan