In 1977 Tim Charlton, the founder of Dubai College, was teaching in Choueifat, Sharjah. DESS had already been established to cater for the primary curriculum needs of the children of a growing expatriate population. However the only option for secondary education was boarding school. Was a new secondary school in Dubai a viable alternative? Tim Charlton thought so. Resigning his post in Sharjah he returned to England, sold his house, bought a Land Rover and prepared for the overland return trip to Dubai. At some time during this period he even managed to get married!
Tim and his new wife Gay spent the next four months living in and out of their sturdy four wheel mobile home, sheltering from blizzards in Italy, enjoying oranges in Turkey and guarding a limited, but no less valuable amount of ‘new school’ equipment from floating away during floods in Saudi! Arriving back in Dubai in time for Christmas carols, Tim and Gay found support and sponsorship from one AJ Foulger, who was to become the first College Bursar. With such support Tim quickly gained the attention of several local businessmen. However, he recalls that the message was not optimistic,
“Our ears rang with remarks of expansive gloom, made by people who knew best.”
Nevertheless one man “knew better than best” and encouraged Tim to continue with his quest and resist the temptation to take no for an answer. This man was Ahmed Baker and he was to become instrumental in the establishment of the College. Throughout the weeks that followed Tim and Gay held meetings with banks, architects, parents and anyone who seemed vaguely interested. They obviously managed to sound convincing as the next series of events were to prove momentous,
“One day in May 1978, after a short two month wait in a certain Creek side office, I was handed a plan of Plot B141 signed by his Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Said Al Maktoum. The instructions were quite simple,
Build us a school, here.
However, unlike the Dubai of today, things do not happen overnight so as a temporary measure Tim was given the use of two villas near Safa Park. In the summer of 1978 five teachers and twenty two pupils started the process of teaching and learning at Dubai College. Tim described how ‘making do’ was not so bad,
“Classrooms filled with pupils and fish tanks; walls became art galleries; patios became an assembly area. Word got around and we grew.”
Meanwhile the newly appointed Board of Governors set up a debenture system and arranged bank loans to fund the building of the new school. Working with the school architects Brewer, Smith and Brewer, construction of the first phase was completed in the summer of 1979 and beyond the sands of Chicago Beach Hotel ‘A’ Block rose like a Memphis in the sky! Tim was clearly very happy,
“New buildings are always exciting but it is especially true of school buildings. Real laboratories, real art rooms, real classrooms, real exams, too!”
The momentum was now tangible. Things moved quickly as the numbers of staff and pupils grew and a new notice appeared in the staff room - the outline plan for ‘B’ Block!
Tim described his feelings at that time.
“Like Hans Anderson’s Ugly Duckling, Dubai College was growing quietly and without quite realizing what was happening, slowly becoming the school we had planned.”
Tim Charlton left the College in 1981 to begin a new project – establishing Latifa School for Girls. He was succeeded by Mr Tom Jackson who successfully led the College from its embryonic state into a school that had begun to make its mark in the Gulf. The arrival of Mr Harry Deelman brought considerable change to the organisational structure of the College. This helped to set a firm foundation that has, under the eighteen year leadership of Mr Eric Parton, helped to establish the College amongst the very best UK curriculum schools that exists within an international setting.
So what of the future? In the words of former Head Boy Anthony Booth, who like many DC alumni have returned to make Dubai their home,
“Dubai is a place where traditions are formed quickly.”
For those who have had, and those who are yet to have the ‘DC experience’, whether student, staff or parent, we gratefully acknowledge the vision and tenacity of Tim Charlton.