Schools are always a hot topic for British mums and we are always interested in learning more about the key differences between schools in Dubai. In advance of Foremarke School’s Open Evening on 17th May with the Heads of Foremarke Dubai and Foremarke UK Schools, we spoke to Foremarke’s Headmistress, Mrs Naomi Williams to find out more about her – as both a Headmistress and a mum – and to find out how she juggles both!
How do you manage your work-life balance as a working mum?
My daughters are Molly and Mimi and their Dad is really wonderful; from sporting activities to taking the girls to parties, everything is shared between us. He is a working Dad too – so we have a great partnership where parenting is concerned. Being a Headmistress can often mean long working hours and in addition, our Housekeeper and Nanny Melody, is the glue! She is integral in ensuring our work-life balance is there and we simply could not do without her.
Lots of us living here are home away from home. Where’s your hometown in the UK and do you think that Dubai feels like home to you?
Home for us is in a quiet, little village by the River Thames in Oxfordshire. However, our home in Dubai definitely feels like “home” for us at the moment and we’re enjoying the weather, (mostly!), pool days and especially the opportunities that Dubai brings for the girls.
What are your top tips to share with a fellow British mum thinking of moving to Dubai?
It can be tricky to start with, can’t it? I think having low expectations is a good thing – as then you won’t be disappointed or discouraged when things don’t go to plan, which can often happen! Try to have your villa or apartment organised before you move and be aware that you may well need more patience than you ever thought possible!
It’s not long until the end of term. What are your plans for this long summer holiday and are you organised yet?
My daughters and I will be staying in a little cottage in Henley on Thames, which is a central location for spending time with our family and friends. For the majority of the summer we will be there, but when my husband joins us, we are all heading on to Bali as a family – and we’re all really looking forward to that.
You’ve been Headmistress at Foremarke for a year already. How might Foremarke parents and teachers describe your leadership style?
Time has simply flown by and I have really enjoyed my first year. Admittedly sometimes it can feel, (like any job), tough at times, but seeing what the parents, teachers and of course the children have achieved this year is incredibly satisfying. I think that our parents and team of teachers might agree that I have high expectations – not just of pupils, but of parents and teachers too. This is not something new, and from the very start what has been noticeable is that together we are all pulling in the same direction.
What’s the proudest moment you’ve had during your time as Headmistress of Foremarke School?
That is a difficult question as there have been so many. I’m extremely proud of our school, our children and I could not be more proud of the team of 100 members of staff that I work with. Without question, the core values of respect, manners and courtesy are very much embraced at our school and so I am always proud when I see the behaviour of our children – especially when I have attended school sports fixtures – and the only way I can describe it, is that our children have graciousness; and whatever the result, they always truly shine.
What do you think is most important to Foremarke parents?
I would hope that parents send their children to Foremarke with the expectation that they will leave the school as polite young people, having learnt as much as they can, having made lifelong friendships and armed with the skills and ability to approach their next school with the same enthusiasm and excellence that they have shown at Foremarke.
Potentially parents may have been wary about sending their children to Foremarke because there hasn’t been any provision for students past Year 6. What has changed recently?
Subject to getting the approval from the KHDA, we are going to be opening up Year 7 in 2018 and Year 8 in 2019. There are such exciting times ahead at Foremarke!
What is your advice for parents weighing up which school they should send their child to?
You absolutely must visit the school to see if you get ‘the feeling’. Trust your instincts because you will know if that school seems right for your child. All schools in Dubai are excellent in lots of different ways but you have to visit them to really make the decision.
What age were your children when you returned to work and did you struggle to balance being a mum and working?
I went back to work when my eldest daughter, (who is now 9) was 18 months old. I struggled with the usual guilt that all working mums have and although that guilt is always there, it is more manageable now that both are older and more independent. I hope my girls won’t resent the fact that I haven’t been at every match or fixture or play that they are in. Usually though, one of us is always there and sometimes their Papa is the one they want there anyway!
At this time of year especially, we all have times when we miss certain things from home – like strawberry picking or pub gardens, what do you miss most about back home?
My parents have a huge magnolia tree in their garden and the moment it flowers, it signifies that Spring is around the corner. I really miss that reminder.
Most British mums will stock up on things when they visit the UK. What are your must-have items to pack in your suitcase that you just can’t be without?
Clothes at UK prices! I love LK Bennett shoes and Whistles also Boden and John Lewis for the girls. They’re typical British brands I know (I am a bit predictable like that!)
We all need some downtime every now and again. What’s your ideal mum’s ‘me time’?
Well, it varies from a full body massage to lying in the sun with a good book, and like every other mum enjoys, having a mani/pedi can be a real treat!
British mums love sharing recommendations on books and TV series. What’s the last book you read and the last TV series you watched?
You have to read The Outrun by Amy Liptrot! It’s a beautifully written book. My husband Billy is a pilot so he is away quite a bit on trips, so when it is just me, I gorge myself on the latest Masterchef series on iPlayer. Together, we have just finished season 4 of House of Cards and we both really enjoyed it, but the downside is I now have constant “Claire Underwood Wardrobe Envy!”
As your husband is a pilot, we would imagine you have opportunities to fly quite a bit. What’s been your favourite family holiday destination and why?
We went to Sri Lanka in February for half term. It was a beautiful country with delicious food and lovely people. We went with friends, stayed in a lovely villa, ate and drank lots, swam and body boarded in the sea, bought lots of treasures and just relaxed. That has to be one of my favourites as it was such a perfect, perfect holiday.
You’ve lived in Dubai for the last 3 years so you must have discovered a few hidden gems in your time here. Please share your favourite places to go and things to do that will be great tips for other British mums!
My advice would be don’t hesitate to go camping – we were lucky to meet a family pretty much as soon we moved here who got us in to it. We still go with them now and have been to some wonderful locations away from Dubai. I know it can sound like a bit of hassle with packing everything up to take with you, but it’s always worth it!
What’s your favourite family-friendly restaurant in Dubai and why?
Carluccio’s pastas are always popular with the girls and we also love breakfast treats at the Westin, where I can’t resist a pancake or two!
Finally, like many of us, no doubt you will have heard about the latest craze of Fidget Spinners. What’s your take on them?
*screams silently* My children have lost so many bits of them under the seats in my car so I flatly refuse to buy anymore!
If you would like to discover more about Foremarke School, there’s an Open Evening taking place on Wednesday 17th May from 7:00pm until 8:30pm, where you will have the opportunity to meet the Headmistress, Mrs Naomi Williams, along with Headmaster of Foremarke UK, Mr Richard Merriman, as well as hear from Mr David Hanson, Chairman of the International Association of Prep Schools (IAPS). It’s a great opportunity to visit the school, meet fellow parents and see if it’s the right fit for your child.