Senior Leadership Team

The DESS Senior Leadership Team (SLT) is responsible to the Board of Trustees for the leadership and management of the school. Each member of the team has specific responsibilities around the school as detailed in their biographies.

Catherine Dando - Headteacher

Catherine Dando - Headteacher

Catherine Dando was appointed DESS Headteacher in September 2014. Having gained a First Class Honours degree in Education at Brighton University, Catherine has developed a highly experienced career in education, with nearly 30 years spent in primary education in the UK as a class teacher, Literacy Leader, Deputy Headteacher and Headteacher: For two years she was seconded to Brighton University where she lectured in Early Literacy to teaching students. Since gaining her NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship) in 2010, Catherine has led a very successful team as a Primary headteacher in Worthing, UK.

A strong believer in working collaboratively with other schools, Catherine was also chosen to represent her region on the Heads Executive where she was able to have a real impact on leading change in schools. She is passionate about creating irresistible learning opportunities and empowering children to become independent and lifelong learners.  A mother of three grown up children herself, she is looking forward to welcoming new pupils and parents to DESS for the new academic year.

Tony Clarkson - Senior Deputy Headteacher


  • Health and Safety
  • Safeguarding
  • School Operations
  • Maths, Technology and Marketing & Communications

Tony Clarkson - Deputy HeadteacherTony has been at DESS since 2007 and is now beginning his fifth year as part of the Senior Leadership Team.  After graduating from the University of London, Tony spent time working as a financial planner before taking time out to travel. He then returned to University in East Anglia where he completed his PGCE (QTS) in Primary Education. Tony then returned home to teach in Guernsey. During his 6 years in Guernsey, Tony taught across KS2 and was Head of P.E.

Upon moving to Dubai, Tony started at DESS in Year 5 and has since taken on several different roles; Subject Leader, Year Leader, Phase Leader and Assistant Headteacher as well as teaching in different year groups. During his time at DESS Tony has also qualified as an ILM Level 3 Workplace Coach and completed his NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship). 

Outside of work Tony can often be seen running the streets of Dubai as he attempts to stay fit enough to keep up with his two young boys. 

Ruth Gibson - Deputy Headteacher


  • Head of KS1
  • Leading on the school curriculum and inclusion
  • Overseeing DESSCares, Global Citizenship and Sustainability

Ruth Gibson - Assistant HeadteacherRuth joined DESSC in September 2016 as a Year Leader and has been part of the Senior Leadership team since 2017.

After gaining a PGCE in Swansea Metropolitan University, Ruth moved to Bristol to begin her teaching career. During her time in Bristol, she taught across Years 2 – Year 6 and joined the school leadership team as a SENDCo. She also worked with the local authority providing support for other schools in relation to behavior management.

In 2014, Ruth moved to Mombasa, Kenya where she took on the role of Deputy Head Teacher. During this time, she introduced the National Curriculum 2014 as well as new reporting and assessment procedures to the school.

Outside of work, Ruth enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, paddle boarding and exploring the world.

Liz Miller - Deputy Headteacher


  • Head of Foundation Stage
  • Assessment and Reporting
  • The National Agenda
  • Overseeing Languages, Social Studies and Emirati Enrichment

Liz Miller - Assistant HeadteacherLiz joined DESS in 2008 as Foundation Stage 2 Year Leader. With the opening of FS1 in 2014, she moved into the role of Phase Leader for Foundation Stage and joined the Senior Leadership Team in 2019.

After graduating from Plymouth University in 1999 with a BEd honours degree, Liz taught in Devon for four years before moving to a Senior Leadership role in a village school in Leicestershire.

In 2005, Liz moved to Ras Al Khaimah to begin a new role as Year One teacher and year leader. In her three years at RAKESS, she taught both the British and IB curriculums.

In her spare time Liz enjoys reading and keeping fit.

Victoria Atkinson - Assistant Headteacher


  • Upper Key Stage 2
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Home Learning
  • Overseeing French, Computing and DT/Art

Vic has been at DESS since 2019 as Year Leader for Year 4, and is now beginning her fourth year at the school as part of the Senior Leadership Team.

Vic came to DESS from a senior leadership position in an award-winning London girls’ school, leading on Teaching and Learning innovation, SEND and inclusion, and assessment. Prior to this, Vic spent four years teaching in a local authority primary school in the West Midlands working across Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Vic holds a first class degree in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Warwick, where she also studied for her PGCE.

Outside of work, Vic enjoys exploring, travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Sam Bowen - Assistant Headteacher


  • Lower Key Stage 2
  • Professional Development and Training
  • Pupil Voice
  • Overseeing PE, Literacy and Science

After finishing his degree in English Language at Cardiff University, Sam completed his PGCE course at the University of Portsmouth. In his first years of teaching, he taught in a small junior school in Portsmouth city centre, specialising in supporting children with social, emotional and behavioural needs. In 2015, he moved to Dubai and has worked in two primary schools. During this time, he has worked in senior leadership as well as taught across Key Stage 2 and has led the curriculum in both Maths and English.

Outside of school he enjoys cooking and keeping fit. He is also a keen footballer, kite-surfer and Frisbee player.