Durham International Nursery & Pre-Prep school, the first facility opened by Durham Kenya, will mark the conclusion of our first year of operations in January 2022 – and what a year it has been! At our beautiful Thigiri location, students have thrived under the unique Durham approach to early years education.
As the sister school of Durham School UK, Durham Kenya brings a long legacy of educational excellence to our new school. Our passionate educators follow a British curriculum, but incorporate a range of educational approaches, offering students a fun and exciting environment. Through engaging, active lessons and fun, student-initiated activities, learning takes the form of playing, creating, investigating and discovering. We seek to spark a love of lifelong learning, and help children build ‘Confidence for Life!’
As our young students have grown and developed, so has our school! Durham Kenya’s story is one of growth, starting right from our initial planning. In England, Durham School opened in 1414, and has spent the intervening centuries developing a well-deserved reputation for educational excellence. That reputation first extended internationally in 2019, with the opening of Durham School for Girls Doha, in Qatar, and Durham International Schools quickly looked to Kenya as the destination for its next expansion.
From those early beginnings through to today, our Durham International Schools family has been instrumental in the development of Durham Kenya’s unique identity. We have enjoyed support from our international team, both from afar and during trips to Nairobi, including a recent visit from Durham Operations Director Nicolas Millen OBE and our Academic Director Ann Champion.
“As a part of Durham International Schools, Durham Kenya shares in the values and traditions of its sister schools, whilst establishing its own Kenyan identity,” Mr Millen said to parents while in Nairobi. “We are determined that wherever the name Durham appears in reference to a school, that it is not simply a recognisable name, but rather emblematic of a very special way of educating children.”
In our first year, the truly international nature of the school has been an important part of our day-to-day operations and growth, spurring some exciting activities for our students. While Durham thrives in its identity as a truly Kenyan school, we also benefit from insights derived from our international connections. Mrs Champion served as Head of Early Years at Durham School UK for 26 years, and has worked closely with our team to set the tone for our unique approach to this age group. Led by Headteacher Sue Small, our teaching staff have drawn inspiration from regular meetings with our international colleagues – and shared their own experiences and wisdom in return.
Our students themselves represent 22 nationalities that are all celebrated in class, even as we take a Kenya-centred approach to learning. Through our international connections, children at Durham have enjoyed exciting opportunities like a visit from British High Commissioner Jane Marriott and Judge Peter Herbert OBE, an alumnus of Durham School UK.
At a recent open day event for current and prospective Durham Kenya parents, Judge Herbert stressed the importance of both the values that mark a Durham education, and the unique identity of the school here in Nairobi.
“In terms of the ethos, the teaching, the pastoral care, Durham was exceptional. That grounding of Durham has stayed with me,” Judge Herbert said. “The future of East Africa is a global one, and so you should start, even at these early years, to have children who are part of a world community…Some things have changed, but the core values and ethos are the same. And I think it will last your children a lifetime – as it has for me.”
Whilst Durham Kenya’s story began with the growth of Durham International Schools, we have also grown in our own right. When Durham Kenya was first announced, we targeted an age range of 3 to 6 years old, which quickly grew to 2 to 6 years old following feedback from many interested parents.
After one term, we further announced the addition of Year 2. This was a natural extension, following the structure of our sister school in the UK and allowing students to complete Key Stage 1, a two-year programme set out in the English National Curriculum, within our pre-prep facility.
“We are truly excited to grow with our students as they enter Year 2! ” said Ms Small. “Our active learning approach makes learning fun at this critical age, as students’ academic focus deepens, and we are thrilled to be able to offer continuity throughout Key Stage 1.”
Durham Kenya still continues to grow today, with a recent announcement that we are thrilled to make! Beginning in January 2022, we are opening Little Durham, offering children from 6 months to 2 years old a safe, happy and nurturing place to begin their school journey.
“We at Little Durham look forward to offering a welcoming environment for the little ones,” said Little Durham Lead Teacher Payal Patel. “Through play-based, age appropriate learning opportunities, Little Durham provides a foundation for lifelong learning, encouraging the development of positive educational and social skills that children will master as they grow.”
We are committed to offering new and exciting elements to our daily classes for all year groups. Our educators update the resources and activity areas in classrooms from week to week, giving students new ways to explore and engage with the academic topics they are learning about.
Our school was designed from the ground up for the early years age group, creating a variety of creative learning spaces both indoors and outdoors. Students at Durham enjoy a rich mix of co-curricular activities, including music, art & design, dance, ballet, drama, PE, IT and Kiswahili. Our sports programme includes gymnastics, football and playball, a student-favourite activity that builds the foundations for sports like football, tennis, basketball, netball, hockey and cricket. This term we were thrilled to open our very own heated swimming pool, which has been specifically designed for learn to swim lessons. Our students also enjoy environmental studies during our visits to Karura Forest twice a term.
Durham Kenya recently achieved Provisional School status with the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). COBIS is the premier global association for international British schools overseas.
Growth is a through line in the story of Durham Kenya, one that is just as important to our story as we look to the future. We are committed to offering students a continuous education experience. Even as our current school site is expanding – both in terms of the year groups offered and the space available – we are planning and resourcing for our next stages. We look forward to announcing further expansions for our Primary and Secondary Schools in the near future, and to continuing to grow with our young students, offering them a unique, engaging and empowering education throughout their school life!