Dubai English Speaking School
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DESSC Board of Trustees

The Governing Body of the school is best described as a Board of Trustees, who determine and approve those statutory policies which are required of them, including those as provided under the Articles of Governance, and receive, review and approve other school management policies from the Headteacher who is the Chief Executive.  

The Governing Body monitors the implementation of such policies via its sub-committees.  Trustees who act as a Body, in good faith and in the light of best advice, will never be vulnerable in law: hence, individual Trustees have no power to act alone, unless otherwise empowered. Any matters relating to a school policy should be directed in the first instance to the Headteacher who will ensure an appropriate member of staff deals with the matter.

The offices of President and Vice-President are the subject of bi-annual election each Autumn Term.


The Trustees Report 2018/2019

To read the latest Trustees Report, please click here


Board of Trustees


Vince Cook – President 

CEO National Bank of Fujairah PJSC

Joined the Board: 01/09/16

Vince joined National Bank of Fujairah PJSC in 2009 as the bank’s Chief Executive Officer. Since then, he has led its growth with a specialised focus in trade finance, treasury and corporate banking. He has spent the majority of his 35+ years in banking in the Middle East. This included senior positions in Barclays and a stint as Managing Director, Gulf for Barclays Capital. He has also held general management positions in two other regional banks. Vince has a Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of Liverpool and MBA from Henley.He has 5 children, all of whom have attended DESS/DESC at various times. He joined the Board in September 2016, became Treasurer in September 2017 and was asked to be President in September 2018.


Ian Harfield – Vice President 

CEO Engie Limited

Joined the board: 1/9/12

Ian Harfield, from the UK, has been in Dubai for around 15 years. Business background is building and property services in the contracting sector. A vast knowledge on contracting business activities and the operational challenges faced in the GCC.  He is currently the Executive Vice President for ENGIE Solutions, an international energy company with a strong presence in the region. Prior to this, he worked in the PFI/PPP sector in Healthcare, Military and Education sectors in the UK.His children attended DESC and he has been on the Board since 2011. Ian is currently Vice President and chairs the Facilities and Maintenance Sub-Committee.


Maggie Thorne – Community Trustee

Joined the board: 10/10/10

Maggie has served on Governing bodies in UK, Secondary and 6th Form Education as well as supporting DESSC in countless ways over the years. She was awarded the Papal Medal of Catholic Church Dame of St. Gregory (DSG) for services to Education Wales and has been a Member of OCPA (Office for Commissioner of Public Appointment) in the UK.

In 2006, Maggie became a Governor when DESC opened with 250 Students and in 2010 joined the combined DESSC Board.  In 2018 Maggie was appointed Community Trustee, reporting to the Board on community activities and chairs the Education sub-committee. She is also Abstentia Foundation Governor of St. David’s Catholic 6th Form College, Cardiff. A mother of 4 children, with 17 Grandchildren and 2 Great Grandchildren! The proud grandmother of a past DESC Student.

Ammar Shams – Trustee


Joined the board: 1/9/16


Ammar Shams was with the HSBC Group for 8 years from March 2008.  He had several roles, starting as the Head of HR for the GCC region, followed by three years as Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability before becoming Advisor to the CEO.  He has been a part time instructor at the Higher Colleges of Technology, where he taught courses on History, Ethics, Economics, and HR and chaired the Programme Advisory Committee for Business. Prior to joining HSBC, Ammar was a Project Manager at the Ministry of Federal National Council Affairs for the first ever elections in the United Arab Emirates.  At Emirates Media Incorporated, he was the Chief Consultant to the CEO from 2004 to 2005.  For more than 10 years prior to that, he was the Administration and Training Manager at Dubai Natural Gas Company.Ammar is currently a member of the Advisory Board for the University of Strathclyde in the UAE and a full time student, undertaking research at SOAS leading to a PhD in Law.  His research topic is ‘Gender parity in inheritance law in the UAE: Opportunities and Challenges.

Helen Barrett – General Secretary & Trustee

Partner CBD Consultancy 

Joined the board: 1/9/17

Helen is a British qualified solicitor who has been living and working in Dubai since 1998. Before establishing her own business in 2014, Helen worked for two international law firms advising foreign investors. Helen now supports foreign investment by providing business formation and professional sponsorship services to ensure a smooth market. 

Helen joined the Board in September 2017 as Trustee/General Secretary providing guidance and oversight on legal matters and ensuring that the Board operates in an effective and compliant manner.   Helen enjoys attending the many performing arts events held at both DESS and DESC, but has a keen interest in the safeguarding, inclusion and special education needs of SEND pupils and ensuring that DESS continues to be outstanding in this area.

Raj Kanda – Trustee

Assistant General Manager – IT Oasis Investment (Al Shirawi Group)

Joined the board: 26/9/18

Raj is currently the General Manager of IT for a large locally based family conglomerate. He joined the board in 2018 to bring IT experience to the Board given the growing investments being made in this space. Raj leads a new IT Sub-Committee to ensure all IT investments are aligned with the DESS & DESC’s strategy and are being delivered in the most effective and secure manner. Raj has been in the UAE for over 11 years and has two children in DESC adding further parental view in Board meetings.

Aldrin Sequeira – Trustee

Jumeirah Group

Joined the board: 9/10/19

Aldrin Sequeira, an Australian citizen, is currently Senior Vice President for Dubai Holding Internal Audit. He previously worked with the Jumeirah Group as Chief Internal Audit Officer and, prior to this, PricewaterhouseCoopers as Senior Manager in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the UAE. Aldrin has more than 26 years of experience in conducting assurance, advisory and forensics reviews on strategic, financial, operational and technology matters. Aldrin is a Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants – UK (FCMA), a US Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and has a Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership (QIAL) from IIA Global. Aldrin is also a Fellow professional member of the Institute of Internal Auditors- Australia (PFIIA- Aust) and Member of the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners (MGP).

Aldrin has a strong understanding of governance models and reporting best practices, and he applies his combined forensics, professional accounting, internal audit and governance knowledge to achieve successful outcomes. He joined the Board in 2019 as Treasurer.

Darren Clarke – Trustee

Chief Financial Officer – Commercial Bank of Dubai

Joined the board: 9/10/19

Darren Clarke is currently the Chief Financial Officer at the Commercial Bank of Dubai.  He has more than 20 years of banking experience.

In his previous role, Darren was the CFO for National Australia Bank (NAB) International, and based in Singapore.  He worked at NAB for 13 years, including as the CFO for Global Markets & Treasury.  Prior to that, he worked for JPMorgan Chase in the UK, Luxembourg and Hong Kong.  Darren holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from the University of Wollongong.  Qualified as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. He joined CBD in April 2018.

Darren has two children, one of which attends DESS.

Jonathan Siklos – Trustee

Senior Case Intelligence Officer – Omni Bridgeway, Dubai

Joined the board: 9/10/19

Jonathan works for a dispute resolution funder in the DIFC, and runs the UAE’s oldest amateur theatre company, Dubai Drama Group.

Jonathan lives in Dubai – his home for the last 11 years, with his wife and two children – both devoted DESS students. As a non-native Arabic speaker who has spent years grappling with this exquisitely challenging language, he is passionate about getting adults and children alike to speak better Arabic!  He joined the Board in 2019, and chairs the HR Sub-Committee.

Justin Crowley- Trustee

Real Fix Technical Services LLC

Joined the board: 9/10/19

Justin is the owner and Managing Director of Real Fix and Real Curtains, Dubai. A chartered account by background, he was recently an audit and advisory Partner with BDO in the UAE. For more than 20 years Justin has provided audit and consultancy services to the education sector in both the UAE and the UK. His clients have included DESSC, Dubai College, Rougemont School, Middlesex University and many others.

Justin has 2 children, 1 of whom attends DESC. He joined the Board in 2019 and currently chairs the Board’s Internal Audit Sub-Committee.

Tarifa Alzaabi- Trustee


Joined the board: 9/10/19

Tarifa has 20 years of executive and leadership professional experience in higher education institutions to develop student and academic services with many years of service at Higher Colleges of Technology. She is now Deputy Director General at International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture.

Who to contact

Janice Sears – Clerk to the Board of Trustees

Joined DESSC: 1/1/11

Janice-Sears-Desss01-199x300Janice came to Dubai in February 2009.  Her daughter was educated at DESC 2009 to 2011, where Janice volunteered as a member of the Friends of DESC, participating in many fundraising activities for the College, before accepting the role of Clerk to the Board in January 2011.



Correspondence to the President or other members of the Governing Body should be addressed to:

Mrs. Janice Sears, Clerk to the Trustees, c/o DESS and DESC.  The Clerk is not a member of the Governing body.


Tel: 00971(0) 50 1544580 eMail: