British School, Abu Dhabi
Seen by many as the best UK curriculum school in the capital, non-profit based British School in Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi serves approximately 1800 students from 50 nationalities, from the ages of three to eighteen years old. The school was established in 1968, making it one of the oldest schools in the emirate.
Sixty-two percent of students are British, Emiratis account for 12% of the school’s population and 4% are Australian. Nearly 10% of students receive some form of learning support.
The school is currently rated A3 by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and has been since 2015. This is actually a slip of one grade since its previous inspection. It is one of a handful of schools to have fallen in its rating.
The school is still praised widely by ADEC for its academic approach, as well as its attainment. Standards, teaching, and results are said to be very good, and in some cases outstanding. Wider personal development is also praised. As with most schools across the UAE, the teaching of Arabic, which had been improving, and Islamic Studies, which have not, are singled out areas for further attention. They are a significant reason behind the fall in rating.
The school is mixed gender with a fairly even split between boys and girls – in 2013, 918 boys and 897 girls. In 2011, the breakdown was 200 pupils in Foundation Stage, younger than five, 745 in the junior school and 837 are in the senior school, including 208 in the sixth form. Given the maturity of the school, the ratios are unlikely to have changed.
The school has also been inspected by the UK’s Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), with its latest inspection report rating it ‘Excellent’, the highest class possible, in all categories. Of particular note here, is the finding that “…pupils are extremely well educated. They make good and often exceptional progress in their learning… Results in external examinations are good in relation to UK norms, above the average for pupils of similar ability.” The school in non-selective.
The school publishes the results of its external examinations on its rather comprehensive Web site. In 2012, the school achieved a 99 percent pass rate for A’ Levels, with 12 percent of examinations resulting in an A*, 36% A* to A, 67 percent an A* to B and 87 percent an A* to C. At GCSE 49.6% received A*-A, 79.0% A*-B and 95.7% A*-C. These are results worth shouting about.
In 2013/14 the school did one better with 8.8% getting A* and 37.3% of students achieved A* to A, 66.5% A* to B and 88% A* to C at A Level. At GCSE, 55.3% achieved A* to A, and 96% A* to C.
If these results were not impressive enough, at GCSE, 29.2% of results were A*, 35.1% A, 27.9% B and 12.8% C. Only 4% of exam results were lower than a C grade.
You can find all the results for the school here.
The school is the only school in the Gulf that is a part of the both the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), as well as the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), all of these associations promoting excellence in British education.
The school claims to be a “centre of excellence for music and performing arts in the region”. It offers lessons in more than 20 instruments as well as voice coaching; has “numerous instrumental ensemble and choral groups meeting weekly”; and collaborates with some of the world’s leading musicians and orchestras who visit Abu Dhabi throughout the year. The school is also “committed to becoming” a centre of sporting excellence for the region, offering specialist sports coaching in rugby, netball, cricket and football, with a team of leading sports coaches from the UK.
The school runs more than 100 clubs, and over 85 per cent of secondary students taking part in at least one after-school activity a week.
Facilities at the school are excellent. It has a purpose built theatre opened in September 2005 and seats up to 340 people; a large auditorium that can seat up to 600 people; a full-size synthetic-turf pitch on campus, as well as exclusive use of a high quality grass pitch adjacent to the school. It also has two well-equipped libraries.
In September 2013 the school appointed Dr Christopher Ray as its new principal. Ray, who took over from Mr Paul Coackley who had been in the role since 2005, was a fairly high profile appointment as the author of a number of books, including the The Evolution of Relativity (1987), a former chairman of the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), with a doctorate in History and the Philosophy of Physics. He was the headmaster at the highly regarded Manchester Grammar School for the eight years. He only lasted 9 months at the British School. No official reason was given for his departure.
Elaine Rawlings, the school’s deputy head of education and communications, was appointed as acting head in May 2014. She remains the Acting Principal today, although a new principal is expected this September.
Rawlings heads a well oiled machine. According to the school’s ISI report, the “quality of governance [at the school] is excellent…. With outstanding strategic vision and astute financial planning, governors have masterminded the school’s growth into an all-age school which acts as a focal point for the British community and enjoys Emirati support.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this is a school that has a reputation of being incredibly difficult to get into. You can find the admissions forms and entry process here. If you’re on this track, other highly regarded British schools in Abu Dhabi include the newish Al Yasmina School, and the very new Brighton College.
This may be a not for profit school, but those facilities, reports and high quality staff clearly cost. Fees at the school (2012/13) are top end. FS1 fees start at 35,757 AED; from FS2 to Y6 fees are 46,368 AED yearly while secondary fees are 62,261 AED. The school also charges an entry fee. For FS 1 this starts at 1,460 AED, rises to 7,740 AED from FS 1 to FS 2. For FS 2 to Year 13 the fee is 9020 AED.
ADEC describes the fees as “Good Value” in its report, an unusual comment by the education authority, and also for the premium nature of the fees (they are top-end) but no less true given the quality of education on offer, and what you get for your money.
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