A leading independent school has become the first in the North East to open a sister school overseas.

Durham School for Girls Doha (DSGD), opened its doors at the beginning of September, welcoming more than 500 pupils who will be the first to benefit from a Durham School education in Qatar.

Following three years of preparations and planning, girls from Foundation Stage One to Year 7 excitedly enjoyed their first day at their new school, complete with a fun Harry Potter-style ‘Sorting Hat’ session in which they all found out which of the five School Houses (Camel, Arabian Horse, Gazelle, Falcon and Oryx) they would belong to.

Promising to give its pupils confidence for life and the chance to develop professional ambitions for the future, the opening of DSGD chimes with the Qatar Foundation’s ongoing development of education opportunities and with Qatar’s National Vision for 2030 in which human development and education is one of four main pillars.

Durham School has been at the forefront of education in the North East for over 600 years and offers a rounded education to its 527 day and boarding pupils, aged 3-18.

Although DSGD is a separate legal entity to Durham School, both institutions share the same core values – providing an academic programme to instil a lifelong love of learning based on guiding principles of Moral Integrity, Ambition, Respect and Kindness (M.A.R.K)

A UK curriculum will be taught throughout DSGD, while its pastoral care will help the girls and young women develop moral strength and emotional resilience, to act with responsibility, humility and kindness and to be ready to make a positive contribution to society.

Durham School has been involved throughout the preparations for the opening of DSGD across all areas including:

  • Helping to define the academic shape of the school;
  • Working with architects to design and create the very best facilities expected of a premium grade school;
  • The selection of the founding Principal, Head of Primary and the senior team at DSGD;
  • The development of the school programme across curricular, co-curricular and pastoral areas;

There will also be an overlap of governance with Durham school headmaster Kieran McLaughlin sitting as a governor and Nick Millen, director of international operations, as chair of governors.

Mr Millen said, “The opening of the school was truly amazing. There was a real buzz all around the place as children and their parents were coming in and it was incredibly rewarding to immediately see what a wonderful part the School will be playing in their lives.

“I had a combined sense of pride that Durham School had opened in Doha and confidence in the contribution that this new school will make to the educational landscape in Qatar.”

He continued, “We’re very much looking at this in terms of being one school, in two places while not undermining the sense of identity that the Doha school has itself.

“The relationship is based on a shared intent between Durham School and the investors in Doha to provide the best possible education to meet Qatar’s ambition for its young women and prepare them for life in the 21st Century while supporting them to maintain their national identity and culture.”

Located in a residential area in the Al Messila region of the city, DSGD – as the name suggests – is a single-gender school and a single-gender campus, giving the girls and young women the freedoms to conduct their learning and daily life in an all-female environment.

Having opened in the primary phase, over the next three years, the school will grow year on year towards IGCSEs at Key Stage 4 and A Level at Key Stage 5. By 2023/4 around 1,200 pupils will be making DSGD their educational home.

Vanessa Whay, founding principal, said, “After a lot of work and preparation in the run up to the opening of DSGD, I was delighted with the opening day.

“Most importantly, the children were happy and at the end of the day, they were all asking if they could come back tomorrow!”

Durham School headmaster, Kieran McLaughlin, added, “There’s a real sense of achievement and it’s good to know that a Durham School education will now reach girls and young women in Doha.

“I would like to thank all concerned, notably the founding principal, Vanessa Whay, who has driven the way forward and with whom I now look forward to working.”

“The opening of Durham School for Girls Doha is the realisation of a shared ambition for us to build on our 600-year heritage and that of our Qatari partners, who seek to create a learning environment in which girls, whilst rooted in their national culture, become ready to take their place in modern 21st century society.

“We are proud to be the first independent school in the North East to open a sister school overseas and are hugely excited about the opportunity as we begin a new chapter in the school’s history.”

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