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Durham Kenya: Our Journey

A few months ago, if you visited Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School you’d have found builders demolishing walls, welding, painting and more. Visitors now are greeted by teachers preparing their classrooms for our first term in January 2021! We’ve progressed from hammering and sawing, to hanging colourful display boards and organising resources and toys. Our opening will be an exciting culmination of the long journey towards getting the school ready, and we could not be more excited to welcome students in a few short weeks!

In a way, our school’s journey started over 600 years ago, in 1414. That is when Durham School UK was founded, and it has earned a reputation for educational excellence in the centuries since, giving its students a “Confidence for Life.” The school made its first international foray in Qatar, with the opening of Durham School for Girls Doha in 2019.  In parallel, Durham International Schools had initiated discussions for its opening in Kenya.

Once plans for the Nairobi school were finalised, we quickly found a convenient, idyllic location in the heart of Thigiri, providing inspiration for a new, innovative type of school thanks to its leafy, green surroundings on the edge of Karura Forest.

“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.”

The school offers a range of exciting learning and activity spaces, all carefully designed and envisioned to work seamlessly with our Creative Curriculum, where learning and play go hand in hand. Beyond our reception area, where children and parents alike are greeted with a friendly face, the school opens into our large entrance foyer. Here you’ll find our school crest in stained glass, made by the talented artists at Kitengela Hot Glass, and a mural of our Durham Kenya mascots. These delightful characters were created by Durham School UK student Charlotte Aiyenibe as part of a challenge for UK students to come up with a design illustrating the links between our schools. Charlotte’s winning drawing was recreated here in Nairobi by talented local muralists.

From the entrance foyer, our Playgroup classrooms are found beyond a short hallway. These bright, spacious rooms will welcome our youngest students, aged 2 to 3, many of whom are coming to school for the first time. Because Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School is brand new, the team has been able to design the learning spaces to work with our innovative curriculum whilst giving a feeling of “a home away from home,” making the transition for little ones much easier.

The design allows children to move between different activity areas and even between the classrooms with their teachers. Playgroup pupils will have dedicated outdoor play areas, allowing them to safely learn and explore outside as well as inside, and letting children have a grand time with messy, sand and small world play.

Our Foundation Stage 1 classrooms also radiate off the entrance hall, and here is where you will find our 3 to 4 year olds. These classrooms all flow into one another, with each featuring different activity and discovery areas. FS1 children will move between the classrooms and into outside activity areas throughout the day, giving them stimulating new experiences and creating exciting learning opportunities as they play and socialise.

“Children learn by doing things for themselves, by exploring and investigating, watching and listening, talking and discussing; in other words, ‘playing,’” explained Ann Champion, who served as Head of Early Years at Durham School for 26 years and is now EYFS Director for Durham International Nursery Nairobi. “In nursery we plan for both child-initiated play, where children freely explore; and adult-led play, where the adult has an objective to ‘teach’ and assess. This is always delivered in a fun way!”

On the lower level of our school, you’ll also find our dedicated music, arts and dance and drama rooms. We believe that children learn best with a broad and balanced curriculum, and strive to offer our young students a rich and varied school experience. Children enjoy weekly lessons in Art, Dance, Drama, Music, Kiswahili and IT.

The IT suite, as well as our classrooms for Foundation Stage 2 and Year 1, are found upstairs. For our older students, our classrooms are arranged more classically, but are all spacious enough to offer various learning zones and themed areas that are regularly updated throughout the term.

Outside the school, we have a playground and a large grassy field for games and PE.  We will also have a ball skills court and an onsite heated swimming pool where children will learn to swim as part of the co-curricular programme.

“Our child-centred approach celebrates the individual talents, readiness and personalities of every child, and our broad and balanced curriculum provides a rich variety of opportunities and experiences both in and beyond the classroom to foster active learning, engagement and critical thinking,” said Headteacher Sue Small. “We want children to be able to create and innovate, to problem solve and thrive. How children learn is as important as what they learn. We’re creating an environment where they can become independent, enthusiastic learners, ready to embrace the opportunities and possibilities of an ever-changing world.”

The school boasts a full kitchen, where our professional caterers will prepare healthy, nutritious snacks and lunches, which can be catered to any special dietary requirements, including vegetarian meals.

Of course, a major component of our refurbishments was ensuring that the school is a safe, wholesome learning environment. Each and every design choice has been made to with our students’ safety in mind, giving them freedom to move between some areas but with strict control of access between classrooms and other parts of the school.

We are so thrilled with how our architects and the entire construction team have brought the school to life. Throughout this project, it’s been wonderful to see the excitement of parents, the local education sector and the broader community. We have had several opportunities to engage with our new Nairobi home, in virtual and socially distanced events. British High Commissioner Jane Marriott visited the school while construction was still underway, getting a full tour from Headteacher Sue Small.

“It is wonderful to see the education links between Kenya and the UK grow stronger together with the new Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School opening in Nairobi,” High Commissioner Marriot said during her tour. “Durham Kenya is the first British school to open in East Africa, and I am confident of the quality education and opportunities available for Kenyan students.”

Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School aims to establish its reputation as the best possible place for children to begin their educational journey in Nairobi, and we cannot wait to welcome our first students in January! If you and your family would like to visit the school and learn more about our unique facilities and innovative curriculum, we would love to show you around. Make an appointment today to visit the school and meet our staff!

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