At a glance
Built over three floors in a U-shape around a central quadrangle, Al Yasat Private School features classrooms, a canteen and library on two sides of the building, with the sports facilities (including an indoor swimming pool and sports hall) on the third side.
The KG section occupies one side of the ground with its own internal play area, keeping the youngest children separated from older students. To the rear of the building and within the larger outdoor central quadrangle area is plentiful outdoor space featuring multi-purpose courts, seating areas for lunch and space to run around.
The school has significant resources with its own TV/radio station, two IT suites, a media suite, a Food Technology lab, Science and Robotics labs, as well as dedicated Music, Drama and Art rooms.
There is a Bring Your Own Device policy for students from Grades 6-8.
Books are available in hard cover form from the Library, backed up by digital copies available on-line. The school offers the Read, Write, Ink programme which offers a balanced approach to Literacy, and enables the school to monitor and award prizes to students for every set of 10 books that they read.
The school relocated to its current site in 2014 having previously occupied a city centre site at Al Wahda on Abu Dhabi Island for over 20 years. As such, it is definitely not a new school. The school is owned by Mr. Sultan Al Haji who also has two well know nurseries in his education portfolio.
Currently Al Yasat offer the US curriculum from KG1 to Grade 8 (with Grade 9 due to open in September) and it will eventually grow to grade 12. There are approximately 700 students at the school, supported by almost 100 staff, including teaching assistants. There are, on average, 25 children per class, with an equal split of boys’ and girls’ classes. The eventual capacity of the school is approx. 1,200.
Al Yasat follows the US Common Core curriculum for English and Math, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Science and the Virginia Curriculum for all other subjects.
Inevitably, with its base in a very heavily Emirati occupied area, the majority of students at Al Yasat are local children with about 10% of the students being other Arab nationalities.
The staff is a wide mix of native English speakers – the Principal has been with the school since 2011 and is British.
There is a very strong focus on Professional Development for staff. The curriculum follows the US Common Core standards, but also draws from other international curricula making use of best practice and resources.
The aim is to provide a holistic education linked to the culture and history of the UAE, an approach evident from the moment a visitor enters the school. During our visit, a display at the centre of the lobby was based around the theme of the environment and recycling. At its heart was a large globe-shaped planet Earth made from recycled paper and to its side stood a palm tree and a camel made from drink tins and plastic bottles.
The ethos of the school is expressly intended to be family-orientated with respect for the language, tradition and history of the UAE, but with an international perspective, offering a balanced value-based focus of respect, responsibility and integrity.
One of the most striking elements of the school can be found in the corridors of the Middle School, where large boards in the corridors spell out the expectations of students – “We do real, we do smiles, we do respect, we do honesty, we do fairness, we do I’m sorry”; a total of 13 different positive statements. Key among these is probably “We do mistakes, Oops!” and “We do Second Chances”.
Another board lists the values expected of students – “Honesty, Integrity, Be Cool, Be Curious, Be Happy” and so on. A positive attitude is at the heart of everything that goes on in the school and the reasons behind expectations are clearly explained.
These values and behaviours are also reflected in the way in which students are treated by staff, with rewards and sanctions appropriate to the situation.
There are clear expectations set by the Principal in relation to attendance and other areas that may represent a challenge in some schools. Where there has been an excellent whole-school attendance, for instance, an SMS is sent to parents. Children who behave with respect and good manners are feted at assemblies. This respect extends to the Principal’s behaviour, as she is making a specific effort to learn Arabic.
With such a large non-native English speaking student base, there is a focus on English as a Second Language teaching in the school. This is supported further by provision for children with mild to moderate additional learning needs.
Families are responsible for arranging shadow support where required, but these staff are then guided and supported by the school team. Al Yasat plans to extend the support to children with additional needs further and particularly in the area of provision for children on the Autism spectrum.
A Special Educational Needs coordinator will be joining the school in September 2016. The school will also be adding to its overall non-academic support through the addition of a School Councillor and Careers advisor in the new academic year.
In addition to the strong academic and support focus within the school, the Principal has placed an equally strong focus on community involvement. Parents are encouraged to be actively involved with school life and take part in a range of Parental events including Sports Days, celebrations for Mothers’ Day, Back to School events and Parent evenings. Consideration is being given to the addition of a Parents’ Council as the school grows.
Rated Band B, Grade 4 in the first ADEC inspection report on the new site (in 2015), the school was praised for providing securely satisfactory academic achievement across almost all subjects, the quality of the building and resources, the care and support provided for those students with special educational needs and a strong positive ethos where students are well cared for.
The strongly integrated leadership team that shares a common vision for high standards and sustained growth, the celebration of the culture and traditions of the UAE across the school and the focused language development programme were also singled out for positive comment.
This is a busy school with engaged staff and students, provided with very good facilities. It is very evident when visiting Al Yasat School, that the can-do attitude of the school’s Principal and her very clear belief that her students are capable of great things, is having an extremely positive impact of the students who attend the school.
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