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The British International School of Jeddah: 4 Decades of Excellence! 

The birth of the British International School of Jeddah was the vision of Mrs. Deborah Osborne over 40 years ago, 1977. Her courage and far-sightedness spurred a group of British and Belgian parents, teachers and students to form and operate a new school in Jeddah under the name of the Continental School. It was inaugurated as a ‘villa school’ in AlHamra District. 

Trevor Williams who had recently left Iran after the closure of his school there owing to revolution, came to Jeddah. Under the chairmanship of Tom Temperley, Trevor took over from the founding administrator, as the first conventionally endorsed headteacher. Trevor worked on his grand plan to reunite the various phases of the school on a single, new, purpose- built campus. During 1979 the secondary section of the school had been developing strongly and by 1980 a need was perceived to open a second villa, such was the local demand the school has grown to 80 or so children with 8 teachers.

The academic year 1981/82 reflected a year of tremendous growth and expansion as witnessed by the arrival of the School’s first batch of computers; first graduation ceremony; the opening of the new early primary school in separate premises the near doubling of student membership to 750 from 49 different lands; the creation of a massive extra-curricular programme; the welcomed arrival of many recruited staff from the United Kingdom; and the successful results from the first batch of University of London ‘O-Level’ students. 

Between 1980 and 1986 the school took over an increasing number of separate buildings in Jeddah, and by September 1986, the Continental School moved into the purpose-built campus situated on the northern outskirts of the city that is currently occupied by Jeddah Grammar and Prep School. The Secondary section had been developing strongly under the leadership of Chris Spedding. Trevor retired from Saudi Arabia in 1987, leaving the directorship of the school in the safe hands of Chris Spedding. The number of students had grown to 1200 students from 68 different nationalities with an academic staff of 90. The campus was, as far as possible, self-contained and featured three schools-within-a-school, as well as a housing section for overseas recruited staff, swimming pools, sporting facilities, libraries, a refectory and a large sports hall and a separate gymnasium.

In 1990, following a whole-school review and an evaluation lasting almost a year, the school was inspected for a week by a team of thirteen heads and teachers from international schools in several continents. As a result the school was successfully accredited by the European Council of International Schools, and now continually seeks to maintain the high standards which the CIS demands. The school is one of the largest Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education centers in the world.

Russ Law took over as the third director in 1992 and, thanks to the dynamic vision of Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, an opportunity arose for a new school building, including residential accommodation, to be developed in the Mohammadiyah/Basateen District.

At last, the school could provide, with official approval, education for children from nursery to those entering university, and by now student numbers had were in the region of 1400-1500. After a huge amount of work and detailed planning the move into the current premises was successfully made in 1998. The school now holds accredited status from the Council of International Schools, the New Association of Schools and Colleges and the International Baccalaureate Organistion. It belongs to the Conference of Heads of British Schools in the Middle East and the Conference of the Heads of British-style Schools in Saudi Arabia. 

The big development in the school’s academic programme has of course been the inception of the International Baccalaureate Diploma. In May of 2001, 37 International Baccalaureate students graduated from the school and set off for universities around the world.

In 2002 – 2003 BISJ had a fourth visit by an international team of educators out to visit the school, the school was accredited again with the ECIS, and for the first time with the New England Association of schools and Colleges (NEASC), this was a great achievement.  

Bruce Gamwell took over as the fourth director in 2005. During Bruce’s first year as a director, two major focus have been developed, one was the development of the mission statements and the second was the development of a new school website. 

2007 saw the integration of the Arabic Language programme into the curriculum throughout the school day; in September 2008 a new building for the Secondary section enabled the Arabic and the Modern Languages Department to work in a modern facility with state of the art equipment. The building includes 12 classrooms and a multi-purpose hall to better cater for the growing number of students. The use of interactive whiteboards added great support to the teaching process. Lower and Middle Schools have combined into one Primary School with a single leadership team, this has resulted in a more coherent programme for the children as they progress through from Early years to Year 6. In 2009 the addition of our Astroturf surface greatly enhanced the facilities available in school. In 2011 the use of our schoolcomms system to send messages to parents and our website has kept the school and wider community up to date with whats happening at the school. In 2013/14 academic year there evolved the new vision and mission of the school ‘Learning to live…Learning to learn….Learning to lead’. The reprographics department purchased a new copier which has the option of transforming documents automatically into booklets, by being stapled or folded.In addition the school has added, a new crèche, a shaded area in front of the IB block, additional classrooms on the top of the Upper School building, a Wi-Fi network and greatly increased technology provision. 

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 Trevor Williams  Chris Spedding  Russ Law  Bruce Gamwell  Ian Williams

The current director Ian Williams took over as the fifth director in 2015. Over the years the school has grown to over 1500 students from over 60 countries and with more than 240 members of staff.