A top tier school offering all-through IB with Outstanding facilities, (BSO report 2017), and the most immediate surprise is its location in relation to Sharjah and many of the northern residential areas of Dubai.
Ajman Academy is located five minutes’ drive from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, an easy 15-20 minute drive to Mirdif and 30-40 minutes from Silicon Oasis, Falcon City and Arabian Ranches (from where students already travel). Since travel to and from school is against the commuter traffic flow, this really is a practical location for families living in these areas, seeking a school that is mid-market priced, but with the facilities and staffing of Premium schools in Dubai.
All staff are native English speakers with the majority from the UK, Ireland, Canada and US. In addition, the school actively supports children with English Additional Language requirements with a dedicated team of 3 staff providing 1-1 support (there is an additional fee for this support). The school also provides support to children with additional learning needs across a wide range, with 2 full-time staff currently working in this field.
Ajman Academy is accredited to offer the IB Primary Years Programme and is a member of British Schools of the Middle East (committed to offering the UK National Curriculum through Secondary). Unlike many Dubai schools, where expat families tend to be far in the majority, Ajman Academy has a strong contingent of Emirati children (over 50%), together with a broad mix of 47 other nationalities (the largest groups being ex-pat Arab, UK, US and Irish). This makes for a truly international flavour within the school.
In order to provide for this broad range of nationalities of children attending the school, Arabic is taught for 40 minutes per day in 3 - rather than the usual 2 – groups. Arabic A is for native-speakers, Arabic B for non-native speakers and Arabic C for complete beginners. Islamic Studies also takes place daily for Muslim students, whilst non-Muslim students are provided with extension activities. Spanish is offered as an additional language in Secondary school.
The second surprise is the size and facilities of the school. Ajman Academy operates from a bright, modern building with Foundation 2 and the Lower Primary (to year 3) located to the left of the long, rectangular, double height entry hall, which is flooded with light, school trophies and awards and bright primary-coloured furniture.
Classrooms are similarly well equipped with appropriate light wood tables and colourful chairs, each with access to an outside play area. Classrooms feature the latest technology with IT integrated Veri-table Boards, which can be used either in their upright position by the teacher or students to present information etc. to the class, or can be laid flat for children to use in an interactive process.
The school provides I-pads which can be linked to the Veri-table and IT is integrated throughout the school. Plenty of appropriate learning resources are available, including role play equipment and an indoor area equipped for the development of gross motor skills. Breakout sections have been set up in the hallways to allow for small group or individual work. Staffing is good in lower Primary with a teaching assistant, in addition to the class teacher, in FS2 to year 2 inclusive.
To the rear of the Lower Primary section is a large, open playground with plenty of space for children to be active and with large climbing and play equipment installed. Foundation 1 children are housed in a separate nursery block, with their own fenced off play area and separate entrance directly from the car-parking. Again, classrooms are light, bright and well-equipped. Children have a nanny in addition to the class teacher and teaching assistant, with integrated toilet facilities and a small area where they can nap or rest if needed. There is a facility for FS1 children to remain in school from 1pm until 2.40pm when their older Primary siblings finish their day. Across from the FS1 block the school canteen provides cooked meals that are catered on-site and are extremely popular with students. There is also a kiosk for Secondary students and teachers that offers hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks.
To the right of the main entrance hall are two further blocks. At the front is the main Administration and upstairs the classrooms spread across the top of the school, used by the Upper Primary and Secondary. A brand new self-contained Secondary block is close to completion at the rear of the school and this will free up considerable space in the current buildings, which is certain to be much appreciated. The new building includes all its own teaching and sports facilities, as well as laboratories etc. and will be fully equipped to meet the demands of the growing school. This is due to open by early 2016. Meanwhile, the upper floor of the current building houses busy classrooms, as well as specialist art rooms, an IT lab with Apple Mac computers, a large and popular library, Music and Food technology rooms.
Also on this side of the main entrance hall on the ground floor level are three further impressive facilities. A 200 seater auditorium is used regularly by the Primary and Secondary school students and their parents for presentations and for school musical productions. There is also a very large sports hall which can be subdivided into 2 sections with a full size indoor basketball/multi court and spectator seating. Lastly, there is a very popular 25m indoor swimming pool, which is used by all children twice weekly. A competitive swim squad is also in training. Outside, the school has a large Astroturf playing field.
Ajman Academy is a well-resourced and lively school in a convenient location for parents who may want to look at alternatives to schools in Dubai, Sharjah or the Northern Emirates. It is also a school that really provides children with an opportunity to learn so much more about the local culture, with its strong Emirati student base, as well as the cultures and languages of so many other residents.
This is within a school setting that is clear in its desire to offer the best of international education through its mix of two of the most well recognised and respected curricula. The school endeavours to foster a strong community spirit and puts new parents in contact with existing ones of the same language and nationality initially, to assist with the settling in process.
Currently, schools in the Northern Emirates do not publish inspection reports or similar academic information. The school does however have accreditation from the UAE MoE. Its evaluation team has recommended that the school is "awarded distinction as its practice has been judged to be Highly Effective in leadership and at least three other Focus Areas".
Ajman Academy BSO Report
Interestingly, although primarily an IB school, Ajman Academy chose to affiliate with the British Schools Overseas system and underwent an inspection in 2017.
Inspectors found that overall the school was rated Satisfactory and inspectors noted, “the quality of teaching is at least satisfactory and often better. Students are well supported through effective pastoral care and the implementation of sound welfare, health and safety policies and procedures. The school runs well on a day to day basis. Students, parents and staff value the British nature of the curriculum. Most students make progress at least in line with their ability, some better. The national curriculum provides the framework for teaching and learning; it is enriched by a range of extra-curricular activities."
Inspectors highlighted, "the curriculum provides opportunities for the linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technological, human, social, physical, aesthetic and creative development of the students. The school provides a broad and balanced curriculum supported by a range of extra-curricular activities. The school has a written curriculum policy, supported by schemes of work which enable students to acquire skills in speaking, listening, literacy and numeracy. The subject matter is appropriate for the ages and aptitudes of students, including those with learning difficulties. The principal language of instruction is English."
"Teaching enables students to acquire new knowledge, and make progress according to their ability increasing their understanding and developing their skills in the subjects taught as they move through the school," says the report. "Whilst most teaching encourages pupils to apply intellectual, physical and creative efforts, to show interest in their work and learn and think for themselves, this is not universal. Lessons are well-planned and mainly delivered effectively using suitable activities. Class time is generally used wisely."
Tracking, Monitoring and Assessment
The report found, "the school has a clear framework for assessment with Early Years students assessed against the Early Learning Goals. Across primary there are systems in place to track and assess phonics against Read Write Inc. criteria. Learning is tracked through standardised assessments (GL), Seesaw (iPad application) as well as regular monitoring by class teachers. Internal moderation of the core skills in English, science and mathematics is now in place. Results are standardised against learning ladders by vertical teams led by subject co-ordinators. IGCSE results provide benchmarking opportunities against international standards.
Although 2017/18 saw the first Ajman Academy cohort sit their IGCSE exams, the school has rather disappointingly not released any results to date.
It does note however, "in English at the end of Year 6, 45% of students are working at or above expectation compared to 38% in November. The figures for mathematics are 48% and 35% respectively. For Science 46% and 45%."
"Lower down the school, the BSO report says, “good progress continues across Key Stage 3. Assessment data in mathematics, shows that 61% of students in Year 7 are working at or above their target grade. In Year 9, this figure rises to 81%. In science, the figures are 67% and 86% respectively. The school has identified English as an area of concern. Over half the cohort in Years 7,8 & 9 are working towards their target grade."
Inspectors loved the facilities at Ajman Academy, noting, "the accommodation and resources at Ajman Academy are outstanding. The buildings and grounds are very well maintained, clean, spacious and attractive. The pool, gymnasium and specialist rooms are used well to provide a wide range of learning activities. Classrooms are well resourced, with interactive whiteboards and iPads available throughout the school. Classrooms have been designed to be light and spacious, and the corridors are large enough to encourage groups of students to use them as extra learning areas. The primary library is well stocked, light and engaging. The secondary library is fit for purpose. Sound insulation, air conditioning units, lighting and acoustics allow for effective teaching and communication."
Ajman Academy offers a full five days of afterschool-activities, with two of these being free of charge and teacher led. Inhouse activities on offer include; Football, gymnastics, basketball, maths club, Science made fun, French club, boxing, cooking club, yoga, Zumba, Karathi, Parkour, tennis, swimming, cricket and rugby, etiquette skills.
PE is an integral part of the education offered at Ajman Academy. All students have two sessions each week, and focus on participation, progression and engagement and provide students with the chance to undertake a variety of sporting roles. Activities include; swimming, basketball, football, netball, rugby, handball, badminton, tennis, table tennis, volleyball, rounders, cricket, softball, teamwork and initiative games, parkour, gymnastics, dance, health and fitness and athletics.
The school enters a number of local tournaments and competitions in the EISSA organisation while the swim squad competes locally and also in International events such as the BSME and MEUC swim galas.
Compared with many schools in the Northern Emirates, Ajman Academy is not 'cheap,' however, given what you're getting for this, (the facilities, staffing and resources) and when compared to similar offerings in Dubai- Ajman Academy offers really very good value for money.
Fees start at 24 to 27,000 AED for Pre-K (price varies depending on the length of day selected), to 64,350 AED for Grade 12.
Interestingly, the website notes, "outstanding students applying to Grade 4 – Grade 12 may be eligible for a tuition fee discount. The discount is applied to the tuition fee only and new students applying to Ajman Academy are eligible if the terms and conditions are met."
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