United Arab Emirates / Abu Dhabi / Old Al Bahya / Al Basma British School

Al Basma British School Review

Originally established as a villa school - Giggles English School - in 1980, Al Basma British School was launched in September 2014 at its modern and purpose built premises to the north of Abu Dhabi.
Parents' Rating
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3.1 out of 5 based on 19 reviews
At a glance
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
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Availability 2021/22
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Annual fee average
AED 31,000
Annual fees
AED 20,000 - 40,560
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2014
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Allison McDonald
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Al Basma British School
School type
International
School phase
All through
Inspection rating
Very good
Availability 2020/21
radio_button_unchecked No data
Availability 2021/22
radio_button_unchecked No data
Annual fee average
AED 31,000
Annual fees
AED 20,000 - 40,560
Price band help
Mid-range
Status
Open
Opening year
2014
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Allison McDonald
Community
Main teacher nationality
British
Main student nationality
A mix of nationalities
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Originally established as a villa school - Giggles English School - in 1980, Al Basma British School was launched in September 2014 at its modern and purpose built premises to the north of Abu Dhabi.

The story so far...

Forerunner Giggles English School had operated within six villas located in the centre of Abu Dhabi (Al Basma means the smile) and provided educational provision from KG to Grade 6. The move to Al Basma British School was triggered by ADEK's ruling that all villa schools operating in Abu Dhabi would need to relocate to purpose-built school buildings in order to provide more modern and student-focused facilities.

Find out more about the school's facilities, look and feel by reading about our Experience here!

The area in which the school is located, Al Bahia, is predominantly an Emirati-occupied location, but one that is easily reached from the residential areas around the airport, and an increasingly wide mix of nationalities are therefore seeking international schools in this area.

It is clear that Al Basma British School is dedicated to delivering high quality education.  Its Chairman states:

"The leaders of this great nation place significant emphasis on ‘education’ and ‘health’. The Alfahim family firmly believes in providing effective education for Emiratis and communities living in Abu Dhabi. I support and endorse ADEK’s key objective and mission – “Education First”". Dr. Abdulla Abdul Jalil Alfahim

The school's vision notes

We aspire to be a global community of thinkers, creators, innovators and leaders who will have a positive impact on the world of tomorrow.  To achieve the vision, we will inspire our students to thrive as global citizens within a happy, positive and respectful environment.

Al Basma's goals are:

  • To provide inspirational learning opportunities for all
  • To instill academic rigour and success
  • To develop well-rounded bilingual students
  • To ensure effective links with parents and home learning
  • To use innovative technology effectively
  • To embrace UAE identity and values
  • To provide a world-class yet affordable British education to families in the local and international communities of Abu Dhabi

As a relatively new school, Al Basma has continued to grow and add year groups until it reached full provision; the final Grade 12 (Year 13) group was added in September 2019. The school has adopted the international rather than UK grading system in line with ADEK's preference.  

Al Basma is currently home to 1,450 students the maximum capacity of the school. The main nationalities are: 49% Emirati, 9% Pakistani, 9% Egyptian and 5% Jordanian. Students are 79% Arab, 92% Muslim and come from a broad range of over 50 nationalities who speak 27 languages.  Inevitably, as a relatively new school, it is fairly "bottom heavy" in terms of the ages of the children who attend, with approximately three quarters of students in the FS and Primary sections of the school.  However, the Secondary section, whilst smaller, is fully functioning and its first cohort of IGCSE students sat their exams in June 2018 and will complete their A Levels in the current academic year. 

Such is the popularity of the school that it has had waiting lists for the past three years. In September 2020, due to demand, Al Basma will be opening a new Primary block to house Years 3 to 6, making room for the growing secondary school in the existing building.  This will give capacity for another 1,000 students with the licensed number growing to 2,450. Due to the additional capacity, for the first time in three years, the school is accepting non sibling admission applications for children to all years.

At the time of the school's third ADEK inspection in 2019, Al Basma had 108 teachers, the majority of whom were from the UK or had taught in UK curriculum schools overseas.  All teachers have a minimum Bachelors degree and teaching qualification, or a Bachelor of Education.  A further 24 teaching assistants support students.  A number of the teaching staff are Masters' degree qualified.  A teacher turnover rate of 20% is towards the higher end of the norm for international schools in the UAE (which averages 20%). The school's management team has been in place since 2015 - a rare achievement to have as steady a leadership group as this.

A teacher:student ratio of 1:14 means that there should be significant individual support available to students and to adaptation of the curriculum to meet their needs.  This is important since 5% of students have been identified with SEN requirements.

What about the curriculum?

As you would expect of a school with "British" in the name, it follows an England and Wales based curriculum, with the Early Years Foundation Stage used at foundation level, Key Stages 1 and 2 for Primary, leading to an IGCSE based framework for Middle and Secondary schooling. Al Basma offers AS Levels and A Levels for Post-16 education. iGCSE, AS and A Level courses including Psychology, Economics, Music, French, Drama, Resistant materials, Graphic Design, English Language and Literature, Computer Science, ICT, Business, Geography, History, ESL, Maths and Statistics.   

What about academic achievement?

We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com are delighted to see that Al Basma British School has shared its first set of IGCSE results and hope that the school will continue with this transparent approach.  Whilst results are not the be-all and end-all of education, parents inevitably seek evidence that schools are delivering them as an important criterion for their choice. Publishing results also ensures that the school and its students are celebrated for their achievements.

The first cohort of IGCSE students sat their exams in June 2018.  A small group of around 30 students sat the first set of exams for which the overall set of results are a solid start to the school's ambitions for its students.

The school's highest achieving student, Khaled Waleed, achieved 7 A and A* grades, Faris Firmansiyah and Mohammed Barazi both achieved 5 A and A* grades while Mariam Abouelfetouh achieved 6 A and A* grades and Meera Yasser achieved 4 A and A* grades. Their hard work ranked these students with the highest performers in the GCSEs in the UK.

The headline UK figure of 5 or more A* - C grades including English and Maths was achieved by 55% of Al Basma students, matching the UK figure.

98% of all Al Basma students achieved A*- E in Maths, 100% achieved a grade E or above in English, whilst 75% achieved a C or above in English and Maths and 55% students achieved a B or above in English and Maths. In addition, 86% of all students achieved grade C in one or more subject and 75% achieved grade B in one or more subject.  Finally, 41% of  students achieved grade A or A* in one or more subject.

Given that 93% of students were non-native English speakers, studying English as an additional language, the school is inevitably particularly proud of the 19 students (66%) who were entered for English first Language and English literature.

What about the facilities?

The facilities at Al Basma British School are at the premium end of the market with a fine art studio, a digital and media studio, creative and performing arts rooms, library and specialist science labs all equipped with Interactive whiteboards, technology-enabled learning resource centres and child-friendly and child-appropriate play areas. Sports facilities include outdoor sports grounds, a 25m swimming pool, and a multi-purpose sports hall.  A medical clinic with experienced nurses and safe and comfortable transportation with GPS and cameras are also provided.

The planned extension to the school, which will open in September 2020, will house another pool, sports hall, dining room, AI Lab, STEM Lab, Art studio, Performance Arts room, inclusion and intervention suites and 33 additional classrooms.

Check out the look, feel and facilities at Al Basma by reading our Experience here!

What the inspectors say

The school was inspected by ADEK for the first time in 2015. Its strengths according to the regulator included its "rapid progress" in establishing a new school with a positive ethos, as well as the progress made by students in core subjects from low starting points, the positive behaviour of the vast majority of students, the new building with its attractive environment - conducive to learning - the effective self‐evaluation that accurately reflected the priorities for improvement and the priority given to improving teaching and learning through effective professional development and support for middle leadership.

Clearly, Al Basma heeded the advice for improvements in the first inspection and as a result moved up to Good overall in the second inspection in 2017.  This was a not inconsiderable achievement, particularly given that whilst four of the key performance standards were rated Good, two - Students' personal and social development, and their innovation skills, and the Protection, care, guidance and support of students - were rated Very Good.

Clearly Al Basma has continued on the path to improvement - and very successfully evidently - given that in its third inspection in 2019, the school achieved ADEK's second highest rating of Very Good.

Inspectors  summarised the achievements of Al Basma British School, noting that

"The overall performance of the school is very good. Achievement is now very good overall, supported by very good teaching and the curriculum, although attainment is not always as good as progress in some subjects. Students’ very good personal and social development is underpinned by outstanding child protection and care. Leadership at all levels is very good with high quality communication, daily management and a strong emphasis on staff development, although opportunities for middle leaders to share best practice between Arabic and English-medium subjects is less well developed. Systematic and accurate self-evaluation identifies priorities for improvement."

They identified the strengths of the school as:

  • Students’ overall achievement, particularly in KG, English and mathematics.
  • Students’ behaviour, relationships and attitudes to learning, and their respect for UAE heritage and culture.
  • The overall quality of teaching, particularly in KG, English and mathematics.
  • A curriculum that supports the needs of all students, particularly the promotion of English-speaking skills.
  • Health and safety arrangements and care of students.
  • Leadership at all levels, led by the principal in partnership with parents, which is committed to providing an inclusive learning community.

Key areas for improvement were found to be:

  • Raise students’ attainment further, particularly in Arabic, by:
    ensuring the modelling and use of accurate and precise standardised Arabic in lessons and conversations in Arabic-medium subjects;
    developing students’ research, innovation and enterprise skills, including through the use of learning technology.
  • Continue to strengthen the effectiveness of middle leadership teams, by:
    further supporting planning between Arabic- and English-medium middle leaders and teachers;
    sharing best practice in teaching, assessment and planning of language skills across all subjects.
  • Develop further the use of external benchmarking to better inform overall assessment by:
    comparing internal assessments with international standards to further support individual target setting and personalised learning goals.

This is an impressive performance for a relatively new school on its third inspection.  Clearly, the concentration on improvement of the Arabic subjects will continue to be a focus for the school, given the high concentration of Emirati and other Arabic-speaking students.  Inspectors found that the school's capacity for improvement is Very Good, and it can therefore be assumed, provided that Al Basma continues to move forward with the recommendations, that further progress towards the much sought-after Outstanding rating is to be expected.

If you would like to read the full inspection report - and we strongly advise that you do so - you will find it here.

Al Basma British School is accredited by both the British Schools of the Middle East and the British Schools Overseas voluntary standards organisation and was inspected by BSO inspection teams - looking closely at the standards of the school and whether they are in line with UK expectations - in 2016 and 2019, when the school was rated Good with outstanding features.  This is a clear sign that Al Basma is keen to ensure that it is offering the highest standards.  The report can be found here.

What do parents say?

Parent opinion on Al Basma British School as gathered through the limited number of survey responses to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com survey for the school is mixed.  Whilst 46% of parents would recommend the school to others, a sizeable 31% emphatically would not. A surprising 40% felt that the school had not improved their child's confidence and over 50% of parents expressed concern about bullying.

If you are a parent, teacher or student at Al Basma British School, please share your opinions with other potential members of your community through the completion of our survey.

What about the fees?

Fees at the school are very competitive for a British curriculum-based school. Fees start at AED 20,000 for Pre-KG (FS1), rising to AED 41,560 for Grade 12 (Year 13).  The school offers quite generous sibling discounts, which increase in percentage depending on the number of children a family has at the school. Transport is not included in the above fees, which could add an additional AED 5,000 per year to the bill.

 

This school is in a Best School by parents ranking

Al Basma British School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:

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