Ajyal International School is a British curriculum school that opened in Mohammed Bin Zayed City in September 2014. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has visited the school twice, in December 2014 shortly after its launch, and again in May 2016.
The story so far...
Ajyal International School was the first school to be opened by the Bin Omeir Foundation and is located on a large site in a popular residential area that is mainly home to Emirati families, but which also offers a number of British curriculum schools. Over 80% of students are Emirati, with the remainder from mainly other Arabic countries. The school offers FS1 to Grade 12/Year 13 with mixed gender classes through to Year 5, followed by separation of boys and girls from year 6 onwards.
The owners of the school have recognised the need to provide additional support and professional development to teaching staff and have recently appointed an experienced new Principal to lead the school. Mr. Mohamad Saad has taken over this key role.
With Mr Saad leading the school, it is expected that the curriculum will be driven to achieve academic excellence, The number of students at the school has increased to 800 from 650 at the time of our first visit (the school's capacity is 2,000). There is a real sense of busyness about the school now that was missing during our original visit. Staff has increased to 60 (the majority from the UK, Ireland and South Africa).
Changes to staffing arrangements have been designed to ensure greater involvement in the curriculum delivery, with Heads of Year coordinating between class teachers in Primary and Subject leadership in Secondary. Assistant Principals in the Secondary School are now responsible for a redesigned curriculum and lesson delivery plan. The school has implemented regular Durham/ACER testing which has allowed the staff to determine that whilst competence in Maths is generally strong and Science Moderate, English skills are inevitably weak. As a result, all staff are being provided with English as an Additional Language training and all will be involved in supporting children with this requirement.
An important focus has been in bringing elements of the Emirati culture into the school and this includes Arabic seating areas, more Arabic books in the Library and encouraging adult family members to become more involved with the school. This includes a local published author who has taken part in reading sessions with students. Given the focus in the Year of Reading, children were encouraged to celebrate reading both in the library, but also through access to i-books at home.
What about the curriculum?
Ayjal itself follows the English National Curriculum, including the Early Years Foundation Stage in early years. The school is currently offering GCSE and and A level. Specialist teachers provide classes in Sports, Music, ICT, Languages, Design Technology, Food Technology, Textiles, Graphics and Resistant Materials.
What about the facilities?
It is evident that Ajyal International does not lack the facilities and resources to support its ambitions. The size and appearance of the school is modern, colourful and impressive. The building is essentially an E shape with three sections to the rear of the main reception and an Early Years section at the front of the site.
The Early Years section is oval in shape, with classrooms ranged around the outside and an indoor play area with soft flooring and play equipment at the centre. The classrooms are organised in pairs, each separated by an outdoor area to which the children have access for messy play.
The main connecting central corridor also includes tables and seating and is used as a canteen area for the Foundation stage children. The classrooms are suitably furnished and resourced with staff coming mainly from the UK and teaching assistants from the Philippines. The remaining part of the school have suitable classrooms and study areas, including a large library. It is a very large building with wide and open corridors which appear somewhat empty at present. There is a second canteen area for older students.
The school provides Desktop computers in their specialist ICT room as well as laptops and I-pads for student use. There is an auditorium seating 350 and a large indoor Sports Hall and two indoor swimming pools (which had not been commissioned at the time of our visit). Secondary facilities have been extended to provide specialist rooms for DT (including a 3D printer), Woodwork, Graphics, Food technology and textiles.
There is an auditorium seating 350 and a large indoor Sports Hall and two indoor swimming pools (which had not been commissioned at the time of our visit).
What the inspectors say
The school was rated Acceptable in its second inspection by ADEK in 2016-17, and upgraded to Good in the 2018-19 inspection round.
In the report for 2016-17, inspectors noted that following its opening 3 years ago, its roll was still expanding. Students arrive at the school with wide variations in their previous levels of attainment. Attainment is weak in most subjects, but students make at least acceptable progress against their starting points thanks to acceptable and better teaching in most lessons. Students make good and better progress in English at all phases an good progress in mathematics and science in the kindergarten (KG) and the primary phases. Attainment and progress in Arabic are weak.
Students’ personal development is good and most have a positive attitude to learning, supported by good arrangements for their health, safety and safeguarding. The principal sets out a clear vision and direction for the school and has the respect of the school community.
Inspectors noted the strengths of the school include the relationships between teachers and students, students’ progress in English, arrangements to ensure students’ health, safety and safeguarding, the school building and resources, and the management of the significant growth of the student population in the school which has grown from approximately 600 on opening to over a 1,000 in its third year of operation.
Areas for improvement focused on the requirement to improve students’ achievement in all subjects; students’ critical thinking, enterprise and problem-solving skills; the assessment processes for learning to support the acquisition of learning skills for all students, particularly in Arabic and Islamic Education, and the school's self-evaluation and development planning.
One of the key pieces of information that is shaping the school is the knowledge that Ajyal means “family” or “generations” in Arabic. This was designed very much as a community school and the aim is for families of this generation - and succeeding ones - to join the school so that it becomes a real centre of the community.
There has been an effort to ensure a change of ethos within the school since its opening, with a key focus on communication both within the school and with parents. Given that the majority of families whose children attend the school are non-native English Speakers, this has inevitably been an area of challenge. However, families do now have access to bi-monthly newsletters and weekly subject updates by year group with much of the information now being translated into Arabic.
In line with most schools in Abu Dhabi, children are separated by gender from year 6. Whilst there is a strong Emirati influence within the school, there are many children of other nationalities. For families who really want to be part of the local culture and to have their children mix at an early age with local children, whilst following a clearly defined and delivered UK curriculum, we believe that Ajyal International School is worth consideration.”
Fees range from AED 27,700 to AED 50,350, however the school has recently introduced a scholarship scheme for students in Grades 7 to 10. Note, this is not just about academics, but a much more rounded view of a student's contribution to school life.
The scholarship is based on their outstanding academic performance, work ethics and participation in the school community.
Once accepted to the programme, students will be entitled to a remission of annual schools fees.
You may find more information here.
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