The British International School Al Khobar was established in 1977 to serve the families of the British community in Al Khobar. The school relocated to a purpose built new site at the start of the 2019-20 academic year. It is one of only three schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have been inspected by British Schools Overseas.
The British International School Al Khobar (BISAK) is one of a number of long-established schools in Saudi Arabia set up to serve the requirements of British families in the Kingdom. Founded in 1977, the school relocated to a purpose built campus in 2019 and operates as a not-for-profit school through a Board of Governors which includes representatives of the British Embassy and parents.
To ensure the high quality of the ‘British’ education the school seeks to provide, BISAK is an accredited member of British Schools in the Middle East (BSME), the Association of British School Overseas (AoBSO), the Council of British International School (COBIS) and the Independent of Association of Preparatory School (IAPS).
Perhaps of most note is the voluntary inspection of the school, carried out in June 2017 for British Schools Overseas on behalf of the UK Department of Education. The inspection is based on UK Government standards and requirements, ensuring that international schools meet at least the minimum UK Department of Education requirements in line with schools in England. BISAK is currently only one of three schools in KSA to have undertaken this process – the others are the British International School Riyadh (in 2018) and Jeddah Prep and Grammar School (in March 2022).
At the present time, the school has approximately 850 students from over from 50 countries with British passport holders being the largest single nationality. Students from the UK receive priority in admission to the school.
The school is led by Principal and CEO Stephen Viner who took over the role in 2016 and was previously Deputy Principal and Head of Secondary from 2010-15, having originally joined the school in 2010. He is supported by Tammy Naidoo as Preparatory School Headteacher and Darren Aisthorpe, Vice Principal and Headteacher of the Senior School and Sixth Form.
The school’s Mission seeks “Through our British values in an international environment, to inspire everyone to be positive global citizens by reflecting upon equality, community service and peace.”
The school values (based around the initials of the school) are:
BISAK is organised into three main sections – the Prep School, the Senior School and Sixth Form.
The Prep School is subdivided into three departments: The Pre-Prep School - Nursery, Reception and Years 1 & 2, Lower Prep – Years 3 and 4, and Upper Prep – Year 5 and 6. Nursery and Reception students follow the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. Students from Year 1 to Year 6 follow the English National Curriculum for English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Design Technology, Computing, Art, Music, PE and French. Arabic classes – which do not appear to be mandatory - are held each weekday afternoon from 1.15pm until 3.00pm for Pre-Preparatory and Preparatory School. The nature and number of classes can change annually in response to demand for places. Fees are charged separately for these classes.
In the Prep school, the class teacher is responsible for the teaching and learning, assessment and reporting for all students. In general, the class teacher teaches at least the core subjects (English, mathematics, science, geography and history) and is responsible for the production of the twice-yearly written reports to parents. Specialist teachers teach a range of subjects, including Music, Art, French, Arabic and P.E.
There are also a number of After School Clubs which operate from 1.10pm to 2.00pm with a few finishing at 3pm for Prep School students. An Instrumental Music Tuition Programme offers tuition in piano, clarinet, flute, saxophone, violin, viola and music theory. Students enrolled in the programme receive lessons of 30 minutes duration delivered weekly on a cycle of 30 throughout the academic year individually or in a small group (maximum 3, subject to availability of suitable pairing).
The Senior School is divided into Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. Key Stage 3 students, which covers Years 7-9 follow the National Curriculum for England.
Key Stage 4, which covers Years 10 and 11, follows either GCSE or IGCSE courses with examinations after the two year programme. At Key Stage 4, core subjects of English (language and literature) and Maths are required. PE is also required as a non-examined subject. Options include Arabic (First language), Art & Design, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computer Science, Design & Technology, Double Science Award, Economics, French, Geography, History, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Physical Education (in addition to General PE), Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish.
Key Stage 5 (Sixth Form) is the delivery of education for the ages from 16 to 19 (Years 12 to 13) and is based on AS/A Level subject choices which continue to develop students’ skills from Key Stage 4, in preparation for University or work applications.
The first entry requirement for Sixth Form is a minimum of five grade 5s or above at GCSE or IGCSE. It is expected that students will have attained a grade 6 or above in Maths and a 6 or above in English Language or a 7 or above in English as a Second Language, as these will be required for entry to most universities. Students are accepted into the Sixth Form if they achieve a grade 5 in Maths but are not be allowed to take it at AS level.
The range of subjects available is relatively limited (due to the limited number of students who appear to stay on for these final two years). They include Arabic, Biology, Business, Chemistry, English Language & Literature, French, Geography, History, Mathematics, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology.
A range of extra-curricular activities and clubs are offered for Senior School and Sixth Form students such as the Business Club, which promotes entrepreneurial and collaborative skills. BISAK also offers Model United Nations (MUN). Sixth Formers can also get involved in organising projects and events for their peers, charities or larger school events, such as International Day.
A volunteering programme offers a range of roles such as science technician assistants, sports leaders, librarians, primary learning support assistants and supporting the human resources department, through which Sixth Formers gain valuable experience and support many events for the whole school. In addition, students organise specific Sixth Form events such as school balls, pizza nights, trips away and meals at local restaurants. Somewhat surprisingly, BISAK does not offer the Duke of Edinburgh International Award which is increasingly common in UK curriculum international schools.
Sports activities enable students to participate in national tournaments in football, basketball and volleyball and they are also able to coach younger students through leading sporting activities such as sports days and being responsible for their own sports clubs.
For students interested in the Performing Arts, the music department offers a range of instrumental lessons, work towards formal instrumental qualifications and participation in orchestra, jazz band and rock band. The David Greetham Bursary Award provides free music lessons at the school and is open to Sixth Formers annually. Students can gain production and directing skills by getting involved in organising school concerts and auditions are held for yearly shows with roles in performance, lighting, set design, hair, makeup and other back stage work, giving valuable work experience to those who want to enter the performing arts industry.
In the tradition of British schools each student is placed in a “house” when she/he joins BISAK.
The houses comprise groups of students organised across the full age-range, which allows some mixing of the year groups. Where possible, siblings are placed in the same house. The names and colours of the houses are: Dolphin (Blue), Scorpion (Green), Oryx (Yellow) and Fox (Red).
Houses support the focus on healthy competition in the school, whereby students can earn house points for special effort or attainment, and sports and swimming events and other competitions are also opportunities for students to earn points. House membership provides students with extra motivation to try their best and a sense of belonging to a group larger than his/her own class.
BISAK publishes its I/GCSE and A Level results on its website. Highlights of the 2021 exam session (2022 has not yet been provided) at AS Level were students’ achievement of 96.5% exam passes at A-E, whilst at A Level 98.2% of exam entries achieved A*-E.
At I/GCSE, 94.8% of exam entries were awarded A*- C for 5 subjects including English, Maths and Science. The total number of exam entries at I/GCSE had more than doubled to 468 between 2018 and 2021. A Level entries had reduced from 77 to 55 in 2021, suggesting a reduction in student numbers to approximately 20.
In 2017, BISAK underwent a voluntary inspection by British Schools Overseas on behalf of the UK Department of Education. A copy of the inspection report can be found here.
Summarising the school, the inspection team noted that “British International School, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia (BISAK) is a good school with outstanding features. Pupils make good progress as they move through the school. IGCSE results exceed UK national expectations. Personal development is of a high order. Pupils feel secure and valued within the friendly mutually trustful learning environment that prevails throughout the school. Pupils are well supported by excellent pastoral care and robust welfare, health and safety policies and procedures. The pupils, parents and staff are highly committed to the school and feel valued and appreciated. The curriculum is broad and balanced, enriched by a range of extra-curricular activities. The newly constituted governing body is already making a positive impact.”
The inspectors found ‘What the school does well’ to include:
• The clear vision of the principal for the future direction of the school
• The PE department is a strength, leading on Gifted and Talented provision.
• The ethos of the school has encouraged the development of a harmonious learning community that enables all pupils to feel fully valued.
• Staff attitudes are highly positive. They feel valued and appreciated.
• The school confidently shares its values and communicates these well to all stakeholders.
• Most teaching in the school is of a high quality that enables pupils to make good progress throughout their time in the school.
• Pupils are outstanding ambassadors of the school.
• The increasingly effective use of data to track individual pupil progress and inform planning.
• External examination results at Key 4 are a strength.
• Parents feel the school is a major, positive influence in the development of their
sons/daughters’ academic and personal development.
• Student behaviour in nearly all lessons is exemplary.
• The Board ensures the school is supported and guided in its strategic development.
• Commitment of nearly all staff to continuous school improvement.
• Middle leaders are effectively driving school development.
It seems that BISAK is a popular choice with parents and students, offering a high standard of relatively traditional UK education. The range of subjects at A Level is somewhat limited - the Arts do not feature at all - but how much this is driven by students' interests and their relatively limited number, rather than a lack of willingness on the part of the school to offer a greater range is not clear. There is also currently no BTEC provision (offering an alternative pathway to a purely exam based route to university), nor an option for involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award which is highly regarded by universities in the UK.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at BISAK, please share your thoughts and opinions with other potential members of your community and complete our Survey.
Tuition fees for 2022-23 range from 46508.30 SAR in Nursery to 80,877.20 SAR in Year 13, inclusive of VAT. The additional After School Arabic classes are payable at 9,200 SAR per year.
To register for the school, parents are required to pay a Capitation fee on enrolling into the school, or if re-enrolling after 12 months of 14,000 SAR per child. For the second child onwards, on initial enrolment, or if re-enrolling within 12 months, there is a payment of 9,000 SAR per child.
The Capitation Fee is NOT part of the school fee; it is an administration fee that does not attract VAT.
Due to the high demand for entry to BISAK, the school follows a priority system, offering places to children on the waiting list who are British passport holders ahead of other nationals. Thereafter all offers are based on the chronological order by date of registration.
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information