A note on competitive schools

You know the little boy – the one who talks like this, “Play wif mummee”, “Sit soh-fa and watch” – and who, until a couple of weeks ago, was just two years old – really quite little still.

Well, here in Dubai, he can start school next September, and while still a long way off, a school I’ve listed him for was hot on the case today.


I found out via DH, of course, who they phoned this morning (again! Why do teachers keep contacting him, not me? Could they be in cahoots with BB’s school?)

I was in trouble for failing to fill out some paperwork I hadn’t even received and was catapulted back to feeling like a naughty school girl, caught kissing boys behind the bike shed.

“The deadline for the form was yesterday,” I was told firmly, with more than a hint of irritation. “You need to let us know within the hour if you want to proceed with your application. There are a hundred children lining up for the space. And as punishment write 300 lines, ‘I will never be late turning in my son’s paperwork again,” after school pick-up.”

They had good reason for telling me they’d offer the spot to someone else, because it’s hands down (depending on who you believe, of course) one of the best schools in Dubai. Parents wait years to get their kids in and we were just lucky that we got LB on the list when he was really little.

They’re used to dealing with mothers who’d bite their hand off for a place. “We’ve had tri-lingual Felicity on the list since she was a foetus and she loves nothing more than to make words with her spaghetti at supper and do piano practice before bed. A place will mean sooo much to her,” is the kind of response they’re accustomed to.

(The problem is there’s no spot for BB, you see, and for convenience and many other reasons I’d rather have both boys at the same school).

But after speaking to some mum friends, one of whom reminded me that they wouldn’t even let her put her son’s name on THE LIST, I rushed over there this afternoon to make sure LB’s spot wasn’t given away.

And, as I walked through the hallowed corridors – marvelling at the smiling, beautifully behaved children, with project work tucked under their arm, landscaped campus, huge green field, amphitheatre and proximity to my favourite coffee shop, I saw the future for a moment. I’d give up work, spend my days doing school runs, organise bake sales and fetes, and volunteer for field trips for both schools.

Ok, so given that my only-just talking three-year-old still has to pass an assessment interview to secure the spot – and I’m clearly not a mother who would find any of the above easy – I was quite possibly getting carried away. But at least we’ve done what you gotta do when it comes to school waiting lists in Dubai – we’re hedging our bets.

PHOTO CREDIT: Time Out Dubai

8 thoughts on “A note on competitive schools

  1. It is never easy to have kids in two different schools – I know this from personal experience – but it sounds like a wonderful opportunity for LB! We went through a similar song and dance for Son #2 when we moved here, except (since he was older) his paperwork included sending copies of every standardized test he’d ever taken, copies of his last 4 years’ report cards, a timed writing sample, copies of schoolwork, and recommendations written by everyone from his teachers to the janitor (not really, but it seemed like it). And – of course – it all had to be scanned and emailed/faxed across the world. We’re very grateful he got in, but it was very stressful while we were going through the process. I’m sure LB will do fabulously on his assessment interview – but that still leaves you with the fun of juggling two schools!

    • I’ve heard similar stories here! And also how difficult it is doing all this from the States, when the time difference makes calling the school and actually talking to someone even more challenging. I’m really glad to hear it all worked out!

  2. Nicole says:

    I too would love to know about the school with very long waiting list in this expat community. WOW! I thought we had a hard time enrolling DD from the states.

  3. chanthal says:

    Wow, great to read this blog as we were in Dubai last week, and in two weeks my husband will finally hear whether he is adopted for a pilotjob with emirates…..only thing that scares me are the waiting lists. We are from the Netherlands, so even harder probably to get our child (turned 4 on 11th of april) on a school?!?!?!? Could you please tell me the name of the school? Thanks!
    Chanthal

    • Hello Chanthal, thanks for stopping by and I’m so glad to hear the blog is useful to you! Wow, I bet you can’t wait to hear for sure! Keep us posted. Try not to worry too much about waiting lists. It does all tend to fall into place once you get here….it’s true, there is a waiting list problem here, but there are plenty of schools – and once you know where you will be living, then you can target a few schools to apply for (each will charge a registration fee unfortunately)…If you can, try to avoid a school miles and miles from where you’ll be living, coz on a daily basis, the school run gets really frustrating. There’s a search function on my blog and if you put in Dubai schools, it should bring up everything I’ve written about our experiences here. There’s also a little bit more info on my Dubai info page. Good luck! (so sorry, but I can’t put the names of my children’s schools online, due to privacy issues, but do contact me on Twitter or via my blog’s Facebook page – see right panel of blog – if you’d like the names -we love both of our children’s schools.)

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