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600-Year-Old Durham School Prepares To Open in Nairobi

28 August 2020  Nairobi

It’s a quiet, bright morning in Thigiri, with crisp blue skies and warm sunlight filtering through the neighbourhood’s many trees. Just off Thigiri Ridge, and a stone’s throw from Karura Forest, there’s no sound of cars or the bustle of Nairobi life. In fact, the only disturbance to the rustling leaves and trilling birds is the light clatter of a building project drawing to a close.

Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School is opening in January 2021 for children ages 2 to 6, and the refurbishments are nearly finished. The school is located on Thigiri Hilltop, just around the corner from New Muthaiga Mall and Karura Forest’s Sigiria Gate, in a spacious compound perfectly matched to the greenery surrounding it. When the school opens in a few months, it will offer not only this new building, but an entirely new school experience that is an exciting addition to Nairobi!

Durham is making its debut in Kenya with its first phase, Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School, while its wider ambitions are to establish a full Primary School and a Secondary School. This marks the first time a British school has opened a branch in East Africa.

Dating back to 1414, Durham School is one of the oldest and most respected private schools in the UK and is a member of the HMC, a professional Association of heads of the world’s leading independent schools. It boasts a long legacy of educational excellence, but the school’s ethos is anything but old-fashioned.

“Durham School is very much a community that, whilst rooted in the best traditions of a 600-year-old educational establishment, is also focused on preparing our pupils to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world,” said Durham School UK Headmaster Kieran McLaughlin.

The school’s first international foray, Durham School for Girls Doha, opened very successfully in Qatar in 2019, and now the Durham International Family is set to expand again. Durham Kenya brings with it the principles and values that guide its sister schools, and aims to establish a reputation as the best possible place for children to begin their educational journey in Nairobi. By providing each child with a positive first experience of school, Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School encourages students to develop a love of lifelong learning and ‘Confidence for Life’.

Ann Champion, who served as Head of Early Years at Durham School for 26 years and is now Early Years Foundation Stages (EYFS) Director for Durham Kenya, described the school’s unique approach, “As an Early Years educator, I believe the number one priority is the wellbeing and happiness of the child. We take great pride in our Creative Curriculum, which is a carefully planned, thematic approach to teaching that supports children’s natural creativity. Based on the EYFS framework, children will learn by exploring and investigating, watching and listening, talking and discussing.”

Durham will offer a world-class educational experience designed for aspirational Kenyan and expatriate families who want their children to both achieve academically and grow into confident, resilient and ambitious young people, Ann explained. The international school is very much tailored to Kenya, with a curriculum inspired by its Nairobi home, but benefits from the ties and resources of the Durham International Family.

Teachers and staff share their experience across all three schools. In one key and timely example, Durham International has crucial insights to share about safety measures related to COVID-19. While the opening of Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School was pushed to January 2021 in accordance with directives from the Ministry of Education in Kenya, Durham School UK conducted classes in England in June and July, and both the Qatar and UK schools will be opening for the new academic year from September. Their experience will help guide the Durham Kenya safety procedures when the school opens in January.

The Durham International team stresses that this exchange of ideas between schools runs in all directions. Durham Kenya is putting together a teaching staff of highly experienced and creative educators, and they will share their particular expertise not only with their fellow Kenyan teachers, but with Durham educators in the UK and Qatar.

“From the project’s inception and planning, the school has worked in partnership with Durham School in the UK, and it will continue to do so when its doors open to Nairobi’s children,” said Nicolas Millen OBE, Durham School’s Director of International Operations. “Senior staff as well as classroom teachers in Durham are working alongside those here in Nairobi to ensure that the school has the best possible support whilst at the same time developing its own sense of identity.”

Because Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School is brand new, the team behind the school has been able to design learning and activity spaces to work with their innovative curriculum. Building a strong sense of community between pupils, parents and staff, the school offers a safe and nurturing environment. Classrooms feature flexible learning areas, and students can freely flow between them. Teachers will move students between indoor and outdoor learning spaces throughout the school day, taking advantage of the beautiful green location.

“We’re tapping into each child’s natural instincts and curiosity by providing open-ended, hands-on experiences,” explained Sue Small, the Headteacher elect of Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School.  Sue boasts a wealth of international education experience, including nearly a decade working in premium international schools in Nairobi. “At Durham Kenya, we’re creating active, self-initiated learning experiences that motivate children to build on their own interests and explore different ways of doing things.”

Extracurricular activities are a key part of the Durham experience. Durham School UK is renowned for its sports programme, with one of the oldest rugby clubs in the nation, and has stellar music and drama programmes as well. Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School takes this legacy to heart, and gives young students the opportunity to have fun while they discover their passions and talents. In addition to its classrooms and outdoor learning spaces, the school offers an art room, a music room, a drama and dance studio, and an IT suite. Children will love the heated swimming pool, and have fun playing and developing their skills on the football pitch and ball skills court.

Here, education is built around active learning and purposeful play, which allows children to make choices, explore and problem solve. When children have well-planned opportunities to lead their own learning, Sue explains, they develop their personal interests and enjoy and engage with their education.

“We’re making school fun! We’re engaging and motivating children in the particular ways that excite them as individuals,” Sue said. “We want children to be able to innovate, to create, to problem solve – to feel confident enough to act. We’ve had a lot of interest in the school, from parents who know that it will be an exciting place for their children to learn!”

Make an appointment to learn more about Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School! Meet the team behind Durham Kenya and let themshow you everything that makes the school so special. Visit www.durhamkenya.com or email info@durhamkenya.com to book a time today!

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