At a glance
Raha International School is a very popular IB school in Abu Dhabi now entering its tenth year of operation. It is located in the suburb of Khalifa City A in the heart of the Raha Beach area – a popular residential area for all nationalities and close to the Etihad Head office and airport. There are currently 1,850 students from 3 to 18 years. Designed with the style of an Arabic village in mind, the sand-coloured and double and three-storey classroom blocks surround several large piazzas with wide shaded pathways linking the campus. There are a lot of well-established palm trees and shrubs which help create an authentic garden feeling. There are a large number of open spaces and play areas.
The school has been divided into 3 sections, with the two separate EY1 and EY2/ grade 1 blocks located at one side of the campus (incorporating a new two storey sports hall topped with tennis and basketball courts on the roof), and the main Primary School section occupying the lower floors of the other two sections of the school.
There are two full size football pitches, four tennis courts, two well equipped gymnasiums, ICT labs, two swimming pools and two libraries. A canteen is being expanded to provide additional outside seating. The classrooms are well equipped with computers and interactive whiteboards along with all the appropriate specialist equipment. The class sizes are 22 children in EY 1 and 2. G1 to G10 have a maximum of 26 per class. G11 and G12 have around 22 per class. This is a large school with 7 classes in each grade.
The pupils are from a wide variety of nationalities, 82 in total. Some 15% of students are Emirati, 15% ex-pat Arab and the remainder predominantly Western nationals. The younger students wear a polo shirt style uniform and older pupils wear a white shirt, black trousers and green sweater.
The nationality of the teaching staff also varies, coming from the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia and the UAE. Staff turnover is low at approx. 12%. The broad mix of staff and students, our guide suggested, gives the school ‘a new world feel’. Sport, the arts and music are seen as integral to the whole education of the children and there is evidence of creativity around the campus. The school has chosen to follow the IB curriculum as they are convinced that this is the most successful foundation for young people, many of whom go on to university. The new British Principal also strongly supports this view.
Last year, one student was awarded a full scholarship to US Ivy League Dartmouth College and this year another has been accepted at Oxford in the UK to read experimental psychology. As there are so many nationalities within the school, there is an ‘English as an Additional Language (EAL)’ programme as required. In order to address the wide range of Arabic skills within the school, four levels are taught across every grade, from absolute beginner to native speaker, and timetabled to allow each student to be placed in the appropriate class.
The SEN department, which includes a team of 16 specialist staff, is seen as an important one, as many children need fast-tracking in their English to attain a good understanding or require support because of specific additional learning needs. The school also employs a Full-time Counsellor in the Primary school and 2 Counsellors in the Secondary school who support students with Social, Emotional and Behavioural counselling on the one hand and Career/University application guidance on the other. A separate Counsellor addresses any disciplinary issues.
Walking around the school, pupils and staff looked busy, lively and friendly and appeared to be focused. The atmosphere was fairly noisy and there was a certain degree of disruption as upgrading of some of the departments was taking place during term time. The school appears to be in some areas a ‘work in progress’ with considerable construction taking place both within outside the grounds, but this will all be complete for the start of the next academic year. With an investment of AED 55m, a new specialist building for the Secondary Library and Performing Arts, as well as improvements to the current Secondary buildings and sports facilities at the rear of the site are being undertaken. At last, Abu Dhabi Municipality is completing proper car parking at the exterior of the school boundary.
We were able to meet the newly appointed Principal, Mr Ian Collidge, who joined the school at the beginning of the year, in order to ensure a smooth transition. He is preparing to take on the role fully in September. His tiny office was also a work in progress as a new structure is being built to include more spacious offices and an impressive reception area. Mr Collidge is more than qualified for the challenge of Principal, having been in education for a long time, having also been a school inspector both for OFSTED and ISI in the UK, for the KHDA in Dubai, and more unusually, for several years also worked in the wider business world.
Mr Collidge's passion for Raha and for education is obvious. He is extremely keen to promote Raha and feels that its qualities have not been acknowledged properly yet, despite their achievement of the Outstanding rating in their most recent ADEC inspection – one of only a small number in Abu Dhabi to achieve this rating.
Mr. Collidge states that he aims to take the school from “Outstanding to Exceptional” and to create the Best School in the UAE. In order to achieve this, he believes that communication is the key. He sees his role as ensuring stability at the school whilst adjusting organizational alignment across all sections of the school and underpinning the basic structure. He is bringing a fresh pair of eyes to a school that has had the same very good leadership in place since its opening, but a school that is clearly growing and evolving quickly. A focus on the academic will clearly be a priority with a determination to see improvement in the school’s IB Diploma results, but this is not the sole area of focus for the school.
There is a Mindfulness programme run by the Head of Learning Support who is managing this as part of his Master’s Degree studies. There is also a huge extracurricular programme and key appointments have been made of an Athletics Director to provide greater focus on competitive sports and a Performing Arts Director who will make full use of the new Performing Arts building, which contains an Auditorium and Black Box theatre, Secondary Gym and Dance studio among other facilities.
Additional areas under consideration by Mr. Collidge for introduction are a house system for competitive sport and pupil leadership roles, which he explained were on his rather long ‘To Do’ list. Mr. Collidge also praised not only the pupils, but also the extremely eager parents who contribute and support the establishment. A more formalized Parents’ Association or Advisory Board is also in review. There is a parent relations team whose aim is to build a greater sense of community in the school. Due to time constraints, we were unable to speak to any parents (apart from our guide who works in admin and has children at the school). We also were unable to speak to any pupils, but our observation of them was that they appeared to be happy and focused.
The school has a communicator app for parents to keep up-to-date with school activities and there are school buses serving the community with children from EY1 to G12 are allowed to use them. It is difficult to see how Raha International can grow much larger, given the constraints of the site, but there is no doubt that parents will be disappointed if it does not do so. The school is serving its very large and diverse community, and would appear to be doing so very well – outstandingly in fact.
Fees are payable in three installments: Semester 1 in August, Semester 2 in December and Semester 3 in March. Textbooks are included in tuition fees for EY 1 up to Grade 10. Diploma textbooks for Grade 11 and 12 should be purchased for each course.
1. Re-registration Fee
For new and returning students a non-refundable re-/registration fee will be charged. The school will advise the amount and the due date. The registration fee will be adjusted against Term 1 fees.
Uniforms should be purchased at Zaks Uniform Store located on the second floor of the Al Raha Mall (location map). The store is open Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 7.30pm. For more information, please contact Zaks on +971 (0)2 556 5340 or visit www.zaksstore.com.
3. Bus Transport
RIS provides bus transport to many areas of Abu Dhabi. Costs are AED5,000 per student per annum.
4. Extra-Curricular Programme
Some of the ECP activities may incur an additional charge. Please refer to the current schedule for fee information.
E-Sports, an external provider, offer a range of sports and other activities at an additional cost in the late afternoon, in the evening and on weekends.
6. IB Examination Fees
12th Grade IB Exam Fees incur an additional charge.
7. Special Educational Needs (SEN)/English As An Additional Language (EAL)
If during the entrance assessment we discover a requirement for English Language Support or Special Educational Needs Support, please be advised that there will be an additional fee changed for this service. Parents will be notified of this charge prior to or within 4 weeks of the start of the academic year.
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