Eight years after his arrival, Paul Coackley, departing principal of the British School Al Khubairat (BSAK), will leave Abu Dhabi later this month bound for the altogether chillier climes of Wales, where he will shortly take up a post working for Powys County Council\'s school improvements team. He will be replaced at BSAK by Christopher Ray, who joins the school following a nine-year stint as high master at the well-regarded Manchester Grammar School in the north-west of England. The grammar school\'s campus, with its beautifully manicured cricket pitches which once played host to former England captain Michael Atherton, sits a short distance from Maine Road, Manchester City\'s once famous and now demolished old ground, a reminder perhaps that Ray\'s appointment represents only the latest in a growing series of ties that bind these two cities together. Since arriving in Abu Dhabi in 2005 after a six-year period as headteacher at Welshpool High School in Wales, Coackley has witnessed some profound changes in the capital\'s education landscape. Upon arrival, his first task was to hand out A-level results to the initial clutch of 30 students who had stayed on at BSAK to sit their final exams in the newly formed sixth-form. This year around 100 pupils have sat A-levels, an indicator of both the school\'s health and its growth in the past few years. BSAK\'s site has also been completely transformed since the turn of the century. The new secondary school was finished in 2001, followed by the Jubilee Building (for primary schoolchildren) in 2002, both completed while Jim Harvey was principal. A third phase of construction - adding an auditorium, library and other facilities - opened in Coackley\'s first term. In a neat piece of symmetry, the final phase of redevelopment (a new building for FS1 to Year 2 children), was opened at the beginning of his final academic year at BSAK. It has been a \"massive building programme. We have tried to maximise the footprint,\" he says, in reference to those four phases of development which together make the most of the school\'s 33,000 square metres of real estate, pushing its facilities to the extremities of the Mushrif plot BSAK has occupied since moving from its original site, close to the Corniche, in 1980. There are now approximately 1,800 pupils at BSAK, around 60 per cent of whom are British, the remaining 40 per cent hail from more than 50 nationalities around the world, according to statistics presented in an Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) report filed after it last inspected the school in 2011. That same ISI report rated BSAK as \"excellent\" in a variety of categories including academic achievement, personal development and the quality of its teaching staff and facilities. There have been major shifts outside the school gates too. Where once BSAK was almost the only British school in town, those ranks have been swelled in recent times by a handful of education establishments owned and operated by Aldar Academies, as well as Brighton College Abu Dhabi and the British International School Abu Dhabi. Cranleigh-Abu Dhabi, a branch of the British public school, is scheduled to open next year on Saadiyat Island. Repton College, which already has an international footprint in Dubai, will open its new Reem Island campus in 2013. This is quite apart from general and sustained growth throughout the sector. Abu Dhabi Education Council estimated earlier this year that approximately 100 schools will need to be built in the next seven years to keep up with anticipated population growth. Coackley only sees benefits in such increased competition. \"It is good for the city that more schools are coming and it is good that parents have choice.