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Durham Kenya – Truly International, Proudly Kenyan

Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School has just completed its first term ever, and what a wonderful few months it has been! Welcoming our teachers and young students to our Thigiri school, with all the wonderful sights and sounds of full classrooms, has let our unique Durham Kenya identity flourish. Recently, Headteacher Sue Small showed off the school’s character to guests from the British High Commission, and we are thrilled to announce that we have been placed on their list of approved schools for relocating staff! As the first British school to open in East Africa, this new development is simply the latest connection to our UK roots, and a very exciting one at that!

Durham Kenya is a truly international school, as a branch of Durham School UK. While we are one of the newest schools in Nairobi, we enjoy a long tradition of excellence, stretching back to the founding of Durham School in 1414. Over the intervening 600 years, the school has developed a prestigious reputation for excellence and earned a space at the forefront of education in England.

Durham Kenya, while developing our own character, draws on that legacy, combining traditional academic rigour with the skills and confidence that students need to embrace the opportunities and possibilities of an ever-changing world. We follow the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework and English National Curriculum, whilst also drawing on a range of other pedagogies to take advantage of all the learning opportunities available in Kenya. Durham School first expanded internationally in 2019, with the opening of Durham School for Girls Doha, in Qatar, and recently announced a merger with The Chorister School in Durham, further broadening our shared foundations within the Durham International Schools family. As a part of this group, we share values and tradition while thriving within our own Kenyan identity.

Durham Kenya benefits from a Governance and Advisory Board that includes Durham School UK Headmaster Kieran McLaughlin, as well as Nicolas Millen OBE, Durham School’s Director of International Operations, and Ann Champion, who served as Head of Early Years at Durham School for 26 years and is now EYFS Director for Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep School. Shortly after the announcement that the school would be opening in Nairobi, and while construction was just beginning at our Thigiri location, we enjoyed a visit from Nick and Ann, and had a wonderful time showing them around Nairobi. It was exciting to see the ties between Durham Kenya and Durham School even that early on.

“We are confident that a school with strong links to the UK – shaped by 600 years of educational experience, but tailored for the market in Kenya – will be an exciting new option for Nairobi parents,” Nick said at the time. And he was right! We have enjoyed tremendous interest in the school, including the registration of our many Founding Families. He continued, “Senior staff as well as classroom teachers in Durham are working alongside those here in Nairobi to ensure that the Nursery has the best possible support whilst at the same time developing its own sense of identity.”

Those classroom-to-classroom connections were evident from the start, with a challenge for Durham School UK students to come up with a design that showed off the relationship between our two schools. Year 10 student Charlotte Aiyenibe drew the winning design, and created our mascots, which now adorn Durham Kenya’s entrance hall.

Our opening in Kenya has also highlighted ties with former Durham School students, or Old Dunelmians, as alumni are known. We are delighted to have the support of Judge Peter Herbert OBE, listed amongst the 100 Great Black Britons, who has fond memories of his time at Durham.

“Resident now in Kenya, I am delighted to hear Durham will be establishing a school here in Nairobi and I am in no doubt that it will quickly become an asset for East Africa,” he said after Durham Kenya was announced.

British High Commissioner Jane Marriott was one of our first guests at the school, while renovations were still ongoing. The High Commissioner attended Durham University, located just near Durham School in the UK, and so was already familiar with the school’s reputation.

“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 Marriott said after her early preview tour of the school. “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.”

We have enjoyed close cooperation with the British High Commission throughout our journey, including joining in the Department for International Trade’s Education is GREAT initiative, hosting UK Deputy Trade Commissioner for Africa Rebecca Fisher Lamb on our first Open Day, and taking part in a virtual tour for UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Kenya Theo Clarke.

Durham Kenya is also a member of the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya, and it has been wonderful to network with our fellow UK-connected businesses. In October, Headteacher Sue Small put together a wonderful webinar for Chamber members and for our wider Durham Kenya audience on the Social Emotional Effects of School Closures.

All of these connections to our origins in the UK add to our identity, making us a unique – and proudly Kenyan – school. We are inspired by our Nairobi home, and the high value placed on education in Kenya. It has been wonderful receive such a warm welcome and so much local support, particularly from the Kenya Investment Authority. We aim to establish a reputation as the best possible place for children to begin their educational journey in Nairobi, and our unique style of teaching has so far attracted many Kenyan families, as well as 16 other nationalities from across Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

“We believe that school should be a fun and exciting place,” explained Headteacher Sue Small. “Our child-centred approach celebrates the individual talents, readiness, and personalities of every child. How children learn is as important as what they learn.”

Through our British connections and our Kenyan identity, Durham Kenya gives children a positive first experience of school, fostering a love of lifelong learning and ‘Confidence for Life!’

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