ABZ - Abdulla bin Zubair Private School is a UK curriculum school currently in the process of expanding from its original Primary provision to include at least lower Secondary. It is located behind the Al Maqam Medical Centre in Al Ain and appeals mainly to native Arabic speaking families.
The story so far...
Abdulla bin Zubair Private School - otherwise known as ABZ School (ABZ) - was originally set up in 2006 as a Primary School following the UK National Curriculum. It is a relatively small school with only some 280 students in 2018, when last inspected by the ADEK inspection team. However, these numbers belie the rapid growth of the school in 2017-18, when an additional 150 children from 29 different nationalities joined ABZ School. At that time, the school was expanding to include Grades 6 and 7 (Lower Secondary).
35% of students at ABZ were Emirati children at this time; Egyptian (13%), Jordanian (9%) and Sudanese (7%) children made up the other main nationality groups. Students were supported by some 27 teachers and 11 teaching assistants, providing a teacher:student ratio of 1:10 - a very low number which should provide plentiful individual attention and support to students. Average class sizes, according to the school, are approximately 20 children.
It seems that perhaps the rapid growth of the school was not necessarily appreciated by the teaching staff, however, despite a new middle-management tier which has brought greater academic expertise. A turnover of 18% is relatively high, although lower than the average 20-22% across UAE international schools in general. The school does not provide information about the backgrounds and nationalities of its staff.
The school states that its Mission is
"Providing a caring and creative environment, that emphasizes the Social, Emotional, Physical, Intellectual development of each child and to develop young people with a sense of understanding, compassion and righteousness."
Its Vision statement says that
"ABZ Private School seeks to provide a unique, creative and active learning environment where the children are provided with opportunities to enhance their learning and needs. ABZ Private school aims to improve student learning experiences and raise the academic outcomes of students to be at internationally competitive level, necessary to achieve the UAE Vision."
ABZ is evidently an improving school. Following its first ADEK inspection in 2014-15, the school was rated Weak by ADEK. A new Principal had been appointed shortly before the inspection took place and had achieved improvements in general (although not in the overall rating) when the ADEK team returned to inspect the school again one year later in 2015-16. Mr. H.Fatih Adak's efforts had clearly borne fruit in the 2017-18 inspection when ABZ School received an Acceptable rating from the ADEK inspection team. This means that they will not now be inspected again until early 2020.
What about the curriculum?
ABZ School follows the UK National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 (KG2 and Grade 1) and Key Stage 2 for Grades 2-5 inclusive). The school is in the process of applying for COBIS accreditation (the Council of British International Schools), in order to ensure that it is delivering the curriculum in line with the standards in the UK and in order to develop its use of the new English National Curriculum assessments that will allow bench-marking and accurate assessment. The school promotes the ‘question a day’ initiative actively enough to prepare students for the Trends in International Mathematics and Science study (TIMSS) tests.
The initial focus is based on the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, which aims to provide children with experience of the six basic areas of learning: Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Communication, Language and Literacy; Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy; Knowledge and Understanding of the world; Physical Development, and Creative Development.
The KG2 and Grade 1 curriculum focuses more on Independent Learning. The areas of learning are broadened and the children work to achieve the required targets. In Grades 2 and 3, children try to develop the skills that they have acquired through the use of the skills of enquiry, questioning and answering. The children also gain knowledge about their practical life experiences. In Grades 4 and 5, children are provided with more challenging opportunities to develop into effective learners, through practical activities, independent and collaborative projects. The children are challenged in all aspects, including Academics, Cultural, Sports and challenging activities.
In addition to the core curriculum subjects of English, Maths, Science, ICT, Geography, Art, Music, Sports, Arabic, Islamic Studies and UAE Social Studies, the school also offers a range of Extra-curricular activities.
What about the facilities?
The school's website states that its focus is on "providing an educational environment that is both supportive and challenging to our student’s future". Their priority apparently is also to ensure students' safety, offering "a suitable and huge monitored parking area in the front of school gate directly, which makes students entry and dismiss [sic] very smoothly and secure".
Class rooms meet international standards, provided with modern teaching resources and include inviting and comfortable reading corners that are well-used in both formal lessons and as a place to sit to read with and to friends if work is finished. Learning spaces are described by ADEK's inspectors as "fit for purpose, suitably staffed and adequately resourced". An ICT lab is also available, as is a small library which is adequately stocked with books. Corridors are fully monitored with cameras, and football and volleyball courts, together with a swimming pool, a shaded playground for the KG section and a multipurpose play area for higher grade students are also provided.
What the inspectors say
Having been rated Weak in its two previous inspections, ABZ School has done well to raise standards such that the six key performance standards are all now at least Acceptable - the minimum standard schools are expected to achieve - and in the case of Students' Personal and Social Development and their Innovation Skills, together with the Protection, Care, Guidance and Support of students, are rated Good.
In terms of the school's strengths, ADEK inspectors identified these as:
In terms of areas for further improvement, these were identified as the need to:
At WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, we have seen that it is often a challenge for a stable school to raise standards sufficiently to reach the next rating level. ABZ School has done well to manage the improvements made over the previous two years, but during a period of rapid growth in staff and student numbers, and with the addition of Lower Secondary grades, the period between the 2018 inspection, and the one that will take place in early 2020 is likely to be still more challenging.
The inspection team did find that additional staffing and improvements in teaching practices had had a positive impact on student achievement. The focus during this next period will need to be on the quality of the curriculum and its delivery, matched to the abilities of individual students. It will be interesting to see how far the school has progressed when the next report is issued. Meanwhile, as an Acceptable school, ABZ is not a school that we would necessarily recommend, but it would seem to offer an improving environment, and certainly worth investigation by prospective parents seeking a smaller school for their Primary-age children.
Fees are on the higher side, based on ADEK's approved fees statement, starting at AED 28,000 in KG1 and rising to AED 37,000 in Grade 5. Book fees of approx. AED 1,000 to 1,500 should be added to these figures. The fees for Grades 6 (AED 41,500) and 7 (AED 42,250) include Book fees. The school's own website is again rather uninformative in this context and does not provide fee information.
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